Stratford Thunderbird U16 qualified once again for the England Netball National Clubs 2023 Finals, undefeated West Midlands Regional winners for the second year in a row.
The squad, coaches, volunteers and parents travelled to the Joan Brown Arena at the Redbridge Leisure Centre in Ilford on the 29th April for two days of fast-paced netball action amongst the top clubs in the country.
It wasn’t going to be easy in a season where injury had struck the team captain in the final regional game, meaning she could only lead from the bench for the whole weekend.
It was a slow start on Saturday losing our opening two games against Leeds Athletic (25-15) and KCNC (20-10). This reflected the high standard of competition and perhaps a few nerves on the part of a young team.
The second phase of the competition in the afternoon was a different story. Inspired by a lunchtime team talk from coaches Molly and Kelly, the girls looked a lot more like the team we’d seen throughout the regionals. A win against Charnwood Rutland (21-17) set the standard and it was followed by a very close game against the ultimate winners of the competition YWCA Bury with the 26-23 scoreline by far the closest any team came to beating them on the day. It raised a few eyebrows too – how could a team this good have lost two games in the morning?!
At the end of day one we were guaranteed a place in the top 12 from the pool of 18.
After a superbly-planned and executed meal out the girls were all in bed at a sensible time (thanks coach Kelly for reminding us parents when to go to sleep!) and enjoyed a decent hotel breakfast ready to go again.
On the second day, Showcasing the coveted pink and blue competition dresses which debuted last year, the girls played out two hard-fought games in the morning, the first a narrow defeat to Kingston Phoenix (25-24) following a strong comeback in the face of adveristy and secondly to AP Saints (22-16). This set up a match against Sutton Town in the playoff for 11/12 position.
The final match of the competition played out as per our previous two matches against Sutton Town this season, with a win for Thunderbirds sealing 11th place.
All in all another performance to be hugely proud of. With our team captain confined to the bench and losing two more players to injury during proceedings, achieving 11th spot from an initial field of over 100 teams is an outstanding result of which everyone should be enormously proud.
Congratulations to all involved and see you again next year!