Category: International

Potential Australia Development Squad players

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season edging ever closer, Draft Central casts an eye over potential new inclusions to the Australian Diamonds Development Squad based on their performances throughout the 2020 season. The Development Squad focuses on up and coming players that would benefit from the opportunity to train in an elite environment but are not yet ready for the call-up to the international stage. Players that were named in the 2019 Australian Development Squad such as Tayla Fraser, Olivia Lewis and Hannah Petty have not been included. These notes are purely based on the individual opinions of each writer.

ATTACK:

Typically renowned for holding shooters, the next generation of Australian goalers coming through the ranks could be more focused on movement and versatility with some smaller goalers in development, particularly in goal attack. Versatility and an ability to put up goals from range is abundant in the up-and-coming pool of goalers, although the lack of height among the group we have selected could be an issue.

Georgie Horjus – Adelaide Thunderbirds (Sophie Taylor)

One of the most exciting young prospects to take the court in season 2020 is Georgie Horjus. A breakout season for the young South Australian goaler has seen her provide a crucial link throughout the Thunderbirds attack, using her burst of speed and excellent vision to weave around her opposition and find purchase both in and around the goal circle. An impressive long range shooter, Horjus has proved this season that the young talent coming up through the pathways is more than capable of holding down a starting spot, using her flair and technique to wow her more experienced opposition time and time again.

Tippah Dwan – Queensland Firebirds (Taylah Melki)

Youngster Tippah Dwan has taken the competition by storm in 2020 with her smooth movement and long bomb shooting a couple of key elements in her game play. The goal attack is an exciting prospect for the future of Australian netball, able to glide across the court while also taking the hard drive into the circle to draw the attention of her defender. Her work rate is unquestionable, constantly popping up in the Firebirds attacking third to bring the ball down the court while her defensive efforts are also commendable, getting hands to ball and picking off intercepts. 

Emma Cosh – West Coast Fever (Sophie Taylor)

A player who has had a real opportunity to ply her trade this season is Emma Cosh, with the smooth-moving goaler inadvertently handed the wing attack bib due to Ingrid Colyer’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Cosh has proved to be a highly versatile option in attack, and while she has not played in goals since she pulled on the wing attack bibs a few weeks ago, she is a great evasive attacker who can put up shots from anywhere in the goal circle. Her feeding ability has stood out, with excellent ball placement on or off circle edge and the clean hands and quick release to pull it off.

MIDCOURT:

Through the midcourt, defensive capability is what stands out amongst our three picks. With the ability to adapt and transition well between positions through the centre third, the potential Diamonds of the future could be a bit more versatile. All three of the players we have listed boast both offensive and defensive traits, much like many of the young up-and-comers through the Australian pathways.

Maisie Nankivell – Adelaide Thunderbirds (Taylah Melki)

There is no denying that Maisie Nankivell has taken her game to a whole new level in 2020, often using her defensive attributes in attack and vice versa. Accustomed to the wing defence position, Nankivell has not looked out of place in centre for the Thunderbirds with her strength and high endurance paving the way for the Adelaide side. She is never out of the contest thanks to her impressive footwork, read of the play and deceptively rangy arms. Nankivell works in overdrive around circle edge to pick up clean ball or create opportunities for turnovers while her transition down court is another impressive trait. Her cleanliness with ball in hand, spatial awareness and confidence to deliver bullet-like passes has quickly become a focal point in the Thunderbirds line-up.  

Molly Jovic – Collingwood Magpies (Sophie Taylor)

A talented midcourter who has burst onto the SSN scene in 2020, Molly Jovic has proved a critical member of the Magpies lineup this season in the absence of Collingwood experience. Jovic has rarely looked out of place or out of her depth on the SSN stage, consistently stepping up to the plate with her quickfire passes and adaptability on court. A hugely versatile midcourter, Jovic can rotate through all three centre court positions which allows her to continuously impact on the play, with her transition between attack and defensive excellent especially given her relative inexperience when it comes to this level.

Maddie Hay – GIANTS Netball (Taylah Melki)

Still finding her feet at SSN level, Maddie Hay has proven that she has a relatively big bag of tricks and is not overawed by the physicality of the game. Slotting into that wing attack position seamlessly for the GIANTS, Hay has become a key cog through the attacking third with her strong second phase play and clever ball placement. She is a strong option around circle edge, tussling for prime position and using her netball smarts to ward off her opponent. Although still adjusting to the high intensity of SSN, the midcourter has proven that she is cool, calm and collected under pressure and can deliver pinpoint precision passes into the likes of Kiera Austin, Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett

DEFENCE: 

The tenacious defensive unit we have selected very much follows the footsteps of its predecessors with a heap of ball-winning tendencies and the ability to consistently wreak havoc down back. Learning behind some impressive defenders at SSN level, these defenders have showcased the ability to lift when required and deliver under pressure.

Sunday Aryang – West Coast Fever (Sophie Taylor)

Ethiopian-born Sunday Aryang may be young but she has shown in season 2020 that she is more than capable of filling a position on court with her versatility, flair and take-off speed. While she showed glimpses of her exciting potential in the late stages of 2019 and early in 2020, she has been an excellent impact player for the West Coast Fever especially in the latter stages of this season, able to jump on court and create turnover ball. She has continued to grow not only in confidence but also skill with Courtney Bruce behind her, and her ability to not skip a beat regardless of her opposition will make her a huge defensive prospect.

Lauren Moore – NSW Swifts (Taylah Melki)

Defender Lauren Moore burst onto the scene this season with her ability to impact the contest and take big intercepts. Out with injury last season, Moore has relished the opportunity to get a run out on the court for the Swifts in 2020 and has showcased her versatility to swing between goal defence and goal keeper with great ease. The defender has impressive closing speed, reads the play well and is a real energiser bunny down back with her constant movement and hunt for the ball to keep the attackers guessing. She attacks any high or cross court ball and most importantly does it cleanly to win back possession for her side.  

Matilda McDonell – GIANTS Netball (Sophie Taylor)

Matilda McDonell may not have had a heap of consistent court time, but has proven her worth on the court when she has made SSN appearances this season. A tall timber who can use her long arms and elevation to fly for intercepts, McDonell has taken her opportunities and shown plenty of exciting traits in goal keeper, able to come off the body or be a niggling defender blocking drives. Her clever timing allows her to bat the ball away while her hands over pressure is excellent with long limbs blocking vision both in and around the goal circle.

There are a number of other players that would value the opportunity to develop in the elite environment, but currently do not have the SSN exposure to warrant a call-up. In saying that, there are a few players who have showed glimpses of potential and deserve a mention, with midcourters Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley developing their midcourt craft well at the Firebirds this season, while South Australian Nyah Allen has proved she is capable of having an impact where required, despite not managing a heap of court time. Gardner and Allen have both been selected for the Australian Under 21s squad, proving their capacity to impress. 

