Tag: courtney bruce

Who could lead SSN stats in 2020?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball set to return in just over a month there is plenty of hype surrounding the season and which team will assert themselves on the competition. Last year the Lightning and Swifts seemed to dominate most areas when it came to statistics, but that did not stop Adelaide Thunderbirds recruit Shamera Sterling from leaving her mark claiming prime position in a couple of crucial stats while West Coast Fever goaler Jhaniele Fowler was also well represented in terms of statistical dominance. Draft Central poses some hypotheticals for the 2020 season, taking into account 2019 form, potential development over the off-season and enforced COVID-19 break.

Defensive rebounds:
Talented goal keeper, Sterling dominated rebounds last year notching up a whopping 35 for the season. Collingwood and England Roses goal keeper Geva Mentor was not far behind with 33, something she will be hoping to build on this season given the young and inexperienced defensive unit behind her heading into 2020. Premiership player Sarah Klau proved to be a force to be reckoned with under the post with her strong positioning and rebounding ability amassing the fourth most with 28 for the season. With Diamonds experience under her belt Klau could be an even bigger threat in the 2020 SSN season. While Emily Mannix did not feature within the top 10 for rebounds last year expect the Melbourne Vixens defender to be around the mark this season, with the defender showcasing a renewed hunger towards the end of last season. 

Goal assists:
It is no surprise that Melbourne Vixens and Australian Diamonds vice-captain Liz Watson took out the number one spot when it comes to goal assists with the wing attack simply unstoppable on circle edge with her pinpoint passes. Watson was quick, precise and accurate, feeding into the circle with a whopping 430 goal assists, 139 more than the next closest in teammate Kate Moloney. The Vixens centre was a key contributor throughout the season and will be around the mark once again in season 2020. The highly anticipated return of Madi Browne could see the speedy midcourter leap into the top five when it comes to goal assists as she will have to lead the attacking end for the Magpies given the wealth of personnel changes. Another possibility to join the top five is Swifts captain Maddy Proud who will hopefully make her return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the early stages of the season. Renowned for her speed, dynamic movement and quick hands she could have a real impact in the Swifts attacking end. 

Centre pass receives:
Pocket rocket Laura Scherian took out the number one spot when it came to centre pass receives in season 2019, with the nippy wing attack able to burst out over the transverse line and get the ball moving. Her speed off the mark and fancy footwork was one of a couple reasons why the Lightning were so successful with Scherian amassing 428 passes while Watson was not far behind with 375. Often flying under the radar when it comes to her work at the transverse line Gretel Bueta was a prominent threat with 325 receives. Her load may lift even further in 2020 with the retirement of Caitlyn Nevins so expect her to enforce herself in the midcourt. Depending on what position Paige Hadley plays she could be another player that appears within the top 10 while Browne is another possibility.

Goals:
Jamaican powerhouse and West Coast Fever go-to girl Jhaniele Fowler was simply unstoppable under the ring last year and will be hoping to replicate that form again this season. Standing at 198cm the goal shooter is a commanding presence and wowed many with her ability to perform week in week out racking up 709 goals. Fresh off a premiership expect Sam Wallace to pick up where she left off last season with the Swifts goal shooter able to slot them from everywhere no matter the pressure. With a potential increased load in the 2020 season due to pregnancies in the Collingwood camp, Shimona Nelson will have to push herself even further. Slotting 637 goals for the season, Nelson’s numbers could rapidly rise as she becomes an even bigger target for the Pies given the inexperienced attack. While Romelda Aiken did not make it into the top five last year, likely due to missing games for injury, the Firebirds goaler is renowned for her ability to score quickly and at a high volume so expect big things from her this season, while increased court time from Cara Koenen could also see the Sunshine Coast product sneak into the top five. 

