MMU Sport scholar Gabby Marshall reached the Superleague Grand Final in her first season as a senior player.
The wing defence was named in Manchester Thunder’s 2016 Vitality Superleague squad in December and competed with the team until the final, losing 55-53 in a steely battle with Surrey Storm.
Unlike her teammates Gabby was on a late physiotherapy shift the night before heading to the final on Saturday morning at London’s Olympic Park.
Playing and training with Thunder, being an integral part of MMU’s BUCS team, all whilst completing her physiotherapy degree, Gabby is kept on her toes both on and off the court.
Cheadle-born Gabby is the first to admit that her calendar is a challenge but is embracing all aspects of her busy life.
“I can’t lie and say it has been easy as I’m trying to manage a lot of different commitments,” she said.
“This year has been particularly challenging because I have been out on full time placements which has involved long days of learning on the job and then rushing out to training afterwards.”
Gabby’s dedication hasn’t gone amiss at Thunder and her coach Dan Ryan says he admires her loyalty.
“It’s great to see her loyalty and passion and she really is a genuine team first player and that’s really refreshing in elite sport,” he said.
“Balance is so important for an elite athlete and although managing her studies and netball commitments has its challenges, it offers a great outlet and life balance.
“It certainly tests her level of organisation and discipline and forces her make more sacrifices than others, but she always finds a way to get everything done and I think it’s really admirable.”
Gabby has received bespoke support through her MMU Sport scholarship since she began her degree in 2014 and is thankful for the help that complements her many commitments.
“The Performance Sport team at MMU Sport have been influential in my ability to manage commitments this year,” Gabby explained.
“As a scholar I’m given access to a top class strength and conditioning suit, alongside regular physiotherapy and sports massage.
“The extended support network within MMU has been crucial to help liaise with my lecturers so that everyone is on the same page.
“All of these factors make a huge difference by easing pressure and allowing me to just concentrate on performing as well as possible.”
At 20 years old Gabby has moved from captaining the under 19s performance league side to focusing solely on being a senior player.
Although she was saddened to miss out on the Superleague title Gabby sees it as an invaluable experience.
“Obviously the result is disappointing, nobody wants to finish the season with a grand final loss,” she said.
“On a personal level it was an amazing experience to get on court during a Superleague final for the first time.
“It’s definitely given me the motivation to train harder so I hopefully never have to experience the feeling of losing one again!”
Dan sees an exciting future for Gabby and believes she has the potential to go a long way.
“She’s an athlete that always wants more out of their performance, but it’s the growth in her confidence which has been the biggest factor in her emergence,” he said.
“I can see her becoming a really key figure in the senior national team in the years to come.
“She possesses all the right behaviours of an elite athlete in a high performance environment so it really is all before her.”
Next year Gabby hopes to win the Superleague final with Thunder, have another successful season with MMU’s BUCS team, aims to be selected for the world youth championships in Botswana in 2017, not to mention completing the third and final year of her degree.
Before she embarks on the most challenging year of her life, Gabby hopes to tour Australia with England under 21s, fit in a holiday and will sit back to cheer on MMU’s scholar at Rio.
From everyone at MMU Sport, good luck and congratulations on a fantastic year!