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Superleague Netball: bringing you another radio first

Friday 17 May 2013, 11:48

Chessie Bent Chessie Bent Producer

Netball Netball? On the radio?

Earlier this year, we did something that had never been done before: 5 live Sports Extra broadcast the very first commentary of a game of netball on UK radio.   

Last summer, during the London Olympics, 5 live and 5 live Olympics Extra tried its hand at most sports.  Remember back to August, when Peter Allen and Colin Murray seamlessly steered 5 live's coverage from Stott and Bailey's slalom canoeing gold, Peter Wilson's shooting triumph, to Gemma Gibbons' silver in the Judo?  All in the space of five minutes of magical radio.

The Olympics brought us many firsts.  We had full commentary of dancing horses in the Dressage.  Jade Jones and Nicola Adams winning Britain's first Golds in taekwondo and women’s boxing.  We even brought you live gymnastics.

But netball isn't in the Olympics.  The pinnacle of that sport is the Commonwealth Games. 

So, after a year in which female athletes and women's sport was so successful, it seems strange to think that there had never been netball commentary on the radio prior to 2013. 

But a home series against the old enemy - Australia - looked like a good opportunity to redress the balance. 

England were looking for their first ever win against the Aussies.  5 live was looking for its first ever netball commentary team. Step forward Katharine Merry.  An Olympic medallist over 400 metres and a mean Goal Defence in her youth.  Then throw in our resident expert, Tracey Neville. Yes, sister of Gary and Phil, but also one of the most successful England netball internationals of all time. 

As netball commentary on the radio had never been done before, there were no templates to follow; there were no traditions we needed to worry about breaking.  Those who listened seemed to really enjoy the coverage - and the England team seemed to thrive on the radio.  Not only did England win their first ever series against Australia, but they went on to record a whitewash: 3-0.

This weekend we’re back.  This time it's the semi-finals of Superleague, netball's premier domestic competition.

Sunday sees Team Bath take on last year's winners Manchester Thunder.  Coverage starts on 5 live Sports Extra at 7pm, with the first centre pass at 7.30pm. 

On Monday we'll bring you full commentary of Celtic Dragons versus Surrey Storm - the build-up begins at 7.30pm, also on 5 live Sports Extra. 

It all culminates on the May 25, when we bring you the final live from Worcester. All this on digital radio, online and on the BBC iPlayer Radio app.

Chessie Bent is director of production at USP Content, which produces netball for BBC Radio 5 live. 

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