Tag: caroline o’hanlon

Netball fantasy teams: VNSL Roses v. VNSL International All Stars

FOLLOWING the huge success of the thrilling Diamonds vs All Stars Bushfire Relief game in March, it got us thinking about another hypothetical exhibition match, with international Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) players facing up to the top England Roses squad members who are currently plying their trade in the UK.

VNSL Roses:

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)
GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)
WD: Laura Malcolm (Manchester Thunder)
C: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)
WA: Gabby Marshall (Saracens Mavericks)
GA: Ellie Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
GS: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

BENCH: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath), Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning), Jodie Gibson (Saracens Mavericks)

This Roses fantasy squad has a huge amount of experience and depth across all areas of the court. In the 2020 Netball Nations Cup, we saw the emergence of a new England shooting partnership between Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher – nicknamed “Fishwell”. Whilst Cardwell is usually seen wearing the goal shooter bib, in goal attack she opened up the shooting circle nicely for Fisher and can sink a sweet long bomb herself. This partnership would certainly give any defensive lineup a lot of headaches, especially given Fisher’s clever footwork and shooting accuracy. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis also plays more of the traditional goal attack role with her speed and strong drives and could provide another look for the shooting end. Whilst Drakeford-Lewis is at the beginning of her international career, she would be well supported in this lineup. She is likely to become a key option for England in the future – especially given she can also move into wing attack if needed, much like a versatile Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin.

In the midcourt, a balance of experience and youth creates this formidable unit. Youngster Gabby Marshall has great vision at wing attack and can keep any wing defence busy so they don’t go looking for trouble. Marshall is backed up by the veteran Jade Clarke who can keep a cool head in the middle and dictate play with ease. Tenacious tagger Laura Malcolm completes this midcourt lineup. Though she spent some time away from the England setup, her recent performances in the red dress have been outstanding. Nat Panagarry proved herself capable at the Netball World Cup 2019, showing that she is a confident team-player and can have an impact when needed. She has a good read of the game and her infectious energy can really lift a team.

The defensive end is where this team gets exciting. Whilst you have the reliable and gutsy Fran Williams out the front causing havoc, you also have one of the most threatening defenders coming up the England ranks in Razia Quashie at the back. Whilst Quashie is not the tallest defender in the game, she clearly has the athletic ability and pure strength to be a game-changer. With this defensive end, the difficulty may be the partnerships. As we saw in the Bushfire Relief game, putting two defending superstars out on court together doesn’t always mean they gel easily. I would love to see this combination out on court for England more as Quashie and Williams have such complementary styles of play. Given time together they could become a lethal partnership. Jodie Gibson is another versatile and experienced defender, providing a sparky and reliable option at the back should the defensive end need to change tactics.

VNSL International All Stars:

GK: Zanele Vimbela (Sirens, SA)
GD: Latanya Wilson (Dragons, JAM)
WD: Nia Jones (Stars, WAL)
C: Caroline O’Hanlon (Thunder, NI)
WA: Liana Leota (Stars, NZ)
GA: Alexia Baker (Wasps, AUS)
GS: Sigi Burger (Pulse, SA)

BENCH: Kim Commane (Bath, AUS), Adean Thomas (Pulse, JAM), Jo Trip (Mavericks, NZ)

This International All Stars side is undoubtedly stacked with talent. At the shooting end, it’s hard to ignore the threat of Sigi Burger under the post, given her 98% shooting average after three rounds of the 2020 VNSL Season. New to the VNSL, Alexia Baker is no stranger to high-quality netball, having been a Queensland Firebirds training partner. She knows how to feed a holding shooter like Burger and can also provide a solid option to goal. Kim Commane had an outstanding start to the 2020 season, ending up in the top five goal scorers, and she provides another different style of play to keep the defenders guessing. While this shooting end has very few international caps between them, these players have demonstrated their skills domestically and wouldn’t shy away from an opportunity on a bigger stage.

Liana Leota is a typical wing attack, extremely crafty and with a wealth of tools in her arsenal to feed the goal circle effectively. In the centre position, Caroline O’Hanlon is so impressive, not only due to her insane fitness but also her defensive pressure and a cool head. Leota and O’Hanlon combined effectively to secure Manchester Thunder’s Grand Final win last season, and could easily replicate this successful chemistry. Supported by Nia Jones in wing defence, the position where she is arguably her strongest, this midcourt unit would have no issues with transition play and swift goal conversion. Adean Thomas has also demonstrated her flair and skill, both at the VNSL and for Jamaica. Thomas is unpredictable, exciting and would be a great impact player in this lineup.

In the defensive circle, Latanya Wilson has been compared to a young Shamera Sterling and this glowing comparison is not undue. Wilson has fantastic aerial ability and was sitting on 14 intercepts when the VNSL was cancelled. This was just one behind the leader in Quashie, and Wilson racked up this impressive tally despite the fact she was suspended for one game due to dangerous play. Whilst discipline is an area to improve on, her surprising gameplay and rangy limbs would be a valuable asset in goal defence for the All Stars. Teaming up with Wilson is South African, Zanele Vimbela. Vimbela has proven her worth internationally and is surely next in line to the goal keeper bib for South Africa after Phumza Maweni. She is a fearless defender who attacks the ball and provides consistent pressure to unnerve the opposition feeders. Able to cover both positions effectively is Mavericks stalwart Jo Trip. Her height and experience mean she can make a difference in close games and would be a valuable addition to the All Stars.

Who would win?

