Yorkshire Jets will play Loughborough Lightning in front of a packed house at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport tonight – how many White Rose clubs can say that?
Granted, 850 fans is not a capacity Hillsborough or Headingley, but it is a number that is indicative of one of the fastest growing sports in Britain.
Netball is blossoming. National exposure at last summer’s Commonwealth Games was followed by a lucrative television deal with Sky Sports, in which one Superleague fixture per week is screened live.
A sport that has never known such exposure, suddenly finds itself in the spotlight.
The increased awareness has made the dawn of the 10th Superleague season feel like the start of a brand new era.
That is certainly the feeling for the Yorkshire Jets, who are entering their fourth year in England and Wales’ elite tier, and their third as the Jets, after starting out life in 2005 as Leeds Carnegie, based at Leeds Beckett University.
That remains their spiritual home, but to help grow the sport, they will play their seven home games this Spring across four sites throughout the region: Sheffield’s EIS, Leeds Beckett University, the University of Huddersfield and Hull Sports Arena.
“Commercially it’s good because we get to go out and build interest in the sport around the county,” says Anna Carter, the Jets head coach and Lancastrian by birth, but an adopted Yorkshirewoman having been with the netball programme in Leeds since its inception.
“For me there’s always a battle regarding performance where you want a home venue that you play out of week in, week out, which we don’t have.
“But I can see the commercial benefits of going out and connecting with the wider public in Yorkshire.
“Sheffield has been a great supporter – tonight’s opening game is a sell-out, and the games we have at Leeds Beckett are pretty much a sell-out as well. Hull normally is a capacity, and Huddersfield was sold out for a friendly with Manchester, so obviously people are getting out there and supporting us, which is exciting.
“Eventually I’d like a home with 5,000 fans in every week, like they do in the premier Australia New Zealand league. But we’ll build up to it slowly.
“We are testing the boundaries of where we sit with the sport and that’s really useful as we assess what the next move for the Jets is.
“There’s a massive push on women’s sport at the moment, and for me personally, there should be a women’s team sport to get behind,” added Carter.
“Women’s sport is gaining in popularity and getting the kudos it deserves.”