Author: Taylah Melki

2022 ANZ Premiership squads confirmed

THE ANZ Premiership signing period has come to an end with all six teams finalised and a number of huge names changing clubs. A couple of players have crossed the Tasman to join the ANZ Premiership from the Suncorp Super Netball while a couple of club heroes are set to join forces with arch rivals. With that in mind we cast an eye over each team list heading into the 2022 season.

Central Pulse:

The Pulse have a very different looking squad heading into the upcoming season with a plethora of familiar faces missing including this year’s captain in Claire Kersten. However, they will welcome back a couple of exciting prospect with Yvette McCausland-Durie returning as head coach and Tiana Metuarau returning to her roots. They have also poached a couple of SSN players with inaugural GIANTS defender Kristiana Manu’a joining the fray alongside Sunshine Coast Lightning youngster Binninan Hunt. Goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau has found herself at her third club in three years and will be a welcomed addition to the side as they look to climb up the ladder after a less than desirable season.

Amelia Walmsley
Binnian Hunt
Kristiana Manu’a
Aliyah Dunn
Kelly Jury
Maddy Gordon
Paris Lokotui
Temalisi Fakahokotau
Tiana Metuarau
Whitney Souness

Mainland Tactix:

It is no surprise that the Tactix have remained relatively unchanged minus one or two alterations to the squad with Erikana Pedersen no longer with the team. Kelera Nawai-Caucau has joined forces with the side after crossing from the Pulse further bolstering the Tactix’s defensive stocks. The key pillars have stuck around with Jane Watson and Karin Burger building a dominant force down back while the combination up forward between Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit is developing at a rate of knots.

Kelera Nawai-Caucau
Charlotte Elley
Ellie Bird
Hannah Glen
Jane Watson
Karin Burger
Kate Lloyd
Kimiora Poi
Samon Nathan
Te Paea Selby-Rickit

Northern Mystics:

The premiership-winning side have welcomed back a couple of big names with both Phoenix Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson set to pull on the dress next season. Karaka made a couple of cameo appearances towards the back-end of the season while Sokolich-Beatson will be chomping at the bit after being sidelined with injury this yeear. Australian Claire O’Brien has been awarded with a full time contract with the midcourter proving she is more than capable of standing up under the pressure for the Mystics. One of the biggest signings though was the acquisition of Monica Falkner with the former Northern Stars goal attack switching things up and looking to have an impact with the Mystics next season alongside powerhouse Grace Nweke.

Claire O’Brien
Fa’amu Ioane
Filda Vui
Grace Nweke
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
Monica Falkner
Peta Toeava
Phoenix Karaka
Sulu Fitzpatrick
Tayla Earle

Northern Stars:

The Stars have gone back to their roots with Kayla Johnson (Nee Cullen) and Holly Fowler signing on for the 2022 season. It has been a while between drinks for Johnson with the defender last playing with the NSW Swifts before sitting out with pregnancy while Fowler has made the switch from the Magic to the Stars. Everything else remains the same for the stars with the midcourt unchanged and the shooting circle seeing Amorangi Malesala, Jamie Hume and Maia Wilson all retain their spots.

Amorangi Malesala
Anna Harrison
Elle Temu
Gina Crampton
Holly Fowler
Jamie Hume
Kayla Johnson
Lisa Mather
Maia Wilson
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan

Southern Steel:

After enjoying a rapid rise up the ladder the Steel have added further defensive depth to their squad and a couple more options under the post. Georgia Heffernan is set to return after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2020 and will join George Fisher in the circle while Saviour Tui has made the switch from the Mystics to Steel in hope of achieving more court time. Defensively, the Steel have picked up premiership winning defender Kate Burley who is also heading to her third club in three years.

