Following a difficult campaign in the third tier, Jets were forced to defend their position in London over the weekend, and while the opening day of competition might not have gone the way they expected the Caesarean outfit regained dominance when it mattered most.
After beating Pool A rivals Poly NC 44-39, a heavy loss to South Division I champions Eagles [54-29] left a sour taste overnight on Saturday. However, it was Sunday’s seeded group stage that would provide PL3 status.
Jets – competing alongside nine regional contenders and fellow Premier League strugglers TFC – knew two more wins would be enough to guarantee the status quo for 2018/19. They duly delivered.
Linda Andrews’ side saw off the challenge of Thoroughbreds in their opening game on Sunday morning [51-39], before maintaining their place in the national leagues with a 46-38 lunchtime win over Huddersfield club High Tech.
‘Saturday wasn’t a great day,’ said the head coach following their crucial High Tech triumph.
‘It was a really physical game against Eagles and I think we let them get in our heads. It was hard to be challenged the whole time and in the end it would have been silly to chase the game. It was better to just say “let’s get everyone some court time”.
‘When I looked at the draw originally I thought second [in Pool A on Saturday] would be the best placing for us, and that proved to be the case.
‘Thoroughbreds were the team we knew we had to beat, and they only had one game [on Saturday] whereas we’d had two. But we were in control and dominated everywhere.
‘We were 13-5 up at the end of the first quarter and just kept extending our lead bit by bit.’
Jets’ PL3 colleagues based in Hertford and Essex had made the trip to Redbridge to cheer on the Islanders (wanting another trip to Jersey next season), and their backing made Sunday’s two victories all the more sweet.
‘It feels amazing [to stay up],’ said Andrews. ‘And it’s so nice that everyone was cheering us on.
‘I’ve always said that this is the standard that we need to be at, and to stay as one of the top 30 clubs in the country, from our little Island, it’s an unbelievable feeling.’
Asked if there was a sense of relief in camp, Andrews replied: ‘I would have said that at the start of the weekend, but having seen who else was here I could see we’re a really good team. It’s more excitement than relief.’
With captain Lauren Devine now set to hang up her bib, further rebuilding efforts will be required over the summer. Something which Andrews plans to implement sooner rather than later.
‘People [in the UK] play much more netball than we play, so we will have to get back into training early to emulate game scenarios.
‘We’ve got some youngsters to look at, like Molly Carré, and we will have some girls coming back from university. We’ll have a look at who’s around – there’s always opportunities for more girls to keep coming through.’