Loughborough Lighting take on two games this weekend hoping to retaining their Superleague title

Mark Kielesz-Levine reports.

It's a big weekend for Loughborough Lightning as they look to retain their Superleague title. They have two games in which to do so and will at least be favourites to make it through to Sunday's final.

They play a London Pulse side they have beaten twice already this season and have never been trailing in all eight quarters played. If they manage to make it three out of three against Pulse, it's likely that the final would be against Manchester Thunder. Thunder have had an excellent season and haven't yet lost - a perfect record across twenty matches. Loughborough have only tasted defeat twice- against you guessed it, Thunder.

The latest was just last week.

Loughborough Lightning training Credit: ITV Central

I spoke to Lightning Head Coach Victoria Burgess who said that although the match was meaningless on paper, it gave her the opportunity to try a few different things, tinker with selection and tactics and see how Thunder reacts. Although they have a semi final to win, the turnaround is so short that attention also needs to be on a potential final showdown on Sunday.

Should Loughborough go all the way, a place in the history books is theirs. They would join an elite group of three franchises who have won back to back finals- Team Bath (twice), Surrey Storm and West Midlands rivals Wasps.

Sara Francis-Bayman was the Head Coach last season when Lightning won their first title after being Grand Final runner up on three occasions. Sara decided to take time out to go to Australia to be with her wife, Stacey Francis-Bayman, herself an England Roses player and Birmingham native. 

Burgess took over having already been part of the coaching staff and it's paid off. The continuity has certainly helped and she told me that it was always part of the plan to make the semi finals once again, to put themselves in a strong position to retain their title, so it was of no surprise that they have made it.

Loughborough Lightning preparing for their two games this weekend Credit: ITV Central

It is also arguably the most important finals weekend for some time. The Commonwealth Games are next month and one of the most exciting and intriguing events is in netball. The world's best sides all happen to be Commonwealth nations with the big four of Australia, New Zealand, England and Jamaica all expected to be challenging. With the Games in Birmingham, it's a big opportunity to grow the sport as it tries to move towards full professional status.

England are defending champions and few would bet against the Roses doing it again in front of a noisy home crowd. At least six Lightning players will be in the Roses squad and whilst the thought of representing England in late July will excite, there's a job to do first and that starts tonight.