Tag: bailey mes

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Mystics maintain their winning streak in third round clash

IN a fairly predictable result for both teams, the Mystics remained unbeaten in Season 2020 while the Steel are still on the hunt for their first win of the year. Steel came in carrying the weight of a string of difficult losses and never quite managed to shake off that burden. In contrast, the Mystics, with their young and fiery shooting line-up, produced a full-court performance led by experienced defensive duo captain Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick, setting themselves up nicely for some tough tests coming up.

The Mystics were brimming with confidence at the start of the game and despite being without Bailey Mes they have proven their worth in the competition so far and earned a decent reputation. The tall timber of Grace Nweke is such an asset for them, and she came into the game fresh after shooting 41 from 45 last week. Tayla Earle was up against the experienced World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders, who has over one hundred more national league appearances than the youngster.

The Steel got off to a shaky start and it seemed that Jennifer O’Connell lacked confidence in the shooting circle, which had a ripple effect on the team. A couple of early turnovers gave the Mystics the edge, and the defensive pressure from Karaka and Fitzpatrick set the tone for the game. Kalifa McCollin played excellently in the goal attack position but needed O’Connell to create a stronger target in order to build flow and connections in the attack end. In contrast, the Mystics were fearless in attack, with Peta Toeava’s rapid speed and vision into Nweke giving them the upper hand early.

A couple of turnovers later, the Steel were still struggling to find each other and the Mystics used this to their advantage with their rock-solid defence scooping up plenty of ball. Steel managed to gather momentum towards the second half of the quarter and capitalised on a couple of Mystics errors to go on a five goal run. This comeback showed they had really warmed into the game and they started finding space and options in the middle channel. Mystics let go of a healthy lead allowing the Steel to creep back in with the quarter ending at 13-12 to the Northern side.

In the second quarter, Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin – a bizarre change considering McCollin had been running the show in the Steel attack end. Fitzpatrick took advantage of a couple of sloppy feeds, and the Mystics went on a run, taking the score out to 17-14. Then the momentum swung, and with O’Connell growing in confidence at the post the Steel somehow managed to get back level, partly due to fantastic hustle from wing defence Kate Heffernan.

For the Mystics, Asher Grapes was having trouble finding a good shooting position and was not able to draw the defenders away from Nweke. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita realised Grapes was hesitant to go to post and started to double back on Nweke. This prompted coach Helene Wilson, assisted by Dame Noeline Taurua for this game, to swap in Saviour Tui to provide a different look for the attack end. This had an immediate impact and combined with two timely intercepts from Karaka, gave the Mystics a well-needed lift. There was a turning point in the game, taking the Mystics into half time with a four goal lead.

Steel went into the locker room with just one intercept to the Mystic’s six and were only shooting at 74 per cent. The Mystics were putting on a full-court defensive display, and Emily Burgess was doing an excellent job at keeping Gina Crampton away from good feeding position. Consistency was lacking in places for both teams, and the Steel, in particular, appeared to lose focus at points during the first half.

With McCollin back on at goal attack, the third quarter started well for the Steel, but their rebounding let them down and the Mystics extended to a six-goal lead. Bringing on the youngster Tui was doing wonders for the Mystics attack, and Selby-Rickit was being kept unusually quiet. Tui made a huge difference, as there were now two threatening options in the goal circle for the Steel defenders to choose between. Something was still not quite clicking in the Steel attack end and two held balls on O’Connell’s shot meant the Mystics pulled ahead. The Steel looked a little frustrated and were almost trying too hard. They lacked the composure and the leadership of the Mystics side and this began to show in the scoreline, with the Steel trailing 29–37 at the end of the third quarter.

The Steel came out all guns blazing for the final quarter, with an urgency and intensity that gave fans a sliver of hope they were making a comeback. Through sheer force of will, they pulled it back to within three with eight minutes remaining. This heaped pressure on the young Mystics shooters, but they managed to dig deep and ride the wave, making use of the well-trodden route over the top to Nweke. Unfortunately towards the second half of the quarter the play started to lose fluidity and became scrappy. Mystics were rushing it, possibly already thinking ahead to their next match. The final score of 46 – 42 was a testament to the Steel’s hard work in the final quarter, and they were fortunate to come away with a bonus point. Overall the Steel showed patches of promise but were inconsistent and struggled to make it click. The Mystics gave a standout defensive performance and have found confidence in the young shooting duo of Nweke and Tui.

