This weekend saw the introduction of the ‘Netball Performance Foundation League’ (NPFL), hosted at Redbridge Sport and Leisure Centre, Essex. The competition brought together the best U17 athletes in the country; providing a high pressure, high intensity environment, the type they may go onto experience in the NPL, NSL or on the international stage.
Regions were invited to enter one team per Regional Academy, providing a total of twelve teams for the weekend. The teams competed in two ‘round robin’ pools on Day One, with games being played back to back across three courts.
At the end of Day One, clear favourites from Pool A were ‘Yorkshire’ who ended the day on 25 points, as did ‘London & South East 2’ from Pool B. As matches drew to a close, attention turned to Sunday’s Cup and Plate Competition. Competing for the Cup would be; Yorkshire, South, South West 1, L&SE 1, L&SE 2, West Mids and for the Plate; East 1, North East, East Mids, South West 2, South West 3, East 2.
Teams were eager to get started on Day Two and the athletes (and coaches!) competitive edge really started to show. Spectators crammed onto the balcony to ensure they had a good view of the games, and with many of the score lines particularly tight, the cheers of the supporters really enhanced the atmosphere.
The final few rounds were close and the potential teams playing for the Cup and Plate Finals were changing on a regular basis! Once the scores were in from all of the remaining games, the teams waited nervously to find out who would be playing in the Cup Final and the Plate Final.
Playing for the Plate were ‘East 1’ and ‘South West 2’ who both finished Day Two on 21 points! The Cup Final was to be played between ‘Yorkshire’, who finished on 19 points, and ‘South West 1’ who finished on 18 points.
At half time of the Plate Final, the scores were level at 8-8, with both teams battling hard to be victorious. The second half was extremely tense and with seconds left on the clock ‘East 2’ made a vital turnover, unfortunately for them the hooter sounded before they could convert and the final score was announced 13-12 to ‘South West 2’.
The last game of the weekend was the Cup Final, and with ‘Yorkshire’ winning the group by 1 point it was destined to be an exciting game. ‘Yorkshire’ dominated the first half, and continued their success in the second half winning the game 13-7.