Category: Vitality Superleague

What if….. The VNSL introduced the Super Shot?

THE introduction of the two-goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) has been the biggest shock to the netball community in recent history. Coaches, players and the biggest names in netball across the world have come forward with their thoughts on the introduction of the controversial rule change. But what would happen if the UK followed in the footsteps of the SSN and introduced a reward for long-range shooting?

No team would benefit more from this rule change than Wasps Netball. Renowned as the “long bomb queen” Rachel Dunn has a habit of slotting them from anywhere in the circle, and even from outside when it comes to Fast 5. She was the MVP at the British Fast 5 All Stars in 2018 and just missed out on that title in 2019 to the formidable Jo Harten. Backed up by Katie Harris and Alexia Baker, Wasps would be unstoppable if they managed to keep the score close during the first ten minutes of each quarter. With the experienced Dunn at the post, and their exciting defensive line of Fran Williams and Hannah Knights creating plenty of turnover ball, they would be back on top as the team to beat.

London Pulse’s Chiara Semple is another master of the long bomb. With good accuracy from range and the typical New Zealand confidence to post, Semple would most likely benefit from the Super Shot rule, as she typically shoots from distance anyway. With Sigi Burger standing at 6′ 5″ under the post for the rebound, Pulse could fire these off all day long. Especially given their exciting form at the start of the 2020 season, this would add another advantage to the already improving side. Another team with confidence in their attack end is Team Bath. You would expect youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to rise to the challenge of a two-goal shot if it were introduced, and her connection with Kim Commane would provide a strong starting point.

Two England Roses who do not shy away from a long ranger are Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher for Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks respectively. These two have such great composure on their shot and have both been going from strength to strength over the past few seasons. Whilst Fisher usually takes the majority of her shots from under the post, she is accurate from anywhere, memorably sinking one from near the transverse line in Fast 5. For Thunder, Cardwell has so much strength on the hold and knows how to create space for herself to find good mid-range shooting position. Given her skill in the circle, it would not be hard for her to transition into an exciting long-range shooter. Both of these teams benefit from strong and experienced shooting partnerships, Fisher with Kadeen Corbin, and Cardwell with Kathryn Turner, giving them the edge over teams with only young blood in the attacking end. Saracens Mavericks also have the advantage of defensive mastermind Razia Quashie, as well as tall tower Jo Trip, to scoop up any stray shots and build pressure at the back.

Both Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars have potential secret weapons when it comes to shooting from further away from the post. Jamaican import Rebekah Robinson has fantastic movement in the circle for Dragons and is a playmaker with the ability to shoot long when needed. England Fast Nets player Lucy Herdman delighted fans with her distance shooting at Fast 5 in 2019, leading Dragons to their first-ever semi-final in the competition. She now plies her trade for Severn Stars and while we did not see much of her on court during the short 2020 season, Herdman would be a valuable asset for Stars to have up their sleeve.

The remaining teams would probably struggle to keep up based on their current shooting strengths. Loughborough Lightning’s Ella Clark does have the experience shooting from range due to her basketball background, however her accuracy can sometimes falter when she is under heavy defensive pressure. Another team that would need to improve their accuracy to post are Strathclyde Sirens. Lynsey Gallagher can be a real threat, and as a shorter goal attack, she does tend to take shots from further out. However Sirens are usually less accurate than other teams on their goal conversion, and in a situation where shots are worth more than one point, this could really hurt their chances. For Surrey Storm, their issues lie in other areas of the court. Karen Bailey typically shoots from under the post, and while Sophie Hankin is a possible threat from further out, Storm would need to stay in touch with other teams to secure wins. After a shaky start to 2020 they will be rebuilding, and hopefully will have secured some of their structures by the time netball resumes.

Netball fans in the UK, like many in Australia, are generally not keen for the introduction of the Super Shot in the VNSL. Sara Bayman has been openly critical of the decision on the Netball Nation podcast, stating that the rule change moves even further away from the international game. She accused the new rule of “sabotaging your own national team” and believes it is likely to bring more bad news for the Diamonds. However, Tamsin Greenway has claimed this is a chance for netball to evolve and suggests we will see a move away from the tall holding shooter slotting them in from under the ring. Clubs in the UK may be glad this is being trialled down under and not in the VNSL during such a time of uncertainty for netball in the UK. Due to the backlash from netball fans in the UK, it seems unlikely that such a bold move would be considered, especially when the influence of broadcasters in England is much lower than in Australia.

