Sheffield Hatters back in business with new backers and fresh faces

Sheffield Hatters are relieved to be back from their Covid-enforced hiatus as they embark on a new season in the Women’s British Basketball League this weekend.

Sheffield Hatters coach Vanessa Ellis with her players

Champions in 2019, the Hatters were forced to take a year off because they could not raise enough sponsorship to fund a team during the pandemic.

Hatters return to the court this weekend with their first two matches of the season against Nottingham Wildcats tomorrow (7.30pm) and Manchester Met Mystics on Sunday (2pm), both games at All Saints Sports Centre in Sheffield.

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Head coach Vanessa Ellis said: “Everybody’s really excited, we’ve got some of our old players back who are so pleased to be playing for the Hatters again.

Vanessa Ellis: Head coach is back at Sheffield Hatters and eager to fight for WBBL title.

“We’re going in with a positive attitude.”

Their return in 2021 coincides with the 60th anniversary of their founding and the oldest club in women’s British basketball will be promoting an optimistic and fighting attitude.

“We’ve always had that mentally, we’re in it to compete and we’re going to try and win,” said Ellis.

This season, young Irish stars Aisling Nee and Charley McGrath join the team while pursuing their University degrees, alongside Team GB and England guard Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee who adds to the back court.

“Nicolette is a really good signing for us, she’s a great personality as well so that always contributes to the team,” added Ellis, whose team have been backed financially for the season by media company Hydra Creative and both Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam.

American point guard Becca Cardens has also signed with the team ahead of the season.

Ellis spent the year of Hatters’ hibernation coaching in Austria where she recognised the high level of regard that female athletes in Europe are held.

She is now hoping to implement this within the WBBL.

Ellis said: “They are role models for young girls, and I think that’s what we need in our country. I don’t think we’ve got that same culture here and it’s really important that our WBBL girls are role models for girls in Sheffield. We want to show that this is a great sport and it’s good to be part of.

“I’m really pleased with where we’re at. The games will be tough this weekend but that’s how they should be.”