The Mystics managed to secure 10 rebounds to the Steel’s five, a surprising stat considering they both had the same number of attempts at the post. Low shooting percentage (76 per cent), as well as a high penalty count (51), tells the tale of the game for the Steel. While the Mystics managed the win, they still gave away 19 turnovers, something they will certainly want to improve before their next game.

The Steel will have to pick themselves up again for their second game of the weekend against the Stars, while the Mystics will look forward to an exciting test against the Pulse on Monday.




NORTHERN MYSTICS 13 | 11 | 13 | 9 (46)
SOUTHERN STEEL 12 | 8 | 9 | 13 (42)



GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick


GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

2020 ANZ Premiership Player of the Week: Round 2

EACH week Draft Central will analyse ANZ Premiership player performances from across the round and determine a “Player of the Week” based on gameday performances. A player can be nominated as many times as deemed necessary given their individual performance across the round. 

Missing just the four goals for the game in Round 2 it is no surprise that Grace Nweke took out Player of the Week honours given her sheer dominance under the post. Taking it upon herself to own the goal circle with her strength and commanding figure, Nweke was unfazed by the defensive pressure of Erena Mikaere, Holly Fowler and Georgia Tong instead rising to the challenge each time the Magic tinkered with their line-up. Nweke was clearly the go-to girl shooting the lights out with 41 goals from 45 at 91 per cent, a clear testament to her deadeye accuracy. Despite shouldering the load in the goal circle she did not look overwhelmed, instead composed at the post. 

Her aerial strength was near unstoppable as her hops and clean hands allowed her to reel down every ball that came her way. Her read of the play allowed her slot back into space, hold on the baseline or pop out when needed. Nweke was on fire from the get go, nailing the first four goals of the game before her partner in crime even got a sniff of the goals. Her explosiveness was unmatched, proving too strong on the take and using her split to edge closer to the post. With Bailey Mes missing for the remainder of the season it is hard to believe that Nweke is the most experienced goaler in the side given her youth, but that did not seem to weigh on the mind of the talented goaler who took it all in her stride, absorbing the physicality and double teaming on Friday night. Nweke is the complete package for the Mystics leading that young attacking end and aided by Asher Grapes and Saviour Tui who are both still finding their feet but have the backing of Nweke to go out and ply their trade.  

The goal shooter’s connection with Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle was also formidable in the season return with the midcourters able to easily spot Nweke under the post and delivering the ball with plenty of confidence. Their quick ball release was a credit to Nweke’s clever positioning and speed to catch the defenders off guard, making her such a dominant threat. Her strong early form will send a warning shot to the rest of the competition as the 18-year-old only builds in stature, skill and match fitness as the season goes on. 

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Mystics fly out of blocks on return

THE first match back of the ANZ Premiership since the COVID-19 lockdown did not disappoint, as the Northern Mystics came out with a point to prove and blew the Waikato Bay of Plenty (WBOP) Magic out of the water as they did so. While Magic may have had a more expansive and experienced midcourt, it was Mystics’ young attack line and experienced defence that held down the fort, battering the Magic with their accuracy and impressing with the wealth of talent they possessed on their way to a 47-40 win. 

In what was a messy start for both teams, neither could really find much clean possession with the defensive pressure starting out strong and not really letting up throughout. Mystics got the first four goals on the board and while they had the edge, Magic were not far behind and kept evening up the ledger with the talent at their disposal. Always a threatening figure at the post, young gun Grace Nweke did not disappoint, using her clean hands and strength to hold ground in the circle and take possession with ease. While many speculated about how the Mystics would cope without the experience of level-headed goaler Bailey Mes due to injury, the side flew out of the blocks with all three young goalers taking the court and finding purchase at the post. 

With average passes floating around from both teams, neither the Mystics or Magic were as clean as they wanted to be, though it did mean the defending players were able to propel the ball back down court with ease as the match turned to a more defensive show after the first. A tight first quarter culminated in a close three goal margin heading into the second, with the Mystics leading marginally throughout thanks to Nweke’s dominance and stellar work rate from the likes of Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle who were workhorses through the midcourt. 