Deflections:
Sterling took out the top deflections position with an impressive 120 for the year, a clear testament to her read of the play and ability to impact the contest. She was involved in just about everything and with another pre-season under her belt and more accustomed to the high intensity pace of the game will be raring to go heading into the 2020 season. Klau was another one who impressed last year and will be eager to keep the good times rolling if they are any chance to win back-to-back premierships. Surprisingly, powerhouse defender Karla Pretorius did not feature within the top five when it comes to deflections so expect the tenacious South African to be in the mix while Thunderbirds returnee Layla Guscoth is also renowned for her ability to create tips and turnovers. The development of Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner could see the duo feature within the top five this season while GIANTS wing defence Amy Parmenter is also a threat with her lightning quick pace and slickness on court.

Intercepts:
Although she did not feature in the deflections, Pretorius shone when it came to the intercept category with 69 for the season, one more than Sterling. Pretorius was a game changer for the Lightning, able to spring into action and take a huge intercept with her cleanliness and read of the play. After falling short in the grand final expect that fire in the belly to be evident and for Pretorius to once again be amongst the top echelon of players. Mannix was a prominent threat last year with her history breaking 10 intercepts in one game and ability to read the play. Collingwood newcomer Jodi-Ann Ward has proven on the international stage that she knows how to win ball back with her quick footwork and long reaching arms, while Magpies teammate, Mentor could also be in the top five once again given her strength in the air and skill to float into space and pick off passes. After a quieter 2019 season, West Coast Fever captain Courtney Bruce will be chomping at the bit, looking to assert herself and collect more deflections to rise up the leaderboard. 

Who will step up for the Fever in 2020?

AFTER  a disappointing 2019 season the West Coast Fever will be keen to get back on the winners list in the Suncorp Super Netball in 2020. With an unchanged line-up to last year the Fever have some a-class players that can stand up to the challenge and more importantly will be hoping to prove their worth. Courtney Bruce and Jhaniele Fowler are arguably the two most dominant figures on the court for the Fever, with the towering bookends renowned for their ability to control the game and create something out of nothing. But it will be up to the next tier of players to step up to the mark this season to generate some more wins and put out more consistent performances.

Jess Anstiss:
Winning the Young Star Award in 2018 along with a club MVP in 2017 there is no denying that Anstiss has the capacity to take the next step up this season. She is a classy player that can find the ball with ease whether it be in wing defence or centre. While she has a more commanding presence in wing defence with her defensive mindset, hands over pressure and ability to create turnovers she is equally as impressive through the centre. She is quick on her feet, able to read the play with ease and can hit the circle edge with ease to deliver the ball into the goalers. After a quiet year last year the talented midcourter will be hoping to emulate her 2018 form and prove that she is a force to be reckoned with and really provide that spark her side is looking for. 

Kaylia Stanton:
Pushed out of her usual position of goal shooter, Stanton is getting more familiar with the goal attack position. Although still adapting to the different style Stanton is a clever ball user and can find Fowler with ease under the post such is her vision and play making ability. The talented goaler is not afraid to go to post, often backing herself from range but just needs to grow in confidence in order to have a more profound impact throughout the game. She has the skillset to kick her game up a level given her silky movement, ball placement, calm temperament and sheer netball nous. Although she can fade in and out of games, more court time and further development will allow the young goaler to take the leap and prove that she is a commanding presence out at goal attack with her strong drives and accuracy to post.

Stacey Francis:
After spending some time out of the Roses side, Francis has rejoined the team and has taken her game to another level, something she will be hoping to continue with the Fever this season. She is a real ball winner with her speed off the mark, quick change of direction and deceptively long arms. Francis is a highly versatile player able to switch from circle defence to wing defence depending on what the team needs. Her physical style often catches shooters off guard but will need to reel it in to ensure she stays in play and can apply defensive pressure throughout the game. With leadership skills and experience to boot it is time for Francis to lead the midcourt and use her drive to bring the ball down court and create attacking forays.

Top 20 players over 30: #6 Jhaniele Fowler

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Just outside the top five at number six is Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler.

Arguably one of the most dominant shooters in recent history, Fowler is a shooting machine that simply produces high quality performances every time she steps out on court. The consistent goaler is hard to stop, able to light up the court with her aerial ability and towering height. Her ability to hold strong and demand the ball under the post is a key feature of her game style and while she does not venture far out of the goal circle, she often draws the attention of two defenders such is her dominance.

