Category: Strathclyde Sirens

VNSL 2021: Team review – Strathclyde Sirens

THE 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season is officially done and dusted meaning it is now time for our postseason reviews. A franchise which had little to no expectations on them as the season began, the Strathclyde Sirens proved to be one of the most exciting teams to watch this season with their hunger to improve and ability to match it with the top teams coming to the fore.

Season form: 10-8-2 (6th)

The Sirens worked hard all year to produce an outstanding and consistent effort and really challenge for a top four spot as the season came to a close. Whilst they ended up missing out by default and a couple of errant draws, the Sirens overcame criticism and injury to record an immense season and really prove what they are capable of, with players forming impressive connections across the court. Starting from the back, Towera Vinkhumbo was one of the best in the business in defence and combined seamlessly with the ever-reliable Emily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen working hard to enable VInkhumbo’s excellent vision and speed to create turnovers. Captain Gia Abernethy led from the front as Beth Dix worked in overdrive in attack, while the rotation of goalers proved crucial following Lynsey Gallagher’s early injury, with Emma Barrie, Bethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall all more than capable of carrying the load. The Sirens had plenty of moments where their confidence could have been sapped out of them, however the side rallied time and time again to develop from their early season woes, and pressed on for their best and most comprehensive season yet.

Best win: Def. Wasps Netball 44-39, Round 16

The Sirens put out a number of great matches this season, with no doubt that the Sirens’ back-to-back draws with Mavericks and Wasps proved they were out hunting, with their off-season development and belief really coming to fruition across the two rounds. The two draws spurred the side into action as the second half of the season loomed, with the win over the Wasps in Round 16 really bringing the heat and giving the Sirens the confidence that they could be in the running for a top four position. Despite trailing the first half, sitting three goals down at the main break, the Sirens kicked it up a notch in the third quarter piling on 15 goals to the Wasps’ six to take a 34-28 lead into the last term and held on in a tight final 12 minutes. Despite registering more unforced errors (10-7), the Sirens were cleaner in the contest with less penalties (39-44) and more turnovers (8-5). Captain, Abernethy was named player of the match, leading her side to victory with two intercepts to her name, while Nicholl and Vinkhumbo combined for five deflections. Barrie (25 goals from 26 attempts) and McCall (19 from 21) proved to be the attacking combination of the day as Dix and Abernethy worked in overdrive across the court.

Standout player: Towera Vinkhumbo 

Most Improved: Emma Barrie

When it comes to a standout player, there was no other choice than Malawian defender Vinkhumbo, who was a livewire in her own right, and combined with the hefty defensive pressure of those around her as she stepped up to her full potential as the season went on. One of the key reasons to how the Sirens found success this season, VInkhumbo’s hunt on the ball and cleanliness with it in hand proved crucial and allowed her to shine as her vision, speed and aerial ability combined to create a real weapon in the back-end. Her work-rate, crafty footwork and endurance were key aspects of her game, and allowed her to pile on a whopping 86 turnovers for the season – over four per match – and average three intercepts and three deflections per match, too. Factor in her three unforced errors across the entire season, and Vinkhumbo’s clean hands were crucial for the side. Barrie’s improvement was evident this season, playing significantly more minutes than previous seasons with the youngster getting her chance early on when Gallagher went down with injury. But she showcased not only her composure but smarts under pressure, stepping up to the plate and proving time and time again that she is capable of having a big impact when given the time to work into the match. Her combination with both McCall and Goodwin was impressive, and she shot at an impressive 87 per cent accuracy throughout the season with 397 goals to her name. With a lithe frame and plenty of height, Barrie also managed 33 rebounds and three deflections.

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 20 final standings

THE 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague was touted as one of the best seasons in the league’s history this year, and no wonder why with every team producing some huge performances and one of the greatest races to finals in many years, with such an even crop of sides vying for content. No team was untouchable, and whilst there were standout franchises in the competition, there were certain players who stepped up to propel their side to new heights despite where their team fell on the ladder.

ROUND 19 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-2)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-3)
  3. Manchester Thunder (16-3)
  4. Strathclyde Sirens (10-7-2)
  5. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  6. Saracens Mavericks (10-8-1)
  7. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  8. London Pulse (6-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-16)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-17)

ROUND 19 LADDER

  1. Loughborough Lightning (17-3)
  2. Manchester Thunder (17-3)
  3. Team Bath (17-3)
  4. Leeds Rhinos (12-8)
  5. Saracens Mavericks (11-8-1)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (10-8-2)
  7. Wasps Netball (10-9-1)
  8. London Pulse (6-14)
  9. Severn Stars (4-16)
  10. Surrey Storm (3-17)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-19)

It is safe to say that the final round of the season produced some of the most wholesale changes across the entire season. With the Top 4 looking almost certain last round, everything changed this week as Loughborough Lightning wreaked havoc on Team Bath and Manchester Thunder downed Strathclyde Sirens, seeing Lightning take top spot – and the minor premiership – while Thunder stole second and Bath fell to third for the first time all season. It was certainly not the finish Bath were after following such a dominant season, and the side will really need to step up during Saturday’s semi-final against Thunder if they want to make the grand final on Sunday afternoon.

Looking further down the ladder, and Rhinos were ultimately handed the final top four position due to the positive COVID-19 case amongst the playing group, and with a question mark still over Donnell Wallam for this weekend’s clash following a family member passing away, they will want to fire up ahead of taking on the ladder-leading Lightning in the semis. Results appeared to go the way of the Saracens Mavericks this week, leaping up to finish in fifth, whilst Strathclyde Sirens achieved their best finish since they joined the competition – bar last year’s unfinished season where they placed fifth with one win from three games – with 10 wins for the season, sitting in sixth. Meanwhile, it was a different story for the inconsistent Wasps, who lost four of their last five games to finish in seventh, their lowest finish since entering the competition in 2017. Rounding out the top eight is London Pulse, whose second half to the season saw them finish with six wins, although their season was unfortunately cut short, unable to pay their final match against Rhinos in Round 20 and surely wondering what could have been.

The remainder of the ladder has not seen much change across the past few rounds, with Severn Stars, Surrey Storm and Celtic Dragons labouring at the bottom. Stars and Storm both redeemed themselves with Round 20 wins to finish the season on a high, while Dragons will be getting to work now to ready for a fresh start in 2022 to put this season behind them.

ROUND 19 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

ROUND 20 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

Past ladder updates: Round 3 // Round 4 // Round 5/6 // Round 7 // Round 8 // Round 9 // Round 10/11 // Round 12 // Round 13/14 // Round 15 // Round 16 // Round 17/18 // Round 19

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 20 – Sunday wrap

SUNDAY’S Vitality Netball Superleague matches are done and dusted for Round 20, with four teams completing their respective seasons. Whilst two sides started strong before their opposition flipped the script, Manchester Thunder had no holds barred in a massive clash with Strathclyde Sirens, taking out top spot ahead of the battle between Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning on Monday night.