The second quarter saw Erena Mikaere come out of her shell and begin adding her own flair to the match, using her clever ball use and instinctive leap to close in on the loose ball and create intercepts. With messy passes dominating the possessions, both teams were able to capitalise on the others’ messiness to create attacking forays, and while the scores drew even throughout the second, at one point sitting on 16 goals apiece, it did not take long for Mystics to stabilise and take out a four goal lead heading into the half time break (22-18). Mystics centre, Earle also put on a show, using her tenacious chase for the ball to open up space for turnovers, and using her clean footwork to stay on side and remain a consistent threat defensively, which provided a crucial balance with Toeava consistent to a t in attack. 

While it was the second term where Magic’s defence really came alive, the third was when the attack took charge and while Kelsey McPhee was not the most accurate, she took her chances to provide a moving option inside the circle rather than a typical holding tall, using her clever connection with Abigail Latu-Meafou to hold up in attack and sink the long bomb. But where McPhee picked up her game, using plenty of backup provided by the ever consistent Sam Winders, the likes of Nweke found plenty of ball as Toeava raced around attack, setting up play and evading her opposition with ease. Meanwhile, defensive efforts from Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick continued to dog every Magic move both inside and outside the circle, finding plenty of the ball as they used their clever rotation and intensity to steal back crucial ball. 

Whitney Souness and Winders used their experience to create plenty of movement through the midcourt as did Ariana Cable-Dixon, and while there were a couple of shuffles the trio was relatively clean and composed up in the contest, using their smooth play to drive in attack and evade the arms of Fitzpatrick and Karaka as they fed into the circle. With plenty of argy bargy and defenders using quick wits and footwork to outplay their opposition, both teams were tight in the final quarter but it was Mystics that found the form to collect their second win of the season, reigning supreme by seven goals (47-40). 

Leading the stats sheet for intercepts were Mikaere and Earle, both racking up four and finding plenty of purchase defensively, while Karaka was not far behind with three intercepts. Nweke was accurate to post with 41 goals from 45 attempts followed by Magic’s shared load in McPhee (26 from 38) and Latu-Meafou (14 from 18), thanks to the equally shard feeding effort from Souness and Cable-Dixon who racked up 20 and 24 feeds respectively. Meanwhile, Toeava dominated on circle edge with 27 assists from 33 feeds, cleanly disposing of the ball to Nweke and using her flair to consistently put the ball into open space. As for penalty count, Mikaere topped the overall tally with 14, a whopping ten more than her next teammates in line, while Toeava collected six to top the Mystics’ sheet, as the side proved much cleaner off the ball. 

Both teams escape playing a second match this round, as Magic takes on Mainland Tactix next Friday while Mystics take on Southern Steel (Saturday) and Pulse (Monday).






GS: Kelsey McPhee
GA: Abigail Latu-Meafou
WA: Whitney Souness
C: Ariana Cable-Dixon
WD: Sam Winders
GD: Holly Fowler
GK: Erena Mikaere


GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

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.

Northern Mystics – what has changed?

THE ANZ Premiership returns this week after an enforced hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The break has done wonders for some teams allowing them to iron out issues and give time for players to focus on recovery. However, some teams return to the competition a little different than how they entered the 2020 season. Draft Central takes a look back at the Round 1 action, 2019 season and what has changed over the last couple of months. 

Coach: Helene Wilson
Captain: Phoenix Karaka
2019 finish: 6th


The Mystics kicked off their 2020 season in style with a narrow five goal win over 2019 grand finalists Northern Stars in Round 1 and while it has been a while between drinks expect them to bring that intensity and hunger again. The strong showing would have provided them with plenty of confidence heading into the season, knowing they can compete with a quality opponent and most importantly win. Last year was a relatively inconsistent season for the Mystics, unable to string together high quality performances, something they will be hoping to change for the remainder of 2020.  


A lot has changed for the Northern Mystics since the opening round of action back in March. While Silver Ferns goaler Bailey Mes did not play in the first round there was hope that the experienced and talented shooter would take the court some time later in the season. However those hopes were quickly dashed with the shooter ruled out for the remainder of the season due to an ongoing patella injury. It will be a huge loss for the Mystics who were clearly building a strong attacking unit headlined by youngster Grace Nweke and the experience of Mes. But Mes’ absence makes the way for fellow up and comer Asher Grapes who was a training partner with the club and has since earned herself a permanent position with the Mystics. 