Netball fantasy teams: VNSL Roses v. VNSL International All Stars

FOLLOWING the huge success of the thrilling Diamonds vs All Stars Bushfire Relief game in March, it got us thinking about another hypothetical exhibition match, with international Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) players facing up to the top England Roses squad members who are currently plying their trade in the UK.

VNSL Roses:

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)
GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)
WD: Laura Malcolm (Manchester Thunder)
C: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)
WA: Gabby Marshall (Saracens Mavericks)
GA: Ellie Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
GS: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

BENCH: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath), Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning), Jodie Gibson (Saracens Mavericks)

This Roses fantasy squad has a huge amount of experience and depth across all areas of the court. In the 2020 Netball Nations Cup, we saw the emergence of a new England shooting partnership between Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher – nicknamed “Fishwell”. Whilst Cardwell is usually seen wearing the goal shooter bib, in goal attack she opened up the shooting circle nicely for Fisher and can sink a sweet long bomb herself. This partnership would certainly give any defensive lineup a lot of headaches, especially given Fisher’s clever footwork and shooting accuracy. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis also plays more of the traditional goal attack role with her speed and strong drives and could provide another look for the shooting end. Whilst Drakeford-Lewis is at the beginning of her international career, she would be well supported in this lineup. She is likely to become a key option for England in the future – especially given she can also move into wing attack if needed, much like a versatile Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin.

In the midcourt, a balance of experience and youth creates this formidable unit. Youngster Gabby Marshall has great vision at wing attack and can keep any wing defence busy so they don’t go looking for trouble. Marshall is backed up by the veteran Jade Clarke who can keep a cool head in the middle and dictate play with ease. Tenacious tagger Laura Malcolm completes this midcourt lineup. Though she spent some time away from the England setup, her recent performances in the red dress have been outstanding. Nat Panagarry proved herself capable at the Netball World Cup 2019, showing that she is a confident team-player and can have an impact when needed. She has a good read of the game and her infectious energy can really lift a team.

The defensive end is where this team gets exciting. Whilst you have the reliable and gutsy Fran Williams out the front causing havoc, you also have one of the most threatening defenders coming up the England ranks in Razia Quashie at the back. Whilst Quashie is not the tallest defender in the game, she clearly has the athletic ability and pure strength to be a game-changer. With this defensive end, the difficulty may be the partnerships. As we saw in the Bushfire Relief game, putting two defending superstars out on court together doesn’t always mean they gel easily. I would love to see this combination out on court for England more as Quashie and Williams have such complementary styles of play. Given time together they could become a lethal partnership. Jodie Gibson is another versatile and experienced defender, providing a sparky and reliable option at the back should the defensive end need to change tactics.

VNSL International All Stars:

GK: Zanele Vimbela (Sirens, SA)
GD: Latanya Wilson (Dragons, JAM)
WD: Nia Jones (Stars, WAL)
C: Caroline O’Hanlon (Thunder, NI)
WA: Liana Leota (Stars, NZ)
GA: Alexia Baker (Wasps, AUS)
GS: Sigi Burger (Pulse, SA)

BENCH: Kim Commane (Bath, AUS), Adean Thomas (Pulse, JAM), Jo Trip (Mavericks, NZ)

This International All Stars side is undoubtedly stacked with talent. At the shooting end, it’s hard to ignore the threat of Sigi Burger under the post, given her 98% shooting average after three rounds of the 2020 VNSL Season. New to the VNSL, Alexia Baker is no stranger to high-quality netball, having been a Queensland Firebirds training partner. She knows how to feed a holding shooter like Burger and can also provide a solid option to goal. Kim Commane had an outstanding start to the 2020 season, ending up in the top five goal scorers, and she provides another different style of play to keep the defenders guessing. While this shooting end has very few international caps between them, these players have demonstrated their skills domestically and wouldn’t shy away from an opportunity on a bigger stage.

Liana Leota is a typical wing attack, extremely crafty and with a wealth of tools in her arsenal to feed the goal circle effectively. In the centre position, Caroline O’Hanlon is so impressive, not only due to her insane fitness but also her defensive pressure and a cool head. Leota and O’Hanlon combined effectively to secure Manchester Thunder’s Grand Final win last season, and could easily replicate this successful chemistry. Supported by Nia Jones in wing defence, the position where she is arguably her strongest, this midcourt unit would have no issues with transition play and swift goal conversion. Adean Thomas has also demonstrated her flair and skill, both at the VNSL and for Jamaica. Thomas is unpredictable, exciting and would be a great impact player in this lineup.