Saracens Mavericks (48) defeated Surrey Storm (35)

Player of the match: Beth Ecuyer-Dale (Saracens Mavericks)

A shaky start from The Mavericks was not enough for the Surrey Storm to execute an upset, with the classy Mavericks showcasing plenty of hunt in the second half to well and truly overwhelm the Storm. The Mavericks proved that their seven-goal first quarter would not be the end of them, completely resetting at half-time and only allowing a total of 13 goals from the Storm throughout the second half – just four in the last – in a complete shutout by the Mavericks defenders. Whilst it was not the ideal finish to The Mavericks’ season, the hunt they displayed in the latter stages of the game when the game was in the balance allowed the side to finish on a high during Jo Trip’s final match before retirement.

Karyn Bailey impressed to post in her second last match before retirement, finishing with 30 goals despite the hefty defensive effort that was imposed upon her. However it was the lack of assistance to post that really hurt the Stars as Emma Magee and Sophie Kelly only combined for five goals from nine attempts credit to the workrate of Jodie Gibson and New Zealand retiree Trip down back, as the duo combined for five intercepts and 11 deflections, resulting in seven turnovers. Beth Ecuyer-Dale was immense combining with Gabby Marshall through the midcourt, with the two seamlessly transitioning the ball up the court with speed and clean hands to boot, whilst Sasha Corbin showcased her continued connection with sister Kadeen (11 goals) and South African Ine-Mari Venter, who continues to shine in attack finishing with 35 goals from 37 attempts. Felisitus Kwangwa and Grace Sullivan put on a solid defensive showing for the Storm, combining for six intercepts, 10 deflections and nine turnovers. A combined six turnovers from the midcourt combination of Yasmin ParsonsMikki Austin and Niamh Cooper did not do the side many favours, although Austin did win back a valuable intercept.

Manchester Thunder (64) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (37)

Player of the match: Emma Dovey (Manchester Thunder) 

Manchester Thunder topped off an excellent season with a huge win to complete their home-and-away fixtures, firing on all cylinders from the get-go and piling on the defensive pressure against the Sirens to pull off a 27-goal victory. Whilst the Sirens had a better second half, it was their shaky first half that really allowed the Thunder to stand up, with the Sirens attack failing to provide the same potency they have in recent weeks. Thunder piled on 31 goals to 15 in the first half to sit head and shoulders ahead of the Sirens going into the second half, and added insult to injury in the final term with 18 goals in the fourth alone to extend the huge victory.

There is no denying that Thunder boasts some of the best and most accurate firepower in the competition, and that was once again evident in this clash as Joyce Mvula piled on a whopping 40 goals as Ellie Cardwell applied ample assistance finishing with 24 and the duo missed just five attempts throughout against daring opposition. But the usually potent Towera Vinkhumbo just was not able to get hands to turnover ball, credit to the excellent feeds from Caroline O’Hanlon and Amy Carter, with the duo threading the needle time and time again to force errors from the Sirens defence and Carter teaming well with Laura Malcolm at the other end, wreaking havoc off circle edge to finish with four intercepts. It was a defensive masterclass from the Thunder, with player of the match Emma Dovey and Kerry Almond dictating both the pass and the placement, getting their hands to constant ball and the duo combined for 13 turnovers off the back of Dovey’s five intercepts and Almond’s two. Sirens’ attack had no answer for the Thunder’s hunt, as Bethan GoodwinNiamh McCall (both 13 from 16) and Emma Barrie (11 from 16) struggled to receive easy passes, with Beth Dix well held and Gia Abernethy forced to run with Carter.

Celtic Dragons (39) defeated by Severn Stars (45)

Player of the match: Paige Reed (Severn Stars)

In another tight start the Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars could not be split throughout the entire first half of their match up to finish off Sunday’s proceedings with a tight clash. But the Stars put on the accelerator in the third, executing an 11-6 quarter to extend the first major lead of the game. Whilst the Dragons tightened up in the final term, it was not enough to turn the tides as the Stars ran out six-goal victors under pressure, well and truly earning their fourth win of the season. To the Dragons’ credit they put out a fine performance, but unfortunately could not hold on for the full four quarters as the Stars’ experience reigned supreme.

the seesawing start was down to the defensive effort from both sides, with Abigail Tyrrell and Annika Lee-Jones controlling the airways down one end, and Iman Thomas and Lucy Herdman working hard at the other to pressurise the contest. All four defenders worked hard, however it was the likes of Paige Reed that became the showstopper throughout the contest, taking control of the Stars front-end to command possession and using her quick footwork to out-manoeuvre Tyrrell’s heavy attention down the court and evade Lee-Jones’ long arm inside the circle. Dixon shared the load with Georgia Rowe, piling on 23 goals to Rowe’s 22, and opened up space well for Lucy Harris (two turnovers) and Kyra Jones to find purchase on circle edge as the Stars extended a lead. Defensively, the Stars were marginally cleaner finishing with 27 penalties across Herdman, Thomas, Adi Bolakoro and wing defence Nia Jones, compared to Dragons’ 37, between Tyrrell, Lee-Jones and Clare Jones in wing defence. Amy Clinton (30 goals from 34 attempts) and Rebekah Robinson (nine from 13) worked hard in the front end for the Dragons, while Shona O’Dwyer was a nuisance in centre picking off three deflections.

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 20 preview – Final round sees intriguing clashes emerge

VITALITY Netball Superleague (VNSL) Round 20 is here, and thus the end of the season has emerged with the closest campaign in recent years proving exciting and unexpected from start to finish. While the top four was prematurely decided following a positive COVID-19 case amongst the Leeds Rhinos playing group, the top three sides still have top spot to play for following unprecedented Round 19 results, whilst a quest for bragging rights remains for lower sides.

Round 19 ladder update: What is required from each top three side?

SUNDAY, JUNE 20

Saracens Mavericks v. Surrey Storm

With fifth, sixth and seventh positions still in contention, Mavericks need a win here to at least settle the score that they could have made finals if things played out differently this season. At the same time, the Storm have absolutely nothing to lose and have played out some big results over the past few rounds, making this one an intriguing clash to say the least. With some great developing players amongst the playing group the Storm will look to test the Mavericks, although the Mavericks’ newfound versatility and depth on the bench should pay off to put one last win in the book.