Courtside Comments

Maisie Nankivell // Tippah Dwan // Sunday Aryang // Molly Jovic // Georgie Horjus // Lauren Moore //  Maddie Hay

Australia and New Zealand release Under 21 squads

BOTH Australia and New Zealand have released their Under 21 squads ahead of the Netball World Youth Cup expected to take place in 2021, with some familiar and exciting names amongst the ranks for both countries.

AUSTRALIA

Coached by Kylee Byrne there is no shortage of excitement looking at the Australian Under 21s squad which is filled with speed and tenacity. Taking the reins in 2020 for the Sunshine Coast Lightning, Byrne is accustomed to the high expectations and will be keen to make the most of her options in the shooting circle and in defence.

It is fair to say that South Australian Georgie Horjus has taken the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) competition by storm, quickly becoming a fan favourite thanks to her long bomb shooting, clever drives and spatial awareness. On the shorter side, Horjus uses her speed to dart around the court and has proven to be unfazed by the physical nature of SSN. Fellow South Australian goaler Nyah Allen has showcased glimpses of brilliance, albeit with limited court time. She is a smooth mover and has good composure under pressure. On the other hand, the likes of Matisse Letherbarrow plays more of a holding shooter role, and uses her height to dictate play giving Byrne plenty to work with in inside the goal circle. Mia Stower is another one to keep an eye on while Melbourne Vixens training partner Sacha McDonald is a real playmaker out the front and oozes a sense of calmness and leadership with her decision making.

The Diamonds Under 21 side has speed to burn through the midcourt with the likes of Macy Gardner and Tayla Williams able to dart across the court and have an influence with their give and go. Gardner has steadily built into the 2020 season for the Firebirds while Williams has injected plenty of excitement for the Thunderbirds when on court. Tyler Orr is highly versatile, has a high netball IQ enabling her to adapt quickly to the scenario unfolding and boasts plenty of speed. Melbourne Vixens training partner Allie Smith is another exciting squad member given her ball tracking ability, hands over pressure and skill to swing between wing and circle defence.

West Coast Fever defender, Sunday Aryang has been a revelation in 2020 with her tenacity, cleanliness at the contest and speed off the mark all vital aspects of her game. She brings an element of excitement to the game, able to transition between goal keeper, goal defence and wing credit to her versatility. Matilda McDonell is another livewire in defence for Australia with her leap and hustle on constant display and while Chelsea Blackman has not received a wealth of court time at SSN level but has proven that she can have an impact with her hunt for the loose ball and pressure over the shot.

Sophie Dwyer (NSW)
Matisse Letherbarrow (NSW)
Mia Stower (QLD)
Nyah Allen (SA)
Georgie Horjus (SA)
Sacha McDonald (VIC)
Ruby Barkmeyer (VIC)
Lucy Austin (SA)
Reilly Batcheldor (QLD)
Sloan Burton (WA)
Latika Tombs (NSW)
Macy Gardner (QLD)
Allie Smith (VIC)
Tayla Williams (SA)
Tyler Orr (SA)
Georgia Dent (SA)
Hannah Mundy (VIC)
Leesa Mi Mi (QLD)
Annie Miller (NSW)
Matilda McDonell (NSW)
Chelsea Blackman (SA)
Sunday Aryang (WA)
Clare Iongi (NSW)
Olivia Coleman (NSW)
Sarahpheinna Woulf (QLD)
Gabby Coffey (VIC)
Molly Watson (SA)
Amy Sligar (NSW)

NEW ZEALAND

Headed by two-time ANZ Premiership coach Yvette McCausland-Durie, it is fair to say that the New Zealand Under 21s side is in good hands and has a wealth of talent to choose from given the number of athletes that have played throughout the ANZ Premiership season. New Zealand is bursting at the seams when it comes to shooting talent while the midcourt boasts just as much excitement as they look to make it three consecutive titles.

There is a plethora of talent inside the goal circle with Grace Nweke arguably one of the biggest targets thanks to her high volume of shots, strong holds and accuracy to post. she hardly missed a minute of action throughout the ANZ Premiership while teammate Saviour Tui has also been named in the squad. Khiarna Williams burst onto the scene in the 2020 season with her smooth movement, deceptive strength on the hold and aerial ability despite not boasting the height of someone like Nweke. While more accustomed to the goal shooter position, Williams proved she could play out in goal attack which could be handy. Coming off another premiership, Tiana Metuarau is another exciting prospect with her drive, hot hand and composure and having played before in the 2017 Botswana World Cup knows what to expect at this level.

The midcourt is stacked with plenty of speed and talent with youngster Maddy Gordon announced in the Under 21s squad after a phenomenal season, winning the MVP award in the ANZ Premiership grand final and a call up to the Silver Ferns squad. Fellow Central Pulse teammate, Renee Savai’inaea has also been included in the squad with the former defender shaking up her game to play through the centre third and have an impact with her defensive manner. Joining them through the centre is Tayla Earle with the Northern Mystics midcourter no stranger to the big stage, racking up the minutes throughout the ANZ Premiership season and starring with her high work rate and clever feeds into the circle.

Defensively the likes of Taneisha Fifita oozes athleticism and tenacity with the goal keeper not afraid to put her body on the line and contest every ball that comes her way, as shown throughout the ANZ Premiership season with the Southern Steel. Nanise Waqaira is another player to keep an eye out for as New Zealand hope to make it three Netball World Youth Cups in a row.

Hannah Glen (Mainland)
Vika Koloto (North)
Tiana Metuarau (Central)
Grace Nweke (North)
Saviour Tui (North)
Khiarna Williams (WBOP)
Tayla Earle (North)
Georgie Edgecombe (WBOP)
Maddy Gordon (Central)
Kate Hartley (South)
Holly Mather (North)
Ainsleyana Puleiata (Central)
Renee Savai’inaea (Central)
Teuila Sotutu (North)
Taneisha Fifita (South)
Paris Lokotui (Central)
Parris Mason (Central)
Greer Sinclair (WBOP)
Carys Stythe (North)
Jessie Taylor (North)
Nanise Waqaira (North)

Future Roses: Who will make their mark for England in the coming years?

DESPITE the cancellation of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) this year, several the up and coming stars for England have still had the opportunity to train at the elite level in 2020 through the Roses Futures programme. We at Draft Central cast our eye over some of those athletes, along with a couple of names who we are likely to hear more from over the coming seasons. The Roses Futures programme over the past few years has helped to nurture a strong cohort of athletes who will be ready to step onto the international stage when their time comes.

ATTACK

The future shooting circle of the Roses is looking bright, with several youngsters already making their mark on the Superleague stage and gaining valuable experience under pressure. Whilst we are likely to see Jo Harten, Helen Housby and George Fisher around for the next few years, there are a few players who will be snapping at their heels for a starting spot in the years to come. 

