England U21s stars confirmed as Lightning Netball’s penultimate signings

Emma Thacker

Photo by Ben Lumley

Loughborough Lightning Netball have revealed their penultimate signings for the 2022 Vitality Netball Superleague with England U21s stars Ella Bowen and Emma Thacker joining the side.

Both Thacker and Bowen have impressed at international level, with Bowen earning a spot in the Roses Academy at just 15 years of age. Now aged 19, circle defender Bowen is balancing her studies in Sport and Exercise Science at Nottingham Trent University with Lightning and England U21 commitments.

Competing for Loughborough’s U19 side in 2021 brought success for Bowen as she was awarded the league’s Player of the Season as Lightning won the title.

Ella Bowen

Her success didn’t go unnoticed as she received a highly sought after call up from NSL Head Coach Sara Francis-Bayman awarding her first ever Superleague contract.

“It’s such a privilege to be signed with Lightning for my first season in the NSL. I can’t wait to be part of such an amazing team, to gain experience and to develop as a player.” she commented.

At the other end of the court, former London Pulse U21s shooter Emma Thacker also makes the switch to NSL next season after beginning an undergraduate degree at Loughborough University in September of this year.

Studying Geography and Sport Science, 18-year-old Thacker also debuted on the international stage for England U17s in 2018 and has since worked her way through the ranks, competing for England U19s on their 2019 tour to New Zealand and Australia, before landing a spot in the England U21 squad this year.

Emma Thacker

Looking to compete not only at NSL level but also for the Universities BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) squad this season, Thacker is ready for the challenge that brings. She said:

“I’m beyond excited to join Lightning this season and to continue to grow as a player whilst studying at Loughborough.”

Head Coach Sara Francis-Bayman often credits her side’s diversity in experience and ability to develop young players and her latest signings are testament to this.

“Emma and Ella are both part of the England U21 squad and now have a chance to prove their worth on the Superleague stage also. We pride ourselves on investing in and developing young talent and these two players represent some of the most exciting talent out there,” Francis-Bayman told Loughborough Sport.

With just one spot left and the 2022 signing window closing on Friday 15 October, stay tuned to find out the final piece in Lightning’s puzzle and who will complete the line-up for their 2022 title defence campaign.

Confirmed squad so far:

  1. Ella Bowen
  2. Georgie Brock-Taylor
  3. Mary Cholhok
  4. Ella Clark
  5. Beth Cobden
  6. Alice Harvey
  7. Jess Haynes
  8. Hannah Joseph
  9. Suzie Liverseidge
  10. Clara Miles
  11. Nat Panagarry
  12. Emma Thacker
  13. Hannah Williams
  14. Zan Vimbela