While Razia Quashie has already been ruled out of this matchup after suffering a potential Achilles injury last round, the Storm front-end does not have it any easier with both Jodie Gibson and Jo Trip forging a great connection throughout the season to really slam home the pressure and create exciting defensive moments. Both able to play a flashy game with their aerial leap or settle to a classic and physical one-on-one contest, Karyn Bailey and Emma Magee will have their work cut out for them against the Mavericks defensive duo. Through the midcourt expect plenty of speed from Yasmin Parsons with Gabby Marshall set the test of limiting the crafty wing attack, while two experienced heads in Mikki Austin and Sasha Corbin will go toe-to-toe. At the other end, the Mavericks boast a couple of viable options to post which allows them to avoid becoming too predictable, with Kadeen Corbin, Ine-Mari Venter and Britney Clarke all reliable and strong.

Manchester Thunder v. Strathclyde Sirens

Whilst neither team necessarily needs a win to complete their season given the Thunder has already secured a top three finish and the Sirens are out of the running for finals, it is safe to say this clash could be very interesting. Something worth keeping in mind is that the last time the Sirens and Thunder played, it was the opening weekend of VNSL action for the year. Whilst the Sirens went down by a hefty 17 goal margin in that encounter, the side had not yet found its footing in the competition meaning anything could happen here.

When it comes to this clash, there is no shortage of firepower. Expect a huge matchup between the two exciting Malawians, with Sirens goal keeper Towera Vinkhumbo one of the leading goal keepers in the competition and taking on compatriot Joyce Mvula – who is arguably one of the most consistent goalers in the league. But one of the big tests the Thunder front-end poses is the consistency of Thunder’s attack, with Ellie Cardwell able to both playmake and hand off the attempts to Mvula, or carry the load herself. This versatility could really shake the Sirens defence with Emily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen really needing to create a defensive buffer and deny the likes of Caroline O’Hanlon and Laura Malcolm pride of place on circle edge. Malcolm, O’Hanlon and Amy Carter will need to limit the speed in transition from Cullen and captain Gia Abernethy, while Beth Dix has been a livewire feeding into the circle, with Thunder’s Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey needing to put on the speed and creative flair to limit the impact of Emma BarrieBethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall to post.

Celtic Dragons v. Severn Stars

Expect a big clash here between the Dragons and Stars with both sides sitting on the lower end of the ladder, but the Dragons well within their chances to get a second win on the board and close out their season on a high. Whilst the Stars got the chocolates last time they met, the Dragons have produced some solid performances over the past few rounds and have somewhat found their form in the front-end which could challenge the Stars. Realistically, Stars should still take out this victory, although expect the Dragons to give them a run for their money.

The likes of Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson have been fairly consistent performers all season, usually lacking confident ball into the circle but proving relatively accurate to post when they do find the ball. It will be up to Shona O’Dwyer and Laura Rudland to confidently bypass the defensive effort from the likes of Iman ThomasLucy Herdman and Malysha Kelly, while Nia Jones and Kyra Jones play a vital role through the midcourt, transitioning well with their turn of speed. Dragons’ Clare Jones has played a crucial role back in wing defence for the Dragons, utilising her change of direction to create deflections, with the likes of Lucy Harris and playmaker Paige Reed both needing to apply some real offensive pressure to propel ball into Georgia Rowe and escape the long limbs of Dragons defenders Abigail Tyrrell and Annika Lee-Jones.

Tips: Mavericks by 12, Thunder by 8, Stars by 2

MONDAY, JUNE 21

Surrey Storm v. Wasps Netball 

A big matchup will wage between the 10th ranked Storm and sixth ranked Wasps to open Monday’s proceedings, not necessarily because of an expected result, but because the Storm will officially say goodbye to their attacking pillar Bailey, who announced her retirement during the week. The Australian goal shooter has been with the club since 2019, and played her first VNSL season at Mavericks the year prior, closing out a solid career in both Australia and the UK. Nevertheless, the Wasps were only pipped of a finals position this week, just like Mavericks and Sirens, meaning the side will be out hunting to get one last win on the board to prove what might have been.

For the Wasps, expect Fran Williams and Josie Huckle to pile on the pressure and not make life easy for Bailey and Magee at the post, while Lily-May Catling will need to be in tip-top form to disrupt the ease with which Parsons goes about her business. Iona Christian has really elevated her game this season alongside Amy Flanagan, so expect the duo to be a tough barricade through the centre and drive up the court with speed, with Niamh Cooper likely tasked with stopped Christian’s pinpoint passes into the circle. Defensively, Storm will hope to have the services of livewire Alima Priest back at their disposal, while without Priest, Felisitus Kwangwa and Leah Middleton will need to be switched on to force errors from the confident combination of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris.

Loughborough Lightning v. Team Bath Netball

These two sides have not played since Round 1/2, making for an enticing clash given there is no more recent encounter that could play in with their respective form. Both sides come into this matchup off the back of unprecedented Round 19 losses, opening up a real question of which side has the intent and ability to bounce back well here. Both renowned for their ability to play a full court defence and shut down attacking forays, both Lightning and Bath will have their work cut out for them, with the side that is quickest to play its own game most likely to command control throughout and claim the points.

As is often the case between two similarly strengthened teams, the winner of this match will be the side which controls the centre third. Whilst Team Bath boasts

 in the centre and Jess Shaw and Imogen Allison on either wing, the Lightning can match them for defensive intent credit to the workrate of Nat PanagarryBeth Cobden and Hannah Joseph. Both sides have another viable wing attack each who can slip into the position to have an impact, while in the attacking neither side has a real hole in their offence with Lightning boasting Mary Cholhok, Ella Clark and Suzie Liverseidge, while Bath’s combination of Kim Borger and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis is backed up by an in-form Betsy Creak. Defensively, Sam May and Jas Odeogberin will have their work cut out for them against the Bath versatility, while Bath’s own backline in Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown is also hugely influential.

Tips: Wasps by 15, Bath by 3

VNSL 2021: Round 19 ladder update

THE final round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action is set to commence on the weekend, with the top four finalist prematurely decided through no fault of the sides that were still in with a chance, and a positive COVID-19 case setting up a “break glass in case of emergency” scenario prior to the round beginning. In the final edition of our Draft Central ladder update series, we compare and contrast the latest VNSL results and how they impact on the ladder heading into Round 20.

In a difficult end to the 2021 VNSL season, the top four has been prematurely decided prior to the final round playing out, following cancellation of Leeds Rhinos’ final two matches due to a positive COVID-19 case amongst the playing group. Whilst this result would typically see points split or matches rescheduled, the league’s ‘Postponements, Reschedules and Cancellations’ process in place this season means that Rhinos are awarded winning points for both of their Round 20 matches. While both of their two matches were coming up against lower sides in Celtic Dragons and London Pulse – which the Rhinos claimed wins over earlier in the season – there was ultimately no guarantee the Rhinos would earn the win over the Pulse at the very least, with the side rallying in recent weeks and knocking Saracens Mavericks out of finals contention in their Round 19 clash.

