Excitement struck the netball community last month when it was announced that former England pathway players Iona Christian and Hannah Leighton will take the court for the Scottish Thistles against the Barbados Bajan Gems in their first test match this week.
Photo Credit: Netball Scotland
Both longtime netballers, the opportunity for each player to qualify for Scotland came from familial connections.
“My Dad is Scottish,” said Christian. “He grew up in Glasgow and went to Edinburgh University so he’s very happy to see me play for Scotland,”.
“My Mum is Scottish,” said Leighton, who recently joined the Celtic Dragons alongside playing for the Scottish Thistles. “Scotland has been brilliant with coordinating the programme alongside the Dragons which has been great,” added Leighton when asked about how she has been enjoying the Scottish set up.
For Christian the opportunity to be a part of the Scottish set up at a point of tremendous growth in the Scottish program has been a key source of excitement in terms of playing for Scotland.
“The Thistles are a very young team, full of talent so there’s lots of room for growth and development there,” said Christian. “I think netball and women’s sport as a whole is growing in Scotland from grassroots all the way to top of the game and more and more people are wanting to be involved so it’s a very exciting time to be a part of it, especially in the build up to the Commonwealth Games,” added Christian. “There’s lots of hard work going on behind the scenes by the likes of Claire Nelson, Netball Scotland CEO and Karen Atkinson, Netball Scotland Performance Director and NPA Alumni and others to raise the profile of netball in Scotland.
Support is another aspect of the Scottish set up that both players have said has made the environment so great to play in.
“There is so much support in and around the programme and behind the scene,” says Leighton. “You can tell that everyone is pushing to be better, and aiming to reach that next level.”
“Everyone has been so welcoming,” added Christian. “There’s amazing support staff and I feel a part of the team already.”
For Christian specifically, Scotland coaches Tamsin Greenway and Sara Francis-Bayman have been another aspect of the Scottish set up that she has been enjoying.
“Being a center court player their technical knowledge of the game is amazing and the way they coach is very fresh and exciting,” said Christian. “I’ve just learned so much from their sessions, it has been such a great opportunity to be coached by them and I am looking forward to the next phase of training.”
The Scottish Thistles will take on the Barbados Bajan Gems in a two test match series from the 2nd to 3rd of December at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. Games will be streamed live on the BBC iPlayer from 7:20pm both nights.
This article was written by Madeline Maxwell