Serena Guthrie column: ‘The semi-finals are a different beast’
Serena Guthrie moved from Sydney-based Giants to Team Bath at the start of the season

In her latest column, England and Team Bath centre Serena Guthrie talks about the impeding Superleague semi-finals, how friendship with the opposition is forgotten once she takes to the court and her journey through the season.

It’s been an interesting Superleague season and now it’s down to four teams to battle it out for a place in the Grand Final.

It’s an exciting time to be a netballer and everyone wants to play in the finals.

Team Bath making the top four and finishing in third is a massive achievement; it was touch and go in mid-season, as we could have dropped out completely.

The last couple of performances we’ve started to find some consistent form, which is what we’ve wanted all season, and we’re enjoying playing together.

We’ve had to deal with a couple of injuries. I was out for a bit as I was unwell and my England team-mate Eboni Usoro-Brown was also sidelined for a few weeks.

But I’m fully fit now and I’m finding my form just at the right time.

The semi-finals and Grand Final are a slightly different beast compared to the rest of the season, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Bring on Thunder – and their partisan crowd

We head into the semi-final on Saturday knowing we’ve already beaten Manchester Thunder twice this season, home and away, which will give us confidence.

But we know we are are going to one of the hardest away venues and it’s going to be loud in there.

Beating Thunder on the road a few weeks ago was one of our best performances of the season and that sparked a snowball effect for us, in terms of form, and that could be key for us.

Serena Guthrie’s Team Bath travel to the ‘Thunderdome’ for their Superleague semi-final

Can we do it again? Is it possible? Of course it is but every time we’ve played Thunder, we haven’t won by much and we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.

They are extremely good and we are not underestimating them. It’s hard for any team to dramatically change now, but you will have two teams that will make small tweaks in this prep week to gain an extra 1% to exploit any weaknesses.

It is going to come down to basics and execution. We’ve had lots of close games this season, there haven’t been any blow-outs and that will work in our favour. We are comfortable going goal for goal and finding a way to win.

Wasps are the favourites

Defending champions Wasps play Loughborough Lightning in the other semi-final and you just can’t get away from Wasps.

They have won it twice, they qualified for the semis early and they, for me, are the favourites.

However, if Lightning shooter Mary Cholhok’s on form and they are feeding her the ball, then it is going to be an extremely tight game.

It’s an interesting one and Loughborough missed out in the final last season, losing a thriller to Wasps, so this is the one they’ve been waiting for – they might just want it more.

As a player, Lightning coach Sara Bayman won Superleague titles in 2012 and 2014 with Manchester Thunder

You look back at tight or one-goal losses, like I have with England, and you just don’t want it to happen again, so that could be what Lightning need to get them over the line. They are the most dangerous side in this final series.

Lightning had a bad day when they lost by 30 goals to Wasps in the first game of the season. We’ve all had those games but head coach Sara Bayman and the calibre of players in that team would never let that be the measure of them.

Congratulations Sara, but I’m here to beat you!

I’m very good friends with Sara and Wasps and England player Jade Clarke, who won Commonwealth Gold too, but when I am on that court, I want to win for Bath. For that hour, it’s go time.

We do have massive respect for each other and throughout the season all three of us have been supportive, as we do care.

We’ve never fallen out if one of us loses, it’s just a game and when we’re all old and grey we’re not going to talk about the games, we’ll talk about the memories we’ve had in between.

I want to congratulate Sara for what she has done in her first season as a coach, making the finals is a massive achievement and I wish her all the best. It’s a cool experience to be in as she loved doing it as a player but now she gets to do it as a coach.

But as much as I am happy for her, if Bath meet her in the final, it is no love lost.

Serena Guthrie and Jade Clarke are close friends off the court – and when they are playing on the same team

From Australia… to Somerset

I’m so happy I came back to England after a couple of years in Australia. I miss playing in Super Netball because it’s the best league in the world, but I’ve noticed such a massive change in the Superleague.

Before the season people were saying ‘this could be the best season yet’ and it has lived up to that.

The bottom four have challenged the top four consistently throughout. Before, you would have had teams where you knew they would get beaten by 15 or 25 goals, but not this year.

It’s going to help the national game as the Roses players can’t afford to have a bad game, and are constantly being pushed by our best national netball players.

I wanted to come back and make a holistic life for myself here and play good quality netball and I’ve done that.

Guthrie played for a number of teams in the Trans-Tasman leagues, including Giants

Netball Superleague semi-finals; Saturday, 11 May

Wasps v Loughborough Lightning, 17:00 BST

Manchester Thunder v Team Bath, 19:00 BST

Serena Guthrie was speaking to BBC Sport’s Denise Evans

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