BUT WHAT DOES THIS PROCESS MEAN FOR THE REST OF THE COMPETITION?

Namely, this means that despite currently sitting in fourth and fifth on the ladder, Strathclyde Sirens and Wasps Netball now have no chance of making the finals, with just one match remaining apiece. Whilst already previously noted that the Rhinos would be playing both Dragons (11th) and Pulse (8th), the Sirens and Wasps still had a slim chance of reaching the post-season series dependant on other results across the round. Realistically, the situation does not have much of an impact on the remaining teams, although Dragons and Pulse will not get a chance to play their remaining fixture of the season with their respective Round 20 matches cancelled.

ROUND 17/18 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-1)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-2)
  3. Manchester Thunder (15-3)
  4. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  5. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (7-7-2)
  7. Saracens Mavericks (9-7-1)
  8. London Pulse (4-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-15)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-16)

ROUND 19 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-2)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-3)
  3. Manchester Thunder (16-3)
  4. Strathclyde Sirens (10-7-2)
  5. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  6. Saracens Mavericks (10-8-1)
  7. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  8. London Pulse (6-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-16)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-17)

Looking back at Round 19, and there were some intriguing results to come out of the round. Firstly, the Severn Stars and Wasps were forced to postpone their clash to a later date due to a positive COVID-19 case amongst the Wasps playing group. Fortunately, the side became aware of the case early enough to ensure their match could be rescheduled for Monday evening, June 21.

The Mavericks overcame Team Bath to prove that their Round 9 upset was not a fluke, and keep their finals hopes alive. But a huge effort from the Pulse saw the eighth-ranked side pull off a massive Monday night victory over the Mavericks to officially put their finals hopes to rest, less than 24 hours after the Mavericks thought they had secured a chance. The Sirens bolstered their percentage to leap into fourth with a huge 19-goal win over the Dragons, and Manchester Thunder are hard to stop when they are switched on, and they most certainly were against the Lightning, executing a huge 14-goal victory to close the round.

With two of the top three side dealt losses in Round 19, all three of Bath, Lightning and Thunder retain their positions heading into the final round, however the semi-final matches are still in question with all three franchises ultimately able to take out top spot dependant on their fellow top sides’ efforts. With Thunder hosting Sirens and Lightning hosting Bath in the final match of the round, no team will be sure of their semi-final opposition until the final whistle is blown.

Now let’s have a look at what is required from each top three side:

Thunder: Must beat Sirens by a hefty margin, and Lightning must only beat Bath by a small margin, for Thunder to take top spot. If Thunder loses to Sirens, they likely retain third position, unless Bath dominate their clash.

Lightning: Must beat Bath by a hefty margin to ensure they stay above Manchester to take top spot. If they lose to Bath, the side will want a small margin to ensure Thunder do not take second.

Bath: Must win to retain top spot, otherwise could fall to second, or even third depending on results. Bath have retained ladder-leading status for majority of the season, but could lose it for the first time since Rounds 4, 5 and 6, when Lightning took the mantle.

Now that Leeds has ultimately take fourth spot on the ladder – although the six winning points (three per win) have yet to be attributed to the side meaning the official ladder with Sirens in fourth (32 points with one match remaining), Wasps in fifth (31 points with one match remaining), Mavericks in sixth (31 points with one match remaining) and Rhinos in seventh (30 points with two matches remaining) still stands until Round 20 is complete – there is not much left for the remaining sides to do.

Pulse’s six wins ensure they finish a couple wins clear of Severn Stars in ninth, whilst Surrey Storm (two wins) and Celtic Dragons (one win) sees the remainder of the ladder go unchanged despite the huge movements from seventh through to the very top, in what has been a closely contested season all around.

DRAFT CENTRAL PREDICTED FINAL LADDER:

  1. Team Bath (18-2 / 54 points)
  2. Manchester Thunder (17-3 / 51 points)
  3. Loughborough Lightning (16-4 / 48 points)
  4. Leeds Rhinos (12-8 / 36 points)
  5. Wasps Netball (11-8-1 / 34 points)
  6. Saracens Mavericks (11-8-1 / 34 points)
  7. Strathclyde Sirens (10-8-2 / 32 points)
  8. London Pulse (6-14 / 18 points)
  9. Severn Stars (4-16 / 12 points)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-18 / 6 points)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-19 / 3 points)

ROUND 17/18 COVERAGE

Friday/Saturday wrap // Sunday/Monday wrap

ROUND 19 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

Past ladder updates: Round 3 // Round 4 // Round 5/6 // Round 7 // Round 8 // Round 9 // Round 10/11 // Round 12 // Round 13/14 // Round 15 // Round 16 // Round 17/18

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 9&19

VITALITY Netball Superleague returned this week with the finals race front and centre while Round 19 of the ANZ Premiership rolled around. There were plenty of impressive performances from players across both leagues as Draft Central compiles two teams of the week from the respective leagues.

ANZ Premiership

GS: Grace Nweke (Northern Mystics)
GA: Jamie Hume (Northern Stars)
WA: Peta Toeava (Northern Mystics)
C: Maddy Gordon (Central Pulse)
WD: Renee Savai’inaea (Southern Steel)
GD: Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)
GK: Taneisha Fifita (Southern Steel)

BENCH: George Fisher (Southern Steel), Sam Winders (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic), Elle Temu (Northern Stars)

There is no denying that Grace Nweke has all but solidified her role as the starting goal shooter in our Team of the Week with the Northern Mystics representative a pillar of consistency. Her ability to hold strong under the post and use her footwork to claim prime position is second to none, not to mention her accuracy and volume finishing the game with 57 goals from 61 attempts. Alongside her in the goal circle is Northern Stars goal attack Jamie Hume who well and truly stepped up to the plate in Round 9 of the ANZ Premiership. The quick footed sharp shooter made her presence felt from the opening minute and shouldered the load. She backed herself from range and boasted a confident aura throughout the clash with her clever drives and hot hand coming to the fore to finish with 18 goals at 86 per cent.

