2023 NSL | Round 17 preview: The race to the finish begins

LAST weekend was a big one for the Netball Super League. The margins may not have been big, but it was in the context of the season.

Last weekend saw the finalists confirmed for 2023 because with the Stars losing, it means that no one else can catch the Pulse, Storm, Lightning and Thunder. 

However, that is far from the action over and done with. With a month left in the regular season, only two wins are separating first and fourth, so the final order of the top four could still change drastically over the next four weeks. 

This weekend sees a return to the regular five-match schedule, and it begins with a Friday night triple-header worth of action.

First up it is the Leeds Rhinos playing the Loughborough Lightning.

The last time these two sides met it was a dominant win to the Lightning, but it did not start that way and after the way the Rhinos played last week, Loughborough will not be so confident heading into this one.

The Lightning will have to watch out for the likes of Vicki Oyesola and Caroline O’Hanlon, but will be boosted by the strong development in Emma Thacker‘s game from last week, who stepped up in the absence of Mary Cholhok.

Heading west and at the same time the Rhinos and Lightning will be doing battle, the Dragons will be playing host to the Storm.

The last time these two sides met it was a comfortable win for the Storm, but it was also Rachel Dunn‘s first game for the Dragons, who has subsequently gone on to create a really good partnership with Gabrielle Sinclair. The Dragons are also coming off a weekend off, so will that help them or hinder them against the Storm?

The Storm meanwhile are still in the process of adapting their game to not include goal shooting star Proscovia Peace, so Sophie Drakeford-Lewis will have an even bigger task trying to steer clear of Shaquanda Greene-Noel.

The third match on Friday is in Bath with the Thunder travelling down to play the home side. Last time the Thunder earned a solid win after dominating the second half, but Bath will be keen to avoid a repeat, especially in front of their home crowd.

Lenize Potgieter had a particularly strong game last time, but can the likes of Jayda Pechova quell her influence? Josie Huckle has also really come into her own within the Thunder side in the past few months, but can Betsy Creak lift and dominate that one-on-one battle?

Saturday’s action begins in Scotland with the Sirens hosting the top of the table Pulse.

Unlike many of the matchups this weekend, the margin between these two sides last time they met was not huge but still comfortable.

Regardless, the Pulse will be feeling pretty confident coming into this match after a weekend off and sitting on top of the table at the moment.

Towera Vinkhumbo and Emily Nicholl are going to have a tough task this weekend trying to combat the Pulse shooting partnership that is Olivia Tchine and Berri Neil.

The final match of the weekend sees the Stars hosting the Mavericks.

Despite having their finals chances ended last weekend, the Stars will be looking to finish the season on a high and make it two from two against the Mavericks in 2023. However, if the likes of Razia Quashie and Jodie Gibson have anything to say and can quell the influence of the likes of Sigrid Burger, the Mavericks might be able to ensure history does not repeat itself.

Netball Super League Round 17 Fixture

Leeds Rhinos vs Lougborough Lightning – Friday at 7pm – EIS Sheffield

Celtic Dragons vs Surrey Storm – Friday at 7pm – House of Sport

Team Bath vs Manchester Thunder – Friday at 7:30pm – Team Bath Netball Arena

Strathclyde Sirens vs London Pulse – Saturday at 4pm – Main Arena, Emirates

Severn Stars vs Saracens Mavericks – Saturday at 7pm – University of Worcester Arena

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