Ali Wilshier
George Fisher
Georgia Heffernan
Kate Burley
Kate Heffernan
Renee Savai’inaea
Sarapheinna Woulf
Saviour Tui
Shannon Saunders
Te Huinga Selby-RIckit

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic:

There has been no shortage of changes in the Magic side with a couple of big names farewelled as Caitlin Bassett returns to Australia and Grace Kara not returning. But those changes paved the way for some very exciting gets with Ameliaranne Ekenasio set to pull on the Magic dress alongside a couple of her former Pulse teammates in Katrina Rore and Kersten. Both Rore and Ekenasio will be coming in off the back of pregnancy but that will not stop them from dominating out on court. The names do not stop there with Bailey Mes also joining the club from the Mystics making for an exceptionally well-rounded and dynamic squad. Oceane Maihi rounds out the alterations with the defender swapping from the Stars.

Ameliaranne Ekenasio
Bailey Mes
Claire Kersten
Erena Mikaere
Georgia Tong
Georgie Edgecombe
Katrina Rore
Khiarna Williams
Oceane Maihi
Sam Winders

2021 SSN: Season review – NSW Swifts

THE 2021 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has come to a close with the focus now on the off-season and next year. Draft Central takes a look at each teams respective season with the final team under the microscope is premiers NSW Swifts.

Ladder: 1st
Win-loss: 9-5
Percentage:  105.57%

It was a fairytale finish for the NSW Swifts who claimed the 2021 SSN premiership defeating cross-town rivals the GIANTS by four goals. The Swifts were consistent from the opening match and while they had one or two little hiccups along the way they played with great precision and composure to steadily plug away and dominate. A key component of the Swifts’ game play throughout the season was their capacity to treasure possession and play clean and clinical netball which they did especially throughout their finals campaign. To put it quite simply, the Swifts were a well-rounded team that knew their job with each and every player able to implement their role and fulfil it to the highest possible level to get them over the line each time they stepped out on court.

What worked well?

The Swifts defensive combination of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner was back to its dominant best with the two running amuck down back. Klau showcased her cleanliness and read of the play to be a smothering option in goal keeper while Turner utilised her niggly style of defence to suffocate her opponent and get hands to ball. The duo were just about unstoppable down back while the occasional injection of Lauren Moore was more than beneficial. The other aspect that worked exceptionally well for the Swifts was their goal circle with Sam Wallace, Helen Housby and Sophie Garbin creating a three-pronged attack. The trio were more than capable of exploding out of the gates and imposing themselves on the contest with their accuracy to post and movement causing all sorts of chaos inside the goal circle. If one was not firing the other was, such was the luxury the Swifts had at their disposal making them an incredibly slick unit. Maddy Proud was nothing short of a workhorse throughout the season for the Swifts with the co-captain riding every bump and wave to ensure her side were there at the end.

What went wrong?

All in all it is fair to say that not much went wrong for the Swifts throughout the season given they walked away with their second premiership in three years. But with so many talented players at their disposal it was sometimes a bit tricky for each and every player to get a run out on court and while the rolling subs was a huge bonus it also played somewhat of a hindrance to the Swifts. The Swifts were littered with exciting options through the midcourt with and that was often their Achilles heel with Briony Akle more than willing to ring in the changes which often did not leave a lot of time for the side to settle. The wing attack position in particular was the main source of change with the likes of Proud, Paige Hadley, Nat Haythornthwaite and Tayla Fraser occasionally rotating through the position to create a spark and bringing their own flair to the game.

Most valuable player?

In a team littered with stars it is hard to narrow down the cream of the crop however it is incredibly hard to go past the services of Wallace who was once again in a league of her own. The goal shooter boasted nothing but class and dominance to post with her ability to snatch the ball out of mid-air and overall athleticism coming to the fore. She was a rock under the post and more importantly added a couple of strings to her bow including her willingness to shoot from range. Her accuracy was paramount as was her high volume as she continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Most improved player? 

Gaining a bit more court time this season compared to previous seasons it is fair to say that Garbin announced herself as a player to watch. The up and coming goaler proved that she is more than capable of standing on her own two feet and commanding the ball with her strong holds and clever movement inside the ring. A natural goal shooter, Garbin did her best work when stationed back there but also showcased her depth and development to hold her own out in goal attack and keep the movement happening. Her vision into the circle was key while her elevation was second to none, able to soar up high and reel in the looping pass no matter the amount of physical pressure she was under.

