A favourable opening to the season for GUNC in the National League as they turn their attention to focus on momentum, development and growth for the remainder of the season.
Netball Scotland have introduced a new high-performance league called the National League. The National League is made up of the seven best netball clubs in Scotland, including three university clubs; Glasgow, Strathclyde and Edinburgh. It is a major opportunity for Glasgow University Netball Club (GUNC)’s first team to showcase some excellent high-quality netball against the top clubs in Scotland. I spoke to the first’s Treasurer and Goal Attack (GA), Niamh Fitzpatrick, to get her thoughts on the achievement of GUNC being included in the National League.
“We’re just really excited to play top-level netball and to be given the opportunity to put ourselves against the best clubs in the country,” she said. “This is the highest level of netball that we could be playing in Scotland. We were so happy to be selected to play in the league and it’s really just about seeing where we are and actually being able to rank ourselves amongst the top national sides.”
GUNC is made up of both high-performance players and recreational players, with around 265 members in the club. Niamh discussed how the club’s goals for the year were focusing on “momentum and development” and emphasised how the National League is helping to spread a culture of healthy competition in the club, with many of the women fighting for places in the BUCS teams.
“It’s a really big year for growth in our club,” Niamh said when I asked her about how GUNC’s inclusion in the National League is inspiring other players in the club. “We’re doing a lot to grow and develop our recreational side as well. When we have a first team who is playing in the National League, it means that people are wanting positions more. We’ve got girls from the seconds fighting to take places in the first team. This is going to set a bit of momentum for the club.”
GUNC started the league with a fantastic 52-40 win over the Saltires, which put them third in the league table. This was after a nail-biting match the day before against Strathclyde University, with GUNC pipping Strath with a 47-46 win. Niamh highlighted that the team were concerned about “tired legs” going into their National League match on the Sunday after their Saturday game, but that momentum carried them through to take their first win in the National League. She emphasised that the 52-40 score line did not reflect how well the Saltires played, as she said that the match was goal-for-goal, but GUNC managed to pull away towards the end of the match.
According to Niamh, it’s still too early to predict where GUNC will end up overall in the National League table at the end of the season. Strathclyde University and Edinburgh University Netball Clubs are currently above GUNC as the table stands after the first round of matches. However, this was only due to point differences, with all three university clubs having won their first fixtures. Looking forward to playing the other university teams in the National League, who they already face in their BUCS league, the team is predicting exciting matches, if the Strathclyde score was anything to go by.
When I asked Niamh about her expectations for the rest of the matches in the league she said, “I think it’s going to be really tough. We’re ready for tough netball, that’s what we want. Our focus is to stick to our own structures and not look too far outside our own team. We know that it’s going to be tough – every team in the league is excellent. We’re ready for a massive step up in physicality. We’re already playing great netball against the likes of Bellahouston in the Glasgow Premier League (NPL), so I think we’re ready for a new level of physicality.”
Not only is the National League a great honour for GUNC and the other netball clubs included in this league, but it’s a chance for some of the best players in Scotland to showcase their skills and talents on a national scale, which will enable coaches and scouts to see the amazing emerging talent coming through the best netball clubs in Scotland. With Scotland qualifying for the 2023 Netball World Cup, which will be held in South Africa, the creation of this league is a great step towards preparing national players for what they will face in 2023, many of which already represent one of the seven clubs in this league.
One of the most important aspects for the players in GUNC 1s is the bond the players have on and off the court. Niamh discussed how important loving going to training and strength and conditioning sessions is for the players but also having a great relationship with the team outside of training. When I asked Niamh about the difficulties of being a final year undergraduate student at the University of Glasgow with balancing her studies, training, weekly matches, and social time she said: “It’s definitely challenging, but I think one of the key aspects is that our team are really close.” She emphasised the amount of time she spent with the team on and off the court which has helped to build great relationships and bonds that make the fluidity of the on-court teamwork thrive. “This year has been a real step up academically, so it’s really nice to love going to training every night”.
“There’s nothing better than coming off the court and knowing that you’ve contributed to something bigger than the individual,” the GA declared when I asked her how netball can be empowering for the players. It’s clear to see that the close bond she has with her teammates has instilled a positive and supportive environment in GUNC.
Glasgow University Netball Club, alongside the other university netball clubs in the National League, are showing that university sport is producing some of the best quality players and teams in the country. It’s a very exciting year for GUNC and their ambitions as a club for development, growth, and momentum have given them a fantastic start to the season.