Looking ahead: 

With a change up to the attacking unit it may take some time for all the pieces to come together but they showed in Round 1 that they have the ability to do so. It may take some time for Grapes to fully adapt to the ANZ Premiership level of play but clearly has the scoring prowess and netball smarts to stand up to the challenge. Alongside Grapes and Nweke is another youngster in Saviour Tui meaning the defensive end and midcourt will have to work in overdrive to provide that sense of stability for the inexperienced shooting circle. 

Key player:

In her first season back at the club, tenacious goal keeper Sulu Fitzpatrick will be keen to assert herself on the competition and prove her worth at her new club. Coming off a premiership with the Pulse last season, Fitzpatrick had a clear impact in Round 1 but will have to maintain that defensive intent if the Mystics are to continue their winning ways and improve on last season. Her ability to find the ball and create turnovers is second to none, constantly on the prowl and using her physicality to get inside the head of her opposition.   

Memorable Matches: Sunshine Girls defeat Silver Ferns – 2018 Comm Games

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is Jamaica’s bronze medal win over New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, after missing out on the gold medal match by the slimmest of margins. 

It was a period of rebuilding for New Zealand, and this loss almost felt like the tail on the end of years of frustration for the nation, which had never failed to make a final before, let alone miss out on a medal overall. But for Jamaica, this was the culmination of years of edging closer to the title, and while it was the nation’s third bronze medal it was the first Commonwealth Games win against the Ferns, proving the Sunshine Girls could push any team to its limit on their day.

The two sides battled mercilessly throughout, with neither really able to snatch onto momentum for the full match. There was arguably a scoring end with majority of both teams’ scoreboard impact hitting in alternating quarters, with Jamaica dominating the first and third, drawing out a strong lead on both occasions, while New Zealand fought back during the second and fourth quarters to no avail. With quality shooting targets up opposing ends with the likes of Maria Folau, Jhaniele Fowler and Romelda Aiken finding plenty of the ball, the Jamaicans were a fraction cleaner. Khadijah Williams (20 assists from 31 feeds) zipped around as she does best, with the wing attack using her quick footwork to out-position the likes of Sam Winders and Claire Kersten and open up space for both Shanice Beckford (15 goals, 16 assists) and Adean Thomas. While Ferns goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau was more than up for the challenge lining up on Fowler and Aiken respectively, it was her penalty count that got the Ferns in trouble, racking up 24 penalties (18 contacts) in her 49 minutes on court. Katrina Rore’s respective cleanliness could not make up the numbers, with the usually tenacious defender failing to have her usual impact.

It was inaccuracy that plagued the Ferns throughout, unable to be their typical cool, calm and collected selves under the post thanks to the phenomenal defensive effort from the Sunshine girls. While Jamaica’s shooting was not at 100 per cent either, the side was far cleaner with the ball in the attack and more careful with the shot where New Zealand wasted attempts from further out than they wanted. Young gun Shamera Sterling was well up to the task in defence for the Sunshine Girls, and was still really an unknown quantity, able to cherry pick the ball with ease and slow down the Ferns’ speedy frontline. Despite Sterling’s dominance, Folau still managed to rack up 34 goals but ultimately was unable to hold up the attack end on her own as both Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio failed to make a real threatening impact on the match, both sitting in the 60s for goal accuracy. Grace Kara was electric around the circle, and while she only assisted 24 goals from her 40 feeds into the circle, she provided a consistent effort on the edge to keep Jodi-Ann Ward busy and cause some confusion for defenders. Meanwhile Vangelee Williams started out in wing defence but rotated back to goal defence after the first, adding another element to the defensive circle and certainly a more robust defender at the post. Williams and Sterling combined for 14 gains between them and while five of those were rebounds, it was their positioning and constant pressure that allowed the duo to find that front space to find the loose ball.

While the Ferns sported a high class team, their experience was outweighed by Jamaica’s tried and true connections down the court, firing on all cylinders and using their flair to rack up the deflections and intercepts. While both teams had highly talented defensive attributes, Jamaica collected more gains (21 versus 17) and 13 more deflections than the Ferns. While not all the deflections resulted in gains, every time the Sunshine Girls got hands to ball they put more doubt in the Ferns’ minds, not looking back as they dominated defensively. With two highly strung teams pushing to prove something, all signs of cleanliness went out the window. Both teams racked up over 70 penalties apiece, something almost unheard of especially on the international stage, combining for a whopping 147 penalties throughout.