The International All Stars have a tremendous amount of talent and a really diverse range of playing styles. However, the Roses consistency and familiarity with each other would most likely mean they would take the win. The battle would be lost and won in the midcourt, as the two sides are fairly evenly matched at both ends – with the Roses’ shooting circle slightly superior to the All Stars’. This would be a great spectacle of VNSL talent, but it’s likely the Roses would be able to edge out the All Stars.

Memorable Matches: 2019 VNSL Grand Final

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 Manchester Thunder’s impressive come-from-behind win over Wasps Netball in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

It was a match of pure intensity, with the see-sawing match-up proving to be just as good as suspected in the lead up. While the Wasps had been ahead on the ladder for much of the season, Thunder had gotten the chocolates both times the two teams played during the season, making for an interesting and exciting match-up.

Both sides battled hard from the get-go, with Wasps pulling out an early lead thanks to defensive efforts from Fran Williams and Hannah Knights, who were clinical and relentless in the circle denying easy ball into the circle and causing headaches with their long arms. The Wasps’ herding gamestyle worked a trick, crowding Manchester and forcing errors through the midcourt, propelling the ball down to attack with ease thanks to the pressure of stalwart Jade Clarke through the centre, driving the ball down to Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post. Dunn and Harris’ ability to share the load was impressive as ever, with Thunder retiree Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey unable to hold off the duo when they got inside the circle.

But Manchester proved they cannot be underestimated, drawing ahead in the second quarter with a spectacular 18 goals to 11 to hold the lead at half time. The likes of Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula lifted to apply some much needed scoreboard pressure, while Liana Leota was instrumental through the centre of the court alongside veteran Caroline O’Hanlon, using their experience to hold ground through the midcourt. But a second quarter blitz was not enough, with the Thunder’s inconsistency all but coming back to bite them in the third when the Wasps unleashed once more.

A tight second half ensued and it was unsure which team would take out the title, with both sides spurred on by spectacular defensive efforts paired with impressive feeding in attack. Bongi Msomi used all her match experience to be a constant threat on circle edge for the Wasps, applying pressure with her speed and agility to find Dunn and Harris in the circle, unstoppable despite Laura Malcolm’s best efforts. But Malcolm’s bodywork came in useful once the final quarter came around, blocking Msomi’s leads and forming a crucial defensive buffer as Almond and Dovey kicked it up a notch once more despite trailing by six goals at the final change

The final quarter started with a bang, with Manchester chugging along to claw their way back ahead of the Wasps and doing so in an impressive manner, holding the Wasps to just the seven goals in the final term. While Wasps were consistent as ever, an injury time-out for Malawian goal shooter Mvula could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Thunder, but instead saw Manchester come back with a vengeance as Ellie Cardwell joined the fray. A consistent figure who does not always get the recognition she deserves, Cardwell shot the lights out and offered a different option in the circle, switching up the match play with her clever ball use and gave her defenders another thing to think about in the circle. 

It was there that the game was won and done, with the Thunder running home for their third VNSL premiership title, winning against the reigning premiers 57-52 in impressive manner.

WASPS NETBALL 16 | 11 | 18 | 7 (52)
MANCHESTER THUNDER  11 | 18 | 10 | 18 (57)

Wasps

GS: Rachel Dunn
GA: Katie Harris
WA: Bongi Msomi
C: Jade Clarke
WD: Amy Flanagan
GD: Fran Williams
GK: Hannah Knights

COACH: Mel Mansfield

Thunder

GS: Joyce Mvula
GA: Kathryn Turner
WA: Liana Leota
C: Caroline O’Hanlon
WD: Laura Malcolm
GD: Emma Dovey
GK: Kerry Almond

COACH: Karen Greig

Netball fantasy teams: ANZ Premiership All-Stars v. VNSL All-Stars

BOTH the ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) play host to a wealth of a-list talent making for some impressive squads. The ANZ Premiership is filled with a multitude of Ferns players while the VNSL also has a couple of Roses featured in the team creating an interesting contest between the two sides.

ANZ Premiership All-Stars:

GK: Jane Watson
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Shannon Saunders
WA: Gina Crampton
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Maia Wilson

BENCH: Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Whitney Souness, Phoenix Karaka

The ANZ Premiership is littered with New Zealand Silver Ferns representatives as shown by this stacked line-up. But their strength really lies in their defensive end with Jane Watson taking out the goal keeper position. Watson is a machine down back with her cleanliness, hunt for the ball and ability to shut down opponents with ease a couple of her key attributes. The goal keeper is not afraid to back herself, often out hunting for an intercept with her quick feet doing all the work while her lean over the shot is highly intimidating. Fellow defender and veteran Katrina Rore is one of a kind. Just like a fine wine she continues to get better with time, able to read the play with ease and disrupt the attacking flow of the opposition with her aerial ability and long arms. Rore is never out of the contest always able to weasel her way back into the play and is strong in transition thanks to her offensive minded style of play. Wing defence and partner-in-crime at the Central Pulse, Karin Burger is another key cog down back. Burger has really come into her own in recent seasons with her tenacity and tagging style of defence often wearing opponents down. Her long arms and height causes havoc in the wing defence position while her deceptive speed gives her another competitive edge around circle edge to swat away any passes into the goal circle. Throw in her ability to move into goal defence or keeper and Burger is one of a kind for the All-Stars line-up. Through the midcourt, the tried and tested duo of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton adds another strong element to the already stacked squad. While Saunders is more defensively minded, she can hit the circle edge and provide an option in attack while teammate, Crampton consistently showcases her impressive vision into the circle with her pinpoint precision passes and good timing. Crampton has good balance around the circle edge and is not often worried by the physicality of the game. Headlining the goal circle is none other than fan favourite Ameliaranne Ekenasio. The highly talented goaler has class to boot able to sink them from just about anywhere in the circle while her impeccable timing is envious. Ekenasio is renowned for her smooth movement in the circle, strong baseline drives, quick ball movement, accuracy and most importantly ability to stand up under pressure. Youngster Maia Wilson takes out the goal shooter position with the towering shooter able to hold strong and provide a commanding target under the post. Unlucky not to make the starting All-Stars squad are Silver Ferns shooter Te Paea Selby Rickit, speedy midcourter Whitney Souness and Northern Mystics defender, Phoenix Karaka.

