Two-time champion and gold medallist return to Lightning
MAY AND COBDEN ARE THE FIRST TWO SIGNINGS FOR 2021 SEASON
DEFENSIVE powerhouse and two-time Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) champion Sam May is returning to Loughborough Lightning for the 2021 season, writes Jessica Northfield.
May first joined Lightning for the 2020 season, having plied her trade at local rivals Wasps for the previous three years.
She has competed in three consecutive Grand Finals and will bring a wealth of experience to Lightning for the upcoming season.
The 32-year-old first took to the court for the Hertfordshire Mavericks before switching to
Wasps for their inaugural season in 2017.
She then went on to win back-to-back titles with the black and gold side.
Born in Sydney, the 6ft-tall defender also featured in the 2008 and 2009 Australian U21s side before moving to the UK to compete in the English Superleague. Speaking about her return to Lightning, May said: “It’s felt much easier to come back for my second season now, the anxieties that come with joining a new team have faded and I was excited to come back to a familiar setting with people I can now call friends and family around me. “I’m excited to continue what we were building. The side were coming along nicely, and it was looking very exciting, so it was a shame that last season was cut short.
“So now it’s just about looking forward to building again and seeing what this team can do.
“For me I just want to take everything as it comes and enjoy being back on court and playing netball again.” Combining her role as Head of Netball at Loughborough College alongside her playing career, the lockdown period brought May an unexpected opportunity to travel home to Australia – a luxury she hasn’t been able to enjoy for a number of years. “This year has been very different; it was nice to have a little bit of time off,” said May.
“It’s so very rare to get a big break when you play netball, so it was really good to have some time to rest and spend quality time with family.
“I was very lucky to be able to go home for five months – I haven’t spent that long with my family in over seven years – and it was nice to train at home and still stay connected with the team as we supported each other through a difficult few months.”
May’s dominance on court and experience in the league is an asset to the side, one which head coach Sara Bayman credits to the development of the younger players.
She said: “Sam was rock solid for us last year and even though the season was cut short it feels like she has had a big impact on the squad.
“As someone who has won championships and experienced everything in netball, Sam provides the belief and work ethic that is needed to go far in this competition.”
May joins England Roses star Beth Cobden in what’s shaping up to be one of Lightning’s most exciting squads so far.
Commonwealth Gold medallist Beth Cobden has also returned after playing a key part in Loughborough Lightning’s 2017 and 2018 campaigns, helping the side to two consecutive Grand Finals and a British Fast 5 Championship in its inaugural year.
Her dominant performances and experience on court also saw her named in the Vitality Netball
Superleague All Star VII in both 2017 and 2018.
The international wing defence boasts 26 caps for the England Roses and was part of the historymaking squad that claimed Commonwealth Gold in 2018.
It was her performances with the national side and also Loughborough Lightning in 2018 that saw Beth go on to earn her first contract in the Suncorp Super Netball league (SSN) – the world’s number one netball competition – with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
However, shortly before her departure from Lightning, Cobden suffered an injury setback, rupturing her ACL in the 2018 Grand Final.
Offering vital support throughout her rehab and recovery, Lightning played a key part in ensuring she was still able to honour her contract in SSN and take to the court by the start of the season.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be back with Loughborough, the club has done so much for me and I am proud and excited to be back with the girls,” said Cobden.
“I feel like I’ve got unfinished business, I just really want to win with this team.
“There’s a lot of new faces from when I last played with the club but there’s also a lot of familiar ones and close friends which makes for an exciting mix – so hopefully this year is our year.”
After completing her recovery out in Australia, Beth was able to take to the court with Adelaide for the opening three matches of the 2019 league, but her season was unfortunately short-lived after suffering another setback, rupturing her ACL a second time in her third game of the season.
Cutting her season short and missing out on a place in the 2019 World Cup squad, Cobden was back to recovery and rehab, returning to the UK at the start of lockdown this year.
“Lockdown was good timing for me and my injury process, it gave me that extra bit of time to recover and rest but I’m now really looking forward to getting back into the mix of things and stepping up my training over the next few months,” said Cobden.
She began her VNSL journey during her time at Manchester University with Manchester Thunder, playing alongside fellow England international and now Lightning Director of Netball, Sara Bayman.
“Having played alongside Sara for many years, I am looking forward to having her as my coach and seeing what our team can achieve,” said Cobden.
Bayman is excited to see Cobden return for the 2021 season.
“It’s great to have Beth back in Loughborough colours after a couple of years in Australia,” she said.
“She’s a world class player and I’m looking forward to her making a big contribution on and off the court. We’re so happy she’s home!”