Olivia Tchine – London Pulse

Standing at 191cm, Tchine is a tall shooter of high calibre. This is her second year in the Roses Futures programme and she was due to compete at the World Youth Cup in Fiji in 2021. While the competition is currently postponed, her strong hold and accuracy to post would make her a useful option for the Roses, and she will have enjoyed the chance to learn from an experienced international level shooter in Sigi Burger whilst at London Pulse this season. 

Berri Neal – Manchester Thunder

There’s a lot to like about this young shooter who made her mark at the senior Netball Europe Open competition when she was just 16. Tipped by some as the next Housby, Neal’s clever movement and strong drives in attack are a standout of her game. Whilst she has not yet been named in the Roses Futures programme, her journey through the Roses Academy and Under 21s level is already progressing well beyond her years. She was recently promoted from being a training partner to earning a place the senior squad for Manchester Thunder, and her talents will only grow with more exposure at the elite level. 

MIDCOURT

Through the midcourt, England are developing a number of potential stars of the future. These youngsters are able to learn from some of the world’s best in Jade Clarke, Serena Guthrie and Chelsea Pitman. The midcourt has historically always been an area of strength for England, and alongside the full-time senior Roses, these talented athletes are likely to continue that trend beyond the Netball World Cup in 2023. 

Kira Rothwell – London Pulse

Similar to the likes of a Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin, Rothwell is confident to swing between wing attack and goal attack, making her a threatening option in any lineup. She has the speed to burn and whilst she is not the tallest player her nippy footwork and confidence to shoot from range make her a valuable asset. She has been on the England scene since she was selected for the EN National Academy in 2016 and has performed with confidence whenever she has stepped out onto the VNSL court. 

Amy Carter – Manchester Thunder

Carter impressed fans at the 2020 Netball Nations Cup with her gutsy performance and energy in the midcourt. She is a workhorse and the sort of player who can dig deep when a game gets tough in order to lift the team. Carter was also part of the 2019 VNSL Championship Thunder team and has already tasted success for England at U21 level. She is a tenacious and talented player, who can tire out her opponent and also make use of her excellent vision when feeding the circle. We are likely to see a lot more of her on the international stage over the next few years. 

Iona Christian – Wasps Netball

A product of the Manchester Thunder Pathway and England Youth setup, Christian has plied her trade on the Superleague stage for several years. She is a classy player who can provide a huge amount of consistency and easily dictate the tempo of the match. Having moved from Severn Stars to Wasps Netball in 2020 she has the opportunity to cement her place as a core part of the two time Superleague Championship side. This exposure will be a chance for Christian to grow in confidence and demonstrate her experience on court when it comes to senior England selection. 

DEFENCE

Defensively the Roses have a number of very exciting young athletes in the development pathway. Under the tutelage of England legend Sonia Mkoloma, who was named as an Assistant Coach for the most recent test series, these players have the best chance of fulfilling their huge potential. From Geva Mentor and Stacey Francis to players like Fran Williams and Razia Quashie coming up the ranks, the defensive end for England is extremely competitive, and the addition of the youth coming through will cause headaches for selectors. 

Halimat Adio – London Pulse

With her height and physical presence on court, Adio has all the components of a very strong defender at the elite level. Having moved to Pulse for the 2020 season, Adio was awarded the responsibility of co-captain, an appointment which demonstrates her leadership ability at such a young age. She is a leader both on and off the court, and having not played a full season at Superleague level due to the cancellation, it is impressive how she has managed to make such an impression on the UK netball scene.

Funmi Fadoju – London Pulse

After an outstanding performance at Netball Europe, followed by breaking onto the Superleague scene in 2020 it was surprising that Fadoju was not selected for the Roses Futures programme. The young defender is a natural ball winner, with fantastic athletic ability and a read of the game which is well beyond her years. She is a player with an enormous amount of potential and someone we will most likely see dominate in the red dress over the coming years.

London Pulse have their eyes on the prize for 2021

FOLLOWING a tough inaugural season in 2019, London Pulse managed to turn the tables and opened the 2020 season without dropping a game in the first three rounds. With a new head coach at the helm and several star players in the lineup, it was obvious to Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) fans that the revamped London side was one to watch. Netball Draft Central spoke to CEO and head coach Sam Bird and Pulse co-captain and England Roses Futures player Halimat Adio, to get their insight on the upcoming 2021 season and how London Pulse have engaged with each other and the community over the COVID-19 break.

After the announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 Superleague season, London Pulse acted quickly to ensure their players and staff could keep connected over the lockdown. A key initiative was their “Educate, Train, and Inspire” programme, and Pulse ran over 40 online educational workshops for players, coaches and staff over the season break. This was anything from first aid courses, to performance analysis, and even personal and professional development.

In a similar way to most elite netball clubs they also set up regular virtual training sessions. However, they made the most of the opportunity to include all age groups in these sessions, which meant that the youngsters in their Performance Pathway programme were able to train ‘alongside’ the senior players three times a week, and gain valuable insight into the training aspect of playing in the VNSL.

There was a heavy focus on player welfare and supporting the athletes mentally during a very challenging time. Pulse also took the opportunity to encourage their senior squad members to engage with the community and build on their existing fan base and network.

“It was important as a club not to be too inward-looking,” Bird said. “It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself that there’s no netball and we can’t play, but we started to look at other people that were less fortunate than us and to see how we could help in the community.”

This ethos inspired Pulse to deliver adult and junior online camps, as well as virtual seated netball workshops with residents of local care homes, which will continue as part of their ongoing outreach in London.

As well as the effect of COVID-19 on the netball community, 2020 has also raised many issues worldwide surrounding racism. Bird was open about what she thought netball could do to show support for Black Lives Matter.

“Halimat, co-captain of London Pulse, put out a powerful statement about the Black Lives Matter movement and as a person and as a club we want to be able to support that movement on a practical level,” said Bird.

“We arranged a talk from Yvonne Rhoden MBE who spoke about racism, micro-aggressions and her experience in the police service. The Netball Players Association (NPA) are working hard to support the movement and keep the conversation in the public eye.”

“Netball needs to reach out to different communities, because in netball if you’re not from a middle-class background, you’re not going to get the chance to actually play netball,” Adio said.

“We need to actively do something, whether it’s having an Equality Board at England Netball, or employing Black people and Asian people higher up, I think that would be a massive thing for people of different communities. We need to have conversations… it is an awkward conversation to have sometimes.”

England Netball have since announced a new role on their board which will focus on diversity and equality, and hopefully, this will be the sign of positive change for UK netball as a whole.

Adio started on the England Pathway when she was still a teenager.

“I got into England when I was 17. It was from an NPL tournament… I had been trying so many times to get into a regional academy … and then into the NPL tournament. Then I was selected into a positional day, then a summer camp and then I’ve been in it from Under 19s to the Roses Futures now. Hopefully, once I’m done with uni I’ll be able to actually do the full-time Roses programme.”