A key cog in the West Coast Fever line-up for the past couple of years, Fowler is composed and most importantly accurate to post. She is not often fazed by the physicality of the game and instead thrives on that competitive nature. The Jamaican shooter played a crucial role in Fever’s 2018 grand final assault despite falling short in the big dance. She proved that she was a constant threat to be reckoned with given her deceptively quick footwork and ability to free her arms and reel in any passes that came her way.

Fowler is extremely hard to challenge in the air given her stature and read of the play making it difficult for defenders to try and quell her influence under the post. The soon to be 31-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down and has displayed her skill on an international level as well, taking it up to some of the best in the business. Playing against the likes of teammate and captain Courtney Bruce along with the likes of Geva Mentor and Casey Kopua, Fowler has been able to hold her own and deliver for the Sunshine Girls. She is not often out-bodied in a contest such is her strength on the take. Another key feature of her game is her rebounding, able to gobble up anything that falls short whether it be her shot or a teammate’s attempt.

With a changing of the guard in the goal circle in 2019 for the Fever, Fowler was a real leader in the attacking third, clearly dictating the space and creating options inside the third for the likes of Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld. Her clear and clever positioning also alleviated the pressure on midcourters Verity Charles, Jess Anstiss and Ingrid Colyer which is a testament to her overall netball nous. While not the most versatile goaler to grace the court, Fowler is simply a commanding shooter that can put up a wealth of shots and cause headaches for defenders.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)
#18 Ama Agbeze (Severn Stars/England)
#17 Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning/South Africa)
#16 Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball/England)
#15 Chelsea Pitman (Adelaide Thunderbirds/England)

#14 Romelda Aiken (Queensland Firebirds/Jamaica)
#13 Madi Browne (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)
#12 Nat Medhurst (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)

#11 Mwai Kumwenda (Melbourne Vixens/Malawi)
#10 Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens/Australia)
#9 Jo Harten (GIANTS Netball/England)

#8 Jane Watson (Mainland Tactix/New Zealand)
#7 Caitlin Bassett (GIANTS Netball/Australia)
#6 Jhaniele Fowler (West Coast Fever/Jamaica)

Memorable Matches: Roses make history with 2018 Commonwealth Games gold

WITH netball taking a back seat to the coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is England’s inaugural Commonwealth Games gold, defeating Australia by one goal on home soil in 2018.

A memorable match for many Aussies – and not in a good way, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match was one for the ages as England quite literally pipped Australia at the post to reign supreme. While Australia led the competition in majority of the stats, this was England’s opportunity to topple to Diamonds for the first time and they were not about to let their greatest gold medal chance slip away. England may have been the underdogs, playing in their first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal match, but it was that goal which saw the Roses turn it out on Australian soil.

With ultimately one of the greatest lineups England has ever hand – perhaps only rivalled by their current list – they were just too strong for the overconfident Diamonds who faltered at the final hurdle and could not compete with the tenacious Roses when it came down to the nitty-gritty. For the Diamonds, the match came down to extensive rotations which the side had dealt with throughout the entire tournament. The Roses however came in with a different mindset, only rotating as they saw fit and able to form a consistent barrier against the formidable Aussies. 

It was an even start by both teams, with neither team really able to find much momentum such was the impact all 14 players were having on court. The two sides were evenly matched with both goal keepers in Laura Geitz and Geva Mentor forming tough barriers in their respective circles. Mentor racked up a whopping 12 gains throughout the match, putting on a clinic with her cleanliness and the ease with which she found the ball, using goal shooter Caitlin Bassett’s consistency against her. Geitz and April Brandley were solid as ever, fairly clean in their defence and finding plenty of loose ball. 

