After an unprecedented Vitality Netball Superleague 2021 season playing in central venues, it was announced that ‘Netball is home’ in 2022 and the Superleague teams would all host home games in attempt to have a normal season. Superfan Kelly Walker explained to the Netball Post how she (like many other fans) was unable to attend regular-season games and wanted to fully embrace the “Netball is home” message.
Kelly originally set herself a goal of watching all of the team’s play at home venues in a 10-day window, but after some thought and planning logistics, she decided to attend every team’s home venue at least once this season.
“It is was a big thing about having home games, and then rather than see every team (all at once), I changed it to going to the home of every team. With all the hashtags of ‘show up’ and ‘netball is home’ it seemed a good challenge,” Kelly commented.
She will be travelling around the UK to watch 11 matches starting where she left off at the Copperbox Arena in London. When asked which games she is most looking forward to, Kelly had three matches come to mind:
“Thunder vs Rhinos as it’s a derby game.”
This game will be one of the first times that Thunder and the Rhinos will feel the complete effect of a cross-town rivalry and be able to embrace ‘the eighth player on court.’ Manchester Thunder has a relatively strong fan base, so it will be up to coach Tracey Robinson to keep her team focused on the game at hand.
“Sirens vs Dragons, to be in Scotland and experiencing the atmosphere up there. “
Previously described by Netball Scotland’s CEO as one of the best game day experiences, the Sirens go out of their way to put on a show for their home team and against border rivals the Dragons this game will be no different.
“Bath vs Lightning will be a good game too.”
Both teams not only have some of the UK’s finest talent but a large fan base and a fresh new rivalry following an epic showdown in the 2021 Grand Final where Lightning won their first premiership.
To assist new fans (or fans who have never attended a game live), Kelly will be on Twitter (@Kelly_Walker) providing summaries of each home venue and their game-day experience as she attends the matches. Some of the things fans can look out for include a detailed visitor experience of each trip including travel to venues and costs at games, and descriptions of the atmosphere at games. She will also be providing live game updates for the games that are not being broadcasted to fans.
Kelly has already attended some of the first rounds’ home and away games for the Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars, providing great coverage for those games that haven’t been broadcasted and even had the pleasure of meeting her favourite player Jade Clarke.
For Kelly, this experience is not just about supporting the VNSL but encouraging and inspiring other people to go to home games and show up!
The Wasps Netball fan understands that there are lots of perceived obstacles such as game times and lackeof TV coverage but firmly believes that with a dedicated fan base change can occur.
“There are different reasons for different people (why they don’t attend home games). Covid-19 is still around. The timings of the game is a big one. The 5:30 game on a Monday is just ridiculous. A lot of people are still at work at 5:30 so how can people get to a game. If they did the same as in Australia- Saturday games- people will turn up.”
“We were very spoilt last season and I understand the reasons we can’t have a central venue but a Match of the Day style show (on TV) would be a good way to show all games.”
When asked how Superleague teams can improve their interaction with fans, Kelly comments“Something as simple as replying to a tweet is a starting point. If you are talking about fan engagement, it has to come from the teams, players and coaches”.
Attending the games is just a starting point
In addition to her courtside coverage, this season Kelly, and The Netball Post writer Kat Talbot, are hosting regular Netball ‘Twitter Spaces’ after each round to discuss all things netball. The Spaces are an informal arena for netball fans to voice their views and opinions, but they have also been lucky enough to have players, umpires and franchise directors join to add their insights including Kerry Almond, Vicki Sutton and Taylor McKevitt.
Kelly is hoping that by attending a home game for each team and continuing to provide extensive insights and commentary she inspires others to show up and prove that Netball is Home in their own towns.
For anyone hoping to see and meet Kelly, she will be attending:
- 6 March: London Pulse V Severn Stars at Copper Box, London
- 11 March: Severn Stars V Leeds Rhinos at University of Worcester
- 12 March: Manchester Thunder V Leeds Rhinos at Manchester AO Arena
- 13 March: Surrey Storm V Saracens Mavericks at Surrey Sports Park, Guildford
- 14 March: Team Bath V Loughborough Lightning atTeam Bath Arena
- 18 March: Strathclyde Sirens V Celtic Dragons at Emirates Arena, Glasgow
- 19 March: Wasps V Team Bath at Coventry Building Society Arena
- 26 March Leeds Rhinos V London Pulse at EIS Sheffield
- 2 April: Celtic Dragons V Manchester Thunder at Sport Wales, Cardiff
- 23 April: Loughborough Lightning V Strathclyde Sirens at Sir David Wallace Arena, Loughborough
- 14 May: Saracens Mavericks V Surrey Storm at University of Essex Sports Arena