A talented young defender, Adio spoke about her plans for the future and whether she had her eyes on the ANZ Premiership and Suncorp Super Netball (SSN).

“Every netballer’s dream is to go over there, I’m hoping one day I’m able to go to either Australia or New Zealand. The experience is a massive thing, and just seeing how they play out there is very different to how we play in the UK.”

“With me right now, I haven’t yet marked my place in the UK as I haven’t played a full season. Once I get one or two, hopefully, I can go out there and prove myself out there as well… I played with Jodi-Ann (Ward) in Superleague and seeing the improvement from when she first came over to Severn Stars to how she is playing there, she is a completely different athlete.”

The VNSL has developed many international players who later progressed to the ANZ or SSN, including the likes of Karla Pretorious and Sam Wallace. In 2021, things might be more complicated due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. There could be administrative challenges involved in getting VISA documentation for imports sorted at a time when immigration services are under enormous pressure, not to mention quarantine rules and potential travel restrictions. However, Bird does not think that overall recruitment will be affected, as the VNSL is still an attractive prospect for international talent looking to make their mark on the world netball stage.

“There is a desire for international players to play in our league as they recognise it is growing and becoming stronger,” Bird said. “I think we will still see teams recruiting very exciting international athletes.”

The long off-season for UK netball also provides a chance for teams themselves to rebuild and restructure their roster for the 2021 season. When it came to the transfer window, Adio said she tends to stay within her own bubble and not focus too much on what is happening in the netball world.

“Everyone’s been quite secretive this year. Hopefully our squad is staying how it is, with maybe just a few changes.”

Bird said she has been recruiting during the transfer window, but was reluctant to give anything away ahead of the squad announcement in the coming weeks. She was recently appointed as the permanent CEO of London Pulse after taking over from Natalie Seaton who founded the club, and Bird will also continue to lead the team as head coach for 2021.

“I have had great support from the owners of the club, who have enabled me to recruit some very experienced staff to assist with running the club … whilst I am in the thick of coaching.”

The new squad for 2021 will be returning to face-to-face training in the first week of October, with a steady and carefully planned return to play protocol to ensure players can get back on court safely.

Preseason matches are on the cards for Pulse prior to the season opener in February, and details for these matches are currently being arranged for late November/December when England Roses athletes will also be available. In January, there may be another opportunity to get a sneak preview of the VNSL squads in action, depending on the timing of the International window, which will be hugely exciting for UK netball fans after a nearly nine-month elite netball drought.

Bird mentioned that we can expect to see a lot of exciting things coming from London Pulse over the next few months, including a brand new interactive website, a membership scheme (including behind the scenes access) as well as even more digital content and the inevitable squad announcement. The team has been extremely busy over the lockdown period and it is great to see the club develop and grow over this year. You almost forget they only began as a Superleague franchise in 2019.

Adio is confident that London Pulse can go all the way in 2021.

“Every team would like to be in the top four, but I feel like our team can definitely do it. We came into the Superleague as underdogs, due to how the first season of Pulse went, but with Sam leading us and all of us leading together I definitely think we can make it into the top four.”

There’s no doubt that London Pulse are doing everything right in preparation for the new season ahead. It is exciting to see a Superleague franchise show real commitment to the local and wider community and hopefully in return receive a boost for the sport as a whole.

Picture: Ben Lumley

Mid-season Diamonds contention: Who will reap the reward from SSN?

WE have surpassed the midway point of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season, meaning that young players have now had an opportunity to step up and prove they are capable of an Australian Diamonds berth. With a new head coach at the helm, the 2020/21 Diamonds squad could have a new look for the upcoming international season. With a couple of retirees and injuries, Draft Central casts an eye over potential new inclusions to the overall squad and its development counterparts. These notes are purely based on the individual opinions of each writer.

ATTACK

The attack end could look a little bit different this international season with Caitlin Thwaites retiring from Diamonds duties and Gretel Bueta unavailable until further notice after announcing her pregnancy. This creates a few golden opportunities for young players to step up in their absence and ply their trade under the post. Here are a couple of potential goalers chomping at the bit for their chance to don the green and gold dress.

Cara Koenen – Sunshine Coast Lightning (Taylah Melki)

Cara Koenen has taken everything in her stride over the past couple of seasons and has elevated her game even further in 2020 with her smooth movement along the baseline. Her quick little pop in the goal circle and strong holds are key elements of her game play while her high netball IQ enables her to dictate the flow in the goal circle. She is not often overawed by the physical pressure and is strong in the air to reel in the high balls time and time again. Koenen is accurate to post and is not afraid to demand the ball showcasing her increased confidence. Although more accustomed to the goal shooter position, Koenen has shown in glimpses that she is more than capable of playing in goal attack but will have to work on her endurance if she is to have more of an impact out of the circle.

Sophie Garbin – NSW Swifts (Sophie Taylor)

A smooth mover with plenty of evasive skills, there is no doubt Sophie Garbin can enter a game with ease and grace. Able to hold up under pressure and put up not only a great accuracy but volume too, Garbin’s ability to impact on a match is credit to her impressive footwork and strength to hold her ground. Typically a goal shooter, Garbin has worked hard over the past season to adjust her play to rotate into goal attack if need be, and while she still has room to improve she has certainly stepped up her game and attacked the position head on. Like Koenen, Garbin is unafraid of a goalline drive and is willing to adjust her positioning time and time again, although she has found her comfort spot under the post and is rarely willing to put up a risky attempt which could be seen as a flaw in her game. Nevertheless, Garbin is an impressive and impactful young talent who has all the makings of a great player with time at the elite level.

Kiera Austin – GIANTS Netball (Sophie Taylor)

An effortless player who has the ability to slot into a game with ease is Kiera Austin. With a heap of versatility allowing her to rotate seamlessly between goal shooter, goal attack and wing attack, Austin can create play just as easily as she can be the star of the show to post. Zippy, with great netball smarts and defensive attributes to win back the ball through the midcourt, Austin first put herself on selectors’ radars in 2018, was in the 2019 Diamonds development squad and was elevated to a full time extended squad member late last year thanks to her adaptability and overall impact across the court. While Austin is already technically part of the squad, she is worth making a mention of given how effortlessly she has stepped into an almost full-time goal attack role this season, consistently having an impact and drawing attention of defenders with her ability to hit the scoreboard from range and with volume. Austin’s only current fallback is that when her accuracy drops, so does her confidence. With extended court time, there is no doubt Austin will be an ever tougher battle in the future.

MIDCOURT

Through the midcourt, the Diamonds have lost a couple of key cogs with Ash Brazill rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) back in February and still recovering, while speedster Kelsey Browne has had a little setback on her return from an ACL after tweaking her knee in a Suncorp Super Netball game. 

