UWS SIRENS made an impressive debut in the Vitality Netball Superleague last season, finishing in sixth position and beating some of the top teams in the league along the way. However, Scotland’s sole representatives in the UK-wide league were not satisfied with finishing outside of the top four positions and so they immediately set their sights on improving on that position in the 2018 season, which begins at the start of February.

The team’s ambition has been illustrated by their new signings, most notably England international, Sara Bayman, who has over 80 England caps to her name. The 32 year-old from Wigan has a wealth of experience at the very top of her sport, including captaining another of the Superleague teams, Manchester Thunder two seasons ago before moving to New Zealand to ply her trade last year.

However, despite UWS Sirens being a team which is only a year old, Bayman liked what she saw. “I think people were a little bit surprised when I signed for Sirens,” she said. “But I believe that Sirens will be really competitive. There was another part of it in though that I wanted a new challenge - I wanted to do something whereby at the end of the season, there’s been something more to it than purely what we do on court and I feel like Sirens have that.”

The off-court activities to which Bayman refers is the numerous programmes, including Sirens for Success, that the Scottish franchise deliver in an attempt to increase the number of people playing netball, as well as increase the profile of women’s sport. The Englishwoman admits that it was this was a significant factor in her signing on the dotted line. “One of the most exciting things for me was Sirens are really are pushing the boundaries in netball – they’re trying to bring it to the masses and are trying to engage with the community so as an athlete who is coming towards the end of my career, I wanted to do something more than just turn up and play and I felt like this was a really good challenge for me.”

UWS Sirens are in the midst of their pre-season and while it is, she says, still too early to set any specific targets for the team, she is feeling positive that the increased strength-in-depth of the squad in comparison to last year, coupled with the experience the players gained from the team’s maiden season, stands them in good stead for the 2018 season. “I’ve got to say that I’m optimistic,” she reveals. “I’m excited about the season and I know that the girls were disappointed with where they finished last season - that’s a good thing because it shows the aspirations of the team. There’ll be no fear of any other teams this year - the players who were here in the first season go into 2018 with their eyes wide open knowing that we’re good enough to beat any team out there. So we just need to get that final piece of the jigsaw which is winning consistently.”

There will be a short break in the Superleague schedule in April, when many of the players up sticks to the Gold Coast to compete in the Commonwealth Games. Bayman has a good chance of being selected for the England squad for what would be her third Commonwealth Games and although she is excited about the prospect, she admits that it will be somewhat strange to be up against her teammates rather than alongside them.

“It’s going to be weird and I’ll secretly be watching the Scotland games and cheering them on,” she laughs. “It’s nice in Sirens though because we also have some Jamaicans so it’s brilliant to have that mix of nationalities. It’s great that there’s a lot of Scottish players here but it has to be about getting the best playing roster. So I’m so happy to see how Sirens are shaping up.”