Sirens prepare for Vitality Superleague debut

MINISTER for sport Aileen Campbell has hailed the imminent arrival of Scotland’s new pro netball team, the Sirens, as the countdown to their first ever Vitality Netball Superleague game starts in earnest.

The Sirens will compete in the 10-team British league, with their home games being played in Glasgow’s Emirates Arena and tickets are selling fast for their debut match against Wasps on Febuary 21.

As well as the serious on-court action, the crowd will be entertained by a half-time celebrity challenge, wrestler Grado and Carol Smillie, warmed-up with an on-court picture shoot, above.

And for netball fans who can’t make the live action, the match will be televised live from 7.30pm on Sky Sports Mix.

“It’s brilliant to see Scotland being represented in the Superleague and the Sirens are a great advertisement for netball as well as Scottish sport as a whole,” said Aileen Campbell MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Sport. “Since the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, we have seen a huge growth in the number of girls playing netball and the creation of this new professional team is another step forward for sporting equality, which will inspire the thousands of girls who play netball in Scotland.

“We’re always looking at ways to improve physical activity and make Scotland a healthier nation and making sure people know about the range of sports and activities open to them is key to that – this television deal will help with that.  I’m looking forward to attending the first match against the Wasps and cheering the girls on, hopefully to a win.”

The Sirens are a mix of homegrown talent and imports with Jamaican and New Zealand stars Nicole Aiken-Pinock, Carla Borrego, and Ellen Halpenny signing on for the inaugural season.

Latest arrival, Jamaican star Aiken-Pinnock, who joins  Scottish Thistles’ Jo Pettitt in replacing Althea Byfield and Lynsey Gallagher who withdrew from the squad, can’t wait to get started.

Aiken-Pinnock, who has won more than 80 caps for the Sunshine Girls and played at three World Cups and three Commonwealth Games, and was captain when the team claimed bronze at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, brings massive experience

She said: “I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity given to be a part of this fantastic team, and I am looking forward to and hoping to make the best of this new adventure. I made the decision to join because it provides a great opportunity for me to explore and learn more about netball at a more competitive level, and this is a new team that has a desire and vision to accelerate the growth of netball domestically in Scotland.

“I have a lot of experience as a defender and I know it will be challenging week in and out to compete competitively and maintain high standards. But I’m with an awesome set of ladies with great talent, and I know if we work hard together and push each other then we will be able to do well,” she told the Jamaican Observer.

“So I can’t wait to get on court with them in anticipation that we will do great things during the season.”

Coach Gail Parata said: “This inaugural Sirens team brings together an incredibly talented, experienced and ambitious group of athletes, and I’m excited to see the impact that we can make on this next season of the new look Vitality Netball Super League,”

Sponsored by Viper 10 Sportswear and Albert Bartlett, the Sirens joined Manchester Thunder, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Severn Stars, Team Northumbria, Celtic Dragons, Wasps Netball and Loughborough Lightening.

Netball Scotland CEO Claire Nelson said: “This is an opportunity for the team to show Scotland what females can do on the court and inspire the next generation. Our ambition when starting the Sirens was to tackle how women are treated in sport and society, as well as win a few trophies along the way.

“Despite 51 per cent of the UK population being female, much more interest is shown in male athletes and sports teams. We want to change this, inspiring women and girls to get active and feel confident. We have already become the first women’s sports team in Scotland with a television deal, with Sky Sports backing us.”

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland (UWS), said: “It is hugely exciting that the UWS-supported Sirens’ first ever Vitality Netball Superleague match is just a matter of weeks away. The introduction of the Sirens franchise to the Superleague is a hugely important development not just for netball, but for sport, especially women’s sport, across Scotland.

“We are delighted to be the principal partner of Sirens and to be playing such an important role in supporting this incredible team of athletes. The team aligns perfectly with our university commitment to excellence, widening access, equality and opportunity.”

Viper 10 MD, Stephanie Essex said: “We are extremely proud to be partnering with Sirens as their Official Sportswear Partner, and are delighted to be working with such a fantastic group of athletes and support staff. We believe the Sirens franchise is going to shake up the Superleague, and as a sportswear brand that has Netball at its heart, we share the same passion of working collaboratively to positively disrupt Netball in the UK and define what ‘best’ looks like.”

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Watch out for our in-depth feature on the birth of the Sirens in our next print edition.