Photo credit: Albert Perez/Getty images

2021 SSN: Season review – GIANTS Netball

THE 2021 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has come to a close with the focus now on the off-season and next year. Draft Central takes a look at each teams respective season with the next team under the microscope minor premiers and runner-up GIANTS Netball.

Ladder: 2nd
Win-loss: 9-5
Percentage: 107.03%

It was a year of so close but yet so far for the GIANTS who came away with second spot due to a disappointing grand final performance. After claiming the minor premiership and taking the hard way to the grand final the GIANTS showcased their star power and depth but fell agonisingly short at the final hurdle. Handed a huge blow at the start of the season with the loss of Kiera Austin, they impressed with their ability to adapt and flourish under pressure with plenty of big time players stepping up to the plate. The GIANTS played an exciting brand of netball, not afraid to take the game by the scruff of the neck and rely on their physical attributes to gain the upper hand in tough and gruelling encounters. 

What worked well?

There were a number of overwhelming factors for the GIANTS that got them both the minor premiership and to the grand final – one being their defensive depth. The GIANTS were not afraid to ring in the changes down back with Matilda McDonell providing a bit of spice and energy to the defensive unit when injected into the game. But the consistency and ever growing combination between April Brandley and Sam Poolman was at the forefront of the GIANTS success with the pair able to rotate strike in defence and go out hunting. Brandley looked reinvigorated throughout the season, contesting hard for every pass and shutting down space with her new found closing speed, while Poolman upped the ante down back. Kristiana Manu’a was another player that offered a point of difference down back often coming on as an impact player to shift the defensive dynamic. The other key positive for the GIANTS was the consistency and solidarity through the midcourt with the likes of Jamie-Lee Price, Amy Parmenter and Maddie Hay all elevating their game to the next level this season. The trio showcased their connectivity and cohesiveness to manoeuvre the ball down the court and utilise their turn of speed to blister away and create attacking forays. Hay in particular had a standout season, often shouldering the load around circle edge to feed the ball into the shooters and control the tempo of the game as Parmenter dazzled with her athleticism around circle edge to regain possession for the GIANTS.

What went wrong?

The reliability on the super shot cost the GIANTS at times with the side often trying to inch their way back into the contest with long bombs, rather than opting to work the ball to post to guarantee an easy goal. The super shot proved to be a double-edged sword because when it worked it was amazing as the GIANTS cut down large deficits within the blink of an eye but the downfall more often than not was the fact inaccuracy crept into the game and ultimately handed possession back to the opposition. While both Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer impressed from range when they were on song, if they were off or under mountain loads of pressure it was hard to fire on all cylinders.

Most valuable player:

Captain and English international Harten was undoubtedly the most influential player out of court for the GIANTS. She was a real barometer inside the attacking third, often shaking up her game play depending on her opposition credit to her wisdom and experience. Harten impressed with her seamless transition between goal shooter and goal attack with her movement front and centre along with her strength. Harten continued to star with her balance and fancy footwork enabling her to secure prime real estate along the goal line. She was a reliable figure in attack and while her accuracy dipped at times, she still managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over thanks to her work rate and competitive nature. 

Most improved player:

This was arguably the toughest decision to make with two prominent up and coming players at the GIANTS disposal. But in her first season it is hard to go past Dwyer who adapted to the SSN level like a duck to water. Her impressive timing, composure and smarts to play the ball around was second to none. Throw that in with her combination between Harten and the pair formed a formidable duo. At just 19 years old Dwyer grew with confidence each and every time she stepped out on court with her attacking nous enabling her to have an impact both in the scoreboard and out the front. Dwyer showcased her willingness to go from long range, or use her footwork to sneak closer to the post making her an incredibly dynamic threat. 