NEW ZEALAND 11 | 16 | 12 | 16 (55)
JAMAICA 15 | 14 | 17 | 14 (60)

New Zealand

GS: Bailey Mes
GA: Maria Folau
WA: Grace Kara
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Sam Winders
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

BENCH: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Kelly Jury, Claire Kersten, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
COACH: Janine Southby


GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Shanice Beckford
WA: Khadijah Williams
C: Adean Thomas
WD: Vangelee Williams
GD: Stacian Facey
GK: Shamera Sterling

BENCH: Romelda Aiken, Nicole Dixon, Rebekah Robinson, Paula Thompson, Jodi-Ann Ward
COACH: Sasher Henry



Maria Folau 34/44
Bailey Mes 12/20
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 9/13


Romelda Aiken 24/31
Jhaniele Fowler 21/22
Shanice Beckford 15/18

Up and coming players in the ANZ Premiership: Part 1

WITH the ANZ Premiership set to commence on June 19, netball fans around the world are gearing up for another eventful season. With Round 1 wins going to the reigning premiers Central Pulse along with the Northern Mystics and Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic expect the likes of Tactix, Stars and Steel to come out with a real fire in the belly. We take a look at one up and coming player from the first three teams and the potential impact they could have throughout the season if given more court time.

Northern Mystics: Grace Nweke

The young goal shooter will be hoping to leave an even bigger mark on the competition and continue her strong form. After gaining some valuable minutes last year, after being elevated from a training partner to a full-time member in Round 6, Nweke did not skip a beat. The soon to be 18-year-old is gearing up for another challenging but exciting year given the profound impact she had last season. Nweke wowed netball fans across the world with the 17-year-old oozing nothing but composure under the post, unfazed by the physicality of the likes of Silver Ferns greats Casey Kopua, Katrina Rore and Jane Watson.

Playing alongside Silver Ferns goaler Bailey Mes and fellow youngster Saviour Tui, Nweke will have to fight hard to keep her spot the court but the goal shooter is smart with ball in hand and can hit the scoreboard with ease. Expect Nweke to continue to blossom and single handily guide the Mystics to victory with her reliability under the post.

Her ability to consistently go to post and sheer athleticism makes her one of the most influential players in the Mystics line-up. After just one round this year, the goal shooter has already proven she is here to stay knocking back 40 goals at 93 per cent displaying her deadeye accuracy and unflappable temperament.

Northern Stars: Kate Burley

Back for another season at the Northern Stars, expect Burley to get some more court time. The talented defender had a relatively inconsistent season last year, struggling to get any real continuity given the presence of both Storm Purvis and Leana de Bruin down back. But with de Bruin retiring it could be time for the defender to step up to the plate and deliver. Her versatility to move between circle defence and wing defence gives her an extra element of class.

Standing at 181cm Burley uses her long limbs to force turnovers and position cleverly under the post to gobble up rebounds. Her netball smarts across the court makes her a valuable asset to the Stars while her clever footwork also sets her apart from fellow defenders.

With Round 1 done and dusted back in March, Burley proved that she has the stamina and commitment to run out a full game and create havoc racking up seven deflections, two pickups and one intercept.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic: Holly Fowler

Fowler made the switch from the Northern Stars to the Magic in hope for some more court time and time to ply her trade on the netball court. Able to play in a variety of roles such as goal defence, wing defence and centre, Fowler is one of the most multi-talented netballers in the ANZ Premiership and will be hoping to prove her worth at her new club. Her go get it attitude and commitment to the contest puts her in good stead while her ability to read the play and force a turnover also makes her a promising prospect for the Magic.

2019 was an up and down year for the Magic, but the inclusion of the 22-year-old will give them that point of difference across the board. She is light on her feet and can hit the circle edge with ease. While in her preferred defensive positions, Fowler is strong over the shot and applies good pressure on the ball-carrier to block their vision.

She will be hoping to tidy up her penalties to ensure she stays in play for longer periods of time, but in her first outing for Waikato Bay the talented defender come centre court player managed two pick ups, one intercept and six deflections for her efforts.

Who will replace Maria Folau at the Ferns?

