Melissa Bessell has announced her Severn Stars squad for the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season, with Gloucester-born Jane Taylor set for her debut campaign.
Taylor has been selected amongst nine Stars players as Liana Leota returns as captain and Nia Jones as vice-captain for the University of Gloucestershire part-owned Superleague franchise.
With the 2021 season set to start in February next year, Taylor is looking forward to continuing her development against some of the best in the top-flight.
“I’m still a bit starstruck! When Melissa did tell me, which was over a Zoom call, I couldn’t believe it,” Taylor said.
“I never thought it would happen and for it to come so early too, I thought I’d have a few more year with a training partner.
“I’m ecstatic, I can’t wait for the season to actually start which is hopefully soon.”
Stars head coach Bessell joined the franchise in July 2019 and immediately set about putting together a strong group of players for her inaugural season at the helm.
Taylor admitted to joining the Stars because of the culture installed by Bessell. Through the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Stars players grew closer than ever before.Embed from Getty Images
“Before the Severn Stars was established, I was at Team Bath and I was accepted for both sides but I chose the Stars because there was such a friendly feel,” Taylor said.
“Melissa was very good at making sure that we kept contact with each other. Over isolation, we did lots of Zoom calls and made sure that we motivated each other in the sense of keeping to our training and keeping to our fitness plans.
“Throughout the pathway from the 17s all the way to the VSL, Melissa is very good at keeping the morale high through the lockdown. With the players she’s got together, we’re all very much there for each other. We’re all trying to help each other progress and Melissa has picked a very good bunch.”
After the 2020 season was terminated with immediate effect because of the Coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, Vitality Netball Superleague franchises were also forced to suspend all collective training.
With a second lockdown period now imposed until December 2, Taylor is keen to make the most of a testing situation.
“I want to get back to it as soon as I can, all the work in self isolation doesn’t really cut it as training, but to be fair, the isolation period helped me get fitter and more ready for the new season.
“I definitely missed last season, we obviously trained from November until January, the games came in February and the lockdown began in March so there wasn’t too much match play done.
“I was playing with the 21s last year as well and there were hardly any games so I definitely missed it, and need to get back!”
The recruitment of new captain Leota was the first to make the headlines as head coach Bassell made her ambition clear from the get-go ahead of the 2021 campaign.
“I am really thriving off learning with Liana Leota,” Taylor added.
“Learning how to gain match play helped but also in the sense of getting fitter and concentrating on my running and getting my aerobic fitness up which is something I would usually struggle with.
“I think self isolation just made me more self-motivated, you had to do it yourself, we had Zoom call training when it happened and I kept it up in the off-season in the summer too.”
After some time on the court with New Zealand international Leota, Taylor is developing her game as her debut season looms.
“My preferred position is goal-attack, but leaning off Liana showed me where to be and what positions to take up,” Taylor said.
“She played for New Zealand so it was great to learn off her. Learning from other players, face-to-face in training, I did miss it, but hopefully this season we can get back to that.”
Taylor is full of ambition. After nailing down her first call-up to the Stars squad, she’s targeting her next goal for the upcoming season.
“This season, just having my debut is a massive personal goal and hopefully having a reputation as a consistent shooter, I’d love to have that reputation because during lockdown that was one of the things I could do, shoot the ball in the garden.
“It would be really nice to build that consistency, knowing that everyone in the team has that confidence in me to take that shot no matter where it is, so getting that debut and having that consistency of shooting would be great.”
In June 2016 it was announced that the Stars, along with Wasps Netball and Scottish Sirens, would be one of three new franchises that would join the Netball Superleague for the 2017 season.
The Stars are targeting a club first, top half finish in the Superleague this coming season.
“Melissa has high expectations of all of us all, we have to put in 110% in training,” Taylor said.
“Her goal is to get to that Grand Final, we have belief in her and if we do it from the offset in training, we expect performances right away.
“If someone is slacking we will make sure we voice it and motivate each other. If Melissa can tell that someone is not 100% she won’t force it , she’ll check if we’re okay first and then push them and get the most out of them in training.”
Severn Stars Squad: Liana Leota (captain), Nia Jones (vice-captain), Georgia Rowe, Bethan Dyke, Paige Reed, Lucy Harris, Jane Taylor, Lucy Herdman, Malysha Kelly.
Training Partners: Ellie Gibbons, Iman Thomas, Hannah Howl, Chloe Carchrie, Issy Eaton.