The England and Manchester Thunder captain Natalie Metcalf has two objectives firmly in place for 2023: to retain the domestic Super League title and for her country to put on a show at the Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa.
Metcalf believes the Super League starting in February will provide her and her England teammates with the ideal platform to get their games to peak level in time for the World Cup in July.
“Going into the domestic season as the defending champions obviously adds pressure but our intentions are very clear, which is to retain the Super League title,” Metcalf told The National during their pre-season tour to Abu Dhabi on Monday.
“We have some new faces in the squad and we want to put in our best performance week-in and week-out. We are aware the others will have the same intentions, but we are ready for the challenges.”
Metcalf rejoined the Thunder’s tour in Abu Dhabi after England’s 3-0 series defeat in Australia last week.
“It was a tough series against Australia,” she said. “They were close games. We went down 55-54 in the first game and the next two by eight and four points. We can take a lot of positives from the three games.
“We are looking forward to more competitions against other nations with the long-term objective of the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa.”
Metcalf is a Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 2018 and made her debut for the Roses against Trinidad and Tobago in 2015.
She has won medals at Netball Europe Championships, the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 and has enjoyed domestic success in both England and Australia, playing for Leeds Carnegie, Yorkshire Jets, Manchester Thunder, Wasps and New South Wales Swifts.
And the 29-year-old is now part of the franchise’s ground-breaking project to set up the Manchester Thunder Academy in Abu Dhabi in association with UAE Netball and Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
“This is our first pre-season tour and we haven’t done anything like this before, as far as I know,” she said of the tour.
“I would love to come back every year for a pre-season in Abu Dhabi, and I think it really should be with our pathway to promote and develop the sport here.
“It’s amazing to see a Manchester Thunder Academy in Abu Dhabi and that’s something that I’m really passionate about.
“I love netball and everyone at Manchester Thunder loves netball, and we are very excited in building this pathway up here to provide the girls the opportunity to play the game out here.”
Metcalf will lead an “attack masterclass”, while Taylor McEvitt will conduct the defensive sessions for girls aged from seven to 16 at Active Al Maryah on Thursday.
There will also be a workshop followed by an exhibition training session by the Thunder’s squad on Friday at Zayed Sports City.