NEW WASPS captain Josie Huckle hopes her no-nonsense approach will propel Wasps to their third Vitality Netball Superleague title this season.
The goalkeeper is a four-time VNSL champion, winning trophies with Surrey Storm in 2015 and 2016 before guiding Wasps to victory the two following seasons.
And despite the 30-year-old having over a decade’s worth of top-flight wisdom, she was still shocked to hear the announcement come out of head coach Mel Mansfield’s mouth when she was appointed captain.
Huckle said: “It’s an absolute honour to be named as captain. I was putting my hand up for it, saying it’s what I’d like to do, and they agreed I was the person they wanted to have in.
“To be able to be in charge of a bunch of amazing athletes is just so exciting. To be able to lead them out and hopefully be a good role model on and off the court for them is really important.”
The former England international is part of a new-look leadership team with vice captains Rachel Dunn, who has 92 caps for the Vitality Roses, and mid-courter Iona Christian, who was part of the England full-time set-up before switching allegiance to Scotland last autumn.
Wasps finished seventh last season and were busy in the off-season, welcoming Lauren Nicholls and Lucy Parize, formerly of defending champions Loughborough Lightning, alongside Christina Shaw, Rachael Fee and Lauren Nicholls in their revamped line-up.
Huckle, one of the original Wasps when the team joined the Superleague in 2017, hopes a leadership style rooted in both authenticity and electricity will help accelerate the team bonding process ahead of her squad’s first match of the season.
Like every club, Wasps will travel to Birmingham for the VNSL’s double-header opening weekend extravaganza at the Resorts World Arena as they play Saracens Mavericks on Saturday at 5.15pm before taking on Strathclyde Sirens at 12.45pm on Sunday.
Huckle added: “You get what you see with me. My heart is on my sleeve. I’m an excitable, slightly wild person.
“I think I bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I hope people vibe off that and they feed off of that, and they can use that for themselves through the tough parts of the season.”
Wasps have also bolstered their back room, adding a new video analyst and strength and conditioning coach and Huckle is confident her squad has what it takes to challenge for a title this season.
Huckle’s seniority is still settling in. For years, she was part of the ‘youngies’ on the squad and is now adjusting to the ‘oldie’ badge as she moves into her new role, where she’ll be the one guiding less experienced players.
She said: “It’s just getting them on the court, getting them feeling comfortable with us, being able to lead themselves, getting them used to the big environment.”
And with the league returning to a home-and-away format this year, local supporters will get their first look at the transformed side when they host Severn Stars on Saturday, February 12.
This season will see a record number of VNSL matches broadcast on Sky Sports platforms, but for local fans Huckle stressed nothing compares to watching from the stands.
She said: “The most exciting the is seeing the speed of netball.
“It’s incredible. Some of my friends hadn’t been to see a netball game and they came a couple of years ago and they were like, ‘Oh my god this is absolutely insane.’
“Because it’s loud, it’s vibrant, there are big hits and people taking each other out, there are some really incredible athletes on the court.
“So just come down and see what it’s all about.”
Wasps get their 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague campaign underway on Saturday, February 5. Buy your tickets to the Season Opener and to their home games at the Coventry Building Society Arena here: https://www.netballsl.com/tickets/