There is speed to burn through the midcourt with Peta Toeava starring in wing attack with her quick give and go and vision. The Mystics midcourter set the court alight with her drive and positioning around circle edge to fire off pinpoint passes racking up a whopping 38 goal assists. Speaking of speedsters, Maddy Gordon had her time to shine in at centre for the Pulse with her tenacity speaking volumes. A real competitor with a high endurance base, Gordon plied her trade effectively up both ends of the court to feed the ball into the shooters and also rack up the intercepts herself. She could transition down court in a heartbeat such is her speed while her quick hands were also prominent. The wing defence position falls to Renee Savai’inaea and while she did not register a wealth of stats her work off the ball was tremendous, keeping her opponent off circle edge.

Down back it is hard to go past Karin Burger with the goal defence continuing to impress. In her first year with the Tactix, Burger has well and truly found her place using her closing speed and deceptively long arms to create deflections aplenty and disrupt the attacking rhythm for opposition teams. Her read of the play was also at the forefront of her performance collecting four intercepts for her efforts. Youngster Taneisha Fifita secured the goal keeper position with her ability to compete in the air and at ground level. The Southern Steel defender got hands to ball and used her body work to out-manoeuvre her opponent and reel in wayward passes.

Elle Temu was unlucky not to get the nod down back after putting out a stellar performance. The defender was in just about everything using her aerial capacity and quick feet to win ball back time after time. Also on the bench is George Fisher with the goal shooter a rock under the post while the final spot goes to Sam Winders with the Magic captain a real driving force in both attack and defence.

VNSL

GS: Ine-Mari Venter (Saracen Mavericks)
GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Gia Abernethy (Strathclyde Sirens)
WD: Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
GD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)
GK: Towera Vinkhumbo (Strathclyde Sirens)

BENCH: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning), Serena Guthrie (Team Bath), Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

Goal shooter, Ine-Mari Venter was in dominant form and was a key reason for the Mavs win using her strength to hold off her opponent. Able to read the play and position accordingly, Venter was able to go score with ease posting 31 goals. It was a strong performance by Eleanor Cardwell with the goal attack controlling the tempo in attack for Manchester Thunder and subsequently earning the starting position. Her ability to weave her magic down the court, hit the scoreboard at an accurate rate only missing three of her 26 attempts and create attacking forays was second to none.

Caroline O’Hanlon secured the wing attack position with the Manchester Thunder midcourter using her knowledge and experience to have a profound impact around circle edge. Not the quickest player out on court, one thing you can rely on is O’Hanlon’s ability to deliver well-weighted passes and nous to find space in the attacking third. Strathclyde Sirens captain and centre, Gia Abernethy was on song throughout her outing using her gut-running and slick hands to have an influence at both ends of the court. Abernethy had a hand in just about everything picking up a number of intercepts and deflections to lead the way for the Sirens. Beth Cobden takes out the wing defence position with the Lightning stalwart able to ply her trade and use her closing speed to clog up space.

London Pulse goal defence, Funmi Fadoju was in scintillating form in both games across Round 19 of the VNSL and while she got her fair share of whistle she made up for it with her ball winning capabilities. She was a real energiser bunny down in defence, throwing herself at everything that came her way and most importantly winning ball back whether it be through intercepts or deflections. Towera Vinkhumbo was at her damaging best for the Sirens getting hands to ball and staying away from the whistle. Her skill to stay in play and mount pressure was imperative in her side’s win as was her tenacity to win ball back and make life hard for opposition teams trying to enter the defensive circle.

There are a number of key players on the bench with Mary Cholhok a commanding force once again under the post for the Lightning with her height and prolific nature to post putting her in good stead. Razia Quashie also impressed with her defensive pressure and tenacity before she was struck down with injury, while the final spot goes to Serena Guthrie with the centre imposing herself in defence and attack credit to her hunt and sheer athleticism.

VNSL 2021: Round 19 – Sunday wrap

THE penultimate round of Vitality Netball Superleague action is almost done and dusted, with three huge Sunday afternoon clashes playing out rather than the scheduled four due to the Surrey Storm and Wasps Netball clash being postponed following a positive COVID-19 case amongst the Wasps playing group. That match is set to be rescheduled in due time.

Strathclyde Sirens (53) defeated Celtic Dragons (34)

Player of the match: Gia Abernethy (Strathclyde Sirens)

The Strathclyde Sirens got a crucial Round 19 win on the board to take them another step closer to finals content, downing Celtic Dragons by 19-goals in a comprehensive effort. A consistent barrage was required by the Sirens to come away with the points in this clash, and consistent is what they got, adding to their tally each quarter throughout to leave the Dragons behind. Despite improved defensive efforts from the Dragons, the side struggled to hit the scoreboard in the first half, putting up just four goals in the first and trailing 24-11 at the main break. A huge 17-11 third term from the Sirens all but secured victory, as the side rolled out the subs to give developing talent a chance to showcase their wares.

Abigail Tyrell and Annika Lee-Jones had an excellent start, piling on the defensive pressure from the get-go to deny easy chances at goal for Sirens goal shooter Emma Barrie with the tall timber lacking her usual impact to the post finishing with just nine goals. The two Dragons defenders combined for six turnovers and 10 deflections with their high work rate paying off throughout the contest, although the agile movement of Niamh McCall (29 goals from 37 attempts) and Bethan Goodwin (15 from 16) appeared to do the trick as the Sirens took control. Player of the match and Sirens captain Gia Abernethy was hard to stop through the centre, throwing herself at everything to pile on four intercepts and allow Beth Dix to fire on all cylinders in wing attack. The combination of Towera Vinkhumbo and Emily Nicholl continues to shine, as the duo combined for seven intercepts, three deflections and 10 turnovers, while Taylor Cullen was a workhorse shutting down Laura Rudland. Despite their struggles getting ball into the circle, Amy Clinton (20 from 24) and Rebekah Robinson (12 from 13) were on song when they were within range. Clare Jones and Shona O’Dwyer continue to showcase their defensive nous in the midcourt, combining for two of the Dragons’ three intercepts, with the last snatched by Robinson out in goal attack.

Team Bath (35) defeated by Saracens Mavericks (46)

Player of the match: Ine-Mari Venter (Saracens Mavericks)

Just when Team Bath have been looking unbeatable, the Mavericks have come along once more to knock the ladder-leaders down a peg with a critical win. Whilst many may have expected their first clash victory to be a fluke, the Mavericks well and truly proved what they are capable of with a huge 11-goal victory over Bath to put them in a good position to steal that last remaining finals position. It took a hot start from the Mavs to secure the win, rendering Bath to just 13 goals in the first half to Mavericks’ 23, and firing on all cylinders from thereon out to ensure they did not allow the fired up Bath side to steal momentum. Whilst Bath executed a much more typical second half, the Mavs did not lose a quarter throughout to showcase just how good they can be.