Photo credit: AAP

2021 SSN: Season review – Sunshine Coast Lightning

THE 2021 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has come to a close with the focus now on the off-season and next year. Draft Central takes a look at each teams respective season with the next team under the microscope the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

Ladder: 4th
Win-loss: 8-6
Percentage: 98.92%

The Sunshine Coast Lightning were once again among the thick of things making their fifth consecutive finals series and while they did not make it to the big dance they still managed to have a strong season. The Lightning collected a couple of big wins throughout their campaign – the biggest against a fully fit and firing West Coast Fever outfit – but also suffered a couple of surprise losses to the likes of the Adelaide Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds which ultimately pushed them down the ladder. With a couple of fresh faces joining the fray and new connections being made across the court the Lightning took some time to settle and really hit their straps. They displayed impressive glimpses of form with their speed and precise ball movement coming to the fore, but ultimately did not have the consistency to get the job done.

What worked well?

The connection between Cara Koenen and Steph Wood was just about unstoppable when they were on song. The pair had an innate connection that enabled them to carve up the court with their shooter to shooter interplay allowing the Lightning front-end to dominate. Koenen was a lynchpin under the post with her movement along the baseline causing all sorts of headaches for the opposition while her increased volume also took centre stage. The solidarity in defence was another key component for the Lighting as Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni combined to shut down the space and cause a ruckus down back. The pair were relatively stingy in defence working in tandem to reduce the amount of space afforded to opposition attack units while also proving they are not afraid to go out hunting for any cross-court ball that goes their way.

What went wrong?

There were plenty of positives for the Lightning however there were times that things broke down over the transverse line. When things got stagnant in attack they were unable to forge a way forward with Laura Scherian, Binnian Hunt, Mahalia Cassidy and Maddy McAuliffe all rotating through the midcourt but sometimes getting caught on the body of their opponent rather than creating space. The Lightning struggled with their one-dimensional movement, often stuck up high and unable to penetrate into the circle especially in attack. Sunshine Coast also had issues when it came to moving the ball from defence to offence, unable to get over the mess and find any easy way through the mess.

Most valuable player:

There is no denying that Wood was well and truly the barometer of the Sunshine Coast Lightning with the goal attack proving time and time again that she is the missing link between a win and a loss. Her missed connection was obvious when not out on court with the side struggling to generate any type of attacking momentum. The goal attack showcased her impressive timing, composure and smarts to consistently create space both inside and outside the circle to set up teammate Koenen under the post. Wood did a mountain-load of preliminary work to get the defenders off her tail and used her turn of speed to dart into the circle. Throw in her willingness to go to post from range and cool, calm nature in difficult situations, and it is fair to say Wood was a force to be reckoned with for the Lightning. 

Most improved player:

McAuliffe took on a very different role in season 2021 with the talented midcourter splitting her time between both centre and wing defence. A tried and tested member of the Lightning squad, McAuliffe enjoyed some extra court time and used her defensive mindset to have an influence on the play in attack with her drive and vision. She showcased her tenacity and adaptability to transition between the two positions with great ease and used her endurance to get to consecutive contests. She did some of her best work around circle edge down in defence while her timing in attack also developed as did her creativity on the pass as the season went on.

Photo credit: Sunshine Coast Lightning via Twitter

2021 SSN: Season review – Queensland Firebirds

THE 2021 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has come to a close with the focus now on the off-season and next year. Draft Central takes a look at each teams respective season with the next team under the microscope the Queensland Firebirds.

Ladder: 5th
Win-loss: 6-8
Percentage: 100.8%

Touted as potential grand final favourites at the start of the 2021 season, Queensland Firebirds unfortunately did not live up to the hype taking a while to settle into their changes and find that level of consistency. With a new coach at the helm and the welcomed return of some Firebirds favourites in Gretel Bueta and Kim Ravaillion the Queensland based side showed glimpses of what they could do putting some of the top teams to the sword, but their momentary lapses against their lower ranked opponents really cost them, falling just short of finals once again.

What worked well?

