VNSL 2022 Team Preview: Manchester Thunder

AFTER a third placed finish in 2021, Manchester Thunder are looking to go one step – or realistically two steps – further, and win their second Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) title in three years. The Thunder went down to Team Bath in the semi-finals in June, but their off-season signings, coupled with their success at the recent Rise Again Festival has them as the team to beat heading into 2022.

Heading into the off-season, it was announced that captain and long-time servant Emma Dovey would retire, leaving a hole in the defensive goal circle. Up the other end, Kathryn Turner also called it quits having remained in the yellow and black dress her entire career since she was 15-years-old. Both players won three VNSL titles, and their experience will be missed.

However with the two departures came two massive inclusions, starting with Natalie Haythornthwaite straight from the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). Though somewhat undervalued there given the NSW Swifts’ midcourt strength, the star Roses wing attack returns to England where she will provide an invaluable link between the midcourt and goal circle. Her movement and feeds are outstanding, and she earned Player of the Series in the recent Roses Reunited Series against Jamaica.

Joining her in the yellow and black is another SSN talent in Shadine Van der Merwe, who was announced in the same week. Covering the loss of Dovey in the defensive goal circle – but has the versatility to move into wing defence – Van der Merwe is a high quality inclusion. The two big ins meant the Thunder have few holes in a remarkable outfit.

The starting seven writes itself, Haythornthwaite joining Laura Malcolm and Caroline O’Hanlon in midcourt. Though at opposite ends of their careers, both add serious talent through there. They will be feeding to a duo of Eleanor Cardwell and Joyce Mvula who are a one-two punch that few will be able to contain. Rounding out the seven is Thunder legend Kerry Almond who returns for a remarkable 13th season, opting not to join Dovey and Turner in retirement.


GK: Kerry Almond
GD: Shadine Van der Merwe
WD: Laura Malcolm
C: Caroline O’Hanlon
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
GA: Eleanor Cardwell
GS: Joyce Mvula

With internationally-capped representatives across the side, it is hard not to imagine the Thunder as the team to beat. They went undefeated at the Rise Again Festival, and have some nice young depth coming through. The Thunder’s first match is up against Celtic Dragons on Saturday, February 5 in a clash that will have the Thunder as overwhelming favourites.

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