Netball Superleague: 'Looking after player mental health is important' - Laura Malcolm

By Denise EvansBBC Sport
Laura Malcolm (left) and Caroline O'Hanlon
Laura Malcolm (left) and Caroline O'Hanlon playing for Manchester Thunder, who are the defending Superleague champions

Looking after the mental health of sportsmen and women is "more important" than taking care of the body, says Manchester Thunder's Laura Malcolm.

Malcolm, who is preparing for the new Superleague season which begins on Saturday, believes the support she received after her father, Marcus, died in 2013 was invaluable and should be the norm for every athlete.

"When I lost my dad a few years back, Tracey Neville [then manager at Thunder] made sure something was put together to support me through the grieving process," the England international told BBC Sport.

"Mental health support is available for every player, regardless of their situation, and that's so important.

"You train your body so much but you use your mind even more than that, so that has to be looked after more."

Malcolm's team-mate, Caroline O'Hanlon, added: "There is more awareness of mental health because players are coming out and talking about it.

"The more netball is in the public eye, the more open we are to criticism and we have to look after each other. Luckily we're a close-knit group at Thunder."

Looking ahead to the season opener against Wasps in Birmingham - a replay of the 2019 Grand Final which Thunder won 57-52 - O'Hanlon said: "We know if we're not playing at our best, anyone can beat us.

"Our strength in depth is phenomenal and I'm confident player for player we have the best squad in the league, but that doesn't matter come game days as it's about how you perform then."

Malcolm, who is enjoying her second stint with the Black and Yellows after two seasons at Severn Stars, says new players such as Lauren Ngwira, who signed after defender Kerry Almond retired following more than a decade at Thunder, have "slotted into place quickly".

"The vibe is good at Thunder," vice-captain Malcolm added. "We've got a strong squad and everybody is capable of doing something special on that court.

"It doesn't matter if we had the title before or not but it's good we're in the position to defend it as we're excited to do that as a team."

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