In the defensive circle, Latanya Wilson has been compared to a young Shamera Sterling and this glowing comparison is not undue. Wilson has fantastic aerial ability and was sitting on 14 intercepts when the VNSL was cancelled. This was just one behind the leader in Quashie, and Wilson racked up this impressive tally despite the fact she was suspended for one game due to dangerous play. Whilst discipline is an area to improve on, her surprising gameplay and rangy limbs would be a valuable asset in goal defence for the All Stars. Teaming up with Wilson is South African, Zanele Vimbela. Vimbela has proven her worth internationally and is surely next in line to the goal keeper bib for South Africa after Phumza Maweni. She is a fearless defender who attacks the ball and provides consistent pressure to unnerve the opposition feeders. Able to cover both positions effectively is Mavericks stalwart Jo Trip. Her height and experience mean she can make a difference in close games and would be a valuable addition to the All Stars.

Who would win?

The International All Stars have a tremendous amount of talent and a really diverse range of playing styles. However, the Roses consistency and familiarity with each other would most likely mean they would take the win. The battle would be lost and won in the midcourt, as the two sides are fairly evenly matched at both ends – with the Roses’ shooting circle slightly superior to the All Stars’. This would be a great spectacle of VNSL talent, but it’s likely the Roses would be able to edge out the All Stars.

What if… the next England International window clashed with the VNSL?

WITH ongoing uncertainty around the timing of future international fixtures for the Roses, Draft Central considers what would happen if England matches overlapped with the upcoming 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season. Which teams would find they had key players missing from their starting lineups, and which youngsters could take the opportunity to show what they are made of? The below is purely opinion-based, with a potential England squad based on recent selections. Unsurprisingly, the top five teams from last year would be the most heavily impacted if their Roses were called away on International duty.

Loughborough Lightning struggled when gutsy midcourter, captain and Vitality Rose Nat Panagarry was injured during the first game of the 2020 season. She provides a ton of experience to an otherwise fairly junior Lightning lineup. This lack of leadership on court, unfortunately, showed in their 14 goal loss to Team Bath at the season opener, and a narrow loss to Manchester Thunder two rounds later. The likes of Jess Shaw and Hannah Williams were required to step up to replace their captain and provide a link through court. Whilst they demonstrated plenty of zip and confidence in attack, Loughborough still missed the dogged defence of Panagarry during these games and would likely suffer as a result if she were to be absent again in the future.

Next, we take a look at reigning champions Manchester ThunderEllie Cardwell and Laura Malcolm both proved they deserve court time in the red dress during the 2020 Netball Nations Cup and would be high on the list for England selection. Luckily for Thunder, they have a fantastic goal shooter in Malawi international Joyce Mvula, who maintained 87 per cent accuracy in the opening rounds of the 2020 season. Thunder would certainly miss Cardwell’s clever footwork and ability to shoot from range, however Mvula provides a strong and reliable option. Manchester also has a tenacious midcourter in Amy Carter, who is capable of switching between centre and wing defence with ease. She provides a huge amount of energy and defensive pressure through court and could easily slide into the gap left by Malcolm. In the next few years, we will surely see this exciting youngster earn a starting spot in the Roses, and fingers crossed in Season 2021 she will benefit from further court time.

One team that would be heavily impacted by a scheduling clash is the talent stacked Saracens Mavericks. They are peppered with Roses talent across all three areas of the court, from George Fisher to Gabby Marshall, not to mention Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie. Losing a holding shooter of the calibre of Fisher, even for one match, would heap pressure on someone like Kadeen Corbin to provide a clear option in the goal circle. In the midcourt, Marshall is an engine and provides support to Sasha Corbin and Georgia Lees, often coming on as an impact player. Although we haven’t seen Gibson on court for Mavericks yet due to injury, she will no doubt become a starting defender next season. Losing gold medal winner Gibson to England duties, combined with the absence of Quashie, would be a huge loss for Mavs. Quashie collected the highest tally of intercepts in the first three rounds and without her Jo Trip would have to bear a heavier defensive load than she is used to.

In contrast, Team Bath has a wealth of depth and experience across the squad. Despite starting the 2020 season without Serena Guthrie or Eboni Usuro-Brown the youngsters in this side have already proved they can step up when their big names are away. Co-captains Summer Artman and Kim Commane are rock solid, supported by versatile Fi Toner and exciting South African international Khanyisa Chawane. Not to mention Imogen Allison who really rose to the challenge in the first three games of 2020 and proved she has a bright future ahead. Artman and Allison have cemented themselves as future Roses, and after a fantastic start to 2020 they will be looking forward to plenty of court time next season.