It was a masterclass across the court for the Mavericks, who came out with a point to prove against the ladder-leaders. Ine-Mari Venter may not have had the court time in recent starts but was unstoppable combining with Kadeen Corbin, with the South African plying her trade effectively to finish with 31 goals and prove she was up to the physicality that Eboni Usoro-Brown and Layla Guscoth were bringing. Corbin shot 15 straight in a classy effort, utilising her footwork and connection with sister Sasha and Beth Ecuyer-Dale to really shake off the defensive pressure from Guscoth, Imogen Allison and Serena Guthrie. Bath speedster Rachel Shaw was well nullified by the ever-smothering Gabby Marshall, whose influence allowed Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie to fire on all cylinders, with Jo Trip‘s impact also noted. Defensively, Quashie, Gibson and Marshall accounted for six of the side’s eight intercepts with Quashie also creating eight deflections, rendering the usually clean and composed combination of Kim Borger (15 goals from 18 attempts) and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (one goal) to messiness, as Betsy Creak entered the action to pile on 19 goals to the side’s final tally. Guscoth and Guthrie were the only players to register intercepts for Bath, with the usually clinical defensive unit outplayed on this occasion.

London Pulse (42) defeated Severn Stars (40)

Player of the match: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)

The London Pulse secured another win to jump up the leaderboard a fraction more, gaining more separation from the Stars in the process with a critical two-goal victory. Whilst not able to make finals, both sides came out hunting for an elusive win and it was the Pulse that managed to execute their fifth for the season, and second straight showcasing their improved form as the season has continued. Whilst the Stars competed well throughout, winning the third term to go into the final quarter on 30 goals apiece, Pulse marginally pipped them at the post going the extra mile under pressure to claim the 42-40 final result.

Pulse’s improved backline continues to impress week on week, with young gun Funmi Fadoju stepping up once more to control proceedings. While she received plenty of whistle – with Fadoju and goal keeper Lindsay Keable combining for 40 – she was a livewire in every sense of the word, able to transition smoothly between attacking the ball and hands outside the circle to having a huge impact inside too, creating five turnovers for her side off the back of 10 deflections and an intercept. That being said, the consistent effort from Georgia Rowe (33 goals from 34 attempts) and Paige Reed (seven goals straight) paid off with the duo combining well and missing just one goal between them. The back trio of Iman ThomasLucy Herdman and Malysha Kelly worked hard to combat easy feeds into Pulse’s Sigi Burger, who finished with 29 goals to go with fellow South African Lefebre Rademan‘s 13, with Thomas racking up four intercepts to lead all comers. The battle between Kyra Jones and Ashleigh Dekker was immense, while Nia Jones put in the hard yards to limit Adean Thomas space to feed into the circle.

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 19 preview – Penultimate round sees do-or-die clashes

A HUGE penultimate round of Vitality Netball Superleague action is upon us, with one side in Wasps potentially taking the court for the final time this season as Leeds Rhinos earn the week off and the remaining nine sides go head-to-head, with London Pulse and Saracens Mavericks both taking the court twice.

SUNDAY, JUNE 13

Surrey Storm v. Wasps Netball 

Expect a huge clash between the Storm and the Wasps, with this matchup the Wasps’ final encounter for the home and away season and their last chance of securing enough points to make the finals series. While they are still more than capable of making finals they will really want to put the foot down against the Storm who have been showing some real fighting spirit over the last few rounds and will want to do anything in their power to stop the Wasps from achieving that last finals position.

The real test in this one will be whether Surrey Storm’s developing attack-line can defeat the tough buffer of the Wasps defensive combination in Josie Huckle and Fran Williams. While Karyn Bailey is capable of holding down the goal circle on her own she will need consistent assistance from Emma Magee in goal attack and hard drives from Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin to ensure she puts up a sufficient scoreline. Young defender Alima Priest has really come to the fore in the last couple of weeks alongside Leah Middleton although the duo will have their work cut out for them taking on experienced combination Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris, especially given the exciting form of Amy Flanagan and Iona Christian and the viable impact option of Gezelle Allison and injection of Lily-May Catling over the past few rounds.

Strathclyde Sirens v. Celtic Dragons 

Like the Wasps, the Sirens really need a win this weekend and they should achieve that with relative ease over Celtic Dragons. While the Dragons have actually shown some really great intent and hunt for the ball over the past six or so round in particular, the Sirens have a real pep in their step this season after a few seasons towards the bottom end the ladder and will really want to prove that their season has been enough to allow them a chance at finals, especially given their consistency throughout. 

The Sirens have undoubtedly been one one of the most improved teams this season and that is down to their exciting circle combinations. The attack has benefited from a rotating circle with Emma Barrie, Bethan Goodwin and Niamh McCall combining, which will be the real test for the Dragons with Annika Lee-Jones and Abigail Tyrell sure to have their work cut out for them. At the other end Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson are capable of turning on the excitement factor for the Dragons, however they will have a really tough time coming up against Towera Vinkhumbo in goalkeeper, especially considering the extra ball-winning ability of Emily Nicholl and Taylor Cullen out the front, and the drive down court from captain Gia Abernethy.

Team Bath Netball v. Saracens Mavericks 

This could be a do-or-die clash as the Mavericks take on Team Bath, although they do actually come in holding the mantle over Bath as the only side to have defeated the ladder-leading team all season. That being said. Bath certainly did not give the Mavericks the credit they deserved last time they met and are sure to come out firing this time around. The Mavericks have looked switched on over the past few rounds though so do not underestimate the side which is still potentially in with a chance of making finals.

It is safe to say that Serena Guthrie will be the barometer in this matchup with Sasha Corbin and Gabby Marshall having their work cut out for them, although the midcourt duo will be bolstered by a huge defensive line with Jodie Gibson, Razia Quashie and Jo Trip all more than capable of holding their own defensively. At the other end it is safe to say the defensive combination of Imogen Allison, Layla Guscoth and Eboni Usoro-Brown is hard to stop, with each individual a workhorse driving the ball down and combining seamlessly week on week. While the defensive matchup is fairly even, the difference here will likely come down to the goal circle units of both sides with Bath’s tried-and-true combination of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Borger sure to set the court alight.

London Pulse v. Severn Stars

Expect an intriguing clash between London Pulse and Severn Stars given the shaky season that both teams have had this year. While Stars have had moments of brilliance they have been unable to convert that into consistent four quarter efforts, however it is also safe to say that Pulse have also really missed the mark this year and have struggled to keep up with the teams above them on the ladder. While the Stars are sure to bring the heat, the Pulse are on a roll and will want to ensure that continues as they wrap up their season and try to get a couple more wins on the board.

