Competition, Camaraderie And Culture On Dubai Netball Tour | Epsom College
  • Sport

Competition, Camaraderie And Culture On Dubai Netball Tour

Leaving Storm Dennis behind, on a wet windy evening, the touring side boarded an overnight flight to sunny Dubai for a week of strength and conditioning, competitive match play, and cultural excursions.

U16As Report

The first set of matches at the beautiful Abu Dhabi Cricket Ground for this newly formed squad proved to be a stern test but they gained confidence in each other and finished with a very respectable third place, despite an unfortunate ankle injury to Emily Bain in their first match.

Vs Kingston Grammar  lost  7 – 14 (second half 6 – 7)  – Players of the Match: Remi Adenji, Eva Saunders

Vs CNA Firebirds Won 16 – 1  – Player of the Match: Katie Tingle

Vs CNA Swifts lost 5 – 10 (second half 2 – 3) – Player of the Match: Grace Patterson

In each match the girls learned a lot from their first half of play and returned to the court on every occasion with renewed determination and enhanced court structure, the second half scores showing just how competitive they were.

An extremely tough test followed the next day against first team side Dubai School Bus which, despite being played under cover, was a heat endurance exercise for the girls. Tessa Platt came into the team with Emily Bain unfortunately side-lined, but played confidently in the GA role alongside Katie Tingle. We took School Bus by surprise in the first quarter with a tough 5 all draw, Maddie Fairbank working tirelessly in the centre winning back ball and controlling play. However School Bus responded by going up another gear and Epsom just could not respond. An eventual loss of 40 – 13 was no mean feat to an U18A School Bus squad who pushed our 1st team to their absolute limits. The team gave 100% with notable performances from Mia Smiley and Ellie Taylor.

Dubai Hurricanes were our next opponents in the heat of the day with no sun cover. A strong start saw us cruise to an 8 – 3 lead with excellent shooting from Tessa and Katie, Captain Grace and Remi turning over lots of ball. However the Hurricanes were tenacious, fit and used to the sun. They ground us down each quarter eating away at our lead, such that we entered the last quarter 14 – 13 up. Sadly the heat had sapped energy from the girls and despite superb mid court pressure by player of the match Maddie Fairbank, our girls lost the match 18 – 20.

After a fabulous fun packed week our final netball challenge was the Dubai College Tournament. With the addition of Ella Nigrelli to the squad and Emily Bain back to full fitness the girls were in buoyant mood.

  • Vs Kingston Grammar – Won 16 – 1. Player of the match :Ella Nigrelli
  • Vs Jess  – lost 5 – 8. Player of the Match: Maddie Fairbank
  • Vs DBC  -lost 6 – 9. Player of the Match : Tessa Platt
  • Semi final Vs Jess – lost 4 – 9 . Player of the match : Grace Patterson, Ella Nigrelli

A very early start gave the girls a chance to acclimatise to the heat and they started extremely positively with a dominant win over KGS. Contested matches followed and the girls coped well adjusting to altered team combinations but they struggled to actually close out the win despite impressive tenacity and determination. A surprise semi final slot after a team’s withdrawal saw Epsom put up a tough fight first half, only 1 goal down. However fatigue in the ever intense sun played its part and despite a fight the girls lost to the stronger team.

The girls displayed fantastic team spirit throughout the week and all played a positive role on court  – Katie Tingle, Emily Bain, Ellie Taylor, Mia Smiley, Maddie Fairbank, Tessa Platt, Eva Saunders, Remi Adenji, Ella Nigrelli and Issy Berry (both on loan from the firsts) and captain Grace Patterson. Eva and Remi were awarded most improved players of tour and Players of Tour awarded to Maddie and Grace.

U16s Report

The first set of matches were played at the lovely Abu Dhabi cricket stadium, where they had five courts. The Abu Dhabi netball team had toured the UK last year and kindly set up this tournament. It was great to play so many different teams. This U16 group tried hard but had never played before together, so were trying to gel in this tournament.

