Celtic Dragons can be this season’s surprise package in the Vitality Netball Superleague in the eyes of co-captains Sophie Morgan and Rebekah Robinson.
Dragons take on league debutants Leeds Rhinos in the first game of the 2021 campaign in Wakefield on Friday evening before going up against five-time champions Team Bath the following afternoon.
Having been boosted by the return of Jamaican international Robinson and arrival of new signing Annika Lee-Jones in the close season, Dragons are hoping to lay down a marker and start as they mean to go on.
“Everyone is excited and intensity has lifted a lot,” said Welsh international Morgan. “I think it’s anyone’s season this year.
“We want to push on and we are looking for consistency. Having Annika coming over from Australia is great for us. She’ll offer a completely different style of play and some fresh ideas for us, and she’s very vocal with those ideas in training.
“But there has not been a focus on certain players – everyone has to step up and do their job this season.
“We have very high expectations as a team and I think we’re capable of doing really well.”
Dragons have not reached the play-offs since 2013, when they finished as runners-up, but showed signs of progress in the 2019 season with a seventh-place finish following back-to-back wooden spoons.
Robinson’s first campaign in Cardiff was curtailed after just three games last time out but the 26-year-old jumped at the chance to return and warmed up for the new season by featuring for the Vitality Superleague Allstars against England.
“That experience was one in a million, I loved it,” she said. “It was amazing to see different players and styles coming together and I learned a lot.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity again with Celtic Dragons and I’m really looking forward to it. To have the chance to be co-captain with Sophie this year means so much.
“She is always willing to listen and hear your suggestions. We are very like-minded in terms of what we want from the team – consistency is something we push for daily and we want to improve in every game.
“We want to keep building this year and if we do that, I think we can surprise people by the end of the season.”
Dragons’ clash with Leeds Rhinos on the opening night will be televised live on Sky Sports, who are streaming every game this season for the first time.
Morgan hopes this will allow the enthusiastic Dragons fanbase to feel part of the action from home and admitted putting smiles on supporters’ faces is acting as an extra incentive for the squad.
“We have a massive fanbase who are incredible at games, they’re our eighth player,” she said.
“We have to realise those guys are still there with us, even though they won’t be courtside, and it’s important for us to bring our own intensity and create our own atmosphere.
“We have to come together as players and teams and help the sport rise for our future generations of netballers.
“We get on court and compete but at the end of the day, we are all in it for the same reason.
“We want to grow our sport, we love doing what we do and we’ve got to show to our younger fans that they can get there as well. We have to put the stepping stones in place for them.”
The Vitality Netball Superleague will return on 12 February 2021 and you can follow the action with all games being shown live on Sky Sports. Visit netballsl.com or follow @netballsl on Twitter and Instagram for more information.