Vitality Netball Superleague franchise Severn Stars Netball wishes Melissa Bessell well as she steps down from her role as head coach and returns to New Zealand for family reasons.

Bessell was appointed Head Coach at Severn Stars – a joint franchise between University of Gloucestershire and the University of Worcester – in July 2019 following an international coaching career with New Zealand Maori, Fiji and Wales.

She will relinquish the role as Head Coach after Severn Stars’ final match of the season against Strathclyde Sirens at Oxstalls Arena, Gloucester on 29 May. The mum-of-seven is returning to New Zealand to be with her family while her husband has treatment for cancer.

Melissa Bessell said: “I intend to keep a close eye on Stars and will continue to keep in communication and stay involved from afar.

“I have enjoyed putting a lot of time and effort into the development of the players, bringing through many of the youngsters and giving them opportunities to play alongside great players like Liana Leota and Cat Tuivaiti.

“Coaching is in my blood and I’ve always been about developing players as well as coaches.

“For me, it’s been really important to push and develop the young players who are in university education – that’s what attracted me to Severn Stars in the first place.

“It’s not just been about the sport, it’s about the wellbeing of the athlete. Education has always been key to me and it’s been great to watch our players continuing their studies alongside playing netball. I have also developed myself, completing my Masters in Sports Coaching as well.

“Many of them have graduated and gone on to keep playing sport and have great careers outside sport too. That has to be one of the biggest achievements.”

She added: “The Stars franchise and all the players and everyone I work alongside daily have just been fantastic and have been so supportive.

“That’s why I want to keep being involved in Stars because of the love, attention and support they’ve given me – it’s been amazing.”

Stars is now looking to recruit a new Head Coach to guide the senior team forward into the 2022-23 season.

Mick Donovan, Head of the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of

Worcester, said: “We would like to thank Melissa for her huge contribution to Severn Stars over the last three years.

“She has a very player-focused approach and has instilled very strong principles in terms of developing and supporting players at all levels.

“All sectors of the club have benefited from Melissa’s flair, experience and attention to detail and we are sincerely grateful to her for her committed and professional approach. Everyone at Stars wishes Melissa a safe return to New Zealand and every success in the future.”

University of Gloucestershire announced in March that it was withdrawing from the Severn Stars partnership at the end of the season to enable funding to be invested in providing enhanced sport and wellbeing opportunities for more of its students.

Matt Tansley, Director of Sport and Physical Wellbeing at University of Gloucestershire, said: “Everyone at the University is incredibly grateful to Melissa for her professionalism and dedication to Severn Stars over the last three years.

“She has steered the team through the most challenging times during COVID and supported players across all levels of the game, going above and beyond to ensure the players feel part of the Severn Stars family.

“On behalf of everyone associated with Severn Stars, I want to wish Melissa a safe onward journey and the very best for the future.”