THE 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season is officially done and dusted meaning it is now time for our postseason reviews. Wasps Netball are up next, having finished in their lowest standings in history following some shaky performances and the loss of their captain midway through the season due to pregnancy.
Season form: 10-9-1 (7th)
While it was an overall disappointing season for the Wasps, it was by no means doom and gloom for the star-studded side who were so close to making finals, but were bumped out of the top four in the last couple of rounds. The Wasps started out their season strongly, with just a couple of close losses to Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning putting a dent in their early form before a couple of comprehensive wins brought back a wealth of confidence. But a draw with Sirens saw the side’s confidence falter, while the loss of captain Sophia Candappa to pregnancy only a few weeks later appeared to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, finishing their season with four straight losses. Despite their issues with consistency, there was no doubt the side was hugely powerful to post with Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris one of the most threatening combinations around, while Iona Christian had an outstanding season, stepping up when Candappa left as Amy Flanagan improved her versatility. Defensively, Fran Williams and Josie Huckle were not necessarily flashy but were fairly consistent with hard work and smothering pressure the name of their game, while it was bench depth that really appeared to be the Wasps’ issue with no one to turn to when the going got tough.
Best win: Def. Manchester Thunder 53-44, Round 5/6
With 10 wins to their name in 2021, the Wasps had no shortage of impressive moments. One to go back and re-watch however, is the Round 5/6 defensive masterclass from the Wasps, which saw them hand a nine-goal loss to the Thunder, kicking the side while they were down and proving hard to stop. Whilst the side still had the services of Candappa at the time and struggled to generate the same firepower without their resident wing attack, the Wasps showed just what they were capable of, and a shadow of the side that earned the minor premiership in 2019. The four quarter effort from the Wasps proved to be the real kicker, as Dunn (31 goals) and Harris (22 goals) worked in tandem to pile on the offensive pressure at a high accuracy, while Huckle was impressive piling on five turnovers (five deflections, three intercepts) and Candappa and Flanagan both added two intercepts. Other significant performances included a one-goal loss to Lightning back in Round 1/2, as well as close four and five goal deficits to Bath.
Standout player: Rachel Dunn
Most Improved: Iona Christian
The efforts of the Wasps may have been fairly even across the board, but the reliability of Dunn proved critical on a number of occasions with the veteran goal shooter silent but deadly in her approach to the game. With a lithe build and great wingspan, Dunn could not be left alone in the goal third with an innate read of the play and ability to score quickly. Like much of the Wasps outfit Dunn does not inject a whole heap of flair into her game, however it is her calm demeanour and ability to pile on goals despite the heavy attention of her opposition that makes her such a threatening goaler with great footwork and aerial work to boot. With just 13 unforced errors to her name across the entire season she was clean with ball in hand, and most importantly she was exceptionally accurate finishing the season with an overall accuracy of 93 per cent. When it comes to Christian, it is the composure with ball in hand that makes her such a threat with the small speedster relentless across the court. Christian really stepped up alongside the likes of Flanagan to improve her endurance and hunt across the full four quarters, adjusting quickly from centre, to wing attack and back again, and all the while wreaked havoc with her speed, aerial leap and hunt on the ball.
Picture credit: Ben Lumley Photography