While Australia started out clean, not finding much whistle, the two sides evened up as the match went on, seeing the Roses clean up their act and forcing errors from the Diamonds who seemed out of sorts with the closeness of the game – which saw both teams even at 25 goals apiece at half-time. Liz Watson entered the game to take on the likes of Serena Guthrie, providing some real gut-running against the star centre. While it took some pressure off the attack with Watson’s quick hands doing wonders, Guthrie’s overall athleticism is tough to overcome while her immense endurance saw the midcourter continue to ply her trade and propel the ball back up the court.

The Diamonds got back into the groove in the third but while they had the goals on the board, the side seemed out of sorts thanks to the constant pressure applied down the court from the Roses. That being said, Australia’s full court defensive pressure impressed with just the four goalers not picking up gains – but it was the constant changing of goalers that seemed to work in England’s favour.

For the Roses, there were little changes throughout, with only some small impact options taking the court to ply their trade. Goalers, Jo Harten and Helen Housby were consistent from the start and had a couple of patches where their defenders were on top, namely the beginning of the first and third quarters thanks to Australia’s rotation for fresh feet in Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston, but ultimately continued to ply their trade and coming into the final quarter were well aware of what had to be done to win the game despite a slower third term.

Full credit has to be given to England’s final quarter effort, shooting 16 goals to overcome Australia’s three quarter time lead and forcing error upon error from the Diamonds. England was just much cleaner with ball in hand, treasuring possession where Australia seemed to throw away far more ball than their typical game. Australia all but fell apart in the final term, collecting a whopping 25 penalties – 22 contacts – compared to England’s 10 overall. When you compare that number to Australia’s seven penalties overall in the first quarter, it’s hard to not think of what could have been if the consistency had remained from the beginning to end.

It was a goal on the buzzer from Housby which cemented the win for England, making history as the Roses collected their first Commonwealth gold, well and truly earning the win against the reigning champions, 52-51. At the post, Harten topscored with 34 goals at 87 per cent accuracy, while Bassett was not quite as influential with 22 goals from 24 attempts – though she did miss out on the third quarter. Housby came in next with 18 goals while Steph Wood and Susan Pettitt shot 12 and 11 goals respectively to provide another option in the circle. 

The consistency of Gabi Simpson was impressive, with the athletic midcourt defender the only Aussie to play out the full 60 minutes. Simpson used every inch of her pressure to impact on the Roses’ ability to find the goal circle, impeding former Australian representative Chelsea Pitman from finding avenues to the ring and providing impressive speed and pressure up the court. Pitman racked up 18 goal assists from 28 feeds, while Watson was not far behind with 17 assists from 27, only having played the three quarters. Geitz racked up five gains in her half on court and was well and truly missed in the final quarter, while Simpson’s consistency and pressure saw her collect four gains and Guthrie three with her threatening speed.

AUSTRALIA 14 | 11 | 13 | 13 (51)
ENGLAND 13 | 12 | 11 | 16 (52)

Australia

GS: Caitlin Bassett
GA: Susan Pettitt
WA: Madi Robinson
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: April Brandley
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Caitlin Thwaites, Courtney Bruce, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Steph Wood
COACH: Lisa Alexander

England

GS: Jo Harten
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Chelsea Pitman
C: Serena Guthrie
WD: Beth Cobden
GD: Eboni Usoro-Brown
GK: Geva Mentor

BENCH: Ama Agbeze, Nat Haythorthwaite, Jodie Gibson, Jade Clarke, Kadeen Corbin
COACH: Tracey Neville

SHOOTING STATS

Australia

Caitlin Bassett 22/24
Steph Wood 12/14
Susan Pettitt 11/12
Caitlin Thwaites 6/6

England

Jo Harten 34/39
Helen Housby 18/21

Fantasy teams: Australia/Jamaica v. New Zealand/England

WITH a wealth of netball talent across the world Draft Central has created two teams based on the current top four nations according to the International Netball Federation rankings. The first team comprises of first and fourth – Australia and Jamaica – while the second team is made up of players from New Zealand and England. The line-ups include injured players that have recently featured in their respective country’s team.