Vitality Netball Superleague (VNLS) All-Stars:

GK: Razia Quashie
GD: Fran Williams
WD: Nat Panagarry
C: Jade Clarke
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon
GA: Eleanor Cardwell
GS: Rachel Dunn

BENCH: Sigi Burger, Adean Thomas, Eboni Usoro-Brown

Although the VNSL has less Roses players in the competition due to the majority of them joining the Suncorp Super Netball League, there are still plenty of classy players amongst the ranks. When it comes to options in the goal circle there was no shortage of possibilities, however it was veteran and deadeye shooter Rachel Dunn that claimed the starting goal shooter position. Dunn is one of the most experienced shooters in the league with her silky footwork, strong hands and impressive timing consistently on display along with her accuracy. While Eleanor Cardwell is typically suited to the goal shooter position she has proven that she can do just as much damage out in goal attack with her clever ball placement into the circle and strong movement. Through the midcourt Caroline O’Hanlon provides plenty of experience with her gut running and ability to hit the circle edge time and time again. Adding to the experience through the midcourt is Jade Clarke with the Wasps centre consistently able to do the unthinkable. Clarke oozes class, netball understanding and is cautious with ball in hand able to dish off well weighted passes making her an easy pick for the all-stars squad, while also able to move into wing defence given her defensive abilities. Loughborough Lightning’s Nat Pangarry dons the wing defence position thanks to her defensive skills, long arms, speed off the mark and ability to cause havoc down back to propel the ball into the attacking third. She can clog up space with her shadowing movements and can read the play often forcing turnovers. Roses representative Fran Williams takes out the goal defence position. Williams is an excitement machine and works tirelessly down in defence to build pressure and cause confusion with her quick feet and three-footy marking. She is not afraid to go out and hunt the ball and has a good netball nous to sense the moment. Rounding out the starting seven is goal keeper Razia Quashie. The goal keeper is strong, not often outmuscled under the post and uses her long arms to intimidate shooters when going for goal. Making their way onto the bench for the VNSL all-stars is London Pulse and South African goaler Sigi Burger, Jamaican Adean Thomas and former Roses defender Eboni Usoro-Brown.

Who would win?

With plenty of talent amongst both sides it is tricky to decide who would have the edge however given that the ANZ Premiership All-stars team is virtually filled with Silver Ferns players it is fair to say that they should have the upper hand. Their strength clearly lies in the defence end and while the VNSL All-stars line-up has a couple of handy goalers in the mix they would have to be on their a-game to overcome the prowess of the Ferns. The ANZ Premiership squad is strong through the midcourt with their dynamic movement and experience further adding to their competitive edge.

Which All-Stars team would win in this match up?
ANZ Premiership All-Stars
Vitality Netball Superleague All-Stars
Created with Quiz Maker

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 4 – Bath and Pulse face off for top spot

ROUND 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague will see an unprecedented top-of-the-table clash on Monday night to finish off the round, with Team Bath and London Pulse facing off for top spot. On the other end of the spectrum, eighth ranked 2019 finalists Wasps Netball will take on ninth-placed Severn Stars in the opening match of the round in what will be a real test for Stars and a real make-or-break game for Wasps.

Severn Stars  v. Wasps Netball
Worcester Arena

In a massive start to Round 4, Wasps will look to redeem themselves from a slow start to the season, with the side sitting in eighth on only one win and two losses for the season already after only conceding the four losses overall in 2019. While the opening rounds don’t necessarily speak for the season, the Wasps will want to take advantage of taking on a side lower than them and use this opportunity to work their way up the ladder. Stars are in the unprecedented position of being only one behind Wasps on the ladder but will know not to come into this match too cocky or expectant, with the Wasps known for their cleanliness and consistency in defence. Interestingly, both sides have come up against two of the same sides at this early stage, with both teams going down to Manchester Thunder, Wasps by seven goals and Stars by nine, making for an intriguing battle if Stars can stay close. The real difference however is the sides’ different reactions to taking on the Mavericks, with Stars going down twice with big margins compared to Wasps’ four goal victory. Rachel Dunn has been the key player for Wasps this season with all attention turned toward the veteran goal shooter with accuracy and precision. Meanwhile, Iona Christian in wing attack has been a handy addition to the side, slotting in smoothly with Jade Clarke and Dunn. Stars’ Towera Vinkhumbo may not be the cleanest player but has certainly had an impact in defence, working well with Ella Powell-Davies while the likes of Ama Agbeze can enter the contest when required and have an immediate impact. In goals, Georgia Rowe has been the main target for Stars with the experience of Liana Leota in wing attack able to provide pinpoint feeds into the circle. 

