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Vitality Netball Superleague: Nat Metcalf discusses her return to Manchester Thunder

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Nat Metcalf is back in the Vitality Netball Superleague (Image credit: Touchlinepics Sports & Event Photography)

Nat Metcalf speaks to Sky Sports about her return to the Vitality Netball Superleague after three years playing for the NSW Swifts in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball league.

Metcalf, nee Haythornthwaite, announced in September last year she would be leaving the Swifts and returning home to England for the 2022 season.

The 29-year-old joined the Swifts midway through the 2018 season and flourished in their environment alongside fellow England international Helen Housby.

“At the Swifts, we try to instil a culture of good people making great players and Natalie is one of the best on both counts,” Briony Akle, Metcalf’s former head coach said.

“She has spent a huge amount of time away from her fiancé and family in very tough circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that never changed her professional and team-first approach which was hugely valued by everyone at the club.

Vitality Netball Superleague – Round Five fixtures and results

Friday Strathclyde Sirens 48-61 Loughborough Lightning Saturday London Pulse 50-37 Celtic Dragons Saturday Saracens Mavericks 56-59 Manchester Thunder Saturday Severn Stars 45-48 Team Bath Netball Saturday Surrey Storm 58-49 Leeds Rhinos Netball Monday at 5.30pm Manchester Thunder vs Wasps Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix

Metcalf, who got married to her now husband Josh in December, took an enormous amount from her time in Australia.

“I was a full-time netballer, that was my job out there and I absolutely loved it,” the England international told Sky Sports’ Hannah Wilkes.

“I was able to train day in and day out with everyone. The contact time that you had with the club and coaches [was fantastic] and learning that way was really exciting.

“I’d always, always wanted to go out and play out there. I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to happen, and I was so grateful to be able to have that experience and achieve there as well.”

The Swifts certainly did achieve during Metcalf’s time with them, winning titles in both 2019 and 2021. Prior to that, Metcalf was instrumental in Wasps’ Vitality Netball Superleague triumphs in 2017 and 2018.

Tamsin Greenway, as Metcalf’s former team-mate and coach, is someone who rates the attacking player extremely highly, as does England’s head coach Jess Thirlby.

“She’s approachable, positive and knows what it takes to win,” Thirlby said about Metcalf in 2020, after she had selected her to lead England in the Vitality Nations Cup.

“I believe she has developed more of the grit, robustness and resilience needed to lead on some of the biggest stages and there is more depth to her leadership now. She represents the values and behaviours we care about most as a Roses team and leads by example out on court.”

Metcalf then proceeded to have a stunning Test series. On top of her physical output, her engagement with the crowd provided lifts when the Roses needed them and her support of those around her, particularly Amy Carter, drew the best out of her team too.

Bring on 2022, thank you everyone – near & far for your messages. Really touching to see so much support out there, you guys making me get all 🥲 big love to you all. I can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store x https://t.co/ewct6SBvCu

— natalie metcalf (@nataliesymone) September 20, 2021

Greenway has often hailed Metcalf’s work in attack and in a recent Sky Sports column, explained why she’s a vital part of Thunder’s unbeaten start to the 2022 season.

An injury prevented Metcalf from running out for Thunder at the Season Opener, however, when she was able to take to court, she instantly elevated them to an even greater level.

“Nat had 26 feeds alone during their 71-60 victory over Sirens, the highest on court,” Greenway said. “She’s key in their playmaking and will continue to be against the top teams going forwards.

“Nat also allows others to do their jobs; Caroline O’Hanlon is looking back to her very best in the middle, trailing Metcalf, hitting the gaps and feeding effortlessly.”

Not only does Metcalf have a great relationship with O’Hanlon in midcourt, she works seamlessly with goal attack Eleanor Cardwell.

“She’s just awesome to feed and she’s such a good egg,” Metcalf said.

“We have a great relationship on and off the court, so during the game we bounce off each other and talk things through. If we do need to change things in the moment, then we will. She’s a dream to feed and she works really, really hard.”

Manchester Thunder’s season so far

Round One Manchester Thunder 79-53 Celtic Dragons Round Two Severn Stars 45-70 Manchester Thunder Round Three Manchester Thunder 76-68 Surrey Storm Round Four Strathclyde Sirens 60-71 Manchester Thunder Round Five Saracens Mavericks 56-59 Manchester Thunder Manchester Thunder vs Wasps Round Six Team Bath Netball vs Manchester Thunder

Going into Monday night’s contest against former Superleague champions Wasps, who are going through a rebuilding phase, Thunder are unbeaten.

Karen Greig’s team have scored 355 goals during their five contests so far this campaign and always enter a season with the objective of being there on the last day.

With Metcalf having been part of four title-winning sides in the last five years, Thunder have another experienced winner in their group and one who will do her utmost to ensure they are in the mix on Grand Final day in early June.

“I would love to go for the title, who wouldn’t? We’re all playing Superleague with the same ambition of wanting to lift that trophy at the end of the season,” she said. “For me, it’s about doing the work off court as well as on court.

“It’s about not getting too caught up in terms of scorelines, wins and losses too, it’s about the performances for me. If we’re playing the Thunder way and working hard for one another, the result will speak for itself.”

Watch Manchester Thunder taking on Wasps in the Vitality Netball Superleague live on Sky Sports Main Event, Arena and Mix on Monday evening, coverage starts at 5pm.

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