Category: SSN

Where to next for Victorian Super Netball teams?

WITH Victoria sent back into lockdown for a minimum six week period due to the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in the state it poses many questions for the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season. SSN is set to commence on August 1 but with Victorian borders shut there is no chance of teams flying in or out of the state on a weekly basis. The element of a required 14 day quarantine must also be taken into account when looking into the logistics of how the 2020 season will run and the implications this lockdown will have on the competition as a whole. Quarantine and a lack of facilities such as Melbourne Arena being unavailable as a result of the Victorian lockdown ultimately throw the competition into a spin when it comes to fixturing, since the league has agreed to hosting a complete 60 round season.

With both the Collingwood Magpies and Melbourne Vixens based in Melbourne, Super Netball have to make a decision on how to deal with the two clubs. As seen with the AFL, NRL and A-League, all of the Victorian teams have fled or are in the process of leaving the state to ensure the remainder of the season is viable, something SSN will have to consider in order for the season to actually go ahead. While it is an expensive prospect, weighing up the cost of accommodation, flights and facilities for both the Vixens and Magpies, it is one that must be done to ensure the longevity of the competition.

It is clear that for the season to go ahead the two Victorian teams must find a new home, despite already missing the cut off date to leave the state. But the big question is where do they go? As discussed on this week’s episode of the Centre Pass Podcast, the options of taking solace in New South Wales and Queensland are the glaringly obvious choices for the Victorian sides with both states playing host to two teams and also boasting recently refurbished stadiums. The Queensland Firebirds unveiled the Nissan Arena or Queensland State Netball centre last year fit with all the bells and whistles while the Sunshine Coast Lightning have already expressed their willingness for interstate teams to join them up in the Coast. The redevelopment of the Ken Rosewall Arena could also play a factor in getting the Victorian teams to set up shop in New South Wales. However, that is not to say that Western Australia and South Australia are not viable options given the quality of their facilities and are probably the cheaper option in terms of accommodation in comparison to the likes of Sydney and Queensland.

There is also a very limited chance of the SSN rescheduling or pushing the start back further as it runs into the international season with the Diamonds and Ferns confirming the annual Constellation Cup for late November. International netball is a huge drawcard for both countries and something Australia and New Zealand will be hoping to generate some money back into the netball sphere. Postponing the season could ultimately bring up issues surrounding venue fixturing as many sporting arenas are booked out years in advance given the high amounts of sport Australia plays host to.

While we all hope that it does not come to this stage, there is a small sliver of doubt that the season could not go ahead or that the Vixens and Magpies might not be able to compete given the recent developments in Victoria and the restrictions prohibiting them to travel. While the latter idea is unconventional and an extreme last resort, it could be the only way to salvage the season and ensure that some form of domestic netball is played in 2020.

2020 SSN: Season preview – Melbourne Vixens

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, with Melbourne Vixens up next on the list. 

Coach: Simone McKinnis
Captain: Kate Moloney
2019 finish: 3rd

A solid season culminated in a finals berth for the Vixens, with a close miss in 2018 pushing the side to the next level in 2019. With a quality pickup over the 2019 off-season in Caitlin Thwaites – along with South African talent Ine-Mari Venter – the Vixens lifted their intensity and pressure last year and were ultimately uninterrupted in their connections and season bar the break in the middle of the season for the Netball World Cup. The return of Mwai Kumwenda from injury added an extra string to the Vixens’ bow, with the Malawi goal shooter rotating seamlessly with Thwaites and Tegan Philip. Meanwhile, the hardworking midcourt of the Vixens worked wonders, though their predictability left something to be desired when it came to finals time, unable to compete off the bench as easily as some of their opposition could.

2020 predictions/expectations:

Well equipped to take advantage of the two goal super shot thanks to the versatile shooting trio of Thwaites, Kumwenda and Philip, the Vixens will hope to go one better than last year. While they lost Venter, young gun Lara Dunkley and powerhouse wing defence Renae Ingles over the off-season, the Vixens have more than enough talent to replace them, it is more about whether they have had the time to forge the connections needed to go far this season. Young talent Tayla Honey had a shaky start in 2018 with injury putting off her first season at SSN level, but she is back in business this season and surely raring to go. Joining an already quality midcourt of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, the Vixens are not short of talent and experience making them a real force to be reckoned with. The Vixens will be hoping to build off their bench a bit more to provide a constant buffer and pressure through the contest. There is no denying that the Vixens have been a top team throughout the SSN and will be eager to assert themselves on the competition once again with their ability to treasure ball in offence and win ball back in defence. 

Key player to watch:

Kate Eddy is a quality pickup for the Melbourne side, which had a gaping hole at the end of last season given Ingles’ imminent retirement. Her versatility will allow her to slot in where required, likely playing in wing defence but with an ability to rotate further back with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston. With a season under her belt at the Swifts in 2019, Eddy has proved her growth defensively to provide a quality rotation through all three defensive positions. While she did not play in the 2019 grand final thanks to injury, the talented defender adjusted well to the top level and more than handled the job of holding down attackers. What’s more, Eddy is a former Vixens training partner meaning she already has forged connections with a number of players, something that will certainly come in handy given the side’s lack of time together prior to the season starting.

