Barrowford’s Natalie Haythornthwaite cried tears of joy after finally winning the Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham.
The 24-year-old England international was in the Manchester Thunder side which lost the final last year to Surrey Storm by two points.
And the previous year, she was a beaten semi-finalist with Yorkshire Jets.
It’s been a busy time for Natalie, who is also about to finish her her degree, and she admitted: “My mum and dad saw my cry after the final last year when we lost with Manchester Thunder, and I couldn’t stop crying again – I’m so happy and excited, it’s still sinking in!
“Two years ago I got to the semi-final and was knocked out with Jets, and last year we were so close.
“I’ve been playing Superleague for about eight years now, and I’m so happy to have won it at last.”
In this year’s semi-final, she was player of the match against her former club Manchester Thunder, and Natalie admitted it was a strange experience to face some old teammates with such a big prize at stake: “Thunder was such a nice franchise, and it was weird playing old teammates, but we’d played them twice in the season, so I just got on with it, and we got the win.
“And the final was so intense – there was one goal in it going into the last quarter, and Loughborough Lightning have been the most consistent team in the league this season.
“But it was a final, and anything can happen, and we wanted to get the win, and did it.”
It is a dream come true, and she added: “My mum said ‘you’re a Superleague champion’, and I asked ‘can you say that again!’
“It was great to have my family down there, they’ve been part of the process for so many years, so it was nice to win it with them as well.”
Natalie made a leap of faith last year, joining the brand-new Wasps franchise, based at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, under coach Tamsin Greenaway.
And that faith was justified: “Tamsin deserved all the credit, she’s an incredible coach and put the team together from scratch.
“We wanted to make the top four, but to go and win it in our first year is incredible.
“It’s been a hard year, in the final year of my degree, with all the travelling, but it’s been so worthwhile.”