Northumbria and Netball Northern Ireland deal 'a strange concept'

Team Northumbria captain Darcie Worsdale says the side's link up with the Northern Ireland national team is "not ideal", but will improve results.

The deal sees seven Northern Irish players train in Belfast under head coach Kate Carpenter, while others stay in Newcastle with the assistant.

They then come together on match days.

Of course there'll be a lack of understanding at first, but I'm sure we'll improve as a team as the season goes on

Team Northumbria captain Darcie Worsdale

"It was a strange concept when first introduced but we're coping with it. We lost [59-45] to Bath last week, but we played well," Worsdale told BBC Sport.

"As a training set-up it's obviously not ideal, but last week was a respectable result that we can build on."

The arrival of the new recruits has meant several players leaving the 15-strong squad at Sport Central over the winter.

Just five remain from the 2013 group - players new coach Carpenter will not have seen much of when it comes to selecting a starting seven.

"There was talk initially of the Northern Irish girls flying over every Thursday before a Saturday match but that's not been possible," Worsdale continued.

"We had three pre-season camps and a tournament in Loughborough, but I was quick to ask how the team would be picked fairly.

Room for improvement

In 2013, Team Northumbria finished bottom of the eight-team Netball Superleague.

"That'll be difficult this season, and the principle we're going by is that you'll get your chance in matches and if you don't perform, someone else will be given an opportunity."

Northern Ireland are currently 11th of the 36 world-ranked nations, eight places behind England.

In February 2013, England Netball announced its three 'Intensive Netball Training Centres'  would be based in Bath, Manchester and London.

That decision effectively ruled out the prospect of Northumbria signing any England Internationals as they are required to spend time training at one of these locations.

It also led to England youth player Claire Brown leaving the club to join the Leeds-based Yorkshire Jets.

"Bringing in the Northern Ireland players will definitely add quality to the team with everyone being pushed for their place," said Worsdale.

"Of course there'll be a lack of understanding at first, but the only way of testing that is in games and I'm sure we'll improve as the season goes on."