It was the first match of the 2023 England Thorns season, Vice Captain James McClelland describes "it was great to get out and have some competitive gameplay with some new combinations. Although it wasn’t the performance we would expect with consistent fluidity, it was good to have this game as a baseline for this new squad to improve." To say there were mixed emotions out there was an understatement. Considering that the men's trials announcement was just 10 days ago, participating in this fixture without a single training session was bound to be wandering into the unknown. The excitement, for the new players into the squad earning their first appearance for Thorns, versus the nerves of those playing for the first time in front of a crowd, against those attempting to cement their place without the comfort of their previous squad mates.
McClelland describes the fantastic atmosphere of the Saracens Mavericks home crowd. "For us as a squad, it is really exciting to be getting these opportunities where we (can) play in front of netball fans that have maybe never seen men’s netball and show that it is truly a sport for all."
Warm up-check, team talk- check, bibs on- check, it was time to take the court. The first quarter went well with the passes flowing, shown by ex-Jamican international Skyers demonstrating on his first Thorns competitive match. Thorns found momentum against the very physical and determined starting 7 for the last few NSL matches. Thorns we able to turn over and capitalise with some swift gathers from Lewis and clinical finishing from Keeling. A few errors saw the gap closing, but Thorns still kept going and made a few more changes with Scarlett entering to make his England debut and
Thorns held a 9-goal advantage at the first break. The team continued to play steadily, which allowed 6ft 11 debutant Vincent to edge out the first half 33-22.
Head Coach Sharron Lewis-Burke had a clear message that she wanted to see how the team built on tried and tested set plays and structures in attack with experienced Gray at WA leading the line. With the entry of the final debutant Johnson, it was clear how comfortable Lewis-Burke was with her squad to be able to run her full bench with still half the game remaining.
Mavericks continued to match Thorns physicality and their changes made an impact, which did not allow Thorns to run away with it. Such a testament to how close the match-up was the final score ending with a dominant 59-52 win for the Thorns against their first-ever NSL opponents.
As England Thorns look ahead to their next competitive match on Monday 13th March where 3 more players will be hoping for their first Men's appearances Vice Captain Tommy Wiseman (King of the Wing) predicts "Severn stars have shown real good structure this year. It’s going to be a good test to see how we can improve after Saracens Mavericks. I have faith in this group to do great things so we’re all excited to put on a great show!"
England Men's and Mixed Netball Association would like to thank Camilla Buchannan and the Saracens family for a wonderfully hosted game. We look forward to upcoming opportunities to play again and wish you the best of luck in your next fixture.