It is fair to say that the Firebirds engine room was through the midcourt with both Gabi Simpson and Ravaillion proving they can run all day every day. Ravaillion provided that much needed link between attack and defence while Simpson offered the added bit of a leadership to a young defensive structure. Lara Dunkley and Jemma Mi Mi both rotated strike in that wing attack role to provide a point of difference in the frontend with Dunkley boasting a more conservative and cautious approach as opposed to Mi Mi’s run and gun style. Their Firebirds played with great flair and dare right across the court with the defensive end willing to go out hunting and the attacking unit tapping into their athleticism making them a very unpredictable team to come up against.

What went wrong?

Inconsistency was a key issue for the Firebirds as they struggled throughout the season to implement a strong four quarter performance. Although they were able to display strong patches in the game they fell away at costly moments often forfeiting the lead. The other main area of concern for the Firebirds was their high penalty count especially down in defence with the likes of Rudi Ellis, Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner often giving away high totals and subsequently gifting opposition teams with free shots on goal, an area they will want to address heading into next season.

Most valuable player?

Jamaican shooting sensation Romelda Aiken was a key pillar in attack for the Firebirds throughout their 2021 campaign. The goal shooter was nothing short of consistent to post with her ability to twist herself inside out on constant display. Aiken impressed with her capacity to go up and contest for the high ball while she also added a couple more tricks to her game to get on the move and open up the space. Standing tall under the post made her an easy target for the Firebirds while her accuracy and volume to post made her difficult to stop when things got going in attack. Her connection with Bueta, Tippah Dwan and Ravaillion in attack was second to none as they carved up the court with their explosive and creative style of play.

Most improved player? 

It was a breakout year for Hinchliffe with the goal keeper shining down back with her improved level of movement and overall defensive nous coming to the fore. Although her year was soured with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and she is likely to miss most of next season the young defender impressed each time she stepped out on court. Often living behind the shadows of Jenner, Hinchliffe found her own voice and dominance out on court this season with her attack on the ball and clever movement around the body often catching the eye.

Photo credit: Queensland Firebirds

2021 SSN: Season review – Melbourne Vixens

THE 2021 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has come to a close with the focus now on the off-season and next year. Draft Central takes a look at each teams respective season with the first team under the microscope the Melbourne Vixens.

Ladder: 8th
Win-loss: 2-12
Percentage: 86%

It was always going to be a difficult year for the Vixens, who had to replace the gaping hole left by the retirement of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip. But they were handed an even bigger blow prior to the season commencing with Liz Watson ruled out for the season with a foot injury. This caused some reshuffling amongst the ranks and a little bit of a disconnect in attack for the former reigning premiers. The addition of Rahni Samason midway through the season as an injury replacement paid dividends with the young goaler leading the Melbourne Vixens to one of their two victories and while they came close in other games simply could not hold on for long enough to seal the deal.

What worked well?

Although the ladder did not reflect many positives out on court there were still plenty of high notes to take away from the season. Looking down in the defence end and there is no denying that the combination of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston was at its damaging best once again. The pair often moved as one solidarity unit and used their athleticism and read of the play to cause a ruckus which they did throughout the season, throw in the extra court time Kadie-Ann Dehaney got throughout the season and the Vixens looked solid in defence. The trio proved they were more than capable of getting hands to ball and causing turnovers with their silky movement and overall court craft to mount pressure.

What went wrong?

With a couple of new faces in the attacking end it was hard for the Vixens to really hit their stride and hit the highs of the 2020 season. Even though Mwai Kumwenda was a rock under the post for the Vixens both Kaylia Stanton and Ruby Barkmeyer struggled to fill the shoes of Thwaites and Philip and put up a competitive total. Still young and developing, Barkmeyer took some time to get up to speed of SSN but showed plenty of glimpses of magic while Stanton worked on her craft out in goal attack despite being a goal shooter.

Most valuable player?

In a side calling out for experience and leadership in attack it is no surprise that Kate Moloney stood up to the challenge week in, week out. The Vixens captain was nothing short of a workhorse in the front-end with her give-and-go and overall vision into the circle. Shouldering more of the load inside the attacking third, given the absence of Watson, Moloney plied her trade around circle edge to be a constant option and alleviate pressure. Not only was she a force to be reckoned with in attack but so too in defence with her hustle and smarts to create deflections aplenty. Moloney was the heart and soul out on court, often inspiring her team and spurring them on with her never-say-die attitude.