Abu Dhabi Tournament

  • vs Charterhouse  Won 4-3 – Player of the Match: Ellie Jordan (M)
  • vs Wasps Lost 4-11 – Player of the Match: Ariana Menassa (Rv)
  • vs Kingston Grammar  Lost 3-13 – Player of the Match: Sabrina Singh (Rv)
  • vs Thunderbirds  Won 8-4 – Player of the Match: Margaux Soin (Cr)

Charterhouse was a tough feisty match against girls who were in the Sixth Form. The team held their own and went on to win which was impressive. They then faced two tough matches but in their last one the girls got it together and gained their court structure to win the match easily.

The next day, the girls played Desert Girls netball club, who were well-drilled and Epsom lost 11-36. Clara Alexis (R) was the Player of the Match.

They then played the Hurricanes at the Sevens Rugby ground, which was very hot as the match was played at 11am and there was no shade. The girls tried hard but lost 8-16. Players of the Match were Issy Fakkel (Wh), Sabrina Singh and Ellie Jordan for their great defending. Margaux Soin played well on her 16th birthday. The girls relaxed with a swim in the Sevens pool and the staff were challenged to a swimming race against Issy Fakkel and Grace Patterson (Wh), losing spectacularly.

The Dubai College tournament was the next and the last day of the tour, again played in blazing heat and throughout the day.

  • vs Reigate Grammar Lost 2-17 Player of the Match: Ariana Menassa
  • vs Kingston Grammar Lost 4-15 Player of the Match: Issy Fakkel
  • Vs Dubai College Lost 3-5 Player of the Match: Sabrina Singh
  • vs Jess Lost 5-15 Player of the Match: Margaux Soin

The girls in this squad all contributed – Sabrina Singh, Margaux Soin, Ellie Jordan, Issy Fakkel, Ariana Menassa, Lois Lillie (Rv), Nina Charoenwattananon (W), Meredith Briggs (Cr), Alessia Boot (R) and were ably led by captain Clara Alexis. Bella Watkins (Cr) was injured and did a great job sorting out the stats and actually became top tourist as she was so helpful. Ellie Jordan was player of the tour, with Nina most improved.

U18s Report

The Dubai Touring U18A team consisted of six of the Epsom 1st VII – Ebube Akojie (Wh), Heidi Warren (Rv), Izzy Mitchell (R), Natascha Penwarden (Cr), Hannah Palmer (M) and Ellie Thwaites (M); and 4 of the 2nd VII – Alice Jenkins (Wh), Jess Haigh (R), Ella Nigrelli (Rv) and Izzy Berry (M).

Having trained together through the term the girls all knew the same tactical plays, and it was clear after the first on-tour training session that the team was going to be strong. This training session helped to acclimatise the girls to playing in the heat of Dubai and gelled the team together. Player-led coaching was excellent to see, with the 1st team girls guiding the rest of the squad in how to implement through court strategies to full effect.

The first fixtures of the tour were at the Abu Dhabi Tournament. A total of 15 teams were taking part, across three groups and age bandings. The teams were a mixture of local clubs and touring sides. The first match for the U18As was against RGS U18s and the team started well.

However, halfway through the first half Ellie Thwaites suffered an injury after an over-exuberant opponent tried to delay her from getting into the circle. Ellie had only recently returned to netball after an ankle injury and the team was openly upset that it at first looked like this may be a repeat of the injury. With Ellie supporting from the sidelines the girls returned to court but their heads were not in the game and their play was panicked. A stern half time team talk was all that was needed for the girls to regain their focus and come back out on court with a determination to win, which they secured 8-5. Confidence was high and they dominated their remaining matches to win their group with ease, and take the trophy.

The following day the girls were up against School Bus, an unbeaten U18 club team, coached by former England International and London Pulse Coach, Amanda Newton. With Ellie Thwaites returning after her injury proved to not be the long term one that had been feared, the squad was in high spirits.

Matches were scheduled for 12.30pm, so the girls were grateful that they were to be played on shaded courts, but it was still going to be a big test for how well they could cope with the heat. The first half could not have been closer and the teams were level at 11-11 going into the half time break. With the depth in the squad, changes could be made to counteract the strong opposition and keep them guessing.

