Cardiff Dragons Ready To Roar Against Thunder

Cardiff Dragons Ready To Roar Against Thunder


Jill McIntosh is confident Cardiff Dragons can build on their hugely encouraging Netball Super League opener when they host Manchester Thunder at the House of Sport on Friday night.

Dragons fought back bravely to earn a thrilling 48-48 draw with Saracens Mavericks as all 10 teams got the season underway at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham.

It was a performance which showed a new-look Dragons team – in which five players made their debuts under returning captain Nia Jones – can hit the ground running and provide plenty of excitement for fans through the campaign ahead.

Having undergone a re-brand last year with a new name, there is a fresh feel about Cardiff Dragons this season, which is reflected in the arrival of a batch of quality players from far and wide.

Green Army

The Green Army will get their first glimpse of McIntosh’s rebuild on Friday when a strong Thunder line-up are certain to provide a severe test for a match that is already a sell-out.

The former Australia coach – who took charge midway through last season – has re-shaped the Dragons squad significantly.

Only three players remain from last season, but the balance of the new line-up gave plenty of grounds for optimism as they recovered from a four-goal deficit at half-time against Mavericks to earn a dramatic draw.

McIntosh says: “We have now got a very even group of 12 players, which is lovely to have.

“We can put out who we think is going to do the job, but we can chop and change until we find the line-up that works.”

New Faces

New signings Hannah Passmore, Leah Middleton, Jacqui Newton, Khanyisa Chawane and Beth Ecuyer-Dale all impressed against Mavericks.

It would have been a winning start, had Emma Thacker – who scored 24 goals – not denied Dragons with a last-minute equaliser.

Wales star Geogia Rowe – one of the trio from last season who remain – scored 14 goals for Dragons, but it was fellow shooter Passmore, on her opening night as a Dragon, who led the way with 23 and was deservedly named Player of the Match.

“I’m very pleased with the way we fought back because it wasn’t looking too good at half-time,” adds McIntosh.

“But the third quarter was amazing to get themselves back in the game. We could have won it, but we’ll take the draw.

“When we let the ball go with confidence and move the ball around, it works. That’s how we opened, but then we froze a bit and let it go.

“That brought Mavericks back into it.  But we’ll learn from this and move on.”

KC Goes Green

Former England U21 international Passmore  – who moved to Cardiff from Team  Bath –  was one of two English players to make her Dragons debut, alongside former Maverick mid-courter Ecuyer-Dale.

The others to wear green for the first time in a league fixture were South African international centre “KC” Chawane, who played for the Proteas at last year’s World Cup, and Australian pair Newton and Middleton.

Experienced Defender Newton was playing in the Suncorp Super Netball League Down Under last year, but says she was keen to sample life, and netball, in Wales.

“I was looking at other opportunities and you can’t look past the Super League,” says the former Collingwood Magpies player.

“It’s a big, diverse league with lots of talent and skill. When Cardiff reached out, I couldn’t say no.

“We are a new team this year. We don’t have too many returning players.  Some have come back and others have come in from outside.

“But we are just looking at performance. Jill has been really good at setting specific targets and key performance indicators for us. If we can hit all those, then hopefully that will give us the results that we want.”

Five Star

Goal keeper Middleton, although raised in Australia, was born in England, but was capped by Wales for the first time last year as she qualifies through a Welsh grandmother from Bridgend.

With the five-star new faces very much at the forefront of their opening round one effort, the Dragons have laid down a marker for the season ahead.

Last season, they only managed two victories but an opening draw against the team that finished fifth in 2023 bodes well for the Dragons and this campaign.

The House of Sport, a stone’s throw from Cardiff City Stadium, will be the main home venue for the Dragons again this season.

Future  Plans

But with a nod to the future – and their ambitions to be part of the newly revamped Super League from 2025 – two of the team’s fixtures in June will be staged at the bigger capacity venue of the Utilita Arena in the centre of Cardiff.

Those are the games against Leeds Rhinos – who have signed England legend Geva Mentor – on June 8, and the match against Team Bath on June 15.

By that stage, Passmore will hope to still be among the goals and she believes the Dragons will be fully firing.

“We are building and we believe we’re going to have a good seasons ahead,” she says.

“The connections are starting to happen, which is very encouraging, and will get better.

“We have a tough game next week against Thunder at home, so the Mavericks game has prepared us very well for that.

“We have a good starting point and we can only improve.”