Category: VNL

Elle McDonald ready for the next step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 15 SSN training partners: #1 Emma Ryde

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball plate in 2020. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development. Coming in at number one is none other than Collingwood Magpies goaler Emma Ryde, a dominant performer who has been unlucky to not receive a consistent contract at Suncorp Super Netball level.

Named the 2019 Australian Netball League (ANL) MVP, Ryde was crucial in the Victorian Fury outfit as a holding goaler, able to use her body cleanly to attract the defender and use the space to get hands to ball. With clean hands, accuracy and height to match, there is no denying the impact Ryde has when she takes the court. The 22-year-old made a fantastic return to netball in 2019 after taking time off for injury, using her netball smarts to take her game to a new level and ultimately playing at each level last year. At 197cm, Ryde can be a real target at the post with her ability to take on the contest, and with a strong work ethic and tactical mindset she can be a threat taking on any opposition. 

Coming up through the Victorian netball pathways, Ryde was snatched up by the Adelaide Thunderbirds as an injury replacement player in 2019, picking up a few domestic caps along the way although injury cut her time short. Playing four matches for the ailing Thunderbirds, Ryde shot 66 goals at 93 per cent accuracy, well and truly making herself known to the league as a handy option who can jump on court and have an impact. Ryde has also trained and played with Melbourne Vixens in the past, gaining valuable experience and court time and making for an impressive resume despite not taking the court consistently in the Super Netball.

Season 2020 sees Ryde join forces with Collingwood Magpies as a training partner, returning to Victoria once more and with the opportunity to learn from crafty veteran Nat Medhurst and Jamaican young gun Shimona Nelson, among a smattering of young Magpies stars coming up through the pathways. Still young and with plenty of potential, Ryde has plenty left in the tank and will hope to prove herself on the Super Netball stage once more in 2020.

Read our 2019 feature with Emma Ryde here.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
#12 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS Netball)
#11 Chelsea Blackman (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#10 Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)
#7 Jacqui Newton (Melbourne Vixens)
#6 Allie Smith (Melbourne Vixens)
#5 Elle Bennetts (GIANTS Netball)
#4 Brooke Allan (Magpies Netball)
#3 Tayla Fraser (NSW Swifts)
#2 Beth Cobden (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#1 Emma Ryde (Collingwood Magpies)

Top 15 SSN training partners: #4 Brooke Allan

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is taking a look at the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) plate in 2020. Inside the top five and in at number four is Collingwood defender Brooke Allan. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration 2019 form, individual potential and future development.

The 21-year-old defender is still coming into the prime of her netball career but has already shown that she has the potential to become a permanent figure in the Magpies outfit. Having spent time with the successful Geelong Cougars in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) and Victorian Fury in the Australian Netball League (ANL), Allan has displayed her class and defensive tenacity. Her ability move between goal keeper and goal defence is a testament to her on-court netball nous and endurance.

In her short career, the skilled goal keeper has been recognised for her netballing prowess with selection in the Under 19 Australian team while also taking home the grand final MVP in 2017 for her impressive efforts with Victorian Fury. After switching to the Tasmanian Magpies in 2018, Allan tasted further success helping guide her side to their first ANL premiership. With so many accolades already to her name, Allan will be hoping to extend to her trophy cabinet and take the leap to the next level and become a more commanding figure in the goal circle. Her pressure over the shot and physicality in the goal circle are just a couple of key components of her game style.

While she is yet to make her debut at Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) level, Allan displayed her elite capabilities in New Zealand taking part in the Super Club tournament where Collingwood came out victorious. Her strength under the post to keep the shooters at bay and put doubt in their mind is impressive. She consistently displays her ability to hold her own against challenging shooters with her quick footwork and ability to cleanly get around the body. Allan is deceptively light on her feet given her height and stature and makes full use of her long limbs to cause disruptions to the oppositions attacking flow. The Magpies defender is not afraid to back herself in the contest and is strong in the air, able to compete and force a turnover with her impressive timing and positioning.