Team list:

Kate Moloney
Tegan Philip
Liz Watson
Caitlin Thwaites
Emily Mannix
Jo Weston
Kadie-Ann Dehaney
Mwai Kumwenda
Tayla Honey
Kate Eddy

Memorable Matches: Swifts deny Lightning three-peat for inaugural SSN premiership

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in recent history. Next up is NSW Swifts’ spectacular 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final performance against Sunshine Coast Lightning. Looking to make it three in a row, the Swifts put on a masterclass stopping the Lightning in their tracks and clinching their first premiership in over 10 years.

It was an impressive display from the Swifts, who came into the match as the underdogs despite spending a wealth of the season on top of the ladder. The Lightning had an impressive track record against the Swifts heading into the grand final, but that was all thrown out the window with New South Wales pouncing on every opportunity that came their way to blow the Lightning out of the water.

With youngster Cara Koenen getting the start over Peace Proscovia and Steph Wood struggling for accuracy, the hungry Swifts defensive unit of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner switched it on from the starting whistle, gobbling up a wealth of ball between them. While Karla Pretorius had a similarly strong start, the Swifts were careful and patient with ball in hand and it paid dividends, heading into the second quarter four goals up thanks to the clean movement down court.

Sam Wallace proved she was in for a big one from the get-go, and while the Lightning put some solid pressure on the goal shooter defensively, she used her improved aerial ability to post 20 goals by half time and provide a constant threat – aided by Helen Housby who consistently evaded Pretorius to be a handy option inside the circle. With plenty of young talent running around through the Swifts midcourt, many wondered whether the experienced strength of Lightning livewire Laura Langman and speedster Laura Scherian would run them down. But that was not the case with the Swifts midcourt well and truly rising to the occasion, unfazed by the Lightning’s experience and instead doing what they do best, treasuring the ball and using their cautious approach to feed into the goalers. With Paige Hadley, Nat Haythornthwaite and Katrina Rore firing on all cylinders early, the Lightning could not seem to find purchase to steal momentum away, seeing the Swifts lead 31-23 at half time.

With rotations all around, the Lightning seemed to lack consistency especially in the goal circle, and with Hadley holding off an unusually quiet Langman there was not enough drive through the midcourt for the Lightning to pull back the margin. While many expected the Lightning to fire back heading into the second half, the Swifts did not let up and came out firing once more, not allowing the home side to generate any easy passage of play and establish their signature ball movement across the court, that many had gotten to used to seeing. Hadley and Haythornthwaite continued to ply their trade out the front, providing constant ball into the circle and despite the slower quarter the Swifts were still well and truly in control ahead of a massive final quarter. 

The real turn in the game was in the final quarter, seeing the Swifts finally really pull away from the Lightning thanks to the defensive unit putting on a show and Wallace continuing to dominate under the post. Defensively, Klau was having a day out dominating the one-on-one contest, and the usually threatening duo of Pretorius and Phumza Maweni seemed to pale in comparison to the Swifts’ defensive prowess. A phenomenal shared final quarter effort saw Wallace, Housby and Sophie Garbin dominate the scoresheet, combining for 18 goals compared to the Lightning’s 11, with the reigning premiers unable to compare to the Swifts’ hunt across the court. With a final margin of 17 goals, the Swifts had come in hot and could not be matched, winning their first Suncorp Super Netball premiership and proving that trusting in their youth would continue to pay off after a rough season at the top. 

Looking to the stats, Wallace earned a well-deserved Player of the Match award, shooting 40 goals at 91 per cent, followed by Lightning youngster Koenen with 23 at 85 per cent. Housby was consistent as ever with 18 goals, 19 centre pass receives and an intercept, while Proscovia racked up 16 goals in her 31 minutes on court. Swifts’ Haythornthwaite (21 assists, one intercept) and Hadley (20 assists) proved crucial through the midcourt, and while Laangman and Scherian similarly shared the feeding role (16 and 15 respectively) there just was not enough ball that reached their goalers to be a winning side. Defensively, Klau was spectacular with 10 gains (five intercepts, four rebounds and 10 deflections – one to advantage), and was aided well by partner in crime, Turner (two intercepts). Both Pretorius and Maweni put in a solid effort to combine for five intercepts, but it was not enough against the Swifts sharpshooters.

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 12 | 11 | 13 | 11 (47)
NSW SWIFTS 16 | 15 | 15 | 18 (64)

Lightning

GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

BENCH: Jacqui Russell, Peace Proscovia, Annika Lee-Jones
COACH: Noeline Taurua

Swifts

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Katrina Rore
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Sophie Halpin, Tayla Fraser
COACH: Briony Akle

SHOOTING STATS

Lightning

Cara Koenen 23/27
Peace Proscovia 16/18
Steph Wood 8/14

Swifts

Sam Wallace 40/44
Helen Housby 18/22
Sophie Garbin 6/7

2020 SSN: Season Preview – GIANTS Netball

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, with the next in line GIANTS Netball. 