Surrey Storm v. Manchester Thunder
Surrey Sports Park

Manchester Thunder will look to go four from four with a win in this match, with the potential of moving to the top of the ladder if results on Monday go their way, making this a big match for the reigning premiers. Surrey Storm on the other hand have had a shaky start to the season with only the one win on the board back in Round 1, and that was only by the one goal over Celtic Dragons. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes will be in for a tough one against the attacking combination of Joyce Mvula, Kathryn Turner and Ellie Cardwell, with the trio creating a massive threat for Thunder. The three shooters have combined seamlessly across the opening rounds, sharing the load in goals and all offering different options which is what makes them such a difficult opposition. In goals for Storm are Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin who have had a fairly solid start to the season, and while Hankin’s accuracy has left something to be desired, Bailey’s height has proven useful with her rebounding ability. The midcourt battle is set to be an interesting one with Mikki Austin at Storm’s helm, leading from the front with her agility and footwork, taking on the likes of Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon, with both players able to have an impact through the midcourt. Defensively, the consistency of Emma Dovey and Rebekah Airey will be tough for Storm to break through, especially with the likes of Loreen Ngwira also in the mix and able to switch up the circle monumentally. Meanwhile, the calm but consistent effort of Laura Malcolm in wing defence is sure to keep the pressure on.

Loughborough Lightning v. Saracens Mavericks
Sir David Wallace Arena 

The match between Lightning and Mavericks is set to be a real interesting one, with both sides impressive in their own right though Lightning – just like last season – have struggled to put their skill and pressure out on the court at this early stage of the season. While the Mavericks sit in the top four on two wins from three matches, Lightning sit in seventh on only one win but having lost to ladder-leaders Team Bath and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder, making this a relatively even contest. Meanwhile, Mavericks have played Surrey Storm twice in as many weeks meaning they haven’t had a real opportunity to prove themselves thus far thanks to match scheduling. Mavericks’ Razia Quashie will have the tough task of taking on Lightning goal shooter Mary Cholhok, who is as imposing as they get with her height and strength making her a key cog for Lightning’s defence. Quashie is just as impressive with her aerial ability making her an exciting player to watch, able to create intercepts out of nothing and lead from the back. The midcourt battle will be a real interesting one with the sides relatively well matched through the centre, though the real test for Lightning will be stopping the likes of Georgia Lees who has a tried and true combination with George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin in goals, with the duo continuing to be a threat. Lightning will rely on leadership from Nat Panagarry through the midcourt, while Lightning’s constant defensive rotation could come in handy against a side like Mavericks which relies on poking holes in defensive units, though could also go the opposite way entirely if Mavericks can take advantage early.

Celtic Dragons v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sports Wales National Centre

The Dragons come into this match sitting at the bottom of the ladder, with a one week suspension to key pickup Latanya Wilson making for a rough start to the season. While the Sirens have only got the one win on the board for the season, it is more about their lack of four quarter effort that sees them losing so far rather than an inability to win, as displayed by an impressive effort over Surrey Storm last round. While the Dragons have only gotten close to a win in the one match so far this season, they went without a goalkeeper for part of their Round 2 encounter with Team Bath and then missed Wilson’s pressure and presence on Monday against Pulse – the current top two sides. Dragons’ Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson did a solid job sharing the load last round but were in short supply of ball into circle, meaning the likes of Shona O’Dwyer and Sophie Morgan will want to be right on circle edge this round against a much more even competitor in Sirens. Defensively, Wilson will want to heed the warnings she’s had in past rounds to ensure she doesn’t leave her side in the lurch again this round, while Dee Bolakoro and Abigail Tyrrell will also want to maintain constant pressure in the circle. Sirens’ Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher impressed at the post last week with their cleanliness and ability to find the ball in the goal circle, with the circle work from Nicola McCleery and Gia Abernethy critical for the side in attack. Natalie Bright and Zanele Vimbela have created a formidable defensive unit, with Emily Nicholl a handy inclusion from the bench if need be. 

Team Bath v. London Pulse
Team Bath Arena

Wrapping up the round is one of the more exciting matches to start the season, with both Team Bath and London Pulse undefeated thus far in 2020. While Pulse had an unsuccessful start to their Superleague campaign, only getting two wins on the board in their inaugural 2019 season, the side has already surpassed last years form with three wins on the board and will look to run down an impressive Team Bath this round. While Bath made it to finals last season they had a somewhat rocky season, finding some solid form in patches but ultimately unable to push all the way. This season however they have proven considerably more consistent, winning by an average of 15 goals across the first three rounds of the season. While Pulse also remains undefeated, they only got over the line by a two and one-point margin in Rounds 1 and 2, making for an interesting battle. Pulse will be in for an interesting time against the dominant defensive pressure of Bath, with the likes of Imogen Allison, Khanyisa Chawane, Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman working flawlessly through defence to apply pressure and deny easy ball into the circle. Up the other end, the combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has improved tenfold since the 2019 season, making the side a real force to be reckoned with. Bath’s real problem will be limiting the impact of star Pulse shooter Sigi Burger, whose offensive pressure and height under the post makes her a critical name in the lineup. Burger’s movement for her height is impressive, making it easy for the likes of Michelle Drayne, Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker to feed into the circle and run the ball down while defensively the likes of Lindsay Keable, Halimat Adio and Funmi Fadoju have put in some impressive efforts this season so far.

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 3

WITH big wins to the Saracens Mavericks, Team Bath and the London Pulse in Round 3 it is no surprise that this week’s Draft Central Team of the Week was dominated by these clubs. No player from the Severn Stars or Surrey Storm made the cut this week despite some solid performances across the weekend while one player each from the Wasps and Sirens made their way in after some strong showings.

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

The Roses and Mavericks goal keeper has kicked it up a gear in season 2020 with the talented defender backing herself down back and causing all sorts of headaches for her opposition attacking ends. Quashie had her work cut out for her in the goal circle using her quick footwork to dance her way around the defensive circle and pick off passes. The goal keeper showcased her ability to read the play with four intercepts and while she was highly penalised with 16 for the game it was her ability to win ball back that evened it out.