WITH long bomb specialist Maria Folau retiring from international duties the Silver Ferns are in desperate need of a replacement. Renowned for her impeccable shooting range and no fuss attitude on court, Folau has long been one of the most influential goalers in Ferns history. Throughout her career, the talented shooter has tasted plenty of success recently winning the coveted World Cup in England. The 33-year-old played 150 international caps for the Silver Ferns and has been a focal point in the goal circle with her precise movement, ability to withstand pressure and skillset, meaning her on court presence will be sorely missed.

Maia Wilson

While she has only played 14 games on the international stage the 23-year-old is an exciting prospect for the Ferns. Wilson is clever and knows how to use her body to create space and claim prime position under the post. She is a smooth mover, who while she relies on her height is not afraid to change up her game play with her surprising agility. Standing at 188cm it is not common for a shooter to move as easily as she does but Wilson has proven on more than one occasion that she has the skill to do so. The goal shooter is a commanding presence under the goal post and oozes a sense of calmness and control. She is not often put off her game by the physical pressure and thrives under pressure as shown in her early selection for the Ferns. She is strong along the baseline showcasing her impressive ball skills to reel in errant passes while her accuracy to post is also on the incline.

Bailey Mes

Although Mes has been apart of the Silver Ferns outfit for years, in recent times she has struggled to snag a starting or permanent position on court, something that she could do with Folau now gone. The goal shooter come goal attack, is at home under the post with her impressive leap causing all sorts of headaches for opposition defenders, able to outmanoeuvre them under the post and gobble up rebounds. Her versatility is another key element of her game play with her dynamic movement in the circle and speed off the mark. She can also play the role of a holding shooter, making her a real threat for other teams. Mes has played 70 international caps and will be keen to keep that number growing with her on-court leadership and read of the play. Her accuracy to post can be shaky at times but when on song she is hard to stop, able to carve up the attacking third with her precise ball movement and confidence to post.

Aliyah Dunn

The young goal shooter has had limited exposure to the international stage but has displayed her accuracy and domination in the ANZ Premiership. Coming off a premiership with the Central Pulse, Dunn is no easy beat under the post with her towering height and quick feet. At just 20-years-old Dunn still has plenty of development left in her but is quickly becoming a demanding figure in the goal circle thanks to her clear and strong holds and strength in the air to get herself to the ball. Her physicality under the post also makes her hard to stop. Her connection with Ameliaranne Ekenasio also puts her in prime positon for a call up to the Ferns outfit, given their impressive shooter to shooter interplay and general netball understanding. While she does not have the same range of Folau, she offers a high volume of shots along with sheer accuracy and that is what makes her such a special prospect for the Ferns.

Memorable Matches: Malawi shocks New Zealand at 2018 Commonwealth Games

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is the Malawi Queens’ massive four-goal win over New Zealand Silver Ferns at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

It was a typically strong start from the rebuilding Ferns in their pool match against Malawi on the Gold Coast but it was the Queens’ spirit and determination that came out the true winner with a massive second half – aided by a 17 goals to nine third quarter – that awarded them their biggest win in Commonwealth Games history.

The Ferns came out firing early, shooting 18 goals to 11 in the first quarter and extending a solid lead thanks to the shooting pairing of Maria Folau and Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Folau played her typical moving role out in goal attack, dominating the scoreboard with her ability to turn and shoot while a combination of Sam Sinclair and Grace Kara held ground on circle edge, unfazed by their respective opposition in Takondwa Lwazi and Malawi captain, Joanna Kachilika. But while the first quarter went all in the way of the Ferns, the Queens were not going to back down, holding up better in the second to control ball movement better, seeing both sides score 14 goals apiece to still be down by seven at the main break. 

It seemed that anything Folau could do, superstar shooter Mwai Kumwenda could do better, dominating the scoreboard with speed, consistency and accuracy to boot, with the side not backing down and holding up relatively well against every defender the Ferns threw at them – of which there were many, with the Ferns rotating players constantly. While the defensive unit’s constant changing made it harder for Malawi to keep up with their fresh legs, it also allowed the Queens to gain the upper hand in other areas, such as their consistency, which was well and truly proven in the second half. 