Jemma Mi Mi – Queensland Firebirds (Taylah Melki)

With speed to burn Jemma Mi Mi has been a solid contributor for the Firebirds this year, able to hit the circle edge with great intent and pace. The wing attack has showcased her impressive vision to feed the ball into the circle and vary her passes to keep the defenders guessing. She oozes plenty of excitement with her crafty passes and dynamic footwork to dance around circle edge and ward off defenders. Mi Mi is strong on the drive and is a constant option at the centre pass to receive ball and initiate second phase play. Boasting plenty of speed it can sometimes be Mi Mi’s biggest fault with the midcourter often too quick for her own good and burning herself out, or losing ball in transition due to her fast footwork.

Amy Parmenter – GIANTS Netball (Taylah Melki)

There is no denying that Amy Parmenter is one to watch for the future with the wing defence bound to catch the eye of selectors. She contests each and every single pass, to make life hard for her opposition while her closing speed is equally as impressive. Parmenter is never far away, constantly on the lookout for a flashy intercept or deflection such is her netball nous and understanding. However one thing she will be hoping to work on will be learning when and when not to challenge the ball in order to ensure she stays in play more regularly. Her work in defence is impressive, able to pressure her opponent with her three-foot marking along with her footwork around circle edge to create tips. But it is her work through transition that is also a standout, able to bring the ball down court with great confidence and precision.

Maddy Proud – NSW Swifts (Sophie Taylor)

On return from injury Maddy Proud has struck gold in 2020, stepping straight back into a premiership-winning midcourt and not looking even a little bit out of place. While her consistency and endurance may have suffered in the absence of regular court time, Proud has returned at the perfect time with the rolling subs allowing her to step back from the game in patches. Her continuous energy and ability to go-go-go has seen her step up through the centre when her team is not firing and getting them back in line with her constant drives and zippy footwork. With a huge work ethic and grin to match, Proud is unafraid to test her own boundaries and hit the deck, rarely coming off second best with her composure and cleanliness to dish off ball. Able to transition with ease between wing attack and centre, Proud can offer plenty of spark and agility into the Diamonds credit to her renewed confidence and ability to get the job done.

DEFENCE

While it is unlikely there will be any major absences from the Diamonds defensive end, a couple of youngsters have stepped up this season with their consistency and ability to win ball for their respective sides. Each player has showcased a heap of potential to earn a Diamonds call up if the international season goes ahead.

Kim Jenner – Queensland Firebirds (Taylah Melki)

The Queensland Firebirds goal defence has been in scintillating form in season 2020 and is deserving in a call-up to the Diamonds. She has set the court alight more times than once this season with her read of the play and innate hunt for the ball allowing her to get hands to ball. Kim Jenner has exceptional closing speed and can read the shot with ease to get handy deflections and get in the head of her opponent. The 22-year-old is versatile, able to swing into goal keeper but does the most damage out in goal defence thanks to the extra court space to create deflections and mount pressure. Her drive through the midcourt is key to her game along with her constant niggle. Sometimes costly in defence given the amount of penalties she accumulates, Jenner will be hoping to tidy up her approach while still ferociously attacking the play.

Tara Hinchliffe – Queensland Firebirds (Taylah Melki)

Fellow Firebirds defender Tara Hinchliffe has taken the next step up this season, consolidating her role in at goal keeper and winning a wealth of ball. She has consistently showcased her ability to contest in the air especially against the taller goalers. Hinchliffe is not afraid to go out hunting and leave the goal shooter unattended while her footwork is a prominent feature of her game, able to work her opponent up high and keep them there. Her lean over the shot is strong, able to put doubt in the shooters minds – pair that with her leap and Hinchliffe is a damaging prospect down back. She does an immense amount of work off the ball to claim prime position and is strong on the rebound to reel in ball time and time again. Hinchliffe can sometimes draw the attention of the umpire, an area she will be hoping to address to guarantee she can remain in play for longer and not release that pressure valve in defence.

Kate Eddy – Melbourne Vixens (Sophie Taylor)

A versatile defender with plenty of Diamonds-worthy attributes, Kate Eddy put herself on the map in 2019 with the Swifts before returning to her home state of Victoria in 2020 and settling into a consistent starting spot with the Vixens. While still relatively young, Eddy has slotted in with ease to the Vixens defensive unit and added a new layer with her arms over pressure and ability to rotate between both circle and midcourt defence. Her ability to impact the play in both goal defence and wing defence is testament to her work rate and ability to combine with any number of players, winning back ball with speed and cleanliness. Her hunt this season has been impressive, although she will want to work on her consistency if she is to step up to Diamonds contention given she can sometimes fade in and out of games.

POTENTIAL DEVELOPMENT PLAYERS

These players have highlighted their potential throughout the 2020 Super Netball season and while they may not be ready to take the jump into the international level they would benefit from the opportunity to be surrounded by an elite training program. 

In attack Alice Teague-Neeld and Georgie Horjus have stepped up this season for their respective sides. Teague-Neeld has a wealth of experience and has improved in 2020 while Horjus may still be a training partner but has proved that she is more than capable of taking the game on. A few midcourters who have elevated their game in 2020 are Tayla Fraser, Maisie Nankivell and Molly Jovic. All three players offer completely different options through the centre, with Fraser using her speed and vision to make an impact offensively, Nankivell using her strength to win ball back down the other end and Jovic proving to be a threat in whichever position offered her. There are some impressive names that have stepped up defensively in 2020, with Sunday Aryang, Lauren Moore and Olivia Lewis leading the charge. Aryang and Moore are highly versatile, able to adapt to whichever position needs to be filled, while Lewis is a specialised goal keeper who continues to improve with every game.

Courtside Comments:

Maisie Nankivell // Tippah Dwan // Sunday Aryang // Molly Jovic // Georgie Horjus // Lauren Moore // Alice Teague-Neeld

Excitement mounts as the VNSL Signing Window opens

FOLLOWING the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) is set to return with a bang for 2021. With the addition of the new franchise Leeds Rhinos, the league confirmed that plans are in place for a February start. We do not know for certain whether we will be able to see a multi-match televised event like the 2020 Season Opener in Birmingham, which drew record-breaking crowds, but the long-awaited return of elite netball in the UK is sure to be filled with excitement.

The signing window is officially open, which means that teams can now look to acquire uncontracted players from other franchises, as well as imports. The window closes on October 30, by which time we can expect teams to announce their final lineup. This period will be particularly important for Leeds Rhinos, who will need to develop their squad from scratch, and have only the next two months to do so. It has been well-documented that they are keen to nurture young talent from the Yorkshire region, but will need some experienced heads in their lineup to help them make their mark on the Superleague in 2021. 

Opportunities for new talent to break onto the scene will also be available at Surrey Storm and Wasps Netball, following retirement announcements from Katy Hughes, Lorraine Kowalewska and Hannah Knights. These three loyal players have been the defensive lynchpins of their respective clubs and both leave very big shoes to fill. For Manchester Thunder, is has been announced that superstar goaler Kathryn Turner is expecting a baby in February, meaning we can expect to see a new look shooting end from the reigning champions.

