Loughborough Lightning dominated the regular season in 2017, winning 17 of their 18 matches to finish nine points clear of new franchise Wasps Netball. Manchester Thunder and Team Bath came third and fourth respectively to qualify for the semi-finals, where the two highest-ranked teams made it through to the showpiece event at the Barclaycard Arena. This time it was Wasps who edged out Loughborough 55-51 in a closely-fought contest, while Thunder beat Bath 56-48 in the third-fourth play-off to take bronze.
Surrey Storm, Superleague champions in 2015 and 2016, could only finish fifth, ahead of UWS Sirens. The remaining places were filled out by benecosMavericks, Severn Stars and Team Northumbria and Celtic Dragons, and the same ten teams will again compete in 2018
Loughborough Lightning will fancy themselves as the team to beat this season despite just losing out to Wasps in last year’s Grand Final. They were the outstanding team throughout most of the campaign and also won the inaugural British Fast5 All-Stars tournament in September. However, they face serious competition from last year’s winners Wasps, as director of netball Tamsin Greenway goes in search of a fourth successive title. Greenway says there is a great mix of youth and experience to the Wasps squad this year and she is excited to have bolstered the team’s attacking options with the recent signing of South African star Renske Stoltz.
It is especially important for all the teams to have top-quality cover this year, with many of Superleague’s players set to jet off to the Commonwealth Games in April and miss a number of games. They will be back for the business end of the season, but burnout could be a factor. Surrey Storm are among the teams who appear to have recruited well and they will be desperate to re-establish themselves following a disappointing season by their own standards. Manchester Thunder have also set their sights on another top-four finish, but perhaps it is Team Bath who might be the team to watch. They had the best defensive record in the league last season and will be going into the new season full of confidence after winning a warm-up tri-series which also involved Wasps and Severn Stars. England attacker Kadeen Corbin’s return will be a huge boost and they look to have the all-court potential to mix it with the likes of Loughborough and Wasps.