After London Pulse’s stunning victory over Team Bath Netball at the Season Opener, Sam Bird speaks to Sky Sports about that result and why they cannot wait for their contest with Saracens Mavericks on Friday night.
Last weekend, the nine-match Vitality Netball Superleague ‘Season Opener’ set the tone for an exceptionally competitive season and, on the second day, there was one name on everyone’s lips, ‘London Pulse’.
Pulse’s young squad stepped on court in Birmingham against last year’s runners-up Team Bath Netball and shone. Bird’s young talents held firm in the face of considerable pressure from their opponents and displayed a great level of maturity at the start of this new season.
This year, the head coach and CEO has retained 10 players from the 2021 season including those who were instrumental in their victory over Bath, the likes of Funmi Fadoju, Ellie Ratu and Olivia Tchine.
Jasmin Odeogberin has joined from Loughborough Lightning, Berri Neil and Alicia Scholes have arrived from Manchester Thunder, plus Tayla Honey and Sacha McDonald have swapped Melbourne for London.
“There’s no doubting the quality of the players that we’ve got,” Bird said during pre-season. “It’s probably the most exciting roster that I’ve had in years.”
London Pulse’s 2022 VNSL Squad
|Halimat Adio||Funmi Fadoju||Lindsay Keable|
|Peace Akinyemi||Jasmin Odeogberin||Zara Everitt|
|Ashleigh Dekker||Ellie Rattu||Tayla Honey|
|Alicia Scholes||Isabel Stibbs||Kira Rothwell|
|Olivia Tchine||Berri Neal||Sacha McDonald|
After winning the opening quarter against Team Bath Netball, Pulse’s squad never deviated off course or found themselves shying away from the five-time champions.
Yes, Bath were missing Serena Guthrie and new signing Phumza Maweni, however one of the world’s best defenders – Layla Guscoth – was doing her utmost to drag the five-time champions back into the fixture.
I’m so proud of our team. It’s massive [to beat Bath] because we keep talking about how talented we are and what potential we’ve got. Today, we have arrived. It makes such a big difference; we feel like we can push on from here and achieve anything.
Sam Bird (Image credit: Ben Lumley)
“I’m still smiling,” Bird said to Sky Sports on the Tuesday after their victory. “It was just a breakthrough day for the club, to take on a top-class team like Bath and do so well.
“Kira Rothwell sent me a picture of me shouting at the team to put on a specific defence structure with 15 seconds to go! So, it’s fair to say that I stayed in the moment until right until the final whistle blew.”
Vitality Netball Superleague – Round Three fixtures
|Friday at 7pm||Saracens Mavericks vs London Pulse||Streamed on Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Friday at 7.30pm||Strathclyde Sirens vs Leeds Rhinos Netball|
|Saturday at 5pm||Manchester Thunder vs Surrey Storm||Streamed on Sky Sports YouTube channel|
|Saturday at 6pm||Loughborough Lightning vs Celtic Dragons|
|Saturday at 7pm||Wasps vs Severn Stars|
|Monday at 5.30pm||Leeds Rhinos Netball vs Team Bath Netball||Live on Sky Sports and streamed on YouTube|
This year Bird has Lisa Alexander with her as performance director and, together, the two of them believed that the first weekend of the season presented an opportunity.
“One of the excellent things about having Lisa here with us is that I’ve been able to have some really good conversations with her about how we prepare for certain parts of the season,” Bird said.
“When we saw this double-header against last year’s champions and runners-up on the opening weekend, we knew that we really had to attack it and be ready for it.
“We almost had to treat it like a finals weekend, which is why we responded in the way that we did when we beat Bath because it was critical for us to come away with points.”
Pulse not only attacked the weekend with gusto, but they also navigated their way around unforeseen circumstances after defender Lindsay Keable came down with illness.
Bird admitted that the loss against Lightning on day one frustrated them but, after recovering well, they knew that they could really take it to Bath on the second day.
The belief was there before the weekend, and it was just really good to be able to execute that.
Sam Bird (Image credit: Ben Lumley)
The question now for Bird, Alexander and the players themselves, is how do they approach Saracens Mavericks in Round Three?
Mavericks are off the back of two victories on the opening weekend and are the home side at the Hertfordshire Sports Village.
“What we don’t want to be, is a one-hit wonder,” Bird said openly. “The standard of the performance against Bath was what was most pleasing. Bath didn’t roll over; they came back at us, but we held firm and pulled away.
“The standard of netball and the quality of play on the court from both teams, I thought, was the best of the weekend. We now need to live up to that standard again and really execute at that level.
“To do that, it’s about putting in the hard yards in training, doing our analysis well and making sure that we use that opening weekend as the platform that we push on from.
“It’s the quality of the netball that will be the secret [to sustained success]. We know that we’ve got super talented players and we know that they’ve worked really hard over pre-season.
“The players are in stunning shape; their fitness results are insane, and we’ve got so many hitting top, top levels across all areas of their S&C.
“That translates onto the court, and it also helps with their mindset. The players know that if someone tries to outsprint, outjump or outwork them, they have the speed, elevation and stamina to match them and the belief that they can better them too.”
London Pulse’s forthcoming fixtures
|Friday at 7pm||Saracens Mavericks (A)||Streamed on YouTube|
|February 21 at 7pm||Wasps (H)|
|February 26 at 2pm||Celtic Dragons (H)|
|March 6 at 2pm||Severn Stars (H)|
|March 12 at 2pm||Surrey Storm (H)||Streamed on YouTube|
|March 14 at 7pm||Strathclyde Sirens (H)|
|March 19 at 5pm||Manchester Thunder (A)|
Following their away trip to the Hertfordshire Sports Village, the fixture list has been kind to Pulse. Bird’s team have a run of five home matches at the Copper Box Arena, starting with meetings against Wasps and Celtic Dragons.
The Copper Box Arena was used as a central venue last season, however Pulse’s last true home game was over two years ago. Needless to say, they cannot wait to return.
“It will be massive to be back at the Copper Box in front of our own fanbase, Bird said. “It’s a special arena; it’s become really the home of netball and for it to be our home is incredibly special.”
“We’re really building a good fan base and using our partnership with the Women’s Sport Collective to share fans across other women’s sports. It will be really great to gain some momentum through our fixtures and have more and more people coming to watch this amazing team.”
The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Friday with Round Three. Watch London Pulse’s trip to Saracens Mavericks’ streamed live on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 7pm.