GD: Jo Trip (Saracens Mavericks)

Joining her partner in crime, Trip impressed for the Mavericks with her defensive pressure and ball winning abilities. The goal defence starred throughout the match keeping, goal attack Paige Reed to 14 goals highlighting just how much work she was putting in over the shot and to stop her from receiving the ball. Trip followed Reed across the court with her three-foot marking on full display and most importantly stayed in play for a majority of the time only racking up 10 penalties. Her ability to win ball back and propel it down the court was a key feature of her game recording five intercepts while her strength under the post to bring down rebounds was also solid collecting three for the game.

WD: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

Allison has taken her game to a whole other level this year upping the defensive pressure and taking on a mountain load of work through the midcourt to disrupt opposition attack units. The wing defence plied her trade throughout the match working hard to win the ball back or block her opponents every move with her shadowing style of play to clog up space. Credit to her cleanliness and high netball IQ, Allison managed to stay away from the whistle not registering a single penalty while also picking up two intercepts highlighting just how impressive she is.

C: Khanyisa Chawane (Team Bath)

Chawane led the charge through the midcourt for Team Bath sensing the space and driving into to it to create attacking forays. Chawane has not skipped a beat since stepping into the side with her speed and strength a couple of key attributes of her game play. Renowned for her defensive pressure the midcourt player picked up an important intercept and was clean with ball in hand not creating many turnovers.

WA: Adean Thomas (London Pulse)

The Jamaican midcourter and new recruit brought plenty of excitement to the court with her impressive speed and aerial ability constantly getting a hand in anything that came her way. While more tailored to the attacking role she showcased her defensive side with a couple of timely deflections in the midcourt to force the opposition to reset and look for ways around her pressure. Her dynamic footwork to receive the ball and then effortlessly dish off to teammates impressed throughout the game constantly backing her high release passes and good vision. She was not afraid to feed the ball well and truly away from the circle edge such was her confidence in the pass and strength to hit targets inside the circle.

GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)

The goal attack once again played a pivotal role in Manchester’s narrow win over the weekend. Cardwell showed her ability to hit the scoreboard with an impressive 24 goals from 28 attempts at 86 per cent credit to her read of the space and ability to score freely. She is a key cog in the attacking third with her strong drives and height consistently able to have an impact, particularly in the circle. Cardwell is a real play maker sensing the moment and able to stand up even displaying her defensive attributes with two intercepts throughout the game.

GS: Rachel Dunn (Wasps Netball)

Although her side did not manage the win, Dunn was a lone hand in the goal circle for the Wasps only missing one goal from her 47 attempts for the match. It was a flawless performance by the experienced goal shooter who stood tall under the post using her quick hands and clever body positioning to reel the ball in and shoot truly. When she is on, Dunn is hard to stop and that was shown in her clash on the weekend consistently buttering up and backing herself from range time and time again.

BENCH: Sigi Burger (London Pulse), Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder), Zanele Vimbela (Strathclyde Sirens),

There were a couple of strong performances throughout the round with Vimbela, Burger and O’Hanlon unlucky not to make the starting seven. It is hard to deny that Burger has gone from strength to strength and this performance echoed those thoughts with the towering goal shooter finding good space under the ring and used her height to command the ball. She was the main scoring option for the Pulse credit to her high volume and accuracy to post along with her ability to move around the circle and use her feet to edge closer to the post. Up the other end, Vimbela also made her way onto the bench after a solid performance for the Sirens with her long arms and reach doing the damage with two intercepts and six deflections along with a rebound. Through the midcourt O’Hanlon was up to her usual tricks with her dynamic movement and vision on song once again. Her two way running was another feature of her game.

2020 Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 2 – Mavericks look to topple Wasps to stay on top

THE Vitality Netball Superleague is back for Round 2 this week after a massive opening round saw five big matches play out with plenty of new names joining the fray and proving they have what it takes to dominate in the competition. With three games on Saturday and two on Monday, Round 2 of the Superleague is set to mix things up.

Severn Stars v. Manchester Thunder
Worcester Arena

The Severn Stars will have their work cut out for them this round, coming up against the reigning premiers in Manchester Thunder off the back of a disappointing Round 1 effort. The Thunder are sure to come out flying after a stellar performance last round saw them continue their streak over last season’s minor premiers Wasps, while the Stars will really need to lift their game after struggling against the wrath of the Mavericks. Stars key pickup Liana Leota will take on her former side after jumping ship at the end of last season, so will need to really prove her point through the midcourt to ensure the Thunder know what they’re missing through the midcourt. Thunder have their own weapons however, with Caroline O’Hanlon, Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm more than up to the task through the centre third, able to transition from defence to attack with ease, especially safe in the knowledge that Joyce Mvula, Ellie Cardwell and Kathryn Turner are able to have an impact to post. Stars have a plethora of options in defence, with Malawian, Towera Vinkhumbo proving she has what it takes in the Superleague last round while the likes of Ama Agbeze, Nia Jones and Ella Powell-Davies all have plenty to offer with experience and cleanliness alike. Georgia Rowe was a real target at the post last week with her height and clean hands, while Paige Reed provided a handy option when required to open up the circle and switch up the rotation.

Loughborough Lightning v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sir David Wallace Arena

With both sides heading in this round winless and sitting toward the bottom of the ladder, both Lightning and Sirens will want to up their game in Round 2. Despite a disappointing loss to Team Bath last round, the Lightning will likely still come into this match as the favourites against the Sirens, meaning the Sirens will really need to prove themselves as contenders and test the Lightning by applying pressure on key shooter, Mary Cholhok, who relies on her height to get the ball. Fellow Lightning goaler, Ella Clark will need to really inject herself into this game after going missing last round, while the likes of Nat Panagarry will want to lead from the front alongside Hannah Joseph and Vicki Oyesola transitioning through defence to propel the ball forward and prevent easy turnovers. Something the Sirens have going for them is the ability of their goalers to share the load, with Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher shooting relatively evenly last week and getting ready to welcome young gun Emma Barrie back into the fray after a breakout 2019 season. Sirens pickup Zanele Vimbela was a handy inclusion on the court last week with six intercepts so will want to mirror that effort against an ultimately stronger side than their Round 1 opposition.

