The Green Army will turn out in force on Saturday when Australian-born Wales international Kyra Jones plays in her last Celtic Dragons home match.
Centre Jones came to Wales a decade ago, has played a major role for the Dragons and married a Welshman.
Jones, from Perth, admits she sent off an application to potentially join a team called Celtic Dragons without knowing anything about the Welsh organisation.
“I have had so many amazing opportunities to play with, and against, some of the World’s best netballers,” says Jones, who has played in more than 150 Superleague matches and earned 50-plus international caps for Wales.
“It is amazing to think that had I not started as an import player, I would have never had come over, met my husband and stayed to play in this netball league,” she says. “It has been a whirlwind journey and one I am proud to say I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
Dragons fans – nicknamed the ‘Green Army’ – are ready to make Jones’ final home appearance at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff a memorable occasion.
“The support Green Army fans have shown not only me, but also the Celtic Dragons, over the years has been amazing. It has been a pleasure to have you alongside me for this amazing journey.”
Head coach Tania Hoffman and her Dragons can reflect on the 2018-19 season with an awful lot of satisfaction – and a fair bit of frustration.
They have a rich mix of nations in their team with players from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, England, Fiji, Australia and Wales pulling together and competing fiercely in every match.
Dragons have won five of their 16 matches so far, but know their could have been more victories. They will, though, learn from their experience of a season which has seen them improve markedly.
Grit, determination and patience have been among the crucial factors, while Dragons also have an abundance of talent and they have laid foundations to build on this season.
Khalifa McCollin, the young shooter from Trinidad and Tobago, has been inspirational in her second spell with the club.
Dragons were edged out by Saracens Mavericks (50-55) and reigning Superleague champions Wasps (48-64) at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena over Easter weekend when McCollin returned a 91 per cent shooting accuracy across the two matches.
2️⃣ games on the bounce did not faze @kalifa_forever 🔥🔥
She maintained a 9️⃣1️⃣% shooting accuracy across both our @NetballSL games last weekend! 🎯
— Celtic Dragons (@celtic_dragons) April 24, 2019
The task facing Dragons was a daunting one. Two away games against established top four sides with a mere 18 hours to recover and reload between them.
Despite this massive undertaking, Dragons played some of their best netball of the campaign and, with a bit more luck, would have taken one win out of the weekend.
Wasps were the first club to confirm a Netball Superleague play-off spot after beating Dragons at the Big Easter Weekend .
Coach Mel Mansfield’s team moved three points clear at the top with two games left.
“It was a good battle,” said Wasps head coach Mansfield after the 64-48 success against Dragons.
The final Dragons home appearance for Kyra Jones is this Saturday against Surrey Storm, while there is also a trip to Loughborough Lightning in the last fixture of the VNSL regular season.
Although stepping down from Superleague netball, Kyra remains a member of the Wales senior long squad.
Tickets for the home game against Surrey Storm (27 April) can be purchased via celticdragonsnetball.ticketline.co.uk
Easter Weekend results:
Celtic Dragons 50 Saracens Mavericks 55
Teams, Dragons: GS Lucy Herdman, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Suzy Drane, C Kyra Jones, WD Nia Jones (rapt), GD Dee Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Replacements: Ellie Nawele, Eleanor Roberts, Bethan Dyke, Laura Burton.
Mavericks: GS G Fisher, GA K Corbin, WA G Lees, C S Corbin (capt), WD M Drayne, GD J Trip, GK R Quashie. Replacements: K Bailey, K Corbin, B Ecuyer-Dale, S Hankin, L Keable.
Quarter scores (Dragons first): 10-15 (10-15); 15-16 (25-31); 14-11 (39-42); 11-13 (50-55)
Wasps 64 Celtic Dragons 48
Celtic Dragons: GS Chelsea Lewis, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Bethan Dyke, C Kyra Jones, WD Nia Jones (rapt), GD Dee Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Replacements: Lucy Herdman, Suzy Drane, Ellie Nawele, Abby Tyrrell, Laura Burton.
Wasps: GS R Dunn, GA K Harris, WA B Msomi, C J Clarke, WD A Flanagan, GD F Williams, GK H Knights. Replacements: B Dix, C Essam, J Huckle, S May, T Moala.
Quarter scores (Dragons first): 16-12 (16-12); 17-10 (33-22); 14-11; (47-33); 17-15 (64-48)
VITALITY SUPERLEAGUE 2019
Saturday: Strathclyde Sirens 44, Loughborough Lightning 59; London Pulse 42, Manchester Thunder 71; Wasps 76, Surrey Storm 42; Severn Stars 42, Team Bath 53; Saracens Mavericks 55, Celtic Dragons 50.
Sunday: Wasps 64, Celtic Dragons 48; Strathclyde Sirens 47, London Pulse 44; Surrey Storm 46, Severn Stars 51; Loughborough Lightning 60, Manchester Thunder 57; Team Bath 45, Saracens Mavericks 51.
Fixtures, Friday, April 26: Strathclyde Sirens v Wasps (7.30pm).
Saturday, April 27: Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm (4pm), London Pulse v Loughborough Lightning (4pm), Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars (4pm, live on Sky Sports Television), Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (5pm).
VITALITY SUPERLEAGUE 2019
Dragons results/fixtures 2019 – most home games played at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff.
Celtic Dragons 41, Team Bath 58
Saturday 12 London Pulse 40, Celtic Dragons 67
Friday 25 Severn Stars 57, Celtic Dragons 40
Monday 4 Celtic Dragons 44, Saracens Mavericks 66
Friday 8 Strathclyde Sirens 46, Celtic Dragons 50
Monday 18 Celtic Dragons 46, Wasps 58
Monday 25 Celtic Dragons 56, Manchester Thunder 83
Saturday 2 Surrey Storm 46, Celtic Dragons 48
Saturday 9 Celtic Dragons 57, Loughborough Lightning 70
Saturday 16 Team Bath 56, Celtic Dragons 50
Monday 25 Celtic Dragons 62, London Pulse 51
Saturday 30 Celtic Dragons 52, Severn Stars 53
Saturday 6 Manchester Thunder 73, Celtic Dragons 46
Saturday 13 Celtic Dragons 59, Strathclyde Sirens 49
Saturday 20 Saracens Mavericks 55, Celtic Dragons 50
Sunday 21 Wasps 64, Celtic Dragons 48
Saturday 27 v Surrey Storm (home 4pm)
Saturday 4 Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (away, 6pm)
Welsh Netball will host South Africa, among other nations yet to be confirmed, for pre-World Cup games in Cardiff this summer.
South Africa, ranked fifth in the world, feature players who compete across the globe, including in the UK’s Vitality Netball Superleague and Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball competitions.
Information regarding dates, times and ticketing will be released in due course.
Not only will these games give netball fans a first look at some of the teams who will be featuring at the World Cup in Liverpool, but it will also provide Wales with World-class opposition and mark the start of Wales’ campaign to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.