If anyone had any doubt that netball is on the rise, then the answer was clearly visible in Longridge this weekend as Ribble Valley Netball Club held its annual tournament at St Cecilia’s RC High School, writes Jonathan Haworth.
The event once again attracted visiting teams from all across the country, as well as the usual strong North West contingent.
Saturday was for high school ages and with nearly 100 teams competing the crowds were treated to 11 hours of exciting and fiercely competitive netball under mainly clear skies, after the overnight rain had had the organisers looking up anxiously on their arrival that morning.
The highlight of the day, however, was an appearance by Tracey Neville, manager of the Commonwealth Games Gold Medal winning England Roses netball team.
As word spread of Tracey’s arrival, a long queue quickly formed for autographs and photos. Once the queue had subsided a lap of the courts was punctuated by even more requests and messages of congratulations.
Tracey also presented one of the club’s rising stars Grace Barraclough with a £100 voucher to help her journey along the England Netball Pathway and Grace presented Tracey with a special gold medal version of the tournament t-shirt. Tracey even managed to bring the sun with her, her golden touch shining through once more.
The club are extremely grateful to Tracey - she made so many young netballers' day with her time, words of encouragement and advice.
On Sunday the sun came out in force, and it was the turn of the junior school age groups to compete.
A further 70 teams were involved throughout what turned out to be a glorious day of weather and netball.
Following Tracey's visit on Saturday, on Sunday the teams were treated to a visit from Manchester Thunder’s Kerry Almond, who despite having competed in Northumbria the evening before with Thunder she was on site bright and early with the team from Netball UK, commenting that she had never signed so many t-shirts and balls as she had during that day.
Kerry also kindly presented medals to each age group’s winners and runners up during the day and, in a fitting end to the tournament, the last medals presented were to be to the club’s own Under 10 team. When the final hooter had sounded they were locked at three all against their opponents from Grangetown Netball Club and so began a period of Golden Goal netball. In a nail biting climax to the day, reminiscent of the recent Gold Medal victory, and after almost five minutes of added time, with the wind having affected several Ribble shots, finally one dropped through the net and the game was won.
The club would like to thank the parents, officials and players from all the clubs for attending plus the volunteers who helped everything run smoothly. Thanks must also go to Beeches Butchers, Oddies, P&S Travel, The Printed Cup Company and the staff and pupils at St Cecilia’s for their donations and assistance in making the weekend such a success.