Natalie Metcalf completes Netball Superleague hat-trick with Manchester Thunder

A Commonwealth Games gold medalist and twice Suncorp Super Netball winner with NSW Swifts, Barrowford's Natalie Metcalf made it a hat-trick of Vitality Netball Superleague titles at the weekend.

By Chris Boden
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 12:30 pm
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: Laura Malcolm of Manchester Thunder lifts the Vitality Netball Superleague trophy after winning the Netball Superleague Grand Final match between Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning at Copper Box Arena on June 05, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images for England Netball)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: Laura Malcolm of Manchester Thunder lifts the Vitality Netball Superleague trophy after winning the Netball Superleague Grand Final match between Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning at Copper Box Arena on June 05, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images for England Netball)

Having twice won Superleague with Wasps Netball in 2017 and 2018, before moving to Sydney, the 29-year-old returned to the UK for this season with Manchester Thunder, who she helped to a perfect season, winning all their 22 games to be crowned 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague champions, beating Loughborough Lightning 60-53 in the Grand Final.

And it was something of a Pendle affair, as Millie Sanders also started the final, with Emilia Roscoe coming on to play her part in the victory.

Sanders' father Graham is from Nelson and played for Colne Dynamoes with Roscoie’s father Neville - with the parents in the same class at Walton High School in Nelson!

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LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: Natalie Panagarry of Loughborough Lightning and Natalie Metcalf of Manchester Thunder contest the ball during the Netball Superleague Grand Final match between Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning at Copper Box Arena on June 05, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images for England Netball)

Roscoe, like Metcalf, is a former FisherMore RC High School pupil.

Thunder started superbly and led 20-8 at the end of the first quarter, and while Lightning recovered to stay the pace with Thunder for the remainder of the match, they could not claw them back.

Metcalf played an important role with her accurate feeds helping attacking duo Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell, and she finished with 11 feeds into the shooting circle, only topped by Cardwell (19) and Caroline O’Hanlon (14).

The stern defensive efforts of Sanders, Kerry Almond, and Laura Malcolm also made life difficult for Lightning, with Sanders contributing three turnovers and two intercepts.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: Kerry Almond, Emilia Roscoe and Laura Malcolm of Manchester Thunder celebrate victory during the Netball Superleague Grand Final match between Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning at Copper Box Arena on June 05, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images for England Netball)

The defending champions Lightning stayed within seven or eight until the final minutes of the first quarter, before a late flurry saw Thunder end with a 12-point advantage.

The second quarter was more even, but Thunder went into the break 36-22 ahead.

Lightning didn't go down without a fight, however, as the deficit was reduced to eight midway through the third quarter..

But Thunder kept Lightning at arm’s length to lead by 10 going into the final quarter.

Lightning moved within just six goals, but it was too little too late as Cardwell sealed the title with a final goal to complete a perfect season and seal the crown.

Thunder boss Karen Greig said: “I don’t think you can get any closer than that.

"A lot of our girls will probably turn around and say this is the best squad we’ve ever had.

“The unity of the team has been phenomenal, the girls have got each other’s backs. They get on, on and off the court, which for me is a culture thing and you see transfer from off to on: you couldn’t ask for more.

“I don’t think you feel the pressure because you’re undefeated, you feel the pressure because you’re going into a final.

“We’ve treated every single game exactly the same this season, we’ve wanted to win every game, we’ve approached it in the same way and today was no different.

“Just because it was a final, we didn’t do anything different. If you throw something different at the team it can throw them off.

“Undefeated is absolutely amazing and we’re super proud of it, but to get over the line today is phenomenal.”

Performance Director Tracey Neville added: “This is one of the best club sides I’ve coached.

“We’ve got a team full of internationals and potential internationals and they drive the standards in the group. The Roses are the best girls in England, but this team is not far off.”