13 January 2021

Severn Stars boss Melissa Bessell says team with best ‘culture’ in Vitality Superleague will be the one to look out for

Severn stars head coach Melissa Bessell believes the team to beat in this year’s Vitality Netball Superleague will be the one with the best ‘camaraderie’.

The VNSL teams have been majorly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and have had to rely on Zoom calls and socially-distanced training for nearly a year, but Bessell has been working on turning a ‘negative’ into a ‘positive’. 

The 2019/20 VNSL season was brought to a sudden halt in March last year after three rounds and was eventually terminated with immediate effect in May. 

“We’ve really bonded as a team, there’s something very special about this Stars team,” the 52 year-old told NewsChain.

"We never shut down, we kept going and doing Zoom. I was constantly in contact with my girls throughout the whole first part of Covid. I actually think we formed a much stronger bond as a team because of it and this year will be about who has the strongest connection as a team.

"It’s going to come down to which team has the best camaraderie and the real culture is going to be the team to beat.

"I’m really excited because I really think that this year because of the situation with Covid will be a different game.

“It made my players communicate more effectively so it's taking something very negative and turning it into a positive.”

Despite the country being put into a third national lockdown, the VNSL is still set to go ahead in February but an exact date has not yet been confirmed. 

Bessell, who was named head coach in July 2019, is looking forward to leading her team for the first time in what will hopefully be a full season.

And she is certainly not shying away from the big teams such as Team Bath and Saracens Mavericks who are filled with several England players. 

She said: "Once everyone had signed contracts, I got the team together and the very first thing I did was to tell the girls my goals. I’ve always made it very clear.

“I’m not doing this job to come second or third, I am pushing and aiming for that top position and that is to be at the Grand Final.”

Severn Stars train at both University of Worcester’s Arena and University of Gloucestershire’s Arena

(Twitter: @niajones92)

She has also managed to retain Silver Fern Liana Leota who will captain the side, as well as sign Jamaica’s Sunshine Girl Malysha Kelly.

But despite her team being in a good position, Bessell still believes the VNSL has a long way to go in order to compete with major organisations including Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball and New Zealand’s ANZ Premiership. 

“We are different, I love the fact that I am able to coach in the most prestigious competition on this side of the world,” she added.

"However, we are nowhere near the level of Suncorp and ANZ and that purely comes down to that they have far bigger sponsors.

"They have dedicated venues for every one of their franchises, we do not. I suppose when you go to the (ANZ Premiership side) Northern Mystics, they train in a huge arena where they play and they pack in thousands. It would be equivalent to having the Copper Box Arena for London Pulse and having that packed out week in, week out.

“We’re not there yet. Eventually, yeah. When? I don’t know. Most of the ANZ girls have cars that they drive around to local schools and clubs which are plastered with ANZ and Mystics, it’s their full-time time job.

“You can see when English players come back from over there, their athleticism and professionalism has changed. 

"I think we just need to crack on and not be scared of knocking on those big doors and saying this is who we are and we are a great product.

“I’m always implementing ideas from that side of the world into this side of the world.”

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