Australia & Jamaica (Diamond Girls)

GK: Shamera Sterling
GD: Jo Weston
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Liz Watson
WA: Kelsey Browne
GA: Gretel Bueta
GS: Jhaniele Fowler

BENCH: Caitlin Bassett, Adean Thomas, Courtney Bruce

The Diamond Girls are bookended by Jamaicans given their height and dominance in those respective positions. The defensive end is set to cause fireworks with the likes of Shamera Sterling taking out the goal keeper position. The exciting Jamaican goal keeper is renowned for her intercepting ability, impressive aerial skills and classy footwork to get up to the high balls and propel it back down the court. Australian Diamond, Jo Weston is set to pull on the goal defence position given her ability to shut down opposition goalers with her tagging style of defence and skill to block vision and space in the defensive third.

Through the midcourt it is Diamonds top heavy with dynamo Liz Watson taking out the centre position. Although she is more commonly seen in wing attack, Watson has proven that she has the endurance and skill to have an influence across all thirds and use her speed and precision passing to deliver into the goalers with ease. Speedster, Kelsey Browne takes out the wing attack position credit to her dynamic footwork to dance around the circle edge and exploit every inch of space. Her impressive vision and skill to vary her passes into the shooters makes her hard to stop when on song. Coming in at wing defence is Ash Brazill, with the Australian Diamond able to move into centre as well when needed. There is no denying that she is one of the most athletic midcourters in netball history with her aerial ability and speed off the mark.

In the shooting circle, it is a combination of twin towers with excitement machine, the unpredictable Gretel Bueta getting the nod at goal attack. She is simply unstoppable both in the air and at ground level able to gobble up everything that comes her way while her increased accuracy makes her even more of a threat. Bueta consistently uses her athleticism and strength to out-position defenders under the post and shoot truly. Jamaican shooting machine, Jhaniele Fowler takes out the goal shooter position thanks to her continued dominance, height, strong holds and high volume. Her ability to use her body and feet to ward off defenders is second to none.

Unlucky not to get the start is Australian captain, Caitlin Bassett who was just pipped at the post by Fowler while the likes of Adean Thomas through the midcourt and defender Courtney Bruce also just missed out.

New Zealand & England (Silver Roses)

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Laura Langman
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Jo Harten

BENCH: Helen Housby, Serena Guthrie, Jane Watson

There is no shortage of star power across the court for the Silver Roses with key players across each third of the court. Each player oozes class, experience and an innate winning ability. Starting down back is arguably one of the most experienced defenders and goal keepers in the world, Geva Mentor. The England Roses defender is in a league of her own, able to read the play and swat the ball away with her well-timed leaps and pressure over the shot. Moving out into goal defence is versatile New Zealand defender Katrina Rore renowned for her aerial presence and intercepting ability. She is light on her feet able to spring into action at any time and also possesses that attacking element to transition the ball from one end of the court to the other.

The defensive minded Karin Burger is another sure start for the Silver Roses with her impressive wingspan and quick change of direction. Burger proved to be a key cog for New Zealand able to direct traffic down back and can seamlessly switch into circle defence when needed such is her netball IQ. Her balance around circle edge ensures she remains a constant threat to force turnovers while in centre it is hard to go past the services of Laura Langman. The veteran Silver Fern is simply unstoppable able to run all day and everyday using her ball movement to open up the attacking end and deliver pin-point passes. Although she is more defensively minded able to apply pressure on the ball carrier and pick off intercepts her ability to switch into attack makes a never-ending threat. In at wing attack is England Roses midcourter and part-time shooter Nat Haythornthwaite. Although more commonly seen delivering the ball to the goalers with her clever placement around circle edge, quick footwork and hard drive to circle edge Haythornthwaite can slide into goal attack when needed.

The goal circle oozes nothing but class, shooting prowess and versatility with both able to switch between positions. Ameliaranne Ekenasio takes out the goal attack position with her smooth movement constantly on display while her ability to slot them from anywhere makes her an ominous threat for opposition teams. She is cool, calm and collected under the post and is not afraid to re-position to get into a more commanding spot while her ball handling skills is second to none. Much like her fellow goaler, Jo Harten can stand up and deliver long bomb after long bomb. Her ability to shake up her game style from a holding to a moving shooter keeps defenders on their toes.