Coach: Julie Fitzgerald
Captain: Jo Harten
2019 finish: 5th

Falling just short of a finals berth the GIANTS will be disappointed with how 2019 ended and eager to make amends in 2020. Pipped at the post by Collingwood in terms of ladder positioning the GIANTS showed plenty of passion and determination throughout the season but simply did not do enough to warrant a spot in the top four and make a charge at a grand final opportunity. Without Serena Guthrie who returned home to England, the GIANTS at times seemed to lack that extra layer of grunt through the midcourt. However her absence allowed some young up and coming players to take the lead and hone their craft through the middle third. At the end of the season the GIANTS farewelled veteran and Diamonds sensation Kim Green with the talented midcourter hanging up the dress after an illustrious career. With some new faces in the mix and big shoes to fill expect the GIANTS to come out with a point to prove in 2020 and take advantage of the Super Shot. 

2020 predictions/expectations:

With Green retiring it leaves a chance for Kiera Austin to come in and really stamp her authority. Although more commonly known for her role as a goal attack, the talented youngster can double as a wing attack with her precision feeding the ball a key element of her game play. Throw in her vision and sheer netball smarts and Austin is an ideal candidate to replace Green. Although only 24-years-old, Jamie-Lee Price is the most experienced midcourter for the GIANTS and will have to lead the troops with the wing defence come centre responsible for the transition through court and tempo of the game. Despite boasting a young midcourt the GIANTS have a wealth of experience when it comes to the shooting circle headlined by two of netballs biggest names in Caitlin Bassett and Jo Harten. Bassett is deadly from under the post and while she had a shaky start to the 2019 season due to an injury will be hoping to impose herself in her second year with the club. On the other hand, Harten does some of her best work from around the perimeter of the circle with the goaler able to rock back on the shot and convert. The GIANTS captain can play both goal shooter and goal attack making her a highly versatile option for the GIANTS in the circle. Defensively the combination of Kristina Manu’a and Sam Poolman will have to kick it up another gear in season 2020 if they are to win more ball back and shut down opposition teams. There is plenty of excitement building around Matilda McDonell and Teigan O’Shannassy with the latter returning from injury and hoping to make an impact with her defensive prowess. 

Key player to watch:

There is no denying that Amy Parmenter took the competition by storm last year, bursting onto the scene and not looking back. Her explosiveness across the court and seamless transition between wing defence and centre makes her an integral member in the GIANTS outfit. Only entering her second year with the club the highly touted midcourter still has plenty to learn and a wealth of development left in but has already shown that she can change the course of a game in an instant. Her ability to read the play and spring into action while her speed off the mark also causes havoc for opposition attackers. She is not afraid to throw herself at the contest, using her tenacious mindset to hunt the ball. Parmenter is renowned for her hard work around the circle edge, applying strong hands over pressure and three-foot marking in the defensive third to block her opponents vision. With her defensive attributes quite profound her skill in attack is just as impressive, using her speed to create space and deliver into the goal circle when need be. Her vision is also highly impressive and will want to make sure she can continue to build on that throughout the 2020 season. 

Team list:

Kiera Austin
Caitlin Bassett
Jo Harten
Madeline Hay
Kristiana Manu’a
Matilda McDonnell
Teigan O’Shannassy
Amy Parmenter
Sam Poolman
Jamie-Lee Price

Opinion: Which teams in the SSN will benefit from the Super Shot?

IN light of the introduction of the Suncorp Super Netball “Super Shot” Draft Central casts an eye over which team will benefit from the new rule and which teams may struggle. The Super Shot allows goalers in the last five minutes of each quarter to earn double the points if they can sink them from beyond the designated 3 metre arc. 

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

The new attacking end will have their work cut out for them this season boasting a very different line-up to last year. Headlined by Lenize Potgieter the Thunderbirds will be relying on the South African shooting sensation to lead the way under the post. The Tbirds could be disadvantaged with the new rule given Potgieter, Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges do most of their damage from close to the post. However the possible return of Sasha Glasgow could provide some relief with the goal shooter confident from range. The Thunderbirds would be wishing that the Super Shot rule was introduced last year with the now retired, long bomb specialist Maria Folau at their disposal. 

Collingwood Magpies:

Relying heavily on Shimona Nelson under the post the Magpies may have a difficult 2020 season given the close range in which the goal shooter does her damage. Nelson came along in leaps and bounds in season 2019 and will be looking to elevate her game once again this season and will more than likely be the spearhead for the Magpies attack end. Newbie Julia Woolley has proven at Victoria Netball League (VNL) level that she can shoot from anywhere and could be a key prospect for the Magpies when it comes to the Super Shot. Although more comfortable on the mid-range shot, Woolley can shoot from the perimeter while Gabby Sinclair is also another possibility to wreak havoc in the final five minutes of the quarter. 