There are a few question marks around whether we will see England Roses legends Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usuro-Brown back at Team Bath next year. Usuro-Brown has recently given birth to her first child and Guthrie is coming back into the England side following a year-long netball sabbatical. Bath proved in the opening rounds of the 2020 season that they have good depth in their squad, but would certainly benefit from the return of these experienced players. 

Celtic Dragons made an impression in early rounds with defensive powerhouse Latanya Wilson, and if they look to form a strong unit around her they could really challenge some of the top teams next season. It has been good to see the development of young shooters Emma Barrie and Bethan Goodwin for the Strathclyde Sirens and it will be exciting to see what they can bring to the league in 2021.

London Pulse and Saracens Mavericks will be hoping to retain the core of their playing roster for the next season, given their excellent start to 2020 and their strong connections on the court. Both of these sides have powerhouse goalers in George Fisher and Sigi Burger, and in 2020 Pulse also boasted an impressive lineup of squad members who have been named in the Roses Futures programme, such as Halimat Adio and Kira Rothwell

The first few rounds of the 2020 season were plagued with injuries for Loughborough Lightning, and they will have benefitted from the extra off-season time to rehab key players such as Nat Panagarry and prepare to get the new season off to a better start. Another team who we hope have made good use of the extended break will be Severn Stars, who struggled to make their attacking end click in the opening rounds of 2020, despite signing midcourt speedster Liana Leota

The question has been raised over the signing of imports for the new season, as ongoing international travel restrictions may make things difficult for clubs and athletes. The current rules state that clubs may sign a maximum of two import players per team, however, these players are not permitted to play in the same third of the court. In addition to this, all franchises have suffered financial losses due to the cancellation of the 2020 season, which may mean they are not able to sponsor star international players to come to the UK from around the world. This would be disappointing for the VNSL, as the league is known for developing talented athletes from across the globe, including the likes of Shamera Sterling and Karla Pretorius

There is plenty to be excited about in the build-up to the new Superleague season, and as player signings are announced we will be able to see all the different squads take shape. Elite training is now permitted in the UK, meaning lots of teams will be back training together over the coming weeks, and we hope this will be able to continue over the winter. One thing for certain is that UK netball fans will be counting the days until they can see their favourite players back out on the court. 

Centre Pass Podcast: George Fisher interview

Stacey Marinkovich announced as new Australian Diamonds coach

THE highly anticipated wait is over with West Coast Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich appointed as the new Australian Diamonds coach. Marinkovich is set to be the 15th Diamonds coach and boasts a wealth of experience having coached the Fever for the past five years. She has also plied her trade on the international stage as a Specialist Centre Court coach of the Australian Development Squad and Australian Fast5 head coach.

After guiding her Fever side to a Super Netball Grand Final in 2018, Marinkovich was awarded the Joyce Brown Coach of the Year award. Marinkovich has no shortage of knowledge regarding netball pathways having played at the elite level for many years, apart of the Perth Oriels squad and then the West Coast Fever team prior to becoming the coach.

When speaking to Netball Australia about the appointment, Marinkovich shared her excitement and hopes for the future.

“This is something I have been working towards my entire professional life and I’m absolutely honoured and humbled that Netball Australia have granted me the opportunity to lead the world’s best netball team,” she said.

“I am acutely aware of the expectations, the history and responsibility of taking on such a position and I am very much looking forward to growing the success of the Origin Diamonds program.

“Coaching the Origin Diamonds is not about me as a coach. It is about the team that is representing the nation and Netball Australia, and everything I will do in my time as Head Coach is about the quality of that representation.”

Currently contracted to the Fever, Marinkovich is set to step away from the side at the end of the 2021 Suncorp Super Netball season to solely focus on the Diamonds in preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and 2023 World Cup in South Africa.

Although there is no certainty around an international season due to the COVID-19 pandemic the appointment at least provides closure for many netball fans and most importantly players. The 2020/21 Diamonds squad will be announced at the end of the Suncorp Super Netball home and away season with plenty of high quality players to choose from.

2020 Silver Ferns squad predictions

ONE day out from the Silver Ferns squad announcement, Draft Central has compiled a team of 16 potential players to don the black dress when the international season commences. We take a look at some new players likely to join the fray after an impressive 2020 ANZ Premiership season along with some familiar names also set to take the court.

Familiar faces:

There will be plenty of fan favourites raring to go for the 2020 international season with Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Katrina Rore and Karin Burger all likely to be named again in this year’s squad. The trio are a formidable force and are in scintillating form coming off a premiership in the ANZ Premiership and will be eager to replicate that level of intensity on the international stage, with Ekenasio the current Ferns captain. Other familiar names in Jane Watson and Te Paea Selby-Rickit have all but secured their spot once again in the Ferns outfit with Watson earning Player of the Year honours in the ANZ Premiership thanks to her dominance and cleanliness in defence while Selby-Rickit consistently showcased her playmaking abilities. Maia Wilson impressed with her accuracy, increased movement in the goal circle and heightened stamina while the midcourt combination of Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders is one of reliability and precision, something the Ferns will be hoping to take advantage of.

Next in line:

After starring throughout the ANZ Premiership season Kelly Jury has well and truly put her hand up for Ferns contention. The goal keeper has gone from strength to strength throughout the season working well with Rore and Burger in defence while her lean over the shot is an incredibly intimidating element to contend with for opposition teams. On the comeback from injury Temalisi Fakahokotau announced herself as a fierce competitor down back with her aerial presence and physicality under the post to win a host of possession and prime herself for selection. Up the other end in goal shooter, expect Aliyah Dunn to reclaim her spot in the black dress given her dominance to post, high volume of shots and increased versatility to come out of the circle and get on the move to shake up from her usual holding style of play.

The midcourt could have a new flavour with Kimiora Poi leading the charge for that starting centre bib thanks to her explosiveness and speed off the mark. She elevated her game to a whole new level throughout the domestic season and will be keen to carry that star power onto the international scene. Another possibility to re-join the Ferns for 2020 is Claire Kersten with the Pulse centre highlighting both her defensive and attacking attributes throughout the season to pick up ball and penetrate the attack. Magic captain, Sam Winders showcased her versatility to swing between wing defence and centre and could be a valuable inclusion into the Ferns midcourt and look to secure a permanent spot in the squad.

Maddy Gordon burst onto the scene in 2020 to well and truly cement her spot in the starting seven for the Central Pulse and put her hand up for Silver Ferns contention. Coming off an MVP performance in the grand final, the speedy midcourter injects enthusiasm and wisdom beyond her years to dart around the court and create space. Ultra-impressive in attack, her defensive efforts are just as captivating, able to track the ball with great ease to pick up intercepts or force deflections thanks to her incredible timing.

