There is a new vibrancy in and around the Celtic Dragons squad plus an inner belief they will improve performances as the season progresses.
Watching Dragons players warm down at Arena Birmingham following their 58-41 defeat against Team Bath at Super10 day their enthusiasm and desire shone through.
The next test for coach Tania Hoffman and her new-look team is a Vitality Netball Superleague match against London Pulse at the Copper Box arena.
Hoffman had to tweak her team slightly for the clash with Team Bath because Suzy Drane, Bethan Dyke and Claire Elsey were unavailable. Kyra Jones stepped in at wing-attack with Nia Jones, normally a wing-defence or goal-defence, switched to centre.
“They were big moves from Kyra and Nia, who had not played centre for us,” said Hoffman. “The call now is to improve from our performance against Bath when we play Pulse.
“We’ve been working had on commitment plus strength and conditioning at Cardiff Met. Those factors will hold us in good stead as the season progresses.
“I was pleased with the girls who went on for us. Abby Tyrrell at GD worked well with Stacian Facey.”
Australian-born Kyra Jones insists Dragons are aiming for a top five finish in Superleague this season, saying: “WE have players from Fiji, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, England and Wales in our team. Our dynamic for 2019 is far different.
“There were spells when we played well against Bath and we will work hard for the lightbulb moment to enable us to play at a high level for 60 minutes.
“Our result against Bath was a little disappointing. We were within three goals of them in the second quarter and allowed them to get away again.
“It wasn’t so much about what they did to us, but what we did to ourselves. We suffered because of our own errors.
“We have focused on improving for the next match and the rest of this season.
“Celtic Dragons are not a bottom team, far from it. Our aim is to push for the top five.”
Dee Bolakoro, from Fiji, tweeted after the match v Bath: “So proud of my Celtic Dragons. So many positives from our first match. We will reassess, readjust, reset, regroup and be ready for London Pulse.”
It was a big day for Dragons at Super10 with Hoffman’s new coaching team in place, 10 changes to the squad and a number of player debuts.
Among the players making a first Dragons appearance was Abby Tyrrell, who has come to Wales from Manchester Thunder.
Abby helped England win the Netball Open Championship in Belfast and said after first first Dragons match: “Absolutely loved it. I am more than excited to see what we can achieve as a team through the season.
“We go again against Pulse on Saturday.”
Former Severn Stars under-21 shooter Lucy Herdman played her first Dragons match and said: “So good to be on court for my Superleague debut. Can’t wait for Saturday’s game against Pulse.”
Dragons’ Ellie Nawele, who serves in the British Army, said: “An absolute honour for my Netball Superleague debut. An amazing opportunity and most importantly thanks to those who believe in me and have been supportive throughout this journey
Dragons captain Nia Jones had the final word before the Welsh team face London Pulse, saying: “There were some moments of brilliance from us against Bath and we really showed what we’ve been working on in pre-season with our exciting new additions.
“We weren’t happy. It was a loss when we would have loved to build momentum for the start of the season.
“We are just going to have to be better against London Pulse.”
The first Superleague match for Pulse saw them edge home 51-49 against Severn Stars. It was a game dominated by defence with some disjointed mid-court play.
Vitality Netball Superleague fixtures this weekend:
Friday, January 11: Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm).
Saturday, January 12: Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm), Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm), London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm), Wasps v Manchester Thunder (7.30pm).
The first home match for Dragons this season is on Monday, February 4 when Saracens Mavericks will be visitors to the Wales National Centre in Cardiff (7pm).
Ama Agbeze GD, GK
Fionnuala Toner C, GD, WD
Ash Neal C, GA, WA
Bea Skingsley GD, WD
Brie Grierson GA, WA
Chiara Semple GA, GS
Frankie Wells GS
Honor De Winton GD, GK
Jasmin Odeogberin GD, WD
Kira Rothwell GA, WA
Loreen Ngwira GK
Olivia Tchine GS
Rose Long C, WA
Shantal Slater GS
Taylor Cullen C, WD
Chelsea Lewis GS, GA
Kalifa McCollin GS, GA
Kyra Jones C, WA
Nia Jones (capt) WD, GD
Lucy Howells GS, GA
Dee Bolakoro GD,WD
Stacian Facey GD, WD, GK
Lucy Herdman GS, GA
Lydia Hitchings GS, GA
Eleanor Roberts GS, GA
Abby Tyrrell GK, GD
Suzy Drane C, WD, WA
Bethan Dyke WA, C