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MMU Women Netball: winning on and off the pitch

  • NQ's Billy O'Donovn reviews MMU's Women's Netball season so far, looking at how the team has been flying over the past year

MMU Netball as a club is going from strength to strength after a successful union event, a strong league start and with their standing with the AU (Athletic Union). This year the club has placed a bigger emphasis on engaging with the Union, and looking to become more inclusive as a club. Yet this has always been the ethos of a club which members will tell you shares an incredible bond. From tours, to training, to their latest event ‘Disco Dodgeball’ which was a huge success, the girls at Netball are set on growing their club.

Club Chair Melissa Hadley, 21, spoke to The Northern Quota about how this season has been successful so far: “Results for this year have been good and it looks as though by the end of the season all 5 of our teams are looking as if they will stay in their league.

"[That] is what we really want, as last year we had 2 teams promoted so for those teams to sit comfortably in a better league shows how the skill level in the club is improving.”

Success on the pitch is one thing, but the club is finding success socially as well. On Thursday, the girls hosted their contender for MMU Event Of The Year in ‘Disco Dodgeball’ where teams competed in a dodgeball tournament in fancy dress, which proved to be just as popular as they expected.

“The idea of disco dodgeball came from one of our ex chairwomen Jenn Collings 3 years ago. She did it as a project for her course in events management and it started off as a small event, with maybe 8 teams. We then thought it would be a good idea to carry this on as a fundraiser, to raise money for a charity and the club.

This year we had 24 teams entered, and we had to make that the limit as it was proving so popular. We raised over £800 for Stand Up To Cancer, which Apple are kindly doubling. This meant we raised over £1500. The event is continuing to get bigger and bigger.”

MMU netball
(Photo Credit: Hannah Yeates)

The whole club was proud of the event as their Vice Chairwoman, Elena Ratcliffe, told us: “Disco dodgeball was such a good event, and we raised loads of money. It’s great to see it get bigger and better and I can't wait for next years!

"When the club is in the spotlight like this, I hope that people can recognise the hard work everybody in this club puts in. We work hard on and off the pitch and sometimes it’s nice to be recognised.”

While the event was held for charity, Melissa confirmed that it has helped the club grow and hopefully recruit some fresh faces: “It was a charity event, although it has raised the profile of our club to those not particularly involved in the athletic union (AU).”

With this mentality, it comes as no surprise that the team refer to themselves as one big Family, and they ensure they speak to club alumni to keep in contact and maintain their friendships.

Melissa reminissed on how the team members make long lasting bonds: “We are all still in contact with a lot of them, we are like a big family so it would be strange if we didn't keep in touch.”

At the half way point of the season, the club can afford to look back with fondness on what they have achieved this academic year. Success with their events and promotion thereof is their theme of this year and when you speak to any club member, their pride of these accomplishments is evident. They’ve also stepped up in class this season and adjusted well, as performance sport officer Callum Jones told us.

“The netball team have adjusted well to the step up in levels into the Northern 1A league, using this year to consolidate their position there.  Many of the first team players link in with external club teams as well to double up on their netball. 

“At the top end this includes our burgeoning partnership opportunities with Manchester Thunder, which aside from MMU players in their Super league team encompasses student development possibilities in marketing, event management etc.”

While this season has been difficult for Mel’s team, generally, the MMU Netball teams are looking on course to retain their league positions.

Coming off their first win of the season, there is plenty of reason for optimism. With this in Mind, she says she only has a few wishes for the remainder of the season; no more injuries, and to remain unbeaten in their remaining matches: "It’s pretty impossible to not have injuries in netball. We have had a few pulled muscles and strains, but none of which have required a huge amount of time out.

“My hopes for the rest of the season, is for each team to either win or draw the rest of their games. As well as no walk overs or anyone playing under protest.”

The team are looking to ensure good form by entailing some gruelling training sessions, which are carefully orchestrated as they look to analyse previous matches and improve.

Practice will start with a group chat, a brief match report and the opportunity to check if anyone has something they want to say to the group, such as questions about kit or any charity events. Next, they go into a warm up, sometimes some fitness, then go into skills and match play. The last half an hour 7:30 - 8:00 is for first and second team to talk with the coach.

They also work hard with their condition, as Melissa told us what they do to ensure match sharpness by taking on a strength and conditioning regiment.

“When you go to strength and conditioning you can either choose what to do or Joe (the coach) will tell you if you’re going to be doing a strength session or a conditioning session. If you’re doing a strength session you will usually be lifting, if you do a conditioning session it will include being on the bike, which could be tempo runs to continuous cycling. Each session will start with rolling and stretching and end with core workout.”

This hard work in training is something the whole club believes in and throughout her three years in the club, Mel has worked incredibly hard which saw her become chair of the club this academic year, something which she is extremely proud of: “It felt really good because I had previously enjoyed being social secretary last year and getting more involved with what goes on behind the scenes and decision making.

"Now being responsible for the whole club, even though it's a lot of hard work, it's really rewarding, and I love watching the club improve and grow. I also love the committee, I think it's the best committee there's been in my 3 years at MMU, as you can tell everyone really cares about the club."

MMU Netball player

I feel like I've maybe left my mark on the club by trying to get the club to have strong links with the union, and volunteering more.

"I also feel like I've tried to have netball more involved and get our name out there. For example, competing in Red Bull Switch Up tournament and doing promotional videos for our events.”

Netball has gone from strength to strength this year, and they’re building a solid foundation this year so they can cement their place in their respective leagues and push on next year. With everybody working hard on and off the pitch, they’re well on their way to being a contender for Club of the Year.

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