Where New Zealand let go in the second half, Malawi fired up, dominating the quarter to take the lead 42-41 at the final change. Their challenge came at the right time, kicking the Ferns while they were down and poking at every hole in their game plan. While Bridget Kumwenda was kept quiet early, she stood her ground in wing attack to propel the ball into the goal circle, as defensively the work from Loreen Ngwira and Towera Vinkhumbo was spectacular, with the pair relentless. Ngwira and Vinkhumbo picked up plenty of attention from the umpires but shook the Ferns while they were at it, with the Ferns making uncharacteristic errors around the court, racking up 29 penalties and seven turnovers in the second half compared to Malawi’s 18 and four. 

Malawi were clinical with ball in hand, not wasting any time against the Ferns which have an ability to bounce back when least expecting it, controlling the netball across the court and patiently upholding their lead in the final quarter, not allowing New Zealand to take back momentum. A 15 goals to 12 final quarter effort cemented it for the Malawi Queens, defeating the Ferns 57-53 and going down as a history-making match, with the nation never having beaten New Zealand.

Mwai Kumwenda was the star of the show, shooting 41 goals from 46 attempts at 89 per cent, aided by Jane Chimaliro with 16 from 20. Lwazi was crucial in at centre, racking up 25 goal assists and two intercepts, while Ngwira and Vinkhumbo joined forces to collect three intercepts and two deflections to go with  a combined six rebounds. For the Ferns, Folau and Kara formed a constant threat in attack, with Folau shooting 31 goals at 79 per cent while Kara collected 26 assists on circle edge. Selby-Rickit racked up 15 goals from her two quarters on the court and Bailey Mes seven from 12, but defensively Temalisi Fakahokotau did much the same down the other end, racking up a whopping 18 penalties despite only playing in the first and final quarters. Captain Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson also took their turn in the ring but to no avail, unable to outwit the clever and speedy Queens.

This win saw New Zealand knocked out of the running for a gold medal match for the first time in Commonwealth Games history, placing fourth overall and resulting in the resignation of then-head coach Janine Southby

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown: #11/#10

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 25 players under 25-years-old across the netball world. Coming in at 11 is Kiera Austin while up and coming New Zealander Grace Nweke snuck into the top 10 after a dominant last season in the ANZ Premiership. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Just sitting outside the top 10 is Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) developing shooter, Kiera Austin. The 22-year-old shooter has a bright future ahead given her versatility and sheer netball nous. While she has struggled to get court time thanks to playing alongside the likes of Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett at the GIANTS has shown that she can come on and have an impact whether it be in the goal circle or out the front in wing attack. Her clever ball placement, deceptive speed and traditional style of netball are a couple of key attributes in her game. She is a real confidence player and builds as the game goes on, able to draw on the vibe of the crowd and players around her. Austin has shown time and time again for the GIANTS that she can have a damaging impact around the circle edge with her well weighted passes and spatial awareness while also backing herself when under the post. Her quick footwork and desire to go to post makes her an exciting prospect and will want to put her best foot forward in the coming season to earn herself a spot in the Diamonds.

Northern Mystics goal shooter, Grace Nweke snagged 10th place on the countdown given her breakout season in 2019. Nweke took the competition by storm and at the mere age of 18 is one of the most exciting talents to watch. She is simply unstoppable under the post with her ball control and unbelievable aerial ability. Not often overawed by the a-list defenders in the ANZ Premiership such as Kelly Jury, Katrina Rore, Karin Burger or Jane Watson, Nweke has shown that she can hold her own and most importantly backs herself. Her high volume and accuracy puts her in a league of her own able to single handily keep her side in the game or turn the tables with her skill to score quickly and big split. Playing alongside Silver Ferns goaler, Bailey Mes, Nweke has been able to further her develop her repertoire. Already apart of the Ferns development squad the youngster will be hoping to make a real name for herself this season in what is meant to be her first full season at the highest national level and hopefully secure a spot in the team. She is composed under pressure, able to think her way through zone defence and is strong on the hold to reel in any passes that come her way.


Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)
21. Razia Quashie (England)
20. Sophie Garbin (Australia)
19. Imogen Allison (England)
18. Kelly Jury (New Zealand)
17. Tara Hinchliffe (Australia)
16. Aliyah Dunn (New Zealand)
15. Whitney Souness (New Zealand)
14. Amy Parmenter (Australia)
13. Cara Koenen (Australia)
12. Kate Eddy (Australia)
11. Kiera Austin (Australia)
10. Grace Nweke (New Zealand)