Both the Stars and Pulse have been showcasing some great upcoming talent with the likes of Paige Reed and Georgia Rowe consistently standing up for the Stars. The experience of Kyra Jones and Liana Leota has consistently stood up while Nia Jones has showcased her plentiful tricks of the trade heading up a young looking back line. In the absence of Halimat Adio, Pulse has had a real chance to showcase the explosiveness of their own defensive line, with Zara Everitt and Funmi Fadoju standing up alongside Lindsay Keable, and even young gun Peace Akinyemi finding her way onto the court last round. The real difference in this match will be the Pulse’s front-end firepower, with Sigi Burger a huge target in the goal circle while Lefebre Rademan and Kira Rothwell work hard out the front to provide an edge. 

Tip: Wasps by 8, Sirens by 15, Bath by 6, Pulse by 3

MONDAY, JUNE 14

London Pulse v. Saracens Mavericks

 Kicking off Monday’s matches is another big match between Pulse and Mavericks as the two sides shape up for their second matches of the round. The Mavericks will be either brimming with confidence or on shaky legs following a huge matchup with Bath, while the Pulse will want to do everything in their power to limit the Mavs of an extra win which could bump them into finals contention. Realistically, the Mavericks need this win here regardless of whether they get the win over Bath to even have a small sniff of making the postseason series.

The Mavericks will want to ensure they use the strength and evasive speed of Britney Clark in the circle in this match with the goal shooter an excellent target and creating a really versatile goal circle alongside Kadeen Corbin and Ine-Mari Venter. While Burger has been a consistent threat for the Pulse, the elevated form of Olivia Tchine has paid off in spades with the goal shooter proving she is more than capable of holding her own in the circle and offering a great impact option. Both sides match up defensively very well with livewires at either end, who are able to spark action with just one aerial leap. It is safe to say Fadoju and Quashie are sure to provide some exciting elements to the big matchup, with plenty of creative flair set to be on show, while Adean Thomas is another excellent feeder who will want to utilise her class and delivery.

Loughborough Lightning v. Manchester Thunder

The final match of the round is a battle between two and three – ultimately one of the most tantalising matches of the entire round. Lightning sit in second with just two losses on the board for the season while Manchester has three losses and sit on a just as comfortable winning streak as the Lightning do. Neither side has a weak spot and both have plenty to prove as they look to showcase just how powerful they are, especially given they could be a finals clash waiting to happen. 

There are a number of hugely important matchups in this match with the midpoint of both sides really coming to the forefront when thinking of where the match will be won and lost. The Thunder boast the likes of Laura Malcolm, Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon through the centre, while there is no doubt that they are matched up on very well by Nat Panagarry, Beth Cobden and the likes of Hannah Joseph and Hannah Williams. Defensively, Lightning’s combination of Annabel Roddy, Jas Odeogberin and Sam May will look to make life hard for Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell while the other end expect a huge one-on-one between Mary Cholhok and Kerry Almond as Emma Dovey looks to shut down the easy delivery from Ella Clark. Expect neither side to give an inch throughout a huge contest, with the real proof in the pudding likely coming down to that midcourt and the adaptability of each side.

Tip: Mavericks by 9, Lightning by 2

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

VNSL 2021: Round 17/18 ladder update

FANS always knew that this season of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) action was set to be a cracker, but it is safe to say that the competitiveness of the season, and in turn the ladder, has made the last few rounds a real race to the finish. In this new series, each week Draft Central will compare the most recent ladders given how quickly things can change, and delve into how each round of fixturing can change up positions based on the amount of matches each side has played.

ROUND 16 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (16-1)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (14-2)
  3. Manchester Thunder (13-3)
  4. Wasps Netball (10-7-1)
  5. Leeds Rhinos (9-7)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (8-6-2)
  7. Saracens Mavericks (8-6-1)
  8. London Pulse (3-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-13)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-14)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-14)

ROUND 17/18 LADDER

  1. Team Bath (17-1)
  2. Loughborough Lightning (16-2)
  3. Manchester Thunder (15-3)
  4. Wasps Netball (10-8-1)
  5. Leeds Rhinos (10-8)
  6. Strathclyde Sirens (7-7-2)
  7. Saracens Mavericks (9-7-1)
  8. London Pulse (4-13)
  9. Severn Stars (3-15)
  10. Surrey Storm (2-16)
  11. Celtic Dragons (1-16)

Looking at this week’s ladder, things do not seem too different with only the win counts changing and no excessive movement as we have seen creeping in over the past few rounds. But one thing this round’s ladder update does boast, is another look in at the race for the final spot in the top four, after Manchester Thunder officially sewed up the third spot with two hefty wins on the weekend.

Unsurprisingly, it is still Team Bath sitting atop the ladder, as they have for majority of the season. With two matches remaining – against Saracens Mavericks and Loughborough Lightning, respectively, it should be an interesting few weeks with the Mavs coming into their Round 19 clash as the only team to claim a win over the blue and gold side thus far. The Lightning are realistically one of the only other sides capable of doing so and will look to test Bath thoroughly in a blockbuster final match to finish off the home and away season, which could ultimately be a grand final preview.

Lightning are in a very similar position to Bath, with a Round 19 matchup waiting against Manchester Thunder, who will be looking to gain ground and slip into second, which could then put more pressure on the Lightning side heading into the final round. For Manchester, a final round matchup with Strathclyde Sirens could prove interesting, with the Scotland-based side requiring a win here but potentially out of the running for a top four position in the hours following their encounter.

The race for the top four continues, with Wasps’ loss to Mavericks on the weekend proving crucial for both sides – meaning Wasps need a win this week given it is their final match of the home and away season, and Mavericks need to ensure they claim points in all three of their remaining games to challenge the Rhinos for the final spot. While the Wasps’ final match should be a fairly comprehensive victory taking on Surrey Storm, their opposition put out two four-quarter performances over the weekend and will certainly look to test the Wasps.

Rhinos face the bye this week, so will know following Round 19 whether they are capable of swinging into the final position on the ladder, with two – fairly simple – matchups facing them in the final round and plenty to be excited for. Given the Rhinos have the most favourable draw remaining, they are the only side that could realistically nab the fourth spot in finals from the Wasps, with both Sirens and Mavericks requiring a clean sweep of wins to finish the season, and only really guaranteed one from two (Sirens) and two from three (Mavericks) respectively.