GIANTS Netball:

It will be a good combination of long bomb and close range shooting with the two GIANTS goalers possessing very different styles. Although both renowned for their holding style of play, England Roses goaler Jo Harten is accustomed to the long bomb, able to rock back on the shot and score. Able to shoot from both under the post and perimeter it will be up to Harten to deliver from further out in the final five minutes of the quarter to try and give the GIANTS that competitive edge. While Caitlin Bassett is dominant under the post, able to put up a wealth of shots she does not venture far out from her comfort zone meaning the Super Shot scoring will lie heavily on Harten and potentially youngster Kiera Austin. Although Austin does not get a wealth of court time in the goal circle she has proven that she can come on and have an impact with her ability to back herself from mid-range. 

Melbourne Vixens:

Renowned for their long bomb shooting thanks to the likes of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip the Melbourne Vixens are in good stead with the introduction of the Super Shot. Both goalers have continuously proven that they can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle with their composure and skill on constant display. Thwaites while strong under the post is equally as damaging from close to the perimeter and while Philip is more commonly known for her baseline drives and mid-range shots she is not afraid to back herself from range, making the Vixens a real threat in 2020. Although Malawian goal shooter, Mwai Kumwenda is not known for her long range shooting she can rely on the likes of Thwaites and Philip to steer the ship from distance and can focus on delivering from under the post.  

NSW Swifts:

Another team in a strong position with the new rule is the Swifts with England Roses goal attack Helen Housby a commanding presence close to circle edge. Although more comfortable with her mid-range shooting, Housby can sink them from distance and deliver, potentially making her the go to girl in the latter half of the quarters. Sophie Garbin is another option that can shoot from further out and while it is not her go to shot, her ability to stand up and deliver could make her an interesting prospect for the Swifts in the dying minutes of the quarter. Trinidad and Tobago goal shooter Sam Wallace is renowned for her skill and strength directly under the post but may have to look at broadening her range to suit the SSN rule change. 

Queensland Firebirds:

There is no denying that the Firebirds game plan centres around Romelda Aiken and Gretel Bueta who are both recognised for their close range shooting. Aiken is arguably one of the most formidable goal shooters in the competition with her aerial presence, long splits and high volume of shots. The only downside being the majority of her goals come from directly under the post, placing a wealth of pressure on the Firebirds attack unit to generate more scoring opportunities. Coming from a basketball background Bueta is used to shooting from distance but on the netball court the dynamic goaler opts to edge closer to the post. Although she has proven over time that she can convert from further out many are used to Bueta doing the most damage from a metre or so under the post. The inclusion of Ine-Mari Venter may provide that element of long range shooting that could benefit the Firebirds when it comes to converting on the Super Shot. 

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

After a breakout season last year Cara Koenen will be hoping to go even bigger this season to really leave a mark on the competition. While she is most comfortable under the post and does most of her scoring from there, the Sunshine Coast local can shoot from mid-range, making her a viable option when it comes to the two point shot. However, the Lightning are well placed having the likes of Australian Diamonds goaler Steph Wood who is able to carry the load when it comes to shooting from further out. Wood is no slouch in the goal circle, able to shoot from just about anywhere and use her turn of speed to receive the ball and goal. Rounding out the shooting options for the Lightning is Ugandan goaler Peace Proscovia, while typically known for her holding role under the post, she might have to get on the move more in 2020 to create additional scoring chances.

West Coast Fever:

With Jhaniele Fowler the go-to-girl, West Coast might have to shake-up their game plan for the 2020 season in order to benefit from the Super Shot. The towering goal shooter is prominent under the post able to shoot quickly, accurately and at a high volume. But with most of Fever’s goals coming from within a metre or so of the ring, the Fever might have to look to Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton more often to capitalise on the two point shot. Stanton can shoot from further out  while Teague-Neeld hardly puts up a shot instead proving to be a playmaker in the attacking third with her quick hands and vision into the circle. While accuracy can be an issue for both Stanton and Teague-Neeld at times the new rule could cause a few headaches for the Fever in 2020 with the team in green potentially forced to stray from their usual game play of turn and deliver to Fowler under the post.

2020 SSN: Season preview – Collingwood Magpies

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, with Collingwood Magpies up next on the list. 

Coach: Rob Wright
Captain: Geva Mentor and Madi Browne
2019 finish: 4th

The Magpies had a strange 2019 season, racking up seven wins and two draws. The side found plenty of purchase through the middle of the season and had a stellar patch to finish, making the finals thanks to a magnificent win against the Vixens in the last round, before then falling to the Vixens in the first round of finals. Overall, the Magpies were a force to be reckoned with thanks to their ability to pull out unsuspecting wins but also lost a couple of matches with a lack of consistency and connection down the court and a couple of major injuries putting their season in doubt. With Madi Browne ruled out prior to the season beginning and Kelsey Browne bookending with the same injury towards the end of the season, the side was interrupted but their good patches were better than most and proved that they could make just about any combination work if they were on. Shimona Nelson impressed upon her move to Melbourne, while Nat Medhurst was a crucial cog in attack, playing almost a dual role in and around the goal circle thanks to her wealth of experience to hold up the circle at times.

