Netball Northern Ireland head coach Dan Ryan believes that having increased numbers of players competing in the English Vitality Netball Super League will be a real boost to the Warriors in their preparations for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.
The NI team, who finished eighth at the Gold Coast Games two years ago, are set to play a number of test matches in the new year to qualify for the 2022 edition.
Ryan, a Super League winner with the Manchester Thunder in 2019 will be head coach at Leeds Rhinos when the action starts on court in the new year, when six of his Northern Ireland squad are also set to be plying their trade in the Super League and another three will play in the National Premier League - the tier below.
“To have six athletes contracted to Super League franchises in 2021 and a further three athletes in the England Performance Pathway is a huge win for Netball Northern Ireland and a very positive step forward,” said Ryan.
“We are up against it in Northern Ireland with the other home nations having a big advantage on us by being able to provide opportunities for their national athletes in their respective Super League franchises and that’s just not an option for us.
“So the next best thing for our athletes to progress was to get as many of them embedded into Super League franchises and immersed in a daily high performance training environment. It’s great to see so many franchises see the value in our athletes, especially some of the emerging talent.
“It’s become one of the key strategies for us to close the gap and assist the athletes in developing their skills and knowledge of the game at the next level.
“Ultimately, this will help them all grow and be better prepared to compete well internationally when they get the opportunity.”