Celtic Dragons v. Team Bath
Cardiff Met University

Celtic Dragons did not get the strong start they were after last round with a frustrating one-goal loss to Surrey Storm, while Team Bath continued their streak over Loughborough Lightning with a solid 14-goal win putting them into second on the ladder. Despite missing star centre Serena Guthrie this season, Bath proved they have got the guts, determination and skill to get the job done with the defensive minded side dominating last round, making for a really tough competitor for the Dragons who had patches of greatness last week but to no avail. Kim Commane was a revelation at the post for Bath last round, shooting 55 goals to be the top scorer of the week so the Dragons will need to be at their best to shut down the quick moving Aussie. Dee Bolakoro and Latanya Wilson will be set the task of shutting Commane down. Dragons’ midcourt will need to really stand up defensively to deny access to the circle. For Bath, the defensive effort through the midcourt was their real focus last season making for one of the toughest defensive units in the competition, so the likes of Summer Artman and Imogen Allison will need to hold that up with the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown no longer joining the fray due to maternity leave.

Surrey Storm v. London Pulse
Surrey Sports Park

The first of two Monday matches, this game between Storm and Pulse will be a real test to see which side can capitalise off a strong start last week with both sides coming into this game off the back of a tight victory. Both teams picked up key players over the off season so expect the goaling battle to be a big one, with internationals Sigi Burger (South Africa) and Karyn Bailey (Australia) lining up in goal shooter for their respective sides. A big question mark hanging over this match will be a matter of cleanliness, with these sides picking up a combined six cautions and one warning in Round 1. Both teams will want to clean up their act, though the intensity from both sides should make for a relatively contest across the court with some real interesting battles set to take place. The likes of Mikki Austin and Lorraine Kowalewska will be key cogs for Storm with their respective ability to change the game quickly a real  testament to their skill and timing. Kowalewska will have her work cut out for her against Burger who shot at 100 per cent last week, while Austin is sure to inject experience wherever she plays, taking on the likes of Ashleigh Dekker, Adean Thomas and Michelle Drayne through the midcourt.

Wasps Netball v. Saracens Mavericks
Ricoh Arena

Mavericks will be in for a tough one this round coming up against last season’s runner up in the Wasps, who are coming into this week off the back of a seven goal loss in Round 1. The Mavs will look to capitalise on their own massive start to the season after a 21 goal win over Severn Stars last week, making for a tough battle between two real contenders. These two sides stayed relatively similar over the off-season, not losing or gaining many key players, meaning the Mavericks will really need to build off their pre-season after going down to Wasps in close encounters twice last season. Both sides have key players across the court, with Wasps goalers Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris able to share the load evenly and accurately to post. It’s a different story for the Mavericks, with George Fisher shouldering a lot of the load in goal shooter while Kadeen Corbin works the circle and plays more of a feeder role, but can also turn and shoot to be a real threat. The feeding ability of Georgia Lees will be key for the Mavs, but with the experience of Jade Clarke and Amy Flanagan able to rotate through both centre and wing defence for the Wasps, the Mavs could be really tested. Defensively, the aerial ability of Razia Quashie in goal keeper will be key to produce turnover ball, though the real key will be to balance staying on the body of Dunn to deny entry to the circle and moving off to hunt loose ball in the goal third. Meanwhile, the likes of Josie Huckle and Fran Williams will be doing everything in their power to deny Fisher the ball.

2020 Vitality Superleague preview: Round 1 – Grand Final rematch to headline weekend

THE grand final rematch is set to headline Round 1 of the Vitality Netball Superleague with Manchester Thunder and Wasps Netball facing off in game one with last year’s third and fourth place Team Bath and Loughborough set to do battle closely after. Birmingham Arena will play host to all five matches over the course of the weekend.

Manchester Thunder v. Wasps Netball
Arena Birmingham

It will be a mouth-watering contest between the two sides who retained the majority of their all-stars over the off-season. With the grand final loss etched in their memories, expect the Wasps to come out with a real vengeance having been pipped at the post not too long ago. Led by the likes of Rachel Dunn at the post, the Wasps have a plethora of stars that can cause damage and will want to gain early bragging rights over their new enemy.  But the reigning premiers have just as an impressive list with Eleanor Cardwell coming along in leaps and bounds while youngsters Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm still have plenty to offer. The potential match-up between Caroline O’Hanlon and Jade Clarke will be something to savour with the two able to go toe-to-toe for a full four quarters given their high endurance, netball nous and experience. Joyce Mvula proved to be near on unstoppable under the post last season and could quite as easily pose a dominate threat once again for the Thunder with her strong holds and accuracy to post. Given Mvula is such a demanding target Roses defender Fran Williams along with Hannah Leighton and Hannah Knights will have their work cut out for them in trying to quell her influence.