Wasps Netball is another team that benefits from an experienced lineup. Although in this scenario they would most likely be without Fran Williams (who ranks in the top five for intercepts and deflections), the likes of Hannah Knights and Josie Huckle both have an excellent read of the game and the athleticism to back it up. The main issue would be if Wasps were without England veterans Jade Clarke and Rachel Dunn. Dunn has won more domestic titles than Geva Mentor and Clarke has over 170 caps for England. Wasps would struggle without these two game changers and whilst Katie Harris and Amy Flanagan have plenty of Superleague experience between them, it is likely the team would still miss the impact of the seasoned duo of Clarke and Dunn.

Celtic DragonsLondon PulseSevern StarsStrathclyde Sirens and Surrey Storm don’t currently have players in their squad who would be likely to be called up for England selection. However, the World Youth Cup is scheduled for June 2021. If all squads stay the same, Pulse would be missing several key bench players including Kira RothwellFunmi Fadoju and Olivia Tchine. This will certainly be something for Superleague coaches to consider when choosing how to balance their squads for next season.

Top 20 players over 30: #3 Serena Guthrie

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. In at number three is England Roses and Team Bath star, Serena Guthrie.

Arguably one of the most outstanding talents in the netball world, Serena Guthrie is a workhorse and stellar athlete with an ability to outrun almost anyone and look relaxed while she’s doing it. Guthrie chose the right time to take a break from international netball at the end of 2019 and leading into 2020 given the pandemic, but regardless of her pressing pause on her netball career for the time being, there is no doubt that the speedy midcourt-defender would be able to jump on the court and cause as much havoc as ever once she returns. 

With threatening speed, agility and endurance, Guthrie is one of those unpredictable players who can time and time again create something out of nothing, such is her athletic skill and ability to double and triple her effort and output under pressure. With long arms to snag the loose ball and create turnovers with ease, Guthrie is a constant impact-player, providing crucial links both up and down the court and plying her trade wherever she is required. Guthrie is unbelievable to watch, using her quick feet and read of the play to be a consistent threat through the centre for both the England Roses and Team Bath.

Typically playing out in centre, Guthrie uses her defensive nous to find prime position on the goal circle to turnover ball down back, while also able to have an impact feeding into the circle thanks to her ability to adapt her gamestyle to the situation at hand and two-way running to constantly be a backup option across the court. Along with her athletic ability comes her daring aerial skill, using her speed to propel herself off the court to create impossible intercepts, and leaping into the path of her opposition. It is Guthrie’s fearless approach to the game and willingness to throw her body on the line that sets her apart, unafraid of the contest and usually quick enough to evade the whistle.

Only just making the cut for this list having only turned 30 in January, it is a testament to Guthrie’s longevity that she has racked up the 98 caps for England already, consistently providing a threat on court with her ability to switch on the gears and just go, go, go. While not the cleanest player on the court thanks to her formidable approach to the contest, Guthrie typically is very good at picking her battles and forms a crucial part of the England Roses squad with her hands-over pressure and cherry-picking doing wonders to back up the likes of Geva Mentor and Layla Guscoth in defence.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)
#18 Ama Agbeze (Severn Stars/England)
#17 Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning/South Africa)
#16 Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball/England)
#15 Chelsea Pitman (Adelaide Thunderbirds/England)

#14 Romelda Aiken (Queensland Firebirds/Jamaica)
#13 Madi Browne (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)
#12 Nat Medhurst (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)

#11 Mwai Kumwenda (Melbourne Vixens/Malawi)
#10 Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens/Australia)
#9 Jo Harten (GIANTS Netball/England)

#8 Jane Watson (Mainland Tactix/New Zealand)
#7 Caitlin Bassett (GIANTS Netball/Australia)
#6 Jhaniele Fowler (West Coast Fever/Jamaica)
#5 Geva Mentor (Collingwood Magpies/England)
#4 Katrina Rore (Central Pulse/New Zealand)
#3 Serena Guthrie (Team Bath/England)

International All-Stars players edition: Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

CONTINUING our theme of All-Star teams, South Africa and London Pulse star goal shooter, Sigi Burger compiled her own dream team. Take a look at her selections and reasoning behind each player.

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My All-Star Team:

Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

So when Draft Central asked me to do this, it literally took me a month to get the article to them because up until the morning that I’m writing this, I couldn’t decide who my dream team would be. The netball world is so rich in players with amazing skills, court craft, natural hunting instincts and flair, that I had to think hard and deep about certain positions on court.