RACE TO TOP FOUR CONTENTION:

WASPS NETBALL: 4th | Played 19

W 10 | L 9 | D 1

Round 19: Surrey Storm
Round 20: BYE

STRATHCLYDE SIRENS: 6th | Played 18

W 9 | L 7 | D 2

Round 19: Celtic Dragons
Round 20: Manchester Thunder

LEEDS RHINOS: 5th | Played 18

W 10 | L 8 | D 0

Round 19: BYE
Round 20: London Pulse, Celtic Dragons

SARACENS MAVERICKS: 7th | Played 17

W 9 | L 7 | D 1

Round 19: Team Bath, London Pulse
Round 20: Surrey Storm

The bottom end of the ladder has not changed too much for the majority of the season, with London Pulse claiming a fourth win over the weekend to retain eighth position on the ladder, while Severn Stars (three wins), Surrey Storm (two) and Celtic Dragons (one) all looking unlikely to claim an upset to finish the season, although they will look to test one another in the coming rounds with Pulse and Stars facing off this weekend, before Dragons and Stars go head-to-head in the final round.

ROUND 16 COVERAGE

Sunday wrap // Monday wrap

ROUND 17/18 COVERAGE

Friday/Saturday wrap // Sunday/Monday wrap

Past ladder updates: Round 3 // Round 4 // Round 5/6 // Round 7 // Round 8 // Round 9 // Round 10/11 // Round 12 // Round 13/14 // Round 15 // Round 16

 

Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography

2021 ANZ Premiership vs. VNSL Team of the Week: Round 7&17/18

IN the next edition of our new series, Draft Central has composed two Teams of the Week with one side each hailing from the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) and the other from the ANZ Premiership.

ANZ Premiership:

GS: Ellie Bird (Mainland Tactix)
GA: Te Amo Amaru-Tibble (Central Pulse)
WA: Shannon Saunders (Southern Steel)
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (Northern Stars)
WD: Kate Heffernan (Southern Steel)
GD: Karin Burger (Mainland Tactix)
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick (Northern Mystics)

BENCH: Caitlin Bassett (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic), Samon Nathan (Mainland Tactix), Taneisha Fifita (Southern Steel)

Ellie Bird was a focal point for the Mainland Tactix with the goal shooter commanding the ball with her strong holds, clever movement and scoring prowess. Bird was a constant threat and did not give up throughout the match competing hard in the air and going up strongly for every rebound to give the Tactix an edge, earning the starting goal shooter position. Pulse goal attack, Te Amo Amaru-Tibble had another strong performance with her work both inside the goal circle and in transition imperative to her side’s success. Amaru-Tibble showcased her class with ball in hand and overall spatial awareness to drive into the circle and shoulder the scoring load for the Pulse finishing with 22 goals at 88 per cent.

It was a vintage performance from Shannon Saunders as the Southern Steel captain paved the way in attack. Her speed and strength to continuously secure circle edge was second to none as her hot hand also enabled her to deliver pinpoint passes into her goalers. It was an all-round strong performance from the wing attack, collecting 24 goal assists in the win. The centre bib goes to Mila Reuelu-Buchanan with the Stars midcourter using her speed and fancy footwork to full effect. Put through her paces early, her endurance, composure and skill came to the fore over an extended period to drive the Stars both in attack and defence and provide that link between the two ends. Although it was not a stats-stuffing performance, Kate Heffernan showcased her ability to do the nitty gritty stuff and do it well. She really ground down her opponent and worked in overdrive to clog up the space and make life hard.

It was her best game yet since joining Mainland Tactix with goal defence Karin Burger sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition the minute she stepped out on court. Her class and ball winning capabilities came to the fore from the opening minute of play as she injected herself into the action. Burger was a brick wall in defence with her preliminary movement to cover her opponents drive and strong hands over pressure earning her a starting spot in this rounds team of the week. Joining her down back is Sulu Fitzpatrick. Funnily enough neither player were apart of winning sides but were arguably the best performer out on court. The goal keeper was a real menace down back with her constant tips and hands to ball to disrupt the flow. The Mystics captain was strong in the air and at ground level with her nimble footwork and body positioning a couple of key attributes.

There are a couple of exciting prospects on the bench with Samon Nathan playing one of her best games so far this season with the wing attack driving hard and using her lightning quick hands to find the shooters under the post while Taneisha Fifita was a real livewire down back for the Steel with her tenacity. The final bench position goes to Australian and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic goal shooter, Caitlin Bassett who impressed with her holds and volume to finish with 47 goals at 86 per cent.

VNSL:

GS: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning)
GA: Lefebre Rademan (London Pulse)
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder)
C: Serena Guthrie (Team Bath)
WD: Emily Hollingworth (Leeds Rhinos)
GD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)
GK: Eboni Usoro-Brown (Team Bath)

BENCH: Kim Borger (Team Bath) Beth Dix (Strathclyde Sirens), Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)

The shooting combination has a real international flavour this round with Ugandan shooting star Mary Cholhok earning the starting goal shooter position and South African Lefebre Rademan securing the goal attack bib. Cholhok was in damaging form once again with the goaler using her flair and height to reel in the high ball and pile on the goals for the Lightning. She had the ball on a string in her second outing nailing an impressive 50 goals and only missing four attempts highlighting her high level of accuracy. Meanwhile Rademan showcased her playmaking capacity and scoring ability for the London Pulse. The zippy goal attack was a real energiser bunny, injecting herself into just about everything and darting inside the circle to apply some scoreboard pressure.

Moving into the midcourt and it is a couple of veterans that have retained their spot in this round’s Draft Central Team of the Week. Caroline O’Hanlon was influential for the Thunder with her fancy footwork around circle edge, impeccable timing and deft passes into the circle causing all sorts of trouble for the opposition. The highly athletic and gravity-defying Serena Guthrie gets the nod at centre after another strong performance for Team Bath. The centre plied her trade in defence and attack to win ball back for her side and then sprint down the other end of the court thanks to her silky transitional play. Emily Hollingworth had a game to remember for Leeds Rhinos with the wing defence earning her first nod in our Team of the Week. Her strong hands over pressure, closing speed and ball tracking were on song throughout the match.

It has been a breakout season for London Pulse defender Funmi Fadoju and this round was no different as she got hands to ball time and time again. The defender was a real pest, frequently creating tips and turnovers while her cleanliness was also obvious. Fadoju walked away with an impressive six intercepts and five deflections. Joining her down back is the ever-reliable Eboni Usoro-Brown with the goal keeper able to cleanly contest and cause disruption with her read of the play. Usoro-Brown worked hard to cover her opponent and apply some strong hands over pressure to get in the head of the shooters and force turnovers aplenty.

There is no shortage of talent on the bench with England Roses star, Layla Guscoth earning a spot thanks to her attack on the ball and ability to pickpocket passes for Team Bath. Beth Dix was a real livewire through the midcourt for the Sirens hitting circle edge with conviction, while the final bench position falls to Kim Borger with the Team Bath goal shooter impressing with her timing and accuracy to post.