Most improved player?  

Thrust into the SSN after being named as a training partner, Hannah Mundy proved she has what it takes and has the makings of an exciting midcourter for the Vixens. Although it took her some time to work into the season Mundy found her new home in wing attack despite coming from a centre/wing defence background. As the year went on her confidence increased, with her strength around circle edge well and truly coming to the fore alongside her clever footwork and positioning.

Photo credit: SSN

2021 ANZ Premiership: Top 10 quiet achievers – #1 Elle Temu

NOW that the ANZ Premiership season has come to a close Draft Central takes a look back at some of the quiet achievers that effectively plied their trade throughout the year. The number one spot on the countdown goes to exciting Northern Stars defender Elle Temu.

After making the switch at the end of the 2020 season from the Central Pulse to the Northern Stars, Temu relished in her extra court time with the defender upping the ante every game. With a plethora of big name performers around her in captain Maia Wilson down one end of the court and fan favourite Anna Harrison coming out of retirement this season, Temu well and truly flew under the radar.  A relatively unknown prospect heading into the season, Temu blossomed as the year went on with her confidence growing and competitive edge coming to the fore. She made use her of her unknown stature to become an imposing force on the opposition and effectively ply her trade to continuously win ball back.

The goal defence proved that she is more than capable of stepping up to the plate with her court craft and read of the play developing at a rate of knots. Temu did not shy away from the big contests often putting her body on the line to create turnovers for the Stars and made herself a real general down back. With fancy footwork to boot and smarts to go with it, Temu impressed for the Stars. She showcased her ability to cleverly and cleanly manoeuvre around the body of her opposition while her hands over pressure was another clear asset of her game play.

Although she is not the tallest defender going around, Temu did not lack any form of aerial presence with her smarts and ability to contest in the air coming to the fore as the season went on. She positioned exceptionally well against the taller goal shooters to push them up nice and high in the goal circle while she also protected the backspace with her deceptive turn of speed. Temu was not content with just sitting back and waiting for the ball to come to her, instead she went out hunting to create doubt in the feeders minds and cherry pick any high loping passes that came her way.

Temu showcased her ability to play both goal keeper and goal defence without skipping a beat such is her netball IQ. She had no issues seamlessly transitioning between either position, highlighting her ability to play a shutdown defender or a moving one. Temu utilised her strength to be an imposing threat while her shadowing movements enabled her to nullify the space and pick off intercepts. The up and coming defender impressed with her turn of speed and ability to turn herself inside out to swat ball away. Her ever-growing connection with Harrison, Oceane Maihi and Lisa Mather enabled Temu to play her own game and build pressure with her constant niggle and pressure.

Temu finished with an impressive stats sheet including 45 centre pass receives credit to her attacking mindset and willingness to propel the ball forward. She also amassed 18 rebounds, 45 deflections, 27 pickups and 35 intercepts. She was relatively clean with ball in hand treasuring possession as shown through her 17 turnovers but will want to tidy up her penalty count recording 176 for the season.

2021 SSN Head to head: Grand final

IT all comes down to this, with the grand final match set to be decided between NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball. The latter secured the minor premiership while the Swifts secured the first spot in the big dance. With key match-ups across the court Draft Central casts an eye inside the circle with Sarah Klau and Jo Harten set to battle it out.

NSW Swifts vs. GIANTS Netball
Sarah Klau (GK) vs. Jo Harten (GS)

A couple of internationals are set to go head to head with both players integral cogs in their respective teams with their composure and smarts enabling them to have profound impacts on the outcome of games.

