Yorkshire Jets: Loving it in Leeds but search for first win continues - Francis
The Yorkshire Jets have played two more games since this last column and our clean sheet remains ... if by clean sheets we are referring to a lack of wins.
Saturday, February 20 saw us play our first home game at Leeds Beckett University and, with a sell-out crowd and England and Yorkshire cricket glitterati in attendance, hopes were high.
Despite the Hertfordshire Mavericks being undefeated so far in the season, expectations of ourselves for a big performance remained and the elusive first win still seemed possible.
Whilst I have drawn on the theme of progression frequently in my columns, we made a Jets 2016 first by winning our first quarter.
We showed more consistency than we had in the season so far and finished the opening 15 minutes leading 13-10.
This form, however, was not permanent as we lost the remaining quarters by an increasing deficit, eventually losing out by 13 goals, 51-38.
Matches feel like they are coming in very quick succession this Vitality Netball Superleague season and 48 hours later we moved onto Round 5, getting back on the road to take on Team Northumbria.
The hosts were also in search of their first win of the 2016 season and, having fallen to Team Bath by 30 goals in the previous round, there was an air of desperation about this game that certainly was displayed on court.
Live on Sky Sports 2, the netball world watched as an incredibly scrappy and physical clash saw Jets come out the eventual losers with a four-goal deficit, 48-44.
Bodies were certainly put on the line but skill and execution was lacking from my Jets side and we were punished once again.
Over the past few weeks more and more people have been asking me about how I am finding my move to Leeds. ‘Do you have any regrets?’ and ‘Are you enjoying it?’ are frequent questions, as is ‘Did you win?’ from my work colleagues. I find this quite amusing and the answer to the questions remains honest and the same as it was before the season started. I am loving Leeds!
I have played netball competitively since the age of 15, only been a part of one Superleague franchise before and consistently trained alongside the same smallish group of athletes and an even smaller pool of coaches.
I find it exciting to be in a new environment, training alongside new team-mates, being led by new coaches and the responsibilities and challenges that encompass all of that.
When I went to play in the ANZ Championships (Australia and New Zealand’s semi-professional league) for the Canterbury Tactix in 2012, I under-estimated how hard it would be to embed myself in a new team and figure out how my style of play would work alongside the team’s goals.
What the 2016 Yorkshire Jets side is experiencing is what I did in New Zealand but on a much grander scale.
We have internationals from four different countries, an age and experience gap of 11 years from our oldest to our youngest player, six new faces to the Yorkshire Jets side from last season and only one or two players remaining who got ‘regular’ court-time last year.
Often it takes time for a new team to build and find out what their culture and style of play is going to be. Our non-negotiables are becoming much clearer and the brand of netball that we want to put out is genuinely starting to take shape. From my own experiences, given time it can become like telepathy when you have established a connection with team-mates.
Every time we step on court to train and each time that we play we are finding out new things about ourselves.
We are obviously improving. The last two rounds have shown that we are able to win quarters. We are also decreasing the deficit by which we are losing.
Our campaign will continue to be about building throughout the season.
Patience is indeed a virtue and one which I will continue to remind myself and my team-mates of as we move forward.
Round six will find us back at Leeds Beckett in search of further improvements against bottom of the table neighbours Celtic Dragons on Monday, February 29.