Leicester Mercury

TV deal can take sport to new heights, claims Lightning star


- Gateleyplc.com/sportsaid/

BUOYANT Bethan Lount believes the visibility of the Vitality Superleagu­e is a watershed moment for netball and can catapult the sport’s profile to new heights, writes Will Jennings of Sportsbeat.

The Loughborou­gh Lightning ace is in her second season at the club’s Under-19 academy where she works under the guidance of coach Sam Griffin and first team defender Sam May.

May’s team currently sit second in the table behind Team Bath after eight matches – with all the contests played out in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Every game of the Vitality Superleagu­e is broadcast live on the channel and Thurnby star Lount, who plays either goal keeper or goal defence, reckons the flagship TV contract is blazing a trail.

The 17-year-old, who also represents the Roses Academy Long Squad, said: “I think it’s incredible.

“Netball is still on the rise, and I think being able to be sponsored by such a big company like Sky Sports is just incredible for the sport.

“It can only get bigger from now. Having netball on people’s TVs can definitely help more people get involved in the sport.

“And I think that’s great – it’s amazing to get more people involved and grow that netball community.

“Especially after having the 2018 Commonweal­th Games where England won gold – I think that was a very big moment for netball and women’s sport.

“There were thousands of people who got involved after that, and it just proves that no matter what level you play at, netball, as a sport, is so inclusive and encouragin­g.

“It gives women a sport to be able to grow. It can be so physically and mentally rewarding

– I just think it’s incredible.”

Lount also represents Charnwood Rutland Netball Club and is juggling her career on the court with a Sport Science BTEC at Loughborou­gh College.

She first honed her craft for Leicester-based Grasshoppe­rs and worked her way up the Lightning ranks while studying at Oadby’s Beauchamp College.

Lount gained four caps for the Roses Academy at last year’s Netball

Europe competitio­n in Wales but has turned her attention to domestic training in lockdown.

She’s working closely with Australian ace May – and Griffin – at Lightning and added: “Sam May’s a very good player and I’m fortunate enough to be coached by her. “It’s amazing because I get more of a player insight. She’s so encouragin­g and supportive.

“She’s a player herself, so can give her knowledge as a coach. She’s so supportive with that, and I’d love to play like her one day.

“We have a lot of support around, and Sam Griffin has also been extremely instrument­al in my netball journey.

“The challenges and the training we get given, especially through lockdown, have been amazing. “The Superleagu­e team are an amazing team who have so much experience – they’ll keep getting better and I think they’ll do great.”

Lount’s netball journey is powered by a partnershi­p between SportsAid and leading legal and profession­al services group Gateley, who work with forward thinkers and new talent in both business and in sport.

Gateley are proudly partnering with SportsAid to give additional support to young athletes and Lount hopes the funding can accelerate her route into the Lightning first team. She also has England Roses aspiration­s and after watching Tracey Neville’s team win Commonweal­th Games gold in 2018, believes SportsAid and Gateley’s funding can help her follow in her heroes’ footsteps.

“It’s so encouragin­g, and gives me extra motivation, to be supported by SportsAid in 2021,” said Lount, who will also start studying at Loughborou­gh University next year.

“The support will really help towards my training, kit and equipment and being able to play at my best and keep getting better. “I think the Commonweal­th Games has to be an aim for the future – to be able to represent your country at senior level is something many girls would aspire to do.

“It would just be the opportunit­y of a lifetime and such an incredible experience.”

■ Each Gateleyspo­nsored athlete has the ambition, work ethic and desire to succeed; values that perfectly align with our own business. For more informatio­n about Gateley’s partnershi­p with SportsAid, visit:

Netball is on the rise and being sponsored by a company like Sky Sports is incredible

Bethan Lount, right

FORMER GB internatio­nal Azania Stewart, who joined Leicester Riders women less a month ago, has been selected in the WBBL AllStar Five for the first time.

Second-placed Riders recorded wins in consecutiv­e days to make it four in a row, as London Olympian Stewart, left, put in a big performanc­e in a close game with Manchester Met Mystics.

She shot 6-9 (66 per cent) from the field on her way to 13 points, adding nine rebounds, two steals

and two blocks. That included two big rebounds and a block at the defensive end inside the final two minutes, as Mystics mounted a late comeback, to lead her team in a low-scoring encounter.

Joining Stewart in the All-Star Five are Kennedy Leonard and Stephanie Umeh of London Lions, Cat Carr of Sevenoaks Suns and Simone Costa of Nottingham Wildcats.

Riders’ Hannah Robb was selected off the bench.

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