However, this is the team I have decided upon.

Irene van Dyk. I decided on Irene as she has been my role model since I could remember. Growing up all I wanted to be was the next Irene. With incredible athleticism, accurate shooting, a body stronger than an ox and ripped like a piece of meat eaten by a hungry dog, Irene carved the shooting position as we know it today. Having played both for South Africa (I went to the same uni!) and New Zealand, to achieve such incredible things and to be a force to be reckoned with, and then to still stay so humble, it’s just incredible. Not to mention I TOTALLY fangirled when she followed me back on Instagram in 2017.

Gretel Bueta. Flair, skills, elevation and speed. Never has a netball player had such a dramatic impact on a game because they play so ‘differently’- from two-metre layups, jump shots, jump passes, athleticism that should NOT be normal! Gretel’s pace is incredible and her playing is un-markable. You simply do not know what she is going to do next and she is still so young, and does it all with a huge smile on her face. Also one of the sweetest people there is.

Madi Browne. with her quick feet, agility, ball handling skills and confidence to feed a shooter, it would definitely be Madi Browne, and for sure would she be able to feed the powerful duo of Gretel and Irene. Her never give up attitude is exactly what any team needs in the attacking side of court. Is there any ball that Madi cannot get into the circle? Her vision for her circle attackers is unrivalled. Her pace through court is so quick that not even being double marked makes a difference.

Laura Langman. Pace, accuracy, power and vision. Feisty, competitive, skills second to none and a complete powerhouse. With the amount of experience and confidence she boasts she would be the perfect person to keep everyone calm on court and with her strength in both attacking and defending I couldn’t think of a better centre to bring the ball through court. She is untouchable.

Ash Brazill. The MOST determined fighter of a player there is. Injuries, non-selection, height issues, etc. – Whatever has been thrown at Ash, she has just thrown it straight back. Her stamina on court is terrifying – SHE JUST DOES NOT STOP RUNNING. When she and Laura Langman play against each other, it’s a dream to watch. An incredible mentor and role model to so many. PLUS she’s always smiling.

Karla Pretorius. For some of you, you might not know how Karla has really blossomed into the exceptional player she is today. For starters, she wasn’t ever selected in any state/county/provincial teams during her school career. This all happened after school, really highlighting that there is no set time for anyone to have to achieve something by a specific time to be successful one day. She is the best goal defence of all time. Being smaller in stature, but that sixth sense and hunting instinct running strongly through her veins. She gets tips and intercepts that no one sees coming, is always just there to pick up a loose ball and has composure through it all. Very well deserved player of the tournament in 2019 Netball World Cup.

Laura Geitz. Simply the best and ruthless with her defending, incredible footwork, athleticism, rebounds that were terrifying in the aggression – you didn’t want to miss when Laura was under the post. She used to lead her players through her passion and love for her team and the game. Was relentless in her hunting for the ball. Every wing and goal attack knew if the ball was not on during the feed, it was game over. Just an exceptional player.

On the bench:

Ameliaranne Ekenasio. No team would be complete without Meels who plays an amazing goal shooter or goal attack and stays focused throughout, keeps calm under pressure and boasts an extremely successful shooting average. Her infectious smile and go-getter personality would also bring a great vibe to the team.

Liz Watson. Liz would make a great part of this team and she could confidently play any midcourt position and absolutely nail it with her aggression, composure in tight situations and incredible ball handling skills and accurate passing, as well as her tenacious go-getter attitude fighting until the final whistle has been blown.

Sharni Layton. No team is complete without a Sharni Layton. Sharni is one of those that you know you could put on court and she would give 120 per cent for her entire duration on court, bringing a presence both in her skills and defensive play but as well as her voice and personality. An immediate doom on any other team to face them. She would be the secret weapon and the intimidation factor. Her play was incredible and any goal shooter or goal attack would have their hands full with her playing against them. Plus an amazing personality and positive spirit.

This is my team, and I’d also just like to thank my mate Megan Pugh for helping me make the final decisions on this difficult task. I’m happy with the team I put forward and thank goodness they would never actually play against each other, because good luck to any team trying to face this strong 10.

SIGI BURGER’S ALL STARS

GS: Irene van Dyk
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Madi Browne
C: Laura Langman
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Liz Watson, Sharni Layton

VNSL Cancelled: What will it mean for the future of UK netball?

