A host of exciting new faces have joined fan favourites in the Severn Stars line-up for the upcoming 2022 Netball Superleague season.
Severn Stars’ Head Coach, Melissa Bessell, said she was really excited to combine experienced players, including former and current internationals, with up-and-coming talent, and promises to make an impression in the Vitality Netball Super league campaign for 2022.
She said: “This is a powerhouse team and I can’t wait to get started. I know that the team I have pulled together is not just exciting but has calibre, spirit and experience. I am bringing so much contrasting talent together, which means I can choose such incredible and ‘show stopping’ talent while changing the whole dynamics of the game, so for me that’s really exhilarating.
“Every athlete that’s playing for Stars this year I made sure was there for a purpose, to really make us a great team and I am proud of pulling this off. I have got a solid base of people that were there last year, players that have been with me and know me. I have handpicked the other players to add volume and enhance us a group. The fun will start when we bring this team together and start experimenting with combinations and watching this team grow and assemble into something very special.”
She said she was particularly pleased to have players from the Stars pathway who can develop alongside experienced players. “I have always been a coach that wants to nurture and I think I have done that in the last couple of years and I have really developed our squad and pathway,” she added. “That’s always the bigger picture, that’s always the legacy you want. We have been nurturing and developing these players, so it’s nice to have a mix.”
There are a host of new faces lining up this season for Stars, a joint franchise between the University of Worcester and University of Gloucestershire. In an exciting development, former Silver Ferns player, Cat Tuivaiti, who joined the Severn Stars coaching staff last year, will be taking to the court herself. The shooter, who has previously played for Strathclyde Sirens in the Superleague and, before that, for top sides in New Zealand and Australia, said: “Being able to take the court again in the Superleague, this time as a mum, is terrifying and exciting. I’ve always loved a challenge and this will be my biggest one so far.”
Northern Ireland Warriors international, Michelle Drayne, moves to Stars from London Pulse, while grand final experienced super shooter, Katie Harris, has signed from Wasps. In the mid court, Nicole Humphries has come in from Surrey Storm, while a big signing from Team Bath, former England U21 and England Roses squad member, Summer Artman, boosts Stars’ defensive end.
Former New Zealand international and England Roses technical coach, Liana Leota, is returning to Severn Stars for her third season. “I’m super excited about this season’s team,” said the midcourter. “So many new faces are coming into our team, but they all come with a wealth of experience and knowledge in all areas of the court. I think we have a great mix in our team this season and options all over the court. There is so much potential! I want us to concentrate on ourselves as individuals and how we can get better, becoming a new team and what that looks like and just being in the moment. If we can get our pre-season right it will only put us in good stead for the season.”
Among familiar names for Stars fans returning for another season are shooter, Paige Reed, who has re-signed for her fourth season. Fiji International, Dee Bolakoro, and Iman Thomas will be back in defence, while midcourter, Bethan Dyke, who is on the comeback after having her 2021 season cut short due to an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) knee injury, has re-signed.
University of Worcester Sports Master’s student Lucy Herdman will be returning for another season in Stars’ defence end. Seventeen-year-old shooter Issy Eaton, who has recently been selected for the England Roses academy squad for 21/22 and U21 Netball Europe Squad, is also brought into the main squad after being a training partner last season.
Two University of Gloucestershire students, shooter Jane Taylor and midcourter Chloe Carchrie, along with Elisha New from Team Bath, make up the Stars’ Training Partners.
The season starts in the New Year. Fixtures will be returning to the University of Worcester Arena and University of Gloucestershire Arena, after they were centralised due to Covid-19 last season.
Severn Stars Co-Director and Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (Inclusive Sport & Educational Development) at the University of Worcester, Mick Donovan, said: “The Severn Stars are thrilled to be returning to our home courts and playing in front of our Stars fans. We have assembled a really exciting team and everyone at the Club is really looking forward to match nights in the coming season. Huge thanks to everyone who supported the team during the challenging season that has passed and we look forward to facing the new season together.”
Matthew Tansley, Director of Sport and Physical Wellbeing, at the University of Gloucestershire, and Gloucestershire Operational Lead for Severn Stars, said: “The University of Gloucestershire is proud to be part of this unique partnership supporting local talent, the wider England Netball performance pathway and the growth of women’s sport in the area. The staff have done an absolutely incredible job of building this team for the 2022 season and, with the players we have, Severn Stars absolutely want to be challenging for honours this year and we can’t wait to get started!”