2020 predictions/expectations:

Collingwood have an entirely new-look team in 2020, with three crucial players in Medhurst, April Brandley and Kim Ravaillion ruled out with pregnancy and midcourt star Ash Brazill out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury acquired in February. But while the side has lost a wealth of experience, they have brought in some quality talent to replace them with Jamaican Jodi-Ann Ward joining the defensive fray to bolster ranks with Geva Mentor and Matilda Garrett, while Gabby Sinclair and Mel Bragg return to the team for a second season, with Bragg elevated to be a permanent player in 2020. Molly Jovic and Julia Woolley also join the fray for the first time, with the duo both snatched up to provide another option in attack and Woolley an interesting selection to join the goal circle given her lack of experience in the elite pathways. The team will need to ensure its connections are on point if they are to challenge some of the top teams in 2020, especially given the new two goal Super Shot with some inexperienced players in the midst.

Key player to watch:

Nelson had a breakout season last year, increasing her volume and accuracy across the season and will have to do the same in 2020 given the loss of Medhurst in attack. While Medhurst did a wealth of work to get the ball to Nelson in 2019, plying her trade and helping the young goaler develop her craft, Nelson will be the go-to girl this season  but could really lack that backup goaler stepping up that she relied on to generate ball, meaning the Magpies could be in a lot of trouble if she cannot get easy access to the ball under the post. With an impressive aerial ability and accuracy, plus her ability to put pressure on the scoreboard and she will be a real player to watch this season. Her development was second to none last season but will need to step up once again this year as the experienced player at the post, and will want to continue her development to ensure she brings her strong hands from the get-go to be a consistent threat at the post.

Team list:

Madi Browne
Kelsey Browne
Geva Mentor
Gabby Sinclair
Matilda Garrett
Mel Bragg
Jodi-Ann Ward
Shimona Nelson
Julia Woolley
Molly Jovic
Kelly Altmann

2020 SSN: Season preview- Adelaide Thunderbirds

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, starting off with the Adelaide Thunderbirds. 

Coach: Tania Obst
Captain: Layla Guscoth and Chelsea Pitman
2019 finish: 7th 

Breaking their 27 game losing streak in Round 1 against the Fever last year, the Thunderbirds seemed to uncover a new lease on life attacking the ball with intensity. Unfortunately they could not maintain that style of play throughout the season only notching up two more wins. Riddled with injuries, England Roses midcourter Beth Cobden was ruled out early with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and co-captain Layla Guscoth missed the second half of the season after rupturing her Achilles. Sasha Glasgow also went down late in the season with an ACL topping off what had been a trying season for the Thunderbirds. They will be keen to put that to bed in 2020 and put their foot down. Adelaide well and truly proved they have the defensive firepower to change the course of the game, something they will be hoping to build on this season to register more wins. 

2020 predictions/expectations:

With the key loss and retirement of long bomb specialist Maria Folau and uncertainty surrounding Glasgow’s return the Thunderbirds shooting end oozes plenty of youth and inexperience when it comes to connections. Welcoming quickfire goal shooter and Spar Proteas star Lenize Potgieter the Thunderbirds attack will rely heavily on her to deliver while the likes of Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges will also have a challenge on their hands stepping into a new-look side. The midcourt remains relatively unchanged with Chelsea Pitman the key through the attacking third with her clever ball placement, speed on the pass, strong circle edge positioning and vision into the circle. Her output will be key to ensuring the goalers get good access. Defensively Adelaide are littered with ball winners, none bigger than Shamera Sterling. The Jamaican goal keeper took the competition by storm last year, using her long arms, speed off the mark and pressure over the shot to win ball back and cause havoc. The versatility of Kate Shimmin also worked wonders for the Thunderbirds while Shadine van der Merwe also slotted into the team seamlessly with her hands over pressure and strength to swing into circle defence or wing defence. The return of Guscoth will also be huge for the Thunderbirds with the England Roses representative able to have an impact with her calming nature, skill to win ball back and tagging style of play. 

Key player to watch:

New to the Thunderbirds this season, Potgieter is a real playmaker and staple hold under the post for any team. She is quick on her feet, able to change up the angles in an instant and more importantly score quickly and accurately. Having played with the Steel in the ANZ Premiership last season and spending time with the Queensland Firebirds midseason the Proteas goal shooter is well aware of what it takes to perform at SSN level. She is unfazed by the physical nature of the game, instead relying on her strong holds, baseline drives and range to do all the talking. She is an exciting prospect for the Thunderbirds this season given it will be her first full SSN season and has proven time and time again on the international stage that she is a true competitor, able to read the play and command the ball. 