The third quarter proved the turning point, with outstanding unit defensive play through court achieving numerous interceptions. Shooting was excellent and Epsom pulled five goals ahead. School Bus were not about to give up, though, and came back fighting in the fourth quarter, putting the Epsom girls under immense pressure. However, they held on to their lead and took a well-deserved win.

A day off from netball was welcomed and the girls returned to play the following day raring to go. Ella Nigrelli was suffering from severe blisters and so it was felt it would be best to rest her ready for the end of tour tournament. Izzy Berry joined the squad for the match against Hurricanes, playing in the wing attack position along with Alice Jenkins. Jess Haigh played in her favoured position of wing defence along with Heidi Warren, playing the position for the first time, who was outstanding at getting numerous tips and causing errors from her opponents. In circle defence Ebube Akojie and Izzy Mitchell worked well together as usual, switching on their opponents and communicating well to make it very hard for any pass to get into the shooters.

Hannah and Ellie paired up in the shooting circle. Natascha Penwarden took on the centre role throughout the full match. The match was played in full sun in the middle of the day and the girls did incredibly well to keep full effort on the court during the four quarters to take a comfortable 34-16 win.

The final netball of the tour was in the Dubai College International Netball Tournament. The dominance of the team was clear in the preliminary matches, with comfortable wins in all their five games. After over an hour of matches staggered through the morning, and with temperatures rising, the girls faced Dubai College 2 in the semi-finals. They had comfortably beaten them in the opening game, but DC2’s experience of playing in hot weather proved advantageous and the girls struggled to play their usual game. Combined with some unfortunate calls, heads went down and DC2 were able to pull ahead. The Epsom girls fought back but time ran out and they lost by two goals. With one more game to play, the Plate Final, and the girls already having given everything, it was amazing to see how they dug deep with a determination to win the match. They worked hard until the final whistle to secure a well-deserved cup.

This was a great squad effort throughout the tour. Captain Ebube Akojie was truly inspirational in both her play and support to all the teams. Everyone that watched her play was so impressed with her clean defence, her outstanding anticipation and athleticism on the intercept.

Izzy Mitchell and Heidi Warren showed how much they have grown in their defensive roles throughout this school year with some outstanding defence.

Izzy Berry, Jess Haigh, Ella Nigrelli and Alice Jenkins played a range of positions throughout the midcourt and, despite some nerves, took on the pressure, and the heat, to play at their best.

Ellie Thwaites was vital in the shooting circle, not only because of her accuracy, but also through her intelligent play, judging perfectly when to come out of the circle and rotating and switching with her shooting partner to flummox their opposition.

Players of the tour were jointly awarded to Hannah Palmer and Natascha Penwarden. Hannah played her best netball to date, with good positioning through the court, timing runs well, driving towards the ball and taking some incredibly difficult passes with ease. She finished off this hard work on the court with excellent shooting.

Natascha was simply outstanding in the centre role. She played with full effort throughout, despite the heat, and was pivotal in all the team’s wins with both her attacking and defensive play. She continually encouraged and advised the girls new to the team and proved herself to be a good leader on court.

The squad should be incredibly proud of their results and also at how well they bonded. It was hugely rewarding to see how the 1st team girls took on player-led coaching and tactical thinking to ensure the squad was all playing as a team and not a group of individual players.

A highly successful and enjoyable tour.

Abu Dhabi Tournament

Overall Winners

  • vs RGS U18 Won 8-5
  • vs CNA Won 10-2
  • vs RGS U16 Won 12-0
  • vs Fever Won 11-4


  • vs School Bus Won 24-20
  • vs Hurricanes Won 34-16

Dubai College International Invitational Tournament

Overall Plate Winners

  • vs Dubai College 2 Won 15-5
  • vs Jess Won 8-3
  • vs RGS Won 12-7
  • vs Dubai College Won 7-4
  • vs Dubai College 3 Won 12-3

Semi Final

  • vs Dubai College 2 lost 8-10

Plate Final

  • vs RGS Won 10-7