Still honing her craft, Allan has exposure to one of the worlds most renowned goal keepers in Geva Mentor. The England Roses star oozes class, composure and sheer brilliance, always able to make something out of nothing such is her netball mind and skill. Throw in new recruit and Jamaican representative Jodi-Ann Ward and Allan has plenty of talent to model her craft off. With fellow youngsters Mel Bragg and Matilda Garrett also amongst the Collingwood defensive line-up, expect Allan to draw plenty of confidence from their rise up the ranks, hard work and on-court impact. Further exposure to the highest level of professionalism and netball talent will only help the young defender to perfect her role and become a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
#12 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS Netball)
#11 Chelsea Blackman (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#10 Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)
#7 Jacqui Newton (Melbourne Vixens)
#6 Allie Smith (Melbourne Vixens)
#5 Elle Bennetts (GIANTS Netball)
#4 Brooke Allan (Magpies Netball)

Top 15 SSN training partners: #7 Jacqui Newton

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is taking a look at the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) plate in 2020. Sitting at number seven on the countdown is Melbourne Vixens training partner Jacqui Newton. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration 2019 form, individual potential and future development.

At only 23, Newton has already tasted success thanks to her defensive prowess and impressive skillset. In 2018 the interchangeable goal keeper, goal defender played in the grand final and took out the premiership title in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) with the City West Falcons. She followed up those efforts, going one better in 2019 helping to guide the Victorian Fury to title glory in the Australian Netball League (ANL).

Her ability to have a profound impact at both levels of netball is a testament to her commitment while her desire for success and to push herself further shows her dedicated mentality. She is not afraid to put her body on the line and throw herself at the ball passing by. Newton is an exciting player to watch, quick on her feet and offers consistency when on court. Standing at 185cm she is not the tallest defender but makes up for it with tenacity and quick footwork to get around the body of her opponents and remain in the hunt for the ball.

Newton has had limited exposure to the Suncorp Super Netball level playing just a couple of games but is yet to really crack into the market and showcase her array of talents. Surrounded by the likes of Australian Diamonds duo Jo Weston and Emily Mannix, Newton is aware of the workload and defensive attributes needed to make a splash at international level. Throw in Jamaican up and coming star Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Newton has no shortage of defensive masterminds to learn from, when it comes to perfecting her craft whether it be pressure over the shot or movement inside the circle.

While she is still developing, Newton has showed that she can hold her own up against some talented young guns in the ANL. The more suited goal defence is light on her feet, able to dart around the court and put in the blocks at the top of the circle to stop her opposing shooter from entering the circle with ease. She works hard on transition, constantly looking to re-offer across the court and bring the ball down to deliver to the attackers. Her strong ball movement and accuracy with ball in hand also puts her in good stead for a potential step up to SSN level.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
#12 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS Netball)
#11 Chelsea Blackman (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#10 Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)
#7 Jacqui Newton (Melbourne Vixens)

2019/20 Australian Netball Youth Cup squad selected

A 24-athlete strong 2019/20 Australian Netball Youth squad has been announced ahead of the 2021 Netball World Youth Cup in Suva, Fiji.

Based off performances across a variety of leagues across Australia, the Youth Cup Squad hosts a wealth of talent with eight Suncorp Super Netball-signed players among those selected, including Queensland Firebirds’ Macy Gardner and GIANTS Netball’s Matilda McDonell.

Other names among the squad selected are New South Wales born Sophie Dwyer, Claire Iongi and Matisse Letherbarrow and Victorian-based Sacha McDonald and Allie Smith, all of whom played in the 2019 Australian Netball League Grand Final, with Dwyer named player of the match for her efforts. Young guns Sunday Aryang (Western Australia) and Chelsea Blackman (South Australia) both also had the opportunity to prove themselves on the big stage in 2019, taking the court as injury replacement players for West Coast Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds, respectively. Duo-code athlete Maggie Caris has also been selected, so will look to share the load with her Under 18 Aussie rules commitments with hopes to head to the 2020 AFL Women’s Draft alongside netball dreams.

With plenty of young talent well and truly holding their own against high calibre and experienced players, Australia could have a real chance at winning the cup for the first time since 2009, with the past two World Cup victories going to New Zealand in 2013 and 2017.