Team list:

Sasha Glasgow
Samantha Gooden
Layla Guscoth
Charlee Hodges
Maisie Nankivell
Hannah Petty
Chelsea Pitman
Lenize Potgieter
Kate Shimmin
Shamera Sterling
Shadine van der Merwe

Elle McDonald ready for the next step

A NEW addition to the Melbourne Vixens ranks in 2020, training partner Elle McDonald has had an explosive past year, selected for the 2019 Vic Fury squad in the Australian Netball League (ANL) and subsequently getting the call up to the Vixens for the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season.

McDonald has not followed the typical state talent pathway, instead working her way up the ranks through the Victorian Netball League (VNL), honing her craft through the Under-19s to division one and then championship, winning a premiership with North East Blaze in 2017. 

“When I was younger I didn’t go through the state teams pathway that most of the other athletes would have but I was really lucky to still be playing in the VNL. And I thought I’d just work my way through the Under 19 Division and then was aiming for playing in that championship team and then once I was playing that championship team I was, you know, always trying to do the best I can,” McDonald said. “From there, I kept pushing myself and was lucky enough to be named in the team of the year for the last two years, I think, so I’ve just always been trying to improve myself and go one step further.”

The speedy midcourter has no issue traversing the court, able to ply her trade in both centre and wing attack, using her speed off the mark to enter the contest and be a real workhorse in attack.

“Last year I was really lucky to be asked to play in the ANL with Vic Fury, and win the Premiership with them too … I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s been challenging, of course, I’ve had my setbacks like many other people but in a way it just made me work harder and stronger and become a better player.”

But what should have been an exciting start to the year with Super Netball coming up, has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with teams having to switch out regular face-to-face training for backyard workouts and video meetings.

“Yeah, it’s been challenging, but also good I think. Obviously having to train by yourself is very different, especially being used to a team sport and really supporting each other through tough training sessions and things like that,” McDonald said. “I think we’ve been very accountable, and we knew how important it was to maintain our fitness levels during isolation so we can come back as strong as possible when we were allowed to.”

Despite the challenge of taking on her first season of elite training at home, McDonald said that the team was able to conduct virtual training sessions via Zoom.

“I think we were lucky to try and squeeze in … things like that, to really get our feet moving, doing lots of footwork and ball skills against the wall or someone at home, if you had someone to pass with you occasionally, that was really helpful and I think for me, really important to try and keep up.”

That being said, the Vixens are back regularly training now meaning the midcourter can really work on those skills with a plethora of experienced players to learn off, with the likes of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney two prominent figures in the Vixens midcourt unit.

“Just being part of that environment is quite surreal sometimes but I think having role models like that to look up to and, as you said they’re so experienced, but they’re also just so encouraging and they’re really supportive of everyone.I think just being able to train alongside them and be challenged and challenge them is totally our role as a training partner and, yeah, as I said, it’s just such a good and professional environment to be a part of. I’ve been loving every minute of being part of the Vixens.”

McDonald said she is in the team to become the best player she can be, always pushing herself regardless of the level. While she has been exposed to elite pathways in the VNL and ANL along with the impressive coaching at that level, the midcourter says that the training environment with the Vixens is “amazing”.

“I just want to, you know, learn as much as I can from the coaches and the players that we have there … I’ve never had access to the facilities and the strength and conditioning coaches and programs that are put in place before, so I’m really just trying to make the most of it and just absorb as much as I can in that training environment.”

“I think we have been chosen as training partners for a reason. I think they obviously see some potential in us and we want to, you know, be the best we can,” McDonald said. “When you are going up against one of those experienced international players [you want to] to challenge them, because the more we challenge them the better we become as well.”

With significant breaks between seasons, many players pick up other fitness regimes and exercise to do away from the netball court. But for McDonald, mixed netball was a great way to keep up that match fitness and skill over the off-season, drawn to the speed and physicality of the game.

“I played mixed my last year of high school. I sort of was introduced to it and I just thought it would be fun, would get to play with a few of my friends and then I quickly realised just how talented some of the mens and mixed netballers were and how competitive that league was,” McDonald explained. “So to me, when the VNL season stopped, being able to play in the M-League competition was a really good opportunity.”

McDonald was part of the grand final winning Parkville Panthers in the 2019 Victorian M-League Mixed Premier Division, winning the female most valuable player award for the season. She said the physicality of the mixed competition helped improve her speed and ability to attack the ball strongly.

“I think it’s definitely improved my speed, just because I found like some of the boys, you know, they’re very athletic so being able to just turn and feed things quickly. As well as that, the physicality – just really having to claim that ball and pull in strong with two hands.”

While the 2020 ANL season will not go ahead, McDonald will hope to continue improving with the Vixens and prove herself among the main group, still able to play in the VNL this year. With the addition of rolling subs and the two goal Super Shot to the Super Netball season, the midcourter said that the Vixens are one of the teams in a good position with the wealth of talent at their disposal.