DUE to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, England Netball has announced that the 2020 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season, which has been suspended since March, will not resume. The reaction from players and clubs is generally sympathetic, acknowledging the challenges involved in restarting the league as well as the need to prioritise personal health and safety. However, some clubs have expressed frustration that the VNSL could not reach a more positive outcome. Whilst the suggestion of a potential Autumn tournament has presented a glimmer of hope for fans, the situation remains uncertain. Both the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and ANZ Premiership have announced that their seasons are going ahead, making the news even more disappointing for Superleague players and fans.

Why was the VNSL cancelled?

Netball in the UK is semi-professional and depends heavily on ticket sales. Travel restrictions are still in place, and large crowds remain out of the question. The UK is still a long way behind Australia and New Zealand when it comes to TV revenue and sponsorship deals. This means the cost of putting on Superleague games without fans is not financially viable for franchises. Clubs rely on public venues (such as sports centres and universities) for training and matches; there is still a big question mark around when these will open again. Player contracts are due to end in July, and clubs would struggle to pay players all year round. Also, resuming matches so late would have a knock-on effect on the scheduled start of the 2021 season in February. England Netball was facing mounting pressure to make a decision, and after weighing up the options, chose to cancel. 

What is the impact?

The main issue facing England Netball now is how to avoid losing the momentum gained after the Netball World Cup in 2019. The challenge they face is maintaining public interest in domestic netball, which will be absent for almost a full year. It’s an undeniable step away from the aim of professionalising the sport in the UK.

Although England Netball says the decision was taken to “protect the long term future of all VNSL teams”, there is a real chance that some clubs may not make it. For franchises, the financial impact of a cancelled season is already beginning to show. Saracens Mavericks have started a fundraising page to raise £50,000 (around A$90,000) to keep the club afloat, while Manchester Thunder has also put out a call-to-action to donate ticket refunds to the club.

Youngsters like Sigi Burger who were hoping to stand out this season and be picked up in the future by the ANZ/SSN will now have to patiently wait another few years. Players who were considering retirement will have to decide if they want to carry on for another season or call it a day without their last dance. The news will be especially disheartening for teams such as London Pulse, Manchester Thunder, and Team Bath who started the season looking extremely strong, and will be left wondering what might have been. Leeds Rhinos are due to enter the Superleague for the 2021 season, however, they won’t be able to sign new players based on recent performance. This could leave the brand new team at a disadvantage before they even get out of the gate.

Hope on the horizon?

England Netball has offered a glimmer of hope for an Autumn competition of some kind, but it’s still too far away to know what that will look like. The top eight teams from the league are usually eligible for the British Fast5 All-Stars tournament each October. Could an option be to expand a Fast5 style tournament for all ten teams later on in the year? This would at least give players some court time, especially with the Quad Series cancelled and other international fixtures unlikely to take place soon.

Fans, players and support staff will, of course, be disappointed that the Superleague will not be taking place, but the health and wellbeing of all involved should always be the top priority. In any case, it is a relief to be released from the limbo of the past two months. Franchises have been using this opportunity to get creative with their social media engagement, with Loughborough Lightning even putting out a free 4-week Performance Analysis course on their website. Superleague clubs are proving they are innovative, flexible, and dedicated to promoting netball whatever the weather. It’s also a chance for athletes who picked up injuries, such as Jodie Gibson and Nat Panagarry, to have an extended rehab period without missing out on game time. UK fans will still be able to watch the ANZ and SSN seasons play out. The VNSL can use this time to learn from the examples set by these professional leagues, and make the most of this opportunity to rebuild and strategise for the future of UK netball.

Three leagues, one website – the new era of netball news from across the globe

THREE LEAGUES. ONE WEBSITE.

 

Netball Draft Central is excited to bring you the most comprehensive coverage from across the world when it comes to netball news. Now in its second year, Netball Draft Central has already grown exponentially to have news, reviews, features, profiles and statistics from the Suncorp Super Netball, ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Superleague.

While the three main leagues might be the main focus when it comes to netball coverage, the national and state leagues will not be forgotten. The team already covered the Australian Netball League (ANL) and Victorian Netball League (VNL) last year, as well as the Victorian Men’s and Mixed Netball Association (VMMNA) competition.

In 2020 and beyond, we will continue to expand and build on this coverage to include other states within Australia, and indeed overseas. In the past few weeks, we have chatted to an array of international stars including Australia’s Liz Watson, New Zealand’s Karin Burger, Sam Winders and Shannon Saunders, as well as heard from England’s George Fisher.

While the world of sport might have slowed down in the past couple of months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Netball Draft Central has posted more than 100 articles in this time from our Compare the Pairs, Memorable Matches to our Features, and much, much more.