Who’s missing:

The Silver Ferns will be without a couple of key contributors, none bigger than veteran Laura Langman who announced on Monday her retirement from international duties. After being a key cog in the Ferns midcourt for the past 15 years it will be a huge loss for New Zealand and incredibly difficult to replace given her star power, gut running and reliability to do the unthinkable time and time again. Another notable absentee is Phoenix Karaka with the defender announcing her pregnancy while Michaela Sokolich-Beatson is also unlikely to be named in the squad, still recovering from injury.

Roughies:

While they might not get the call up to the Silver Ferns for the upcoming international season, Kate Heffernan and Grace Nweke are definitely knocking on the door. Heffernan was a quiet achiever for the Southern Steel across the ANZ Premiership season with the wing defence plying her trade and using her three-foot marking to block her opponents vision into the circle and pick up ball herself. Strong in defence, her work in transition was also impressive re-offering on the transverse line to allow her side to reset in attack. Nweke dominated under the post for the Mystics showcasing her sheer strength and athleticism week in and week out to topscore for her side. Her accuracy was second to none, often sitting in the high 90s and slicing up the defence, and most importantly withstanding the constant barrage of physicality under the post. Recovering from injury, it is yet to be seen whether or not Bailey Mes will be available to wear the black dress this year but if she is fit the experienced goaler will be a great asset to the Silver Ferns.

Predicted squad of 16:

Attack: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Aliyah Dunn, Maia Wilson, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Bailey Mes
Midcourt: Claire Kersten, Kimiora Poi, Maddy Gordon, Gina Crampton, Shannon Saunders, Sam Winders
Defence: Karin Burger, Katrina Rore, Jane Watson, Kelly Jury, Temalisi Fakahokotau

ANZ/SSN Stats wrap: Round 9/2,3

LAST week’s stats wrap looked a bit different with both the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and ANZ Premiership taking the court, and this week is no different with the SSN having an extra round of competition to add to the wrap. The two competitions saw some huge results over the combined 13 games across the last seven days – with at least one game played every night from Friday through Wednesday – and plenty of top talent stepping up to the plate. Like last week, it is important to take into consideration that the two leagues currently have different rules and matchplay times, with differing stats evident. 

ATTACK

Jhaniele Fowler continues to lead the goaling tally three rounds down and is likely to stay there thanks to her prolific volume and accuracy, combining for 111 goals at 90 per cent across Rounds 2 and 3. Next in line is Cara Koenen with the youngster backing up well between matches shooting 38 goals on the weekend and 30 to finish Round 3, while Caitlin Bassett racked up 47 goals in her 200th national appearance on Tuesday evening. Shimona Nelson took the court for the first time in Round 2, shooting 32 goals before going one better and backing up with 42 more to her tally on Tuesday night. Bassett’s partner in crime Jo Harten continues to have a huge influence on the scoreboard – especially when it comes to the super shot – shooting 20 goals in her first outing and 22 in her second, with 12 super shots converted across the two matches. Meanwhile, Lenize Potgieter sits fourth on the goal tally after three rounds, with 96 to her name from 101 attempts, shooting 43 from 45 in Round 2 but rested in her second match this week with 18 from 19. When it comes to the Vixens and Swifts, their respective rotating shooting trios do not lend to a leading stats performance, but given the two teams sit first and second on the ladder they must be doing something right. 

In the ANZ Premiership, Kalifa McCollin starred once more with a huge 32 goal haul in Southern Steel’s surprise victory over Northern Mystics, backed up with a 19 goal effort in her side’s loss the following day. Ameliaranne Ekenasio was also prolific in her single outing for the round with 19 goals at 95 per cent, while Abigail Latu-Meafou put up 15 from 17 in the Magic’s one goal loss to the Northern Stars. Looking to goal shooters, Maia Wilson was huge under the post as per usual with 37 goals at 90 per cent while her direct opposition in Kelsey McPhee was solid with 27 goals to go with Latu-Meafou’s haul. Of the players that took the court for multiple games, Grace Nweke (combined 78 goals), Ellie Bird (62 goals) and Aliyah Dunn (50 goals) led the tally.

MIDCOURT

A huge few rounds of SSN sees a couple of quality names lead the midcourt tally once more, with consistency coming in droves off the likes of Vixens co-captains Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, though it seemed to be goalers who racked up the assists this round with so many prolific wing defenders plying their trade. Watson and Moloney combined for 33 assists in the first outing and 40 in the second. Some impressive goaler-turned-feeders put on a show with their vision into the circle to spot their partner in crime, with Georgie Horjus, Kiera Austin and Alice Teague-Neeld stepping up across their respective performances. Austin led the assists tally for the week with 30 in her second match but just 10 in her first, coming away with a shooting accuracy of under 50 per cent against the Thunderbirds and only playing through the midcourt in her match against the Fever. Horjus managed 27 assists and 19 goals from 25 attempts across her two games, while Teague-Neeld may have only played 39 minutes in her second game she racked up 22 assists, but hit the scoreboard much better in her first with 11 goals and 20 assists. Mahalia Cassidy was a workhorse in both of her outings, combining for 35 goal assists and three pickups, while Amy Parmenter continued her strong start to the season, making up for a slower Round 2 with a huge seven gains (four intercepts) in her Round 3 outing. 

Peta Toeava and Gina Crampton are the repeat offenders over the past rounds through the midcourt, accounting for 45 and 37 assists respectively across their two games – both racking up 26 in their first match and nullifying each other – while Whitney Souness (19 assists, 33 centre pass receives, two intercepts) and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (20 assists, four pickups) both put in solid efforts in their single match against the other. Karin Burger had a solid match with four intercepts in the Pulse’s losing effort, while both Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley were also impressive on the defensive front with two intercepts apiece against the Pulse. Claire Kersten also collected two intercepts in her first outing, while Kate Heffernan was influential in the Steel’s finals crushing victory over the Mystics, racking up four intercepts.

DEFENCE

Sarah Klau and Shamera Sterling lead the deflections tally three matches down, with the two even on 22 apiece though their teams mirror each other in second and seventh on the ladder. Sterling’s combined 18 gains saw her rocket up the leaderboard this round, while Klau’s partner in crime Lauren Moore has continued to stun with another six intercepts to her name across Rounds 2 and 3. Kim Jenner had an absolute blinder against the Magpies in Round 3, racking up seven gains (five intercepts) though was quiet in her first outing, while her partner in crime Tara Hinchliffe combined for five gains across the two rounds. With two more wins under their belt this round, Vixens defenders Jo Weston and Emily Mannix were consistent as ever with three gains apiece (one and two intercepts) in the first match while Mannix turned on the afterburners in the second game with eight gains (three intercepts), with both players having breaks off the court. Young defensive duo Olivia Lewis and Sunday Aryang proved they were more than capable of holding up defensively, combining for 15 gains across the two matches, mostly down to Lewis’ rebounding ability but also Aryang’s three intercepts against the GIANTS. The Magpies have continued to rack up the highest amount of penalties across the round with a combined 138 across two matches, with Geva Mentor (41 penalties from two games) leading the charge.