“I’m sure they [the Vixens] will adapt to whatever they need to, in a really positive way and I think if you look at the shooters in that team, you know, they’re very lucky to have some accurate long-bomb shooters.”

Is Australian netball moving too far from the regular game?

WITH the introduction of the two goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) for season 2020, we delve into the rule changes in the SSN in recent seasons. While some rules have less impact than others, there is plenty to unpack when it comes to why fans and players alike are so frustrated with the changes to netball in Australia.

Starting with ultimately the most controversial and unpopular rule to-date, the two goal Super Shot. Its introduction has thrown a huge spanner in the works for clubs, coaches, players and fans alike six weeks out of from the beginning of the season. Already a contentious announcement, players were blindsided by the rule change, not consulted prior to the announcement on Tuesday and leaving many up in arms and confused by the decision to go ahead with the major rule change. 

With fan engagement one of the most important factors in Super Netball’s success, the league’s deliberate decision to go ahead with the rule change regardless of the unpopularity as shown in an earlier survey conducted by SSN itself, has alienated many fans and could see many turn away from the competition because of it. With a lot of netball fans real traditionalists in the way the game is played, a massive change like this will leave a lot of fans wondering whether they will continue to financially support a league that continues to move further and further away from the typical netball game.

In a media release issued by the Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) on Wednesday, ANPA President and former Diamonds representative Nat Medhurst said that the lack of communication from the Suncorp Super Netball is not good enough, while New Zealand Silver Ferns coach, Noeline Taurua also disagreed with the significant change in rules.

“For a decision of this significance to be made and announced without any engagement with the players, just six weeks out from the start of the season, is extremely disappointing and disrespectful,” Medhurst said.

“The players believe this initiative has been handled poorly, not for the first time, and it cannot happen again. We have written to the SSN Commission to seek their formal assurance on that.”

Another decision made ahead of the season’s start is the introduction of rolling substitutions, though the difference here is that the announcement was made far in advance and off the back of testing in the Australian Netball League (ANL) in 2019. A huge change to the way the sport is played, rolling subs could be a massive game-changer in the Super Netball given it will be an entirely new aspect to the sport that many have not yet seen in action and may not be entirely happy about. With so much changing at once, there is potential for the 2020 version of Suncorp Super Netball to look like an entirely different sport – which then brings us to the next rule change over the past seasons, the tactical timeout rule.

An adaptation over recent years that many have noticed impacts away from the Super Netball competition, the tactical timeout rule allows teams to call two tactical timeouts per quarter, typically adding up to eight timeouts with coach guidance per match. But on the international stage those same rules do not apply, meaning players do not have the same access to coaches and changes to game plans, limiting communication between players to those within the same areas of the court. 

While this example is not as significant as something like the Super Shot, questions can be asked of how the lack of tactical timeouts on the international stage actually benefits teams other than Australia, with the entire Diamonds cohort unused to going full steam for the full quarter without that extra guidance. This is not to call the professionalism or skill of the players into question because realistically these are talented athletes who can buckle down to get the job done, but instead bring up an aspect of how it can have a negative impact on the game, especially when having to swap and change between competitions with different rules.

One of the only decisions that has not significantly changed Australian netball is the introduction of bonus points per quarter won during a match. Where the aforementioned rules can arguably change games for the worse and have a negative impact on Australia’s performance at an international level, this is one of the changes that can actually boost the Diamonds’ chances of success. 

After two seasons with bonus points, many players are now well and truly used to kicking their game up to the next gear to ensure they win that bonus point and climb up the ladder or deny their opposition a chance at full points per round. But this change arguably does not have a bad impact on the nation’s potential internationally which is what makes it one of those rules that does not fundamentally change the game, instead just a point of difference for the competition compared to other domestic leagues.

Where rules such as the bonus points for winning quarters could actually be a booster to Australia’s chances internationally, huge changes like Super Shots and rolling subs could seriously hurt Australia on the world stage. While Super Netball players are professional enough to not need to rely on double goals or constant substitutions to win games, the further that Australia’s domestic netball moves away from the traditional game so do the Diamonds, having to constantly readjust to different rules.

For such a major adaptation to the game to be made with little to no communication to clubs, players and coaches – less than two hours notice of the announcement, in fact – is a real slap in the face with just six weeks left before the season starts. Factor in the need to now add a new element to team strategies that have already had to adapt to the rolling subs rule, and teams have very little time to prepare for a competition that will look very different to past Super Netball seasons. 

Who could lead SSN stats in 2020?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball set to return in just over a month there is plenty of hype surrounding the season and which team will assert themselves on the competition. Last year the Lightning and Swifts seemed to dominate most areas when it came to statistics, but that did not stop Adelaide Thunderbirds recruit Shamera Sterling from leaving her mark claiming prime position in a couple of crucial stats while West Coast Fever goaler Jhaniele Fowler was also well represented in terms of statistical dominance. Draft Central poses some hypotheticals for the 2020 season, taking into account 2019 form, potential development over the off-season and enforced COVID-19 break.