2019/20 Australian Netball World Youth Cup Squad

Nyah Allen – South Australia

Sunday Aryang – Western Australia

Lucy Austin – South Australia

Chelsea Blackman – South Australia

Maggie Caris – Victoria

Georgia Dent – South Australia

Sophie Dwyer – New South Wales

Macy Gardner – Queensland

Kimberley Hearnden – South Australia

Georgie Horjus – South Australia

Clare Iongi – New South Wales

Matisse Letherbarrow – New South Wales

Sacha McDonald – Victoria

Matilda McDonell – New South Wales

Annie Miller – New South Wales

Hannah Mundy – Victoria

Tyler Orr – South Australia

Martina Reekers – Queensland

Maddison Ridley – Victoria

Trinity Rond – Western Australia

Amy Sligar – New South Wales

Allie Smith – Victoria

Tayla Williams – South Australia

Sarahpheinna Woulf – Queensland

With plenty of talented names in the mix, selectors will have a hard time cutting down the list to make a formal squad selection ahead of August 2020, when the final squad will be announced to represent Australia.

Recruits flood to VNL as 2020 fixture released

ROUND 1 of the 2020 Victorian Netball League (VNL) is set to commence at the end of March with an additional seven venues added to the already extensive list. The season will run for 18 rounds and sees some marquee players sign with clubs in the hope to boost their standings on the VNL ladder.

Melbourne Grammar, La Trobe University Bundoora, Banyule Stadium, MSCA, Mullum Mullum Stadium along with Wendouree and Traralgon Stadium are all set to play host to the VNL in 2020. The grand final rematch will take place in Round 5 while there will be games on the weekend from Round 1-12 throughout next year to make it more accessible for fans. The finals will follow their usual three week system and commence on August 5, with the grand final on August 19 next year.

Collingwood training partner Sharni Lambden along with Vic Fury premiership winner Sacha McDonald will line-up for Casey after making the switch from their respective sides. McDonald will join her brothers in the blue and red for 2020 while one of the biggest coups of the 2020 season will be the recruitment of Australian Diamonds great Sharni Layton. The highly talented goal keeper is set to play for the Peninsula Waves and will be a great addition to the side who struggled throughout 2019 only mustering up four wins. Layton will offer her immense defensive pressure and experience to an already developing side.

Vitality Super Netball League player, Rhea Dixon will also join Layton at the Peninsula Waves in 2020 making for an exciting up coming year. After taking a year off Rebecca Colwell is set to make her way back onto the court for the North-East Blaze in Division One with the goaler renowned for her proficiency and accuracy to post taking out the Hot Shot award in 2017 and 2018.

In addition to the VNL fixture there will be a pre-season tournament on February 23 to give teams a chance to iron out any issues prior to the official start of the season. The Casey Demons and Peninsula Waves will do battle with Boroondarra Express and Hawks Netball rounding out the double header at the State Netball and Hockey Centre for Round 1.

You can find the full VNL fixture here.

Is umpire inconsistency causing headaches at international level?

UMPIRING standards in netball have been brought to the forefront of media contention over the last few weeks, not for the first time in 2019 – and with the standard of the sport itself growing every year, it is clear why.

With so much questioned regarding fairness in sports these days, whether it be from media outlets, fans or players themselves it only seems appropriate that those officiating the sport deal with much of the slack. What many seem to forget is that where human officiation is necessary, human error can occur. And what we are starting to see in netball is that when this error occurs, many are beginning to openly question the ability and bias of an umpire towards the match in question.

With the use of a Victorian-based umpiring Facebook group, Twitter and the website SurveyMonkey, throughout October I conducted an online survey entitled ‘International Umpire Standards’, enquiring into the anonymous opinions of predominantly Australian umpires on the quality of umpiring standards over the past year and specifically focusing on the standards of Australia’s premier netball competition, Suncorp Super Netball, the 2019 Netball World Cup and the 2019 Constellation Cup between Australia and New Zealand.

The intention of this survey was to find out the current general consensus of umpires across a range of badges from around the state and open dialogue surrounding umpiring standards. Additionally, I wanted to find out their opinions regarding these competitions and how the umpiring standards compared, as well as how these applicants think the quality of umpiring can improve. Furthermore, it looked into the pros and cons of hypothetical rule changes that could improve accuracy, namely the most contentious suggestions being thrown around across the media – the addition of an extra umpire, the adaptation of umpiring zones on court and umpire review panels.

In Australia there is a clear and concise structure for umpiring accreditation, with letter grades or ‘badges’ used to differentiate levels. The lowest badge is ‘C’, with umpires needing to reach a certain understanding of the rules and practical application to progress further to ‘B’, ‘A’ and All Australian (AA). Following AA is the highest on-court umpiring accomplishment, the International Umpires Award (IUA).

At the time of writing there were 89 applicants, with a majority being ‘C’ and ‘B’ badged umpires combining for almost 75 per cent of results. ‘A’ badge sat at five applicants and ‘AA’ at one, while 16 were unbadged and one applicant chose to opt out of specifying.

Adding an extra umpire seems to be both the most suggested and scrutinised of the proposed rule changes, with a whopping 64 per cent of those surveyed disagreeing with the suggestion of an additional umpire on/around a netball court.

For many, it seems the size of the court itself only warrants two umpires, while others stated that there is enough inconsistency between two umpires that adding a third would not help the case. A number of applicants suggested that a third umpire would blur the boundaries of umpire zones further, negatively impacting the match and not adding any value to the calls already being made.

However, almost 60 per cent of applicants agreed with the question ‘do you think there is a way umpiring can be improved to be more accurate?’, with better training and pathway standards at grassroots one of the most common suggestions, while many suggest that further professionalism of umpires is required to achieve higher standards.

One of the more noticeable results on the survey regarded the quality of officiation in the Netball World Cup and Constellation Cup – both competitions where countries were unable to have umpires on court from their respective nations. While this is not a major issue for many countries, it does seem to play a significant role in how matches between higher ranking nations play out.

The Netball World Cup and Constellation Cup this year have been some of the more heavily criticised competitions in recent memory. The World Cup saw umpires from across the globe cover matches across two weeks of competition, unable to umpire their home nation in the process and ultimately seeing countries like Australia, New Zealand and England suffer for it with penalty counts well above the norm for their level. Similarly, lower-ranked nations found themselves struggling under the pressure of higher level umpires than they were used to, especially when attempting to match top sides, collecting warnings and cautions left, right and centre, unable to compete. For the Netball World Cup portion of the survey the results varied, with over 50 per cent stating the quality of umpiring met expectations, though many commented that matches umpired by lower ranked nations were of a lower quality than those from leading countries.

The key finding of the survey results saw over 55 per cent of applicants elect ‘below expectations’ for the Constellation Cup, which saw four test matches played between Australia and New Zealand across a period of three weeks. With Australian and New Zealand umpires unable to take the court for fear of bias, the four matches saw what many perceived as questionable calls and interpretations of rules, while others complained of ‘over-umpiring’. There were many questions about the interpretation of rules and overall standard of play left after calls were made so frequently during the Constellation Cup, with Silver Ferns coach, Noeline Taurua speaking out about the umpiring quality when the Ferns collected 66 penalties in the final match after picking up an average of 42 across the first three matches.

For comparison, 31 per cent of umpires said that Suncorp Super Netball exceeded expectations, while a further 64 per cent stated that it met their expectations, suggesting that the high quality and consistency of Australian umpires is something that has come to be expected and relished in netball.

Like any sport, consistency across accreditation can differ depending on the association, local standard and umpire supervision. However, with premier netball competitions in Australia such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and its statewide feeder competitions, umpires are given as much an opportunity as players to progress their skills thanks to the match standard and umpire supervision across the country. While badging is one of the key ways to maintain relative consistency across the country and indeed the world, many other countries do not necessarily have the same standards in place, though the same final outcome is awarded – IUA – for jumping the final hurdle.

Australia, New Zealand, and to an extent England, currently lead the sport in umpiring and umpire development, with all three countries having high quality officiators due to the equally high quality of players and teams taking the court. What seems to be the most contested issue at this time is that, similar to how graded umpires can differ from association to association, umpires of the same international accreditation can differ thanks to their country of origin and standard of competition. Therefore meaning countries with a high standard of domestic competition such as those aforementioned tend to have higher quality umpires than a number of other netball-competing countries.

While every game or indeed, umpire, may have its faults, the umpires from these leading countries tend to form the highest standard thanks to the quality of netball they have available to officiate week in and week out. However with this standard comes a different issue, with lower-ranked countries and their equally badged counterparts not always able to keep up with the quality many spectators and players have come to expect.

The main problems that seem to pop up during international competitions are a) the standards of international umpires, and b) the perceived bias of national/domestic umpires, disallowing them from umpiring their own country – and therefore robbing the country’s representative teams from reaping the rewards of the best umpires available.

At the end of the day, umpires are on the court to ensure a safe and fair game is played for all involved, and not intended to change a game’s outcomes with their decision making – or as we have come to see in netball, often lack thereof.

While this commentary – and indeed the survey conducted – offers plenty of questions and suggestions to improve the quality of umpiring, something begs the question; is it possible for umpiring to be improved to be at a standard spectators, players and umpires alike can agree on? When does match fairness become a question of an umpire’s ability rather than simple human error? Only time will tell.

Finally, in the wise words of one of my own umpire supervisors, ‘just let them play!’

Magpies and Wasps to battle Kiwis in Super Club tournament

COLLINGWOOD Magpies and Wasps Netball will join New Zealand’s six ANZ Premiership sides to contest the 2019 Super Club tournament in December.

Held from December 8-13 in Nelson, the competition features 20 games played over six days at the Trafalgar Centre, with a Grand Final between the two best sides taking place on Friday, December 13. In previous years, the Super Club tournament has featured a two-point shooting zone, but that has been removed for the 2019 edition in order to assist Silver Ferns selectors with international preparations. The quarters have been reduced from 15 minutes down to 12 to “allow for the early season timing” of the tournament.

This year will be the third time the Super Club tournament has been run, with the two international club sides looking to break New Zealand’s stranglehold over the tournament. In the first tournament in 2017, Southern Steel took out the title with a 21-goal win over Northern Mystics, while in 2018, Central Pulse improved on their third placed finish from the year before to down Mainland Tactix by five goals in the decider. New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS), South Africa’s Gauteng Jaguars and a hybrid Fijian/Samoan side of Marama Vou are three sides who had previously competed in both tournaments.

The 2019 event also marks the first time all six New Zealand sides will compete in the Super Club, and be hoping to ensure the title remains in the nation, though face stiff competition from Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) grand finalists, Wasps Netball and Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) finalist, Collingwood.

Emma Ryde Casey Demons 2019

Emma Ryde’s wild journey

IT has been a massive year for goal shooter Emma Ryde, who has found herself returning to netball in 2019 and providing a massive target in the goal circle for every team she has taken the court with. While a relatively well known name in the netball community thanks to her stature in the circle and accuracy to post, Ryde is still only 22 years old and has plenty to prove in her netball career – and though it is still only August, Ryde says it has been a big year after taking a break from high performance leagues with injury in 2018.

“It has definitely been a crazy year. I definitely didn’t think that I would be playing Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) this year at all so that’s been one crazy thing. I was even contemplating whether I was going to play Australian Netball League (ANL). Things have definitely gone not the way I would have thought but it has been a pretty awesome journey and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”

While injury threw a spanner in the works last year, Ryde says taking opportunities in 2019 has been a real focus while also keeping on top of post-match recovery to ensure she can continue her reign in goal shooter.

“Last year I was injured and this year I kind of wanted to maybe focus on the one team and have a really good solid season at Victorian Netball League (VNL) with the Casey Demons … hopefully make a grand final and just focus on that one thing. But I am definitely glad now that I chose to take all of my opportunities,” Ryde said. “I think having all of last year off really put me in – I don’t want to say good stead because it was really crap getting injured – but it really has been kind of a blessing in disguise, you could say.”

“This year I have really focused on getting everything right, like recovery outside of netball. When I need a break I ask for a break, I am trying my best to do all the things outside to help recovery.”

Ryde honed her craft in the Victorian netball pathways as a junior and has continued to do so in 2019. An ANL premiership appearance for Victorian Fury saw Ryde showcase her ability to shoot her team to glory, while also juggling a starting position for Casey Demons in the VNL in its inaugural season – with another grand final appearance against Geelong Cougars last week.

While Casey lost in their inaugural grand final appearance, Fury got a big win on the board, coming from behind against NSW Waratahs.

“I think all the girls were quite nervous but once we got on court we knew what we had to do and got the job done. So it was really exciting and I hadn’t won a grand final in a while so I really, really loved the experience. It was great to be a part of that team together.”

The 1.97m goal shooter has impressed in her comeback to netball in 2019, earning a Most Valuable Player award for her efforts in the ANL and shooting 46 goals from 53 attempts in the grand final alone.

“I obviously didn’t think that I would win the MVP. I think there were some games where I thought I played quite well but there were other games where I was like ‘that was a bit of a shocking game’. I think it helps that I had such an awesome team around me, the girls just kept working and working to get me the ball,” Ryde said.

“It’s credit to the team for getting me the ball but I really enjoyed the season with the girls. I think that, that also made me enjoy playing netball again, so it was a great opportunity to play ANL.”

Among these achievements, Ryde has recently worked her way back into the Suncorp Super Netball as a replacement player, albeit in a non-Victorian team, taking the court for Adelaide Thunderbirds.

“I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity that I have been given and I think that I have grabbed it with both hands and made the best of the chances that I’ve got,” she said. “The girls have been great, I have been so welcomed into the group and everyone has been really great. Obviously being able to work with Maria Folau – she just has a wealth of knowledge and helped me easily join the team.”

While Ryde is familiar with the level of competition after taking the court with Melbourne Vixens on occasion over the past few years, she said it was good having some familiar faces at the Thunderbirds in her first opportunity interstate, especially with the leap in intensity.

“Each level you go up the intensity just goes up a notch. VNL maybe you train once a week to twice a week. Then you go to ANL and you’re training three times a week and then you go to SSN and you’re training four to five times a week. So they are all quite different in the training loads but the higher you go the intensity is definitely on another level,” Ryde said.

“Tania (Obst, Head Coach of Adelaide Thunderbirds) was my Under 21s coach. It’s been good that I know people there and am not going in by myself. The environment has been really welcoming and I have really enjoyed being with the team.”

Ryde suffered a hyperextension of the knee in Round 13 of SSN against the GIANTS and while 2019 has seen her only come in as a replacement player since the Netball World Cup break, she hopes her efforts this season has helped her chances for making it as a regular next season.

“Hopefully this year I kind of put myself out there again and proved to some people that I’m capable to come up against Australia’s and all around the world’s best defenders. So I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

“I played Collingwood … playing against Geva (Mentor). Geva is just the ultimate competitor and she’s just awesome, I think she is someone who is really hard to play against. It was a good tussle and there was a lot to learn playing against her and playing against anyone. So yeah Geva is quite the defender. I just think her work rate, her ethic, the way she goes about her netball game is just awesome.”

Over the past 18 months Ryde has combined her passion for netball with a matter close to home, taking on an assistant coaching role with the Victorian All Abilities program.

“It’s awesome. I never saw myself much as a coach but I have a sister with a disability and that kind of hits close to home. I got asked last year if I wanted to get involved and I put an application in, I couldn’t resist,” Ryde said.

“Last year I got the opportunity to be the assistant coach and again this year I’ve been given the opportunity and it’s awesome and I love it. All the girls are awesome to be around, they all just want to be there and that’s the main thing, they just want to be there and have fun and get out there and play netball.”

All Abilities netball programs are still growing around Australia, but Ryde says Netball Victoria have been great in trying to elevate the Victorian program to be a more high performance environment.

“I guess that’s what they wanted my input to be in the team, because I have been in a high elite netball environment. We train once every fortnight and then we will have a full on two hour hard intense training session,” she said. “I think they are really trying to push to get more people involved and get the word out there about the All Abilities program.”

While Ryde has had an impressive year both on and off the court, she says she still has elements of her game she would like to improve on.

“A definite strength is obviously my height – leaping and a good arm, strong target. Obviously being tall and always being an option in the goal ring to turn and shoot the goals, she said.

“I guess my weakness is my confidence sometimes. You can tell when I’m confident and when I’m not confident, I’ll take a longer shot if I’m feeling confident but if I don’t shoot a longer shot that’s when you know I’m off and my confidence must be down. So yeah I’ve got to believe in myself all the time and just getting that confidence all the time.”

Casey Demons’ pathway to finals

Victorian Netball League Awards

WITH the Victorian Netball League (VNL) season officially over there were plenty of award winners across all three divisions, along with a Team of the Year announced for the 19 and Under, Division One and Championship leagues.

19 and Under

Jasmine Mackie claimed the 19 and Under Hot Shot award for her efforts throughout the season. Mackie left her mark on the competition with her scoring ability on full display for the Peninsula Waves while Ellen Doyle took home the MVP for the same age group. Doyle was instrumental in the Geelong Cougars line-up with her accuracy to post and slick movement in the circle while her versatility across the court also impressed. She switched between defence and attack seamlessly, bringing down errant passes and propelling the ball back down the court. both Doyle and Mackie made their way into the Team of the Year credit to their impressive form and skill across the court.

19&U Team of the Year:

Shooters:
Ellen Doyle-Geelong Cougars
Jasmine Mackie- Peninsula Waves
Georgia Moody- Southern Saints
Daisy O’Kane-City West Falcons

Midcourt:
Emma Allman- Boroondara Express
Keara Fitzgerald- North East Blaze
Sienna Kelly- Peninsula Waves
Emma Walters- City West Falcons

Defenders:
Ashlee Barnett- Peninsula Waves
Anna Donnelly- Southern Saints
Melissa Oloamanu- City West Falcons
Sophie Shoebridge- Geelong Cougars

Division 1

After a dominant first season in the VNL, Abigail Gedge claimed the Division One Hot Shot Award. She finished the season with a whopping 564 goals at 88 per cent and was a lynchpin in North-East Blaze’s attack end, holding strong and backing herself to post. Boroondara Express midcourter Maddy Wallmeyer won the MVP award for her impressive skill and dynamic movement across the court. She proved to be an integral player for Express throughout their finals campaign with her ability to hit the circle edge with pace and precision while delivering pinpoint passes into the goalers. They were among 12 players named in the Division One Team of the Year.

Division One Team of the Year:

Shooters:
Ruby Barkmeyer- Boroondara Express
Georgie Cuthbertson- Geelong Cougars
Abigail Gedge- North East Blaze
Daisy Hill- Hawks Netball

Midcourt:
Samantha Coppinger- North East Blaze
Jasmine Ferguson- Hawks Netball
Georgia Finn- Geelong Cougars
Maddy Wallmeyer- Boroondara Express

Defenders:
Laura Giles- Geelong Cougars
Nakita Singe- North East Blaze
Tegan Stephenson- Boroondara Express
Ruby Tidd- North East Blaze

Championship

Libby Nicol notched up her third consecutive Hot Shot award, steering the ship for North East Blaze with her ability to control the tempo of the game in the attacking third. She was the key for Blaze in attack with her dynamic movement, strength, volume and sheer accuracy backing herself time and time again. She finished with a staggering 835 goals at 90 per cent highlighting her skill and rhythm in the goal circle. After an impressive finals performance and stellar 2019 season Julia Woolley was named the Championship MVP to cap off an already successful year. Woolley won the grand final with the Geelong Cougars showcasing her experience, skill and class both under the post and across the court.

Championship Team of the Year:

Shooters:
Libby Nicol- North East Blaze
Julia Woolley- Geelong Cougars
Emma Ryde- Casey Demons
Tahnysha Salanoa- City West Falcons

Midcourt:
Molly Jovic- City West Falcons
Maggie Lind- City West Falcons
Elle McDonald-North East Blaze
Kaitlyn Sheringham- Geelong Cougars

Defenders:
Brooke Allan-Geelong Cougars
Kaitlyn Black- North East Blaze
Stephanie McNay- Southern Saints
Jacqui Newton- City West Falcons