A perfect blend of youth and experience can help Team Bath turn consistent play-off finishes into Vitality Netball Superleague silverware, according to Eboni Usoro-Brown.
The 33-year-old is all set for her 11th campaign as a Team Bath player, her first since giving birth to daughter Savannah in August, with the five-time champions getting under way against Celtic Dragons and Loughborough Lightning in Wakefield this weekend.
The West Country outfit have made the play-offs in five of the past six completed seasons but remain in search of a first title since 2013 – hopes which have been boosted by the return of Serena Guthrie, who won her 100thEngland cap in October.
Usoro-Brown, herself inducted into England Netball’s Hall of Fame last year, is looking forward to reuniting with her international teammate and highlighted several faces who could be set for breakthrough years.
“The mood in camp has been joyous,” she said. “To have the league back and booming in 2021 is all we could ask for.
“More so than ever, we have strength in depth in every area of the court. Serena coming back will strengthen our mid-court and Kim Borger was in absolutely phenomenal form at the beginning of last season.
“Then we have the ‘new’ faces, who will be regular starters this season. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has gone from strength to strength and she’s becoming one of the best goal attacks in England.
“Imogen Allison is an exciting talent at wing defence and Hannah Passmore is a tower of strength under the posts.
“Everyone is excited and making selection decisions as challenging as possible.”
Usoro-Brown is following in the footsteps of fellow Vitality Netball Superleague stars such as Wasps captain Sophie Candappa and Severn Stars ace Liana Leota in returning to the court after starting a family.
The 2018 Commonwealth gold medallist believes netball is leading the way when it comes to balancing on and off-court commitments and praised the club and its fans for their support in recent months.
“Team Bath have been absolutely phenomenal and they are pioneering in terms of how franchises should be assisting and supporting athletes who have had babies,” said Usoro-Brown, whose Team Bath, part of the University of Bath, is sponsored by Haines Watts, Rengen and Centurion Chartered Financial Planners.
“They, along with the University of Bath, assigned me a pelvic floor health consultant as well as helping with strength and conditioning and physio – it has been a real team effort.
“The support from the fans has been amazing and their messages have helped me through on tough days.
“I hope it sends a message to lots of women and girls – just because you have a baby, it doesn’t stop you returning to elite sport.”
Team Bath face a series of long journeys to Wakefield for the first nine weeks of the season and the club’s passionate fanbase will be getting behind their heroes from home, with all matches to be shown live on Sky Sports for the first time.
Powered by the support of the netball family, all 11 clubs are ready to drive the game forward together to help the sport and our league Rise As One.
“Given the levels of interest we had after the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, we want to stay on that upward trajectory and having all the games either broadcast or live-streamed is super exciting,” added Usoro-Brown, one of the players in Team Bath’s leadership group.
“This year’s league will be incredibly competitive. The imports in the league, alongside the English talent, bring a variety of styles and we’ll see some really exciting netball with a lot of flair and a lot of fun. Ultimately, the most consistent teams will find themselves in the top four.
“We have regularly reached the play-offs in recent years without lifting the cup and we have a squad to be reckoned with this year. All the girls are in good form and we can’t wait to get started.”
PLEASE LEAVE IN FINAL PAR – The Vitality Netball Superleague will return on 12 February 2021 and you can follow the action with all games being shown live on Sky Sports. Visit netballsl.com or follow @netballsl on Twitter and Instagram for more information.