Defensive rebounds:
Talented goal keeper, Sterling dominated rebounds last year notching up a whopping 35 for the season. Collingwood and England Roses goal keeper Geva Mentor was not far behind with 33, something she will be hoping to build on this season given the young and inexperienced defensive unit behind her heading into 2020. Premiership player Sarah Klau proved to be a force to be reckoned with under the post with her strong positioning and rebounding ability amassing the fourth most with 28 for the season. With Diamonds experience under her belt Klau could be an even bigger threat in the 2020 SSN season. While Emily Mannix did not feature within the top 10 for rebounds last year expect the Melbourne Vixens defender to be around the mark this season, with the defender showcasing a renewed hunger towards the end of last season. 

Goal assists:
It is no surprise that Melbourne Vixens and Australian Diamonds vice-captain Liz Watson took out the number one spot when it comes to goal assists with the wing attack simply unstoppable on circle edge with her pinpoint passes. Watson was quick, precise and accurate, feeding into the circle with a whopping 430 goal assists, 139 more than the next closest in teammate Kate Moloney. The Vixens centre was a key contributor throughout the season and will be around the mark once again in season 2020. The highly anticipated return of Madi Browne could see the speedy midcourter leap into the top five when it comes to goal assists as she will have to lead the attacking end for the Magpies given the wealth of personnel changes. Another possibility to join the top five is Swifts captain Maddy Proud who will hopefully make her return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the early stages of the season. Renowned for her speed, dynamic movement and quick hands she could have a real impact in the Swifts attacking end. 

Centre pass receives:
Pocket rocket Laura Scherian took out the number one spot when it came to centre pass receives in season 2019, with the nippy wing attack able to burst out over the transverse line and get the ball moving. Her speed off the mark and fancy footwork was one of a couple reasons why the Lightning were so successful with Scherian amassing 428 passes while Watson was not far behind with 375. Often flying under the radar when it comes to her work at the transverse line Gretel Bueta was a prominent threat with 325 receives. Her load may lift even further in 2020 with the retirement of Caitlyn Nevins so expect her to enforce herself in the midcourt. Depending on what position Paige Hadley plays she could be another player that appears within the top 10 while Browne is another possibility.

Goals:
Jamaican powerhouse and West Coast Fever go-to girl Jhaniele Fowler was simply unstoppable under the ring last year and will be hoping to replicate that form again this season. Standing at 198cm the goal shooter is a commanding presence and wowed many with her ability to perform week in week out racking up 709 goals. Fresh off a premiership expect Sam Wallace to pick up where she left off last season with the Swifts goal shooter able to slot them from everywhere no matter the pressure. With a potential increased load in the 2020 season due to pregnancies in the Collingwood camp, Shimona Nelson will have to push herself even further. Slotting 637 goals for the season, Nelson’s numbers could rapidly rise as she becomes an even bigger target for the Pies given the inexperienced attack. While Romelda Aiken did not make it into the top five last year, likely due to missing games for injury, the Firebirds goaler is renowned for her ability to score quickly and at a high volume so expect big things from her this season, while increased court time from Cara Koenen could also see the Sunshine Coast product sneak into the top five. 

Deflections:
Sterling took out the top deflections position with an impressive 120 for the year, a clear testament to her read of the play and ability to impact the contest. She was involved in just about everything and with another pre-season under her belt and more accustomed to the high intensity pace of the game will be raring to go heading into the 2020 season. Klau was another one who impressed last year and will be eager to keep the good times rolling if they are any chance to win back-to-back premierships. Surprisingly, powerhouse defender Karla Pretorius did not feature within the top five when it comes to deflections so expect the tenacious South African to be in the mix while Thunderbirds returnee Layla Guscoth is also renowned for her ability to create tips and turnovers. The development of Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner could see the duo feature within the top five this season while GIANTS wing defence Amy Parmenter is also a threat with her lightning quick pace and slickness on court.

Intercepts:
Although she did not feature in the deflections, Pretorius shone when it came to the intercept category with 69 for the season, one more than Sterling. Pretorius was a game changer for the Lightning, able to spring into action and take a huge intercept with her cleanliness and read of the play. After falling short in the grand final expect that fire in the belly to be evident and for Pretorius to once again be amongst the top echelon of players. Mannix was a prominent threat last year with her history breaking 10 intercepts in one game and ability to read the play. Collingwood newcomer Jodi-Ann Ward has proven on the international stage that she knows how to win ball back with her quick footwork and long reaching arms, while Magpies teammate, Mentor could also be in the top five once again given her strength in the air and skill to float into space and pick off passes. After a quieter 2019 season, West Coast Fever captain Courtney Bruce will be chomping at the bit, looking to assert herself and collect more deflections to rise up the leaderboard.