Team Bath v. Loughborough Lightning
Arena Birmingham

After falling just short of the big dance, both the Lightning and Team Bath will be hoping to kick their 2020 off with a bang and announce themselves as grand final contenders. Team Bath have lost a valuable player in Serena Guthrie with the highly athletic and talented midcourter stepping away, allowing the likes of Imogen Allison and new comer South African Khanyisa Chawane to step up in her absence. Goal shooter Kim Commane was a key cog in attack given her scoring prowess, strong body positioning and nifty footwork while the development of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis could give them that extra edge against the Lightning. The battle in the goal circle between Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok and Eboni Usoro-Brown will provide plenty of entertainment with the two renowned for their physicality. Usoro-Brown just recently announced her pregnancy and may be an uncertainty for the match but if she does play expect the tenacious defender to leave no stone unturned. For the Lightning defender Vicki Oyesola will have to be on her a-game to worry Bath while through the midcourt Nat Panagarry will be hoping to have a profound impact with her defensive nature.

Saracens Mavericks v. Severn Stars
Arena Birmingham

Both sides had a relatively inconsistent 2019 and will be aiming to get a quick win on the board. The Mavericks have a very strong core group of players that when on song can cause all sorts of damage given both their defensive and attacking attributes while the Stars recruited some handy new players that could ruffle their oppositions feathers.  In the goal circle alone the Mavs have a wealth of stars with George Fisher becoming a commanding presence with her height and strength on the take while her partnership with the experienced Kadeen Corbin makes the duo a deadly combination for the Stars. Sister, Sasha Corbin is just as electrifying through the midcourt with her change of pace and clean hands while down in defence Razia Quashie is a force to be reckoned with, thanks to her physical pressure and intercepting ability. Georgia Rowe will have to stand up under the pressure of Quashie if the Stars are to generate any real scoring. The Stars will also be hoping that the likes Ama Agbeze kicks off her campaign in style with her tenacious mindset pairing with the likes of Nia Jones and Ella Powell-Davies down back to block any easy avenue into goal.

Celtic Dragons v. Surrey Storm
Arena Birmingham

It will be an interesting contest between the Dragons and Storm given their up and down 2019 season but will be hoping that all changes this year. The Dragons have bolstered their defence this season with new recruit Latanya Wilson set to join the ranks and use her long reach and deceptive speed to full effect in her debut game. Her partner in crime Dee Bolakoro is as strong as they come making the two an ominous threat for opposition sides. They have a relatively inexperienced midcourt an area the Storm will be hoping to exploit, headlined by the likes of player/coach Mikki Austin. Karryn Bailey is a smooth mover in the goal circle with accuracy and volume two key aspects of her game making her the most obvious choice to goal for the Storm. Former Firebirds defender, Leah Middleton will be hoping to leave a lasting impact in her potential first game.

Strathclyde Sirens v. London Pulse
Arena Birmingham

With both sides finishing in the bottom two at the end of last season, they will be aiming to turn things around in 2020 and build some strong form early with a convincing win here. It will be a battle of the goal shooters with Emma Barrie and Sigi Burger both looking to do damage under the post with their height, strong holds and clever footwork The Pulse are only in their second year and will be hoping that their connections across court have strengthened with the likes of SPAR Protea, Burger making the jump. Burger will have to have a strong performance under the post if she is any chance to get her side over the line in her debut game for the Pulse. Adean Thomas will be in the same boat with the midcourter hoping to make a splash in her new colours while Michelle Drayne has proven to be a steady head in attack for the Pulse. The Sirens have a wealth of options in the goal circle with Lynsey Gallagher and Bethan Goodwin able to chip in on the scoreboard to relieve young shooter, Barrie. Through the midcourt expect Gia Abernethy to have a big game in her first match as captain making for an exciting battle.

VNSL 2020 season preview: Can Manchester go back-to-back?

WITH the 2020 season of Vitality Superleague Netball (VNSL) set to commence on the weekend expect plenty of fireworks. After a disappointing 2019 the Strathclyde Sirens and London Pulse will be hoping to climbs the ranks while the Wasps and Manchester Thunder will be hoping to continue their reign at the top of the table.

Potential top four:

It is hard to see the top four changing too much from last year’s finalists given the limited changeover of players and the high level at which these sides played at. With the grand final loss still fresh in their memory, expect the Wasps to come out with a real vengeance and look to go one better in season 2020. They have a high calibre of players with the likes of Rachel Dunn, Fran Williams and Jade Clarke crucial cogs across the court for the Wasps making them the team to beat this season. But the Wasps will have to combat Manchester Thunder who have gone from strength to strength in recent years thanks to the plethora of talent across the court. The experience of Caroline O’Hanlon and Joyce Mvula makes them an unstoppable force while the steady development of Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm is an ominous thought. Throw in the likes of goaler Eleanor Cardwell and Manchester could be shaping up to be premiership contenders. Another possible top four contender is Team Bath who showed they have the skill to take it to the top teams but suffered from inconsistency. Bath have lost superstar Serena Guthrie with the talented midcourter stepping away but her absence will allow the likes of Imogen Alison to step up to the plate. Aussie goaler Kim Commane has proven to be rock solid under the post while the development of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Summer Artman could be the winning edge they are looking for. The Mavericks showed plenty of strong sings last season and once again will be pushing for a top four spot after falling just short in season 2019. New recruit Jodie Gibson could be the missing piece for Saracens with her defensive pressure and experience pairing with the likes of Razia Quashie down back. Towering goal shooter George Fisher is another key player to keep an eye on for the Mavs while sisters Kadeen and Sasha Corbin are a dynamic duo. If all things go to plan, they could quite easily leapfrog fellow teams and make their way into finals.

