Shrewsbury School

Giles Bell's Team of the Week

Friday 11 January 2019

This week, Netball.

In my youth (not long ago), I never missed a BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards show. These days I am still keen to watch it but there are other television hogs in my house who sometimes steal the remote and turn on to Bake Off or Danger Mouse. This year the children were watching a DVD somewhere and we had a couple of old friends to supper. When I say old friends, I had known them a long time; I am not commenting on their age – although they are in fact quite old.

You might be thinking that having people to supper meant there was no chance of the TV being switched on. But this friend of mine, who we shall henceforth refer to as Tim, for that is his name, being an avid Brighton and Hove Albion fan is a connoisseur of great football. I sensed an opportunity to ‘leave it on in the background’ so that we could watch the clips of the World Cup when ‘Football nearly came home’.

Once we sat down to a fine lentil broth or something like that (my friends are vegetarian, as is my wife), the conversation ranged in the intellectual and academic way that many of you would expect in the Bell household. I was not totally conversant, however, as I could see the TV from my position, as could my friend Tim. Having put the world to rights by sorting Brexit and developing our plan for World Peace, Tim and I headed for the ‘comfy’ chairs to chill and chat further over all ‘manner of things’.

When it came to the Greatest Sporting Moment of the Year, I was convinced that it would be the England Netball team because I watched the final of the Commonwealth Games final against Australia, and it truly was a Great Sporting Moment when The Vitality Roses won it with a goal in the last few seconds of the match. It was then not a huge surprise to see them win the Sports Team of the Year award too.

I have noticed that netball is more widely available to watch on TV, although sadly I don’t seem to have the time to watch it regularly. I have been inspired to focus on netball as the first Team of the week this term – indeed this year – not least because the 1st VII are representing Shropshire in the Midlands competition later this month (27th Jan), having qualified by reaching the final of the County Tournament last term.

I sped down to the netball courts to watch the finest Salopian netballers being put through their paces by the expert coaches we have here at Shrewsbury, who are hoping to develop the next Ama Agbeze (England Netball Captain).

I disturbed Mrs Kelly, who was busy planning her tactics for the season.

She told me that there were not as many girls at the practice as usual because the Fifth Form are all doing trial exams. She was very happy with the numbers doing netball this term and thinks that the squad will have good strength in depth. “The squad will have good strength in depth,” she told me.

Mrs Bradburne is also very excited by our strength in depth and is looking forward to some big block fixtures against Moreton Hall, Bromsgrove and Christ’s Brecon. “I love a good block fixture,” she proclaimed. Mrs Bradburne is also happy with her coaching team once again this year. There is the inspirational and very popular Karen Hall, who told me that she too is pleased with the numbers of girls playing netball and that she thinks we have a strong unit this year. And there is also Amy Nicholls, who is here for a year before she goes off to train to become a fully-fledged teacher. Amy played for the Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff Metropolitan University and had trials for Wales, so she has plenty of pedigree when it comes to showing the girls how to play the game. She is particularly adept in the rain.

Mrs Bradburne is delighted with all her coaches, as it means that she can give the girls the two-to-one coaching that she feels really benefits the players.

Amy Harris has always loved netball and finds it an exhilarating and exciting game. Despite dabbling on the river last year, she has returned to netball this year as she was missing it too much. “I really missed my netball last year,” she confessed. Meanwhile Mia Keliher was frustrated when I met her, as she was waiting to come on. Mia is a very calm and sensitive young lady, but such is her passion for playing netball she told me that she might have to go and rip someone’s bib off to take their place on the court. Such was her growing aggression, I felt it was in the world’s interests if Mia came on and I suggested to Mrs Bradburne that Amy Harris might like to come off for some specialised coaching to help her catch up for her year away from the sport. Mrs Bradburne clearly appreciated my in-depth analysis of the game and acted accordingly. “I want to develop my game and having two coaches working on my techniques at the same time is really helping my development,” Amy admitted.

Sadly, when Mia did come on she slipped over in a tussle for the ball and had to have a dressing applied to her leg. She was not fazed by this in the slightest. “It’s netball and I laugh in the face of pain” she explained. Privately I added aggression and bravery to the many attributes that netball players need to have.

Amelie Davies is reputedly a talented goal-shooter and attacker. “It’s my job to score the goals,” she told me. Amelie is looking forward to a successful season and is by nature an optimist. “I think we can win every game,” she said. What Amelie really enjoys about the game is the satisfaction she gets from scoring a goal. She finds it difficult not to smile when she is on the court, such is her enjoyment of netball.

The junior teams are also shaping up well, although it is early days. Sara Williams and Katie Bird are keen to see their teams triumph and they admit to loving the coaching. “I truly feel like I am flying when I am coaching,” Mrs Bird chirped. Camilla Lawson likes netball. “I like netball. It makes me smile,” she announced with a big smile.

I caught up with under-15 players Tabitha Winkley, Georgie Cooper, Eleanor Keulemans and Issie Urquhart, all of whom like the fast-paced nature of the game as well as the mental and physical challenges it brings. Issie enjoys the aggressive nature of the being a defender and feels that growling like a bear puts her opponents off and brings her in touch with her wild side. All four of them admit to enjoying watch it on TV with their fathers, who are all big fans.

As am I! Let’s hear it for the netballers!


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