In light of the recent announcement that the Vitality Netball Superleague will be cancelled following its suspension in March, Head of Sport, Emily Marshall caught up with former England netball, Director of Netball at Wasps, and current Scotland Head Coach, Tamsin Greenway.
After its season opener in February at Arena Birmingham which attracted a record-breaking crowd of over 9,000 fans, and following on from a successful World Cup in Liverpool, this season look set to be a game changer for Netball, However in the current unprecedented circumstances the Superleague had to halt its proceedings back in March and unfortunately it was revealed that the season has been declared null and void. It was becoming ever more clear to many people that it would just not be possible to resume the VSNL with too many logistics coming into play that other sports have the luxury of not having to deal with.
‘’It’s a logistical nightmare, and once it came down to logistics it just was clear it wouldn’t have worked out the way we wanted it to, there was too many parts to the puzzle’’ said Tamsin,
With franchises stretching the whole of the UK, from Celtic Dragons in Wales to Strathclyde Sirens in Scotland, the travelling for those teams was a major drawback. Alongside this, franchises don’t all have their own stand-alone venues, many practice in public sports halls and university sport facilities, with guidelines for the opening of these not clear enough to be able to put a plan for training resumption together that was effective.
‘’For all the teams this was not an easy decision, and of course it was not the only option however it was the practical option that now allows both players and franchises to work out their next steps. There are plans going to be put in place for clubs to be able to work through this, but for the current season it would have been a problem. For players, I am glad the Superleague made the decision earlier rather than later, it gives them a lot more clarity and they can start planning for what their next few weeks or months looks like’’.
As one of the biggest advocates for Netball to be a leading sport in the country, the Sky Sports pundit discussed one of the plans to put on a competition across a central venue in a central location, although again this proved too problematic at the moment. If it had come through it would have been the ‘’perfect opportunity to get out netball to an audience to encourage them to watch it and get people invested in the game’’.
Momentum is a word thrown around a lot in the world of netball, especially of the back of England’s gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 but there is no fear of a loss of momentum for the former international. ‘’I challenged Fran Connolly [CEO of England Netball] about that word [Momentum], it’s a big word and I am all for it however we need big things that actually backs it up, it’s great but cannot be rode on forever. That’s where now the content comes into play, members needs to be pushed by England netball to see more of this stuff in the right way to keep people talking, netballers need to invest in netball’’,
After being announced as Scotland Head Coach in February, this is not ideally how her first few months in the job would have gone, having only met some of the squad virtually so far, but the ever optimistic Greenway was not going to let a global pandemic stop her building process.
‘’You build for that four year cycle, reaching the Commonwealth Games and then going on to the World Cup, and all of the nations [Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland] are all fighting for qualification so it’s sad to think ill lose my first year of building around my team and the culture. It’s all behind the scenes stuff now, but thinking of how we want our programme to look like, it’s frustrating obviously but we are building and growing, the support is there for us’’
Prior to the revelation of her taking the full-time coaching role in Scotland she was Technical Assistant to University of Birmingham’s very own Netball first team and was an integral part in their unbeaten success this season. After the departure of Dannii Titmuss at the end of the 2018/19 BUCS season as she left to pursue opportunities down at the London Pulse Superleague franchise, there was a chance for some fresh coaching…
‘’I felt the group of players could not be left on their own, they are so talented and when I took on Wasps [as Director of Netball] it was not only to do a job with them it was to ensure that West Midlands netball is thriving, and Birmingham university has become a real hub and centre that challenges the best in the country’’.
It’s clear she had a great impact on the team, winning their Premier North Division with ease and then beating Bath convincingly to reach Big BUCS Wednesday where they would have fought for the title against rivals University of Hertfordshire. ‘’It’s been great to work with that age group, they’ve been outstanding and it’s really disappointing we didn’t get to play the final’’. The final would have brought the unique opportunity for her to be coaching against her old head coach at Wasps, Mel Mansfield, who heads the university of Hertfordshire netball programme.
The one thing that Tamsin is very vocal about is her love of uni netball, ‘’it’s such a good outlet for these players, the takes you back to the roots of your enjoyment for the sport, you have opportunity to go out and just have fun and its important to do that when you have the chance because it’s tough at the top’’.
Netball for now might not be on horizon for a return until completely safe and practical to do so, but this is a sport that many people believe in and that will return bigger and better than before.