Severn Stars director of netball Anita Navin says they could face a tough task in convincing established players to join the franchise, but says that will give younger players a chance to impress.
Stars were one of three new franchises granted a licence for the 2017 Vitality Superleague and having got a home venue in place, a head coach to oversee matters on the court, the challenge is to now build a squad to compete.
It is a difficult one for a franchise setting out on a journey at the top level of the game in this country, but it is one that will present opportunities.
“We are having conversations with players who are saying ‘I am in an established top four franchise but I don’t know if I’ll be in the first seven, can you give me more court time?” Navin said.
“That is a difficult question, but I explain our coach and franchise vision and that will be seen over the season and until they have seen us play then they are a little bit hesitant to move.
“There may be some disappointed players who stay with their franchise but see individuals who have not reached their level out on our court.”
Plenty of overseas stars have added much to the competition and Navin admits the challenge will be getting the blend right between talent from abroad, established and emerging England players and talented local youngsters.
“I really want to make sure we don’t just bring players to the area. We want to grow the young talent and there is a pretty good base of 17/18 year-old players in the area,” Navin told Sportsclubsociety.
“So we have committed to saying we will use imports if we need them but initially we want to know what players are coming to us from England and who can play for their country – whether they are U19 or U21.
“Then we can see where the gaps are and see if we need imported players. We are determined to make a good squad environment with a blend of experience and youth.”
I really want to make sure we don’t just bring players to the area. We want to grow the young talent and there is a pretty good base of 17/18 year-old players in the area.
New head coach Mo’onia Gerrard has a track record of working with young players and having played at the top level herself with 68 Test Appearances for the Australian Diamonds she shares the same beliefs.
“We are not over ambitious although being Australian Mo’onia is pretty ambitious already – she has a winning mentality and finishing top is where she wants to be,” Navin said.
“But we are realistic and she shares the same vision as us that it is about blending and growing the youth but not throwing them onto court if they are not ready. We have a real focus to grow and not just a one season win, but we can build for the future over the coming years.
“The established franchises have got their brands, they’ve got the players that are looking to move into a top four franchise so it is a bit harder for us but that is an opportunity as we can invest in some players who may not be getting onto court at other franchises.
“We can look to get them opportunities with more established players.”
The new season gets underway in January so there is still plenty of work to put in place as plans come together and Navin and Gerrard are working hard to get the squad in place.
“We are conscious that we want a core framework of players by mid-August,” Navin added.
“So Mo’onia is looking to come over a bit earlier now, she wants to see players, she wants to talk to individuals. I don’t want to make any decisions for her, I want to be her squad and her selection.
“We are looking at players now and are trying to get a framework of three or four experienced players, whether they are still playing for England or have retired. But that is an opportunity for us to get a backbone and then add in some of the youth.
“As much as players are asking me about our player package, I am passing it through to Mo’onia for her to look at what she wants and where she sees the experienced players fitting.
“We think there may also be a bit of a window in September when some of the players have been to the top franchises but find that there have been imports and it might look doubtful that they will get on court.”
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