The final day of a four-day Netball Superleague special comes to an end this evening with two matches. The first game is between London Pulse and Celtic Dragons, with both teams without a win so far this season. This match is followed by Leeds Rhinos taking on Strathclyde Sirens.
The bottom of the table tells us a completely different story to that at the top. Celtic Dragons, one of two teams to reach the 2013 Grand Final, sit bottom of the league, having lost all five games so far.
The Welsh side, who are coached by Tania Hoffman, are in the same position as they were last year, before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dragons take on another side who are yet to win a league match campaign, London Pulse, who unlike the Cardiff-based side, were third in the table last season - winning all three of their games.
This season looks a lot different for Pulse - they sit second-bottom and are still seeking their first win this evening.
Here are five talking points ahead of the match between the two teams from their respective countries’ capitals.
Will Dragons get revenge?
On March 9th last year, we saw these two teams clash in their third league game of the season. Pulse came out on top that day, winning 69-38.
Sigrid Burger was the standout player in the match, scoring 48 of Pulse’s 69 goals, and she will be looking to have another impressive performance this evening.
The defeat last year will spur Dragons on to get revenge against the London side, who are hoping to leapfrog Pulse if they are victorious.
There is some doubt as to whether Dragons will be without their top goalscorer, Amy Clinton, who missed their last game against Saracens Mavericks due to a head injury she sustained against Surrey Storm. Clinton has scored 102 goals for the Welsh team.
Can Rothwell maintain her impressive shot succession rate?
Pulse’s Kira Rothwell has currently got the league’s second-highest shot succession rate this campaign, scoring 28 out of a possible 29 shots - giving her a goal conversion of 96.55 percent.
Rothwell scored 11 of the London side’s goals in yesterday’s 52-40 defeat to Loughborough Lightning.
How have both teams performed against the same opposition so far?
Dragons and Pulse have both faced Surrey Storm and Strathclyde Sirens so far this season, but how did they fare against these teams?
Interestingly the Welsh and London side scored an equal amount of goals, 40, against Storm. However, Dragons fell to a heavier defeat, conceding 56, while Pulse only narrowly lost by two goals.
When both teams squared off against Sirens, Dragons lost the game 35-52, while Pulse were beaten 30-35 by the Scottish side.
These figures suggest that Pulse are coping better defensively than Dragons, and overall have a significantly lower goal difference up to now in the league with a minus 46 goal difference, compared to the Welsh team’s minus 115.
Looking at this even further, Dragons have played one more game than Pulse, five, however, after four games, the Welsh side still had a worse goal difference than the London team - with a goal difference of minus 95.
Is age a factor in both teams’ league positions?
Looking at the most frequent starting seven of Dragons’ squad, Abigail Tyrrell and Rebekah Robinson have started all five matches. Whereas Amy Clinton, Annika Lee-Jones, Christina Shaw, Clare Jones and Laura Rudland have been involved in four of the games for the first centre-pass.
The average age of this seven has been worked out as 24.9, with the team having both experienced and young players. One of which is 29-year-old Jones, who has represented Wales since 2016.
Pulse’s average age was harder to work out due to more rotation in their starting seven. Six of their squad started two of the four matches so far and only three players have begun all four games.
The average age for the London club has been worked out based on the three individuals who have started every game. The other four players have been calculated based who has made the most appearances off the bench - but have also begun two games. This age is 22.9.
Pulse’s age is lower, despite having former England international Lindsay Keable in this seven. The 32-year-old has 11 years of top-flight netball experience under her belt. It is also interesting to note that the reason the London team’s average age is lower, is due to their youngest starting player only being 18 - this is Funmi Fadoju.
This two-year age difference, based on previous matches, suggests that the younger the team in a bottom of the table scenario so far, fares better defensively.
Will Tania Hoffman’s job be at risk if Dragons lose again?
If Dragons fall to defeat again this evening, it could be suggested that Tania Hoffman’s recruitment for the 2021 campaign is the reason for this poor start.
The former Surrey Storm Director of Netball joined the Welsh side in August 2018, ahead of the 2019 Superleague season.
Hoffman is only one of two foreign head coaches in the league, hailing from New Zealand.News Now - Sport News