Essex Open wait to learn Premiership fate as season finishes before play-offs

PUBLISHED: 15:00 09 April 2020

Essex Open face the camera before their match against Eclipse

Essex Open face the camera before their match against Eclipse


Essex Open are waiting to learn if they will spend another year in the Premiership, following the abrupt end to the 2019-20 season.

Having finished bottom of Division Three they were faced with the long trip to Hull for the play-offs but had resigned themselves to returning to the Regional League and rebuilding their side with their current crop of young talent.

But England Netball now have decisions to make, with the prospect of the season being declared null and void and sparing Essex from relegation.

The Premiership experience has been a rollercoaster ride for Essex who, after winning the London and South Regional League in May 2017, stormed through the play-offs to take their place in Division Three for 2017-18.

They carried on from where they had left off, earning promotion at an early stage after winning 15 games and drawing the other to step up to Division Two, but found it much more difficult and, after losing four players to Super League outfit London Pulse, dropped from mid-table to the bottom.

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A weakened team began the current campaign, with only two survivors from the May 2017 play-offs, and were heavily beaten by TFC on the opening day.

The 71-38 loss set the tone for an enthusiastic crop of youngsters with no real experience of Premiership netball, as Essex often had lots of possession but struggled to cope in both circles.

A much better performance in the second game against The Clan, where they lost narrowly 50-42, raised hopes and Essex were more competitive in the next few games against Billericay, Eclipse, Leyton and Thoroughbreds.

But they were brought back down to earth just before Christmas in heavy defeats against promotion hopefuls Charnwood (64-38) and Exeter (60-23), then lost to Clan (56-40) and Billericay (60-36) in the new year.

Essex had established a settled team with Michelle Stewart and Le Braya Buffon in defence, Nicole Alves, Rebecca Wilks, Lola Stevens, Jasmine Eastabrook and Rosie Brabrook rotating in mid-court and Louise Acons and Sofia Sefton in attack, but their inexperience often showed and heavy losses to Charnwood (62-23) and Exeter (72-22) left them facing a likely return to the Regional League.

The club also appears to have no alternative but to cancel their annual tournament, scheduled for June, which is usually their biggest fundraiser and will leave a big hole in the club’s finances.

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