 

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Here’s what you can expect from Netball Draft Central in 2020 and beyond:

  • Full coverage of the Suncorp Super Netball, ANZ Premiership and (when it returns in 2021) Vitality Netball Superleague
  • Player profiles with full statistics for all the three major leagues
  • Individual team pages for every club in the major leagues, as well as the international sides
  • Up-to-date statistics and ladders
  • Regular features on netballers across the world, hearing from them on both a personal and professional level
  • Expansion into national and state levels where possible across the world
  • A focus on men’s and mixed netball

 

 

Every team page with dedicated content to that team, as well as team lists, can be found in the drop down menu of each page from the home page.

QUICK LINKS TO EXPLORE

Of course, Netball Draft Central is always open to fresh ideas, new content and passionate writers. If you’re interested in writing for us, contact our Senior Editor, Sophie Taylor on her email at sophie.t@adzeemedia.com.

If you’re interested in potential partnership opportunities with Netball Draft Central, contact our Managing Editor, Taylah Melki on her email at taylah@adzeemedia.com.

VNSL: Leading stats

ALTHOUGH the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season is on hold Draft Central casts an eye over the leading player in each statistical area after four rounds and the influence they could have on the competition if they continue on that trajectory when the season resumes.

GOALS:
It is no surprise that England Roses and Wasps Netball goal shooter, Rachel Dunn is head of the leader board with the quick footed and accurate goaler amassing 158 goals from her four outings. Dunn is a commanding figure under the post and while she does not tower over defenders it is her precise movement that gives her that competitive edge and if she continues that form it will go a long way for the Wasps. In at second on the leader board is Severn Stars shooter, Georgia Rowe with 151 goals to her name across four matches. In their three appearances Mary Cholhok notched up 146 goals, while co-captain and Team Bath goal shooter Kim Commane managed 137, mounting a good foundation for Bath to build off upon their return. Rounding out the top five is Saracen Mavericks youngster and shooting sensation George Fisher who asserted herself on the competition with 131 goals in just three games. Fisher could be a key reason for her side’s success in 2020 with her strong holds and clever positioning.

Accuracy:
Putting up shots is no easy feat but being able to convert them is even harder. But that did not seem to be an issue for Spar Proteas goaler and new London Pulse recruit Sigi Burger who tops the table at 97.64 per cent given she converted 124 goals out of 127 attempts across her three games. Cholhok comes in at second with the Ugandan shooter proving to be no slouch under the post with a conversion rate of 94.81 per cent, while Rowe managed 94.38. Dunn also featured in the top five with her accuracy under the post working wonders sitting at 92.94 while Fisher managed 131 goals from 142 attempts at an impressive 92.25 per cent.

Intercepts:
There is no shortage of stars when it comes to defence with none bigger than up and coming Roses defender and Saracens Mavericks goal keeper Razia Quashie. The light-footed defender is able to gobble up any intercept that comes her way credit to ability to read the play. Quashie currently sits pretty on top of the leader board with 15 intercepts across the first three games of the season and if she keeps it up will give the Mavericks a fighting shot at the premiership. Jamaican youngster and Celtic Dragons defender Latanya Wilson also starred in her two appearances impressively racking up 14 intercepts while Towera Vinkhumbo proved to be a wall in defence for the Severn Stars with 13 intercepts to her name. The experienced Emma Dovey takes out fourth spot with 12 while England Roses dynamo Fran Williams showcased her defensive prowess with 11 intercepts across three games. If Williams can up the ante it could be the spark the Wasps need to get back on the board in 2020.

Deflections:
It is not easy to get deflections but Leah Middleton has made it a part of her repertoire with the former Queensland Firebirds training partner in the Suncorp Super Netball displaying an innate ability to do just that. She has been a key cog for the Surrey Storm amassing 15 deflections across the start of the season. Manchester Thunder’s Loreen Ngwira also starred prior to the postponement of the season with 15 deflections to equal Middleton. Ngwira played a handy role last year and seems to be following on from that, giving her side a chance to gain another premiership. Testament to her defensive skill, Dovey also managed to get herself in the top five for deflections with nine while South Africa, Zanele Vimbela also proved to be a handy inclusion for the Strathclyde Sirens with the lanky defender able to get a hand in everything and create nine deflections. The final spot in the top five goes to Fran Williams with the Wasps defender using her quick feet to track the ball and force a tip.

Top 20 players over 30: #16 Jade Clarke

THERE are a host of international players across the world who, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Coming up next at number 16 is threatening England Roses midcourter, Jade Clarke.

