In the Jet Stream with Stacey Francis: Jets’ juniors give Yorkshire club something to shout about

Yorkshire Jets'

Sophie Halpin in action against Team Northumbria. PIC: Chris Midgley
Yorkshire Jets' Sophie Halpin in action against Team Northumbria. PIC: Chris Midgley
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Again we came within minutes of our first win of the Vitality Netball Superleague season on Saturday but –characteristically – couldn’t hold on to claim victory against Team Northumbria in our final home game of the year.

The first three quarters of the game would prove a close contest. However, Team Northumbria drew first blood and led by one goal after the first quarter. We managed to ride out the pressure and come off at half-time with 24 goals apiece.

Rejuvenated by the scoreline, we came out strongly after the break and finished the quarter with a four-goal lead with one more period to play.

The team had the opportunity to take the lead to 10 goals at one point, but the curse of consistency – or lack of – struck, and we all but fell apart in the final five minutes of the game which resulted in a five-goal win (45-50) for Team Northumbria and a lacklustre 10-19 final quarter.

Things were to continue to get tougher for the squad as within the space of 48 hours we took a trip south to play league leaders, Hertfordshire Mavericks, live on Sky Sports.

Unable to reproduce some of the form that found us so competitive on Saturday, we struggled right to the final whistle, handing over tips and interception opportunities frequently to their talented defence which resulted in a 20 goals loss, 54-34.

The tone seemed to be set from the start as it took us over five minutes to score our first goal, conceding seven to the opposition first and finding ourselves 15-8 down after the opening 15 minutes.

The second half continued very much as the first with the hosts strong, determined and deadly under the post, determined not to let their lead slip. We added only nine goals in the third quarter while Mavericks added 17. Although turning ball against a tall and accurate shooting circle Mavericks were 11 goals in front.

The final quarter saw young home-grown talent, Imogen Allison, introduced to WD. Gaining three interceptions in the first five minutes, Imogen was relentless in her mission to make an impact and breathed fresh air into the team. Although more closely contested, it was too late to make a big difference and the game ended with another heavy defeat.

The young talent in Yorkshire proved to be the winners of the weekend and an inspiration for us all as our NPL side, the competition for the best young netballers in the country, gained three wins in three days.

Following what had been some more challenging days in the Yorkshire Jets camp and not making it back to Leeds and into my bed until 4.30am on Tuesday, I was incredibly grateful to again be provided with inspirations from inside and outside of the world of netball.

A friend reached out to me prior to our game against Mavericks asking if I would be happy to take a photograph with a couple who were attending the match that had tragically lost their son Tyler as a toddler to septicaemia.

Mavericks had signed a ball for them to auction for charity as they are raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital through The Tyler Stephen Reader Brighter Future Fund.

Tyler’s father is from Hertfordshire but his wife is a huge netball fan and is from Leeds originally. Thankfully, our kit sponsors, Kukri, were able to provide me with one of our replica shirts that I had signed by the girls along with a squad photo. An incredibly small gesture given the circumstances, but humbling nonetheless to be able use what little sway I have as the captain of the Yorkshire Jets to help towards such a worthy cause.

Since Tyler passed away in November, they have raised around £7,500 after family friends set up Tyler’s first JustGiving page. Hopefully a true netball fan can bid on these donated items to help raise their funds even further.

Although I will be grumpy and sleep deprived, on Tuesday night I am also genuinely looking forward to the opportunity to put Wakefield Wildcats Netball Club through their paces and, hopefully, provide them with the inspiration and competitive advantage that they require to achieve a high place in a National competition.

Back on the Superleague front, Jets now have almost two weeks until our next game when we are on the road again to take on Celtic Dragons in our penultimate fixture (Saturday, April 16).