Finals contenders:

After making the finals last year it will be hard for Loughborough to be discounted from the finals talk given their ability to apply full court pressure and a relatively unchanged line-up. Boasting the likes of Nat Panagarry and Mary Cholhok the Lightning are a real chance to make it into the top four again but with other teams strengthening and recruiting key players may be edged out of contention. It is hard to not consider Severn Stars as a possible top four side after claiming sixth spot last season and adding the likes of Ama Agbeze, Nia Jones and midcourter Liana Leota to the fold in 2020. They have all the makings to be a high-quality side, but suffer from inconsistency, something they will be hoping to iron out this year. After finishing mid-table last season the Celtic Dragons could be in for a challenging 2020 but still have the likes of Dee Bolakoro and new-comer Latanya Wilson to lead the way in the defensive end. They have welcomed a wealth of new players into the fray with Rebekah Robinson and Shona O’Dwyer also entering the mix meaning it may take some time for the side to settle into a rhythm and really hit their straps.

Outsiders:

Despite the inclusion of South African shooting star Sigi Burger it could be another tricky year for London Pulse. Burger will offer a great target under the post with her height and strong holds while the addition of Michelle Drayne could add further star power to the shooting circle. The Strathclyde Sirens have a relatively unchanged line-up heading into 2020 and will be hoping to find better connections across the court to put out a more consistent four quarter performance. Recruit Zanele Vimbela will add a wealth of excitement to the Sirens defensive stocks while shooters Bethan Gooden and Emma Barrie have proven to be a dynamic duo when on song. After finishing eighth on the ladder the Surrey Storm will be hoping to improve their rankings this year thanks to the recruitment of goaler Karyn Bailey but could be a star player or two away from really taking it to the top teams.

VNSL 2020 team preview: Manchester Thunder

WITH the 2020 season of the Vitality Netball Superleague now upon us, we take a look at each team heading into a massive year in Superleague netball. The next team in our season preview is Manchester Thunder.

Coach: Karen Greig
2019 finish: 2nd (premiers) (15-5)

With a 2019 premiership on the horizon, Manchester Thunder went to a new  level in 2019 with the confidence, consistency and connection across the court to get the job done by season’s end. The premiers were able to bring the heat to every team in the competition, poking holes in each side’s connections to create a formidable opposition and made the side a difficult side to stop when they got going.

2020 predictions: 

The reigning premiers are sure to want to go back-to-back this season and certainly have the skill set to do it, though the side will hope the loss of key defender Kerry Almond does not have too big an impact on their chances. That being said, an already solid defensive pairing of Emma Dovey and Rebecca Airey will be bolstered by the addition of Lauren Ngwira who has jumped ship from London Pulse, with long arms and great timing making her a tough player to come up against. With bench rotations who can have as much of an effect on the court as the Thunder starters, look out for Manchester as they will look to go back to back.

Key player: Joyce Mvula (GS/GA)

Joyce Mvula was new to the side in 2019 and well and truly made her mark on the competition with her ability to find the ball and accuracy to boot. While not the flashiest player, the Malawi goaler made herself a key fixture at the post with her cleanliness and temperament on the court, using the space well to remove her defender from the equation and her split was second to none making for a tough circle opposition.

Team list:

Laura Malcolm
Kathryn Turner
Ashleigh Neal (London Pulse)
Eleanor Cardwell
Joyce Mvula
Lauren Ngwira (London Pulse)
Caroline O’Hanlon
Amy Carter
Emma Dovey
Rebekah Airey
Berri Samara Neil
Ella Carly Standring
Lois Pearson
Alicia Scholes
Elia McCormick

Manchester Thunder claim pre-season tournament

THE Strathclyde Sirens, Manchester Thunder and Severn Stars all brought the new year in with style as all three sides went into battle in yet another pre-season warmup. The new format saw teams play six 10-minute quarters pushing teams to their limits. But in the end it was Manchester that reigned supreme winning both matches, while unfortunately the Strathclyde Sirens failed to notch up a victory in the tournament.

The Stars kick-started their day off with a battle against the Thunder. But Manchester proved too strong for their opponents registering a 19-goal victory, 67-48. The Thunder got off to a hot start and did not look back, opening up a 12-goal margin by half-time. Despite the Stars reducing the deficit marginally, the Thunder kept their foot on the throat. Joyce Mvula was solid as ever under the post for the Thunder, using her athleticism to reel in passes and shoot truly. Her combination with the likes of Ashleigh O’Neal and Caroline O’Hanlon was on full display with the two feeding well into the circle. Defensively, Laura Malcolm and Emma Dovey provided a reset option when moving forward while also plying their trade with their hands over pressure. The Stars found it hard to combat the movement of Mvula with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies unable to fully shut down the Malawian shooter.

Despite dropping the game against the Thunder earlier in the day the Stars rectified their issues across the court against the Sirens. It was a tight tussle between the two sides with the lead see-sawing with only goal separating the two sides at half time before the Stars turned it on in the final quarter to win by four goals 45-41. Georgia Rowe got the start for the Stars in the opening term holding strong and finding the net with ease thanks to her commanding height. Nia Jones and Bethan Dyke were solid through the midcourt using the angles to open up the space while doing the defensive things well. Despite challenging throughout, the Thunder made it count in the back half using their ball speed and placement to capitalise on their opportunities and claim their first win for 2020.

In the final match of the day the Thunder and Sirens went head to head with Manchester running out victorious 57-39. Neither side could be split in the first 10 minutes sitting at seven goals apiece showcasing just how intense the game was before the Thunder found their groove both in attack and defence to go on a scoring spree pushing out to a 13-goal lead with 30 minutes still to play. The Thunder meant business and despite an attempted comeback from the Sirens they were simply too good. Eleanor Cardwell headlined the attack end for the Thunder with the talented youngster shouldering the load while pairing with goal attack Kathryn Turner who also hit the scoreboard. O’Hanlon was consistent as ever running up and down the court while the defensive combination of Dovey and Rebekah Airey made for hard work.