A veteran of the game and the highest capped current England player, Clarke is still a force to be reckoned with and even at 36-years-old continues to one-up her form and craft constantly. Consistently driving down the midcourt and able to win the ball back with ease, Clarke uses her experience and netball smarts to be a formidable opponent with her ability to adapt to the situation. With a defensive approach to the centre position and the versatility to drop back to wing defence to form a blockade on the transverse line, Clarke is a real leader on the court.

Able to create a solid pairing through the midcourt with the likes of Serena Guthrie allows Clarke to continuously provide a threat regardless of her positioning, able to outsmart her opposition and use her gut-running and endurance to go, go, go. With 176 international caps to her name Clarke has showed no signs of stopping, building and adapting her game play to provide a thoroughly difficult barricade whether she takes the court in centre or wing defence. 

Able to provide pressure anywhere on the court is something that has allowed Clarke to continue at the top level for so long, with her pressing defensive ability and wing span creating a real workhorse option through the midcourt. Meanwhile, her shadowing and zoning style of play allows her to adapt depending on her opposition to apply pressure on both her player and the ball handler. On circle edge Clarke be a threatening option both in attack and defence, able to use her vision to propel ball into the circle or her long arms and three-foot marking to defend on circle edge and deflect passes out of the ring.

A crucial midcourter for Wasps Netball in the Vitality Netball Superleague, Clarke’s experience allows her be a consistent competitor against any opposition, able to form solid partnerships with a number of midcourters thanks to her adaptability and constant pressure.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)
#18 Ama Agbeze (Severn Stars/England)
#17 Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning/South Africa)
#16 Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball/England)

Who is the biggest threat to Thunder’s crown?

THE 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Season saw a massive rise in competitiveness across the competition with a number of teams vying for a spot in the finals. While it was Manchester Thunder that got the chocolates last year, any number of teams could have beaten another high flyer on their day in a fairly even season. 

But while 2019 was an exciting year for netball in England, 2020 has already had a phenomenal start with a number of teams proving their off-season pick-ups and form could be a big threat to Thunder’s chances of repeating their 2019 season.

With plenty of teams in the running for the 2020 crown, which teams have the most chance of knocking Manchester off after the first few rounds?

Team Bath

The blue and gold came so close in season 2019, falling at the final hurdle but ultimately coming in third with a six-goal win against Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff. Where Bath may have fallen last season, they have been nothing if not threateningly consistent this year with three convincing wins under their belt, all by 10-plus margins. Worth noting is that while Manchester currently sits ahead of Bath on the ladder, the Thunder played one more match than Bath prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, meaning Bath could well and truly have been ahead if not for the pandemic. 

Bath lost major names in Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usoro-Brown over the off-season but do not appear to have skipped a beat with the likes of Kim Commane and Imogen Allison stepping up. Commane has so far posted bigger volume and accuracy in the goal circle, while Allison continues to be a barometer for success with her energiser bunny speed and drive through the midcourt. If Bath can continue its early domination when and if matches resume as normal, it could be a real force to be reckoned with come finals.

London Pulse

Ultimately the biggest bolter from a frustrating inaugural season wooden spoon, Pulse have locked down a spot amongst the top of the ladder with three wins from three matches, only behind Bath in percentage. While only one of Pulse’s wins was by a comfortable margin, the side is arguably in a better position than last year where they only managed the two wins – albeit with a very different looking team. 

Key pick-up Sigi Burger has had an immediate impact on court for Pulse, with the South African a dominant fixture at the post with an innate ability to find the ball. Add in speedy Jamaican recruit Adean Thomas through the midcourt and young defensive talent Funmi Fadoju and the new-look side has plenty of excitement up its sleeve. That being said, what the Pulse have in talent they could lack in experience playing together with so many new names, especially when you factor in an unexpected break from all aspects of the team-oriented sport, meaning there is no guarantee that the side has the experience to take it to an inaugural premiership if they were to get there.

Saracens Mavericks

The Mavs certainly have the talent to get there in season 2020 so it will be more about consistency when it comes to the rest of the year, with a very similar side to their 2019 campaign which slipped out of finals contention towards the latter stages of the season. With young talent heading up either end of the court in England Roses members George Fisher and Razia Quashie alongside more experienced names in Sasha and Kadeen Corbin, the Mavericks have plenty of potential to go far if given the chance. Another side with only three matches played prior to restrictions, the Mavericks won their first and third games – interesting both against Severn Stars – and had a close shave against Wasps Netball in Round 2.