There is no denying that Harten is quite literally the spiritual leader out on court with her passion and enthusiasm often spurring her side on. her ability to stand up at the big moments and deliver is second to none while her overall smarts makes her incredibly hard to stop. Boasting a wealth of experience both at an international level and at a Suncorp Super Netball level, the goal shooter has a big bag of tricks that she can choose from when out on court. Harten has proven throughout her career that she can shake things up with the drop of a hat. Able to play both a holding goal shooter or a moving one, Harten is a versatile option in attack and can keep the defenders on their toes with her clever holds and drives along the baseline. The England international is a real team player able to bring her partner-in-crime in 19-year-old Sophie Dwyer into the game with their ever-growing shooter to shooter connection blossoming each and every game. Harten is capable of pulling off the unthinkable with her fancy footwork along the baseline, impeccable timing and balance to keep the ball in play. not only is her connection with Dwyer strong, but so too the midcourters in both Maddie Hay and Jamie-Lee Price. Harten is more than willing to back herself from range, happy to take the super shot while she also possesses the smarts to edge herself closer to the post. her accuracy is also another focal point of her game and while she is known to get a bit hot under the collar, uses that passion to make things happen in attack.

Klau has hit her straps at the right time of the year for the Swifts with the goal keeper a real menace down back. Despite her height she has deceptive speed and can cover the court in a blink of an eye and most importantly is not afraid to go out hunting to cause doubt in the opposition minds. The goal keeper is relatively clean and does not give away a wealth of penalties which in turn allows her to build momentum and create turnovers with her constant niggle and tussle for space inside the goal circle. Klau has a great reach over the shot often imposing herself to force held balls and regain possession for the Swifts. She is never out of the contest and works in overdrive to combine with Maddy Turner to create a moving circle and opportunities to change the course of the game. The goal keeper usually adopts a more on the body style of defence but has proven she is more than capable of taking away the space and lulling the opposition into a fake sense of security to produce turnover ball. Klau connects well with Maddy Proud, Lauren Moore and Paige Hadley through the midcourt to transition the ball out of defence such is her netball IQ.

The battle between Harten and Klau is going to be an entertaining one to say the least. With their own standout attributes it will be up to which player is able to play their own game and maintain that cool, calm and collected temperament. If Harten is able to dictate the space inside attack and use her footwork to keep Klau at bay then the Swifts could find themselves in hot water, given the momentum she provides the entire GIANTS outfit. But if Klau blankets Harten and her movement then the Swifts will be able to propel themselves out of defence and into attack.

Photo credit: SSN

2021 SSN preview: Grand final

PREMIERSHIP glory and state bragging rights are up for grabs when NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball take on each other in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) big dance. It has been a gruelling season for both teams who have endured copious lockdowns and quarantine periods and it all comes to a head on Saturday when the two sides lock horns.

NSW Swifts vs. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, August 28 @2:30pm

Having only met two weeks ago, it is fair to say both teams knowing exactly what each other are bringing to the table making for an intriguing battle. The Swifts pipped the GIANTS at the post by a mere goal in the semi-final and with an extra week off will be hoping to capitalise on their fresh legs. Conversely the GIANTS pulled off an almighty win against the Fever and will go into the game with a head full of steam.

The Swifts know what it takes to win premierships, claiming victory in 2019 and managed to do that without the services of captain and spiritual leader Maddy Proud who will be well and truly spurring them on when she takes the court this game. Proud is a real barometer for the Swifts with her two-way running and ability to link defence and attack. But she will have her work cut out for her up against Jamie-Lee Price who flexed her muscles last round with her crafty court play, high level of endurance and overall smarts.

The GIANTS midcourt of Price, Maddie Hay and Amy Parmenter well and truly had the upper hand against the Fever and will need to continue that trajectory if they are to unsettle a silky Swifts outfit that have a plethora of options. Hay is an unsung hero in attack for the GIANTS with her innate timing, vision and variety on the pass a couple of key attributes meaning either Tayla Fraser or Lauren Moore will have to put in the hard yards early to nullify her. The Swifts have no shortage of options in attack with Proud able to swing into wing attack while both Paige Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite bring their own arsenal of tricks.