Defensively, there is no surprise that Temalisi Fakahokotau was impressive as ever with her work rate continuously paying off for a combined seven gains across the round (two intercepts) while her partner in crime Jane Watson had a quiet second outing but was influential as ever in the side’s win over the Mystics. Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick combined for 11 gains (five intercepts) across the round, with both Courtney Elliott (two gains, one intercept) and Dani Gray (three gains, one intercept) contributing to the tally. Erena Mikaere pulled off six gains in her standalone game as did Kate Burley (three of which were intercepts), while Kelly Jury racked up four intercepts in her second match but was quiet in her first – the complete opposite of her partner in crime Katrina Rore, who collected four gains in the first but just two in the second. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had another solid week on the court, combining for four gains (two intercepts) across her two matches.

ANZ Premiership – Round 9: Tactix defeat Mystics en route to finals

A SEASON defining matchup between the Northern Mystics and Mainland Tactix opened Sunday’s proceedings of ANZ Premiership action, with both teams fighting to the finish and the Tactix running away with a thrilling one-goal win (43-42). The Tactix extended their consecutive winning record, with the tally now at five on the trot as the side edges closer to a top two finish and finals berth.

A strong start from the Tactix proved the side was well and truly ready for a huge match, with a couple quick deflections forcing errors from the Mystics. Patience down the court was critical with Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick in an arm wrestle with Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit early, not forcing any ball into the circle, where the Mystics’ ball speed into the circle was the complete opposite. 

The Tactix extended an early lead, with cleanliness paying off for a 9-4 start, just over five minutes on the clock in the first term. Charlotte Elley was all over Peta Toeava, and while Toeava was able to free herself with her burst of speed, Elley’s take off and height was paying dividends to force Toeava away from the circle. But brilliant work and a splash of momentum proved the Mystics would not be shot out of the match early, with the lead closing to three goals – though the hunt of Temalisi Fakahokotau was just warming up. 

Bird continued her strong form, while Mystics’ Filda Vui got the start in at goal attack with her cleverness with ball in hand paying off at the other end and influential feeding the ball to Grace Nweke at the post. The mismatch in height between Nweke and Fakahokotau was evident though the goal keeper was doing a great job forcing Nweke to the front space rather than her preferred goal line, allowing Jane Watson to speed into the circle and attempt the block. While Watson did not manage a heap of that ball early, if Nweke couldn’t hold her ground and find the goal line the Tactix were well and truly in with a chance on that long ball into the circle. The Mystics’ comeback saw just a one goal lead at the first change, with Tactix leading 12-11 at quarter time.

Where the circles had much of the action early, through the midcourt was where a huge amount of the battle was fought with Tayla Earle and Kimiora Poi evenly matched and all but cancelling each other out on the drive. Selby-Rickit’s playmaking ability was huge, opening up a heap of space though her direct opposition in Mystics captain, Karaka was huge early with her drive down the court off the turnover and ability to create the loose ball. Karaka switched on with the home crowd behind her, with exceptional timing to flick the ball back onto the court from behind the post, seeing the Mystics take a two goal lead. Fitzpatrick did a lot of the backup work, partnering well with her hands over pressure.

Up the other end, a few handy rebounds from the Tactix saw a heap of turnover ball drive back down the other end, with Watson’s anticipation and timing on the leap paying dividends as the Tactix turned the tides to take back the lead. Emily Burgess took the court in wing defence for the Mystics to block some of Erikana Pedersen’s vision into the circle with the wing attack’s feeds vital for Selby-Rickit. Meanwhile, Saviour Tui joined the fray with her zippy movement and height adding a different element to the Mystics attack and take some attention off Nweke. Every player on the court was hunting for the turnover and pouncing on any loose ball, though it was the Tactix that headed into the second half with a three goal advantage, 24-21.

A tough second half commenced with no changed from either side to start, with the tough contest continuing and neither side letting off. The Tactix’ versatility through the midcourt continued to pay off, able to zone where required but the one-on-one defence huge too, confusing the space well. The rebound and tap from Fakahokotau and Watson was during once more, with the defensive duo impeccable on the timing to deny ball to Nweke. But the Mystics’ defensive pressure outside the circle was great to limit access to circle edge where the Tactix typically prefer to feed from, with Earle and Burgess’ ability to control the space hard to contend with and allowing Karaka and Fitzpatrick to go out hunting. 

Toeava’s pinpoint feeds continued to shine with Fakahokotau just missing the ball at times and the penalties racking up as the Mystics edged ever closer. Courtney Elliott joined the fray in wing defence with just under five left in the quarter, with the Mystics defender able to adapt well to the contest and her hunt limiting options in attack for the Tactix. That being said, the Tactix continued to fire and maintained the lead, despite the Mystics marching them goal for goal as the treasured Tactix ball limited chances for turnovers in attack. A turnover, resulting goal and next centre pass saw the Mystics close to just two goals once more with less than a minute on the clock, seeing the Tactix head into the final change 34-32 but the Mystics ready to fight to the very end. 

The Mystics’ three-goal run at the end of the third saw them take the first centre pass but the Tactix turned it over immediately to make the Mystics work for a win. The Mystics were still struggling to generate that turnover ball, and while defensively Fitzpatrick had a great intercept the attacking unit was failing to really have that significant defensive impact through the midcourt. The change was made defensively with under five minutes on the clock, with Elliott replacing Karaka in goal defence and Dani Gray back into wing defence. It failed to have a huge impact though, with the Tactix maintaining all the momentum and connections firing all the way down the court. The tightness of the contest saw cautions aplenty handed out in the final term, and while a huge last few minutes from Toeava saw the Mystics come close to victory, the Tactix had the final centre pass and kept the ball safe for a huge one goal victory, 43-42.

Nweke was huge as ever with 37 goals at 88 per cent accuracy, winning the battle against Fakahokotau who racked up just three gains – two deflections and on rebound – while Watson was clinical as ever (four gains from six deflections) limiting attempts from both Tui and Vui with the two goal attacks combining for five goals from nine attempts. At the other end, Bird finished with 30 goals at 91 per cent, while Selby-Rickit plied her trade out the front with 13 goals,13 assists and an intercept to her name – the only Tactix intercept for the match. Karaka was huge with three gains (two intercepts) while Fitzpatrick was quiet compared to her usual form. Toeava led the assists tally with 19 and an intercept, while Tactix’ Pedersen and player of the match, Poi racked up 13 and 15 apiece to go with Selby-Rickit’s haul.

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

Northern Mystics 12 | 9 | 11 | 10 (42)
Mainland Tactix 13 | 11 | 10 | 9 (43)

STARTING SEVEN:

MYSTICS:

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Filda Vui
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Dani Gray
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

TACTIX

GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Erikana Pedersen
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau