Category: What If?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if … the Constellation Cup is cancelled?

THE Constellation Cup has become a permanent fixture in the international netball calendar with Australia and New Zealand putting themselves to the test and often trying out new combinations to discover some type of competitive edge. With dates for Constellation Cup confirmed for mid October international netball is in sight, giving fans plenty to be excited about. It will be the first time that Australia and New Zealand have gone head to head since last year where the Diamonds restored their winning ways claiming their seventh Constellation Cup. In that time both countries have seen some key players retire with the likes of Maria Folau for the Ferns and Caitlin Thwaites for Australia both hanging up the dress, leaving some big holes in the respective squads. While the thought of international netball looms it is all dependent on the spread and safety precautions which must be taken given the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

So what if the Constellation Cup was cancelled? 

With Australia in the middle of somewhat of a rebuild after two heartbreaking one goal losses in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2019 Netball World Cup, a lack of international netball could have a severe impact on the development of their next generation players. With Thwaites, retiring the opportunity for a new goaler is in the mix with a host of young talent such as Cara Koenen and Sophie Garbin both putting their hand up as viable options last year with their accuracy to post and clever movement. The midcourt could also have a different look for the Diamonds with Ash Brazill unlikely to pull on the green and gold due to a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury at the start of the year leaving a chance for the likes of Kate Moloney or Gabi Simpson. Similarly the same goes for New Zealand with the Ferns on the search for Folau’s replacement whether it be shooting prodigy Grace Nweke, Maia Wilson or Aliyah Dunn. The Ferns could also be without Bailey Mes who was ruled out of the ANZ Premiership season with a patella injury, creating another possibility for a young player to take the court. With key players missing from both sides respectively the Constellation Cup would be an ideal platform for both teams to test out new combinations and allow up and comers to join the ranks. However if both nations are unable to get on court in an international setting the next time they step out on court could be in the Nations Cup when they will be faced with the likes of England, Jamaica or South Africa. 

The ramifications do not stop there though, with Australia still on the hunt for a coach with Lisa Alexander no longer in charge of the Diamonds. With no coach at the helm the Diamonds future is still relatively up in the air, something they will be hoping to get on top of in the coming months and test out at the Constellation Cup. The tournament will provide the Diamonds with a chance to test out new combinations, coaching styles and ultimately act as a trial run for the upcoming Nations Cup. 

If cancelled due to travel restrictions it also throws up the possibility of not seeing some household netball names take the court again. Both teams have a couple of players heading towards the latter stage of their career in particular New Zealand with the likes of Laura Langman and Katrina Rore. While in no means are we hoping for them to retire from international netball given their undeniable explosiveness, skill and sheer presence, retirement is inevitable in every netballers career. Langman is 34 while Rore hit the 33 mark this year and if international netball comes to a halt in 2020 there is a slight chance netball fans may have already seen the back of them. 

Travel is a key part of the Constellation Cup with games played both in Australia and New Zealand, however if restrictions remain in place the competition will not be able to go ahead and subsequently have a huge impact on the world of international netball.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if… Suncorp Super Netball had extended benches in 2020?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) start date being announced as August 1 the teams are eager to get back out on court and perform. With plenty of preparation time on their hands each team is working on perfecting their connections across the court. However, the Australian Netball League (ANL) season has been cancelled for 2020 because of the financial impact COVID-19 has had on the sport, meaning that if injuries were to occur in SSN teams it could be difficult to find replacements. Committed to playing a full 60 game season, some teams could be in dire straits if they cannot access top-up players. 2019 was filled with a wealth of injuries throughout the season with many people hinting at an increased workload a potential reason for the increased injuries.

But what if the SSN had extended benches for the 2020 season?

An extended bench would allow flexibility for the clubs and more importantly help to look after the welfare of the players. While there is no denying that each team will be constantly hoping to put out their best and strongest team each time they take the court, having more players on the bench will help to alleviate the pressure on some of the starting seven and give them a break. Currently there are three players on the bench but an increased bench load could help the players in terms of management and also allow more netballers to get exposure to the major league.

With so many international netballers already gracing the courts of the Suncorp Super Netball, extended benches could allow for more to join to further strengthen the competition and develop players. With the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) not running due to COVID-19 some clubs could be tempted to look beyond the borders and pick up international stars to join their squad to fill their needs whether it be in defence, midcourt or in attack. There is no shortage of options and all-star prospects with the likes of English Roses Rachel Dunn, Jade Clarke, Fran Williams and a host of others all hopeful possibilities if SSN extended their bench. Although the ANZ Premiership season is running, by the time SSN begins it will be towards the tail end of the competition and could see players join the Australian league much like Katrina Rore and Kayla Cullen did last year.

With ANL also not running it could be a great time to increase the bench to encourage the continued development of the young up and coming prospects in Australian netball. Each club in the SSN has an affiliation to an ANL team meaning they could draw potential players from the lower league into the SSN and give them exposure to the more fast paced, dynamic and world renowned netball competition. After spending a fair bit of time playing in the ANL Cara Koenen, blossomed into a commanding goaler with her silky movement and calm temperament for the Sunshine Coast Lightning. Similarly, Mel Bragg got the call up to the Magpies line-up this year along with the likes of Tayla Fraser to the Swifts, proving that further exposure to SSN pressure works wonders for developing players.

What if… the international players were not allowed to return to SSN?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) hopeful to return in the coming months, star players from across the globe are slowly making their way back to Australia and their respective teams ahead of the impending season. The Adelaide Thunderbirds will welcome back three of their stars with Lenize Potgieter and Shadine van der Merwe returning from South Africa while Layla Guscoth is set to make the journey from England. Phumza Maweni will re-join the Sunshine Coast Lighting while Nat Haythornthwaite will make her way back to the New South Wales Swifts. Each player, plays an integral role for their respective side often forming the crux of the squad, providing that element of experience and class across the court.

But what if they were not allowed to re-enter the competition? How would that effect each club and the overall competition?

The Adelaide Thunderbirds would have been hit the hardest if Potgieter, van der Merwe and Guscoth were all not able to re-join the squad with each of them expected to earn a starting spot. While Guscoth missed the second half of last season due to an Achilles injury the talented defender will be eager to get back out on court and prove her worth. The lanky goal defence oozes class, understanding and a sense of calmness down back able to call the shots and apply pressure over the shot. With Maria Folau retiring last year and Sasha Glasgow out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the goal shooter position all but falls to Potgieter. The South African is a sure shot under the post able to find space with ease and most importantly convert with ease. She is quick and unconventional on the shot and puts up a high volume of goals making her the go-to for any team. The final piece of the puzzle is van der Merwe with the versatile defender able to seamlessly transition from wing defence to goal defence when needed. Her defensive pressure, quick footwork and tagging style of defence makes her another key cog for the Thunderbirds. While Adelaide have a wealth of options without these international stars they could have been facing a very difficult year unable to generate scoring power and defensive pressure.

Maweni’s combination with South African and Lightning teammate Karla Pretorius is simply unstoppable when on song. The two work seamlessly together able to rotate through the defensive circle with ease and use their three-foot marking to create doubt in the goalers mind. The Spar Proteas goal keeper is light on her feet able to read the play and go out hunting for the intercept something that the Lightning would be missing from their line-up which is renowned for stimulating turnover ball. Without Maweni the Lightning would be lacking that extra layer of class and connection with Pretorius given the two work like clockwork.

Although the NSW Swifts have a wealth of depth on the bench with the likes of Tayla Fraser, Paige Hadley, Sophie Craig and the inevitable return of captain Maddy Proud the absence of Haythornthwaite would be sorely missed. The England Roses wing attack sees the game in a way no one else can delivering pin point passes into the likes of Sam Wallace and Helen Housby. She is nimble on her feet able to dart around the attacking third and hold strong on the circle edge while her ability to switch into goal attack adds another string to her bow. If Haythornthwaite was not able to return to the Swifts they would lose that versatility and composing presence in the attacking third.

What if … the 2019 season was not riddled by ACL injuries?

2019 PROVED to be the year of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries with a staggering amount of players succumbing to the injury and bringing their season to an abrupt end. With players forced to the sidelines, clubs had to find injury replacements and look to various other leagues such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and ANZ Premiership to find someone to fill the void of their injured stars. Four out of the eight teams in Suncorp Super Netball got through the season unscathed when it comes to ACL related injuries.

But what if there were not as many ACL injuries? Would the Suncorp Super Netball ladder have looked different?

The Adelaide Thunderbirds were hit pretty hard with English international Beth Cobden struck down early in the season. With a relatively inexperienced line-up and new connections forming across the court it was hard to replace the high calibre player who oozed composure and versatility. Ruled out for the remainder of the season, the Thunderbirds missed her ability to stand up under pressure and think her way through the tricky passages of play. But unfortunately, the injuries did not stop there with youngster and shooting sensation Sasha Glasgow going down in Round 13 with an ACL injury of her own. Prior to that, the 21-year-old showcased her dominance under the post with her strong holds, accuracy to post and rangy shooting abilities. These two key injuries ultimately had an adverse effect on the Thunderbirds’ ability to compete consistently and at the highest level possible.

Despite making it to the finals, 2019 was a season of what ifs for the Magpies and one littered with injuries. Co-captain Madi Browne ruptured her ACL in the pre-season Team Girls Cup and failed to take the court throughout the season and it is fair to say that her presence was well and truly missed out on her court. Her slick ball movement, spatial awareness and dynamism makes her hard to stop when on song. Towards the tail end of the season sister, Kelsey Browne also fell victim to the ACL curse, ruling her out for the remainder of the season and putting a dampener on their finals hopes. It was clear that the connection both Browne sisters had with their goalers and fellow midcourters was lacking despite recruiting the services of Kimiora Poi to help fill the void.

Overall, it was a difficult season for the Firebirds, only winning a handful of games throughout the year and also riddled with injuries. In Round 5 Mahalia Cassidy’s season was cut short with the talented midcourter suffering her second ACL injury. Her speed and endurance was missed across the court with the fancy footed centre court player able to exploit any bit of space and deliver the ball into the goalers. Cassidy’s absence had an impact on the Firebirds’ drive through the middle and reliability with the centre known for her consistent and strong defence.

While the NSW Swifts went on to win the coveted 2019 SSN premiership it was without their inspirational captain Maddy Proud who did her ACL midway through the year. Proud was arguably in career best form with the midcourter consistently showcasing her strength around the circle edge and quick hands. The Swifts showed plenty of grit and determination throughout the season but with recruits like Kayla Cullen and Katrina Rore both plying their trade for the club it put them in good stead to come out on top. The versatility through the midcourt added an extra element of class to the already strong and well-connected Swifts outfit.

If the Thunderbirds were given a clear run at the competition free from injury they could have potentially registered more wins, while Collingwood could have gone further into the finals series given their midcourt depth and versatility. While the Firebirds struggled to generate wins, the option to bring Cassidy on could have given them that extra element of unpredictability to their starting line-up. Although the Swifts reaped in the rewards it would have been interesting to see how they competed with the likes of Proud amongst the mix for a whole season.

What if … Katrina Rore did not join the Swifts?

THE 2019 season of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) was a drought breaking and historic year for the New South Wales Swifts winning their inaugural SSN premiership but it was not without their fair share of challenges.

The Swifts were dealt plenty of injury blows throughout the season with England Roses wing attack and part time shooter Natalie Haythornthwaite sidelined for a large portion of the season, fellow Roses representative Helen Housby forced to the bench with a leg injury and Kate Eddy dealt a season ending ankle injury. But the biggest blow of them all was that to inspirational leader and captain Maddy Proud with the dynamo centre rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) midway through the season.

Bruised and battered the Swifts reverted to their up and coming stocks with the likes of Tayla Fraser and Elle Bennetts taking to the court to bolster their line-up. Former Silver Ferns, defender Kayla Cullen also made a brief appearance in the blue, red and white but was just a temporary replacement. While they offered fresh legs and a new perspective on the game the biggest coup of them all was the acquisition of Katrina Rore. Fresh off a premiership with the Central Pulse in the ANZ Premiership, Rore added that extra touch of class around the court while also boasting versatility to move between circle defence and wing defence.

What if Rore did not join the NSW Swifts? Would they have won the premiership?

Although the Swifts were littered with stars, Rore’s influence down in defence was unquestionable with the steady head and experience defender a commanding presence. Her ability to read the play, stand up in the big moments and do the unthinkable is what made her such an influential presence throughout her time in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). Rore’s long arms, deceptive speed and high netball IQ played a pivotal role in shutting down opposition attacks.

While she spent the majority of her time out in wing defence, a position she has quickly made her own, her seamless transition into circle defence was something the Swifts made the most out of. Her presence in the goal circle with her lean over the shot, body-on-body physicality and quick feet to manoeuvre around the body created doubt in feeders minds. She was quickly able to adapt to the game play of fellow defenders Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau while the likes of Sophie Craig also had important cameos. Rore has an uncanny tact to go out and hunt the ball, using her impressive timing, long limbs and cleanliness to stop the ball from entering the attacking third with ease while also using her attacking mindset to propel the ball back down the court.

Rore had a game changing impact on the Swifts defensive line-up offering that calming sense down back when things got frantic and pulling out the unthinkable to keep her side afloat. Her experience and netball nous helped to guide the Swifts to victory even when she had a quiet day out on the court. While New South Wales had a solid team with a host of stars in their own right it is fair to say that she was the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle that got them over the line.

Would NSW Swifts have still won the 2019 SSN title without Katrina Rore?
Yes
No
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