Looking inside the circle for the Swifts and it is hard to deny the influence Sam Wallace has under the post. The Trinidad and Tobago goaler is an aerial threat and can add to the scoreboard with great accuracy and volume. She often sets the tone in attack with Helen Housby feeding off her teammates energy. Housby will need to have a big game for the Swifts if they are any chance to secure the premiership with the England international both a playmaker and a viable scoring option. The Swifts also have a trump card in Sophie Garbin who has proven time and time again that she has the capacity to tear games apart at the seams and really impose herself with her strong holds.

But the GIANTS defenders are no easy beats, with Sam Poolman playing arguably her best game to date and eager to keep that defensive intensity rolling. Poolman’s connection with April Brandley has developed at a rate of knots with the pair able to cause chaos down in defence with their hunt and tenacity enabling them to create turnover ball. Throw in youngster Matilda McDonell and Kristiana Manu’a and the GIANTS have a number of options that are able to cause a stir in defence and win ball back if needed.

Taking a look up the other end of the court and the GIANTS have settled into a dynamic rhythm with Sophie Dwyer and Jo Harten. An unknown quantity heading into the season Dwyer has quickly become a household name with the goal attack plying her trade from just about anywhere in the circle – especially when it comes to the super shot period. In fact the GIANTS as a whole are more than willing to back themselves from range with Harten renowned for her long range shooting. It will be up to the Swifts defenders in Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner to nullify their influence with the pair able to apply strong hands over pressure and go out hunting for any cross court ball. Klau will be hoping to tap into her physical side to upset Harten and push her onto the backfoot to give the Swifts the upper hand.

With key match-ups across the court and vastly different game plans with the Swifts renowned for their clinical and traditional style of netball as opposed to the GIANTS hard and fast style it will all come down to which team is able to settle first.

2021 ANZ Premiership: Top 10 quiet achievers – #2 Kate Heffernan

NOW that the ANZ Premiership season has come to a close Draft Central takes a look back at some of the quiet achievers that effectively plied their trade throughout the year. The second spot on the countdown goes to youngster Kate Heffernan.

The up-and-coming midcourter enjoyed some more court time throughout the 2021 season with the centre proving that she has the engine to run all day and not skip a beat. Honing her craft as the starting centre, Heffernan highlighted her smarts to work her way into the match and effectively ply her trade for the Steel.

She was often overshadowed by some of the big names surrounding her such as George Fisher and Shannon Saunders which allowed her to burrow down and do what she does best – which is win ball. A more defensive minded midcourter given her wing defence background, Heffernan impressed with her ability to read the play and cleanly contest the ball. She ran amuck through the midcourt with her closing speed and deceptively long arms to bat ball away and regain possession for the Southern Steel. Credit to her versatility she also showcased her ability to slot back into that wing defence role when necessary, utilising her defensive traits and shadowing movements to stop her opposition in their tracks while her three-foot marking was a staple of her game play in either position.

It could be argued that her work was a key reason for the Steel’s success this season, finishing in third spot thanks to her composure and smarts with ball in hand. Heffernan had no issue swinging from defence to offence within a heartbeat and could fly up through the centre of the court within a second. But she also knew when to slow things down and take a more methodical approach through attack such is her netball nous. Still only young, Heffernan grew with confidence throughout the season and steadily added to her bag of tricks with her aerial ability often a main talking point.

The fast-footed midcourter was not afraid to throw herself at whatever came her way and used her speed to shut down the space in defence. She was a real pest around circle edge, causing deflections and turnovers aplenty while in attack she also upped the ante. Heffernan highlighted her ability to command ball at the top of the circle and most importantly execute passes with precision into the circle and to the advantage of her goalers. She was often a link between the two ends and despite having the most court space to cover was cool, calm and collected with ball in hand. Heffernan consistently re-offered and worked in overdrive to create space across the court making use of the angles to change things up.

In a true testament to her defensive mindset Heffernan finished the season with an impressive 39 deflections to her name, 35 pickups and 25 intercepts – the most of any midcourter. She was somewhat costly when it came to penalties amassing 134 but made up for it with her impressive endurance levels running out 920 minutes across 16 games. The centre also registered 298 feeds for the year showcasing her ability to get it done at both ends of the court.