Rounding out the squad is England Roses goaler Helen Housby along with teammate and defensive midcourter Serena Guthrie while Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson is the final piece of the puzzle.

Who would win?

Given the versatility of the Silver Roses it is fair to say that they have the upper hand over the Diamond Girls with each of their players able to move into another position with ease. The Silver Roses ooze dominance from the defensive unit right through the midcourt to the goalers, able to exploit the Diamond Girls especially through the midcourt.

Who will be world number one by the end of 2021?

DESPITE not winning the past two major tournaments in the netball calendar Australia still sit pretty at number one in the world rankings. Last year, arch rivals New Zealand pipped Australia at the post with a thrilling one goal win at the Liverpool World Cup while England also reigned supreme in 2018, crushing Australian hearts in the gold medal match of the Commonwealth Games with a one goal victory. While international netball is uncertain at the moment given the COVID-19 outbreak, expect plenty of a-class clashes between the top nations when it returns. But with so much player development and new coaching techniques coming through, the top spot could change in the next twelve to eighteen months. Who will be number one netballing nation by the end of 2021?

Australia: 207 rating

With the number one spot sewn up, the Diamonds are primed to continue their reign at the top of the netball ladder. They are almost 30 points ahead of their next competitor showcasing their sheer ability to dominate opposition countries and win comfortably. The Diamonds are renowned for their clinical style of play and will be hoping to extend their lead over the other nations and hold onto top spot for years to come. The next layer of young up and coming players such as Jamie-Lee Price, Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau are already filtering through the camp giving the Diamonds plenty of hope for the future. The Diamonds have a couple of aces up their sleeve to remain at the top of the ladder with goaling sensation, Gretel Bueta one of them. Bueta has taken the world by storm with her explosiveness and unpredictability both under the post and across the court while the likes of Liz Watson and Courtney Bruce have become staples in the line-up.

New Zealand: 179 rating

Fresh off a World Cup win, the Ferns have well and truly re-established themselves as a netball powerhouse. After undergoing somewhat of a rebuild in 2018, the Ferns look bigger and better than previous years with stars across the court. According to the current international netball world rankings the Silver Ferns are just ahead of England but are still a distance away from the top of the table Diamonds, though that will not stop them from taking a swipe at the coveted position. Unfortunately, the Ferns have already said goodbye to some fan favourites in Maria Folau and Casey Kopua who have been key contributors for ten-plus years given their on court prowess and sheer dominance, while it could be argued that veteran Laura Langman is on her last legs, meaning the Ferns will have to strike soon if they are to take out that prime position. Under the guidance of Noeline Taurua the Ferns have developed into a formidable outfit renowned for their discipline and pin-point accuracy, something that will go a long way in helping their climb up the ladder, not to mention the wealth of depth they have coming up through the ranks in the ANZ Premiership.

England: 173 rating

With an ageing team, it is really now or never for the England Roses to reach the top and cement themselves an a-list team. They have well and truly found their form in the past couple of years taking out the 2018 Commonwealth Games and showcasing their impressive form throughout the Nations Cup. With a host of their stars and starting seven heading towards the twilight of their career such as Geva Mentor, Jo Harten and Serena Guthrie, the Roses will have to throw everything they have at New Zealand and Australia to make a serious assault on prime position in the world rankings. Only sitting two points behind the Ferns, England definitely have the firepower to overtake New Zealand and if they continue on their winning ways could take the crown from Australia.

Jamaica: 172 rating

The Sunshine Girls have come along in leaps and bounds thanks to a host of their players joining the likes of the Suncorp Super Netball, Vitality Netball Superleague and ANZ Premiership to help further develop their craft. It is almost unheard of to even consider Jamaica as a potential number one nation but it is not impossible given they are only one point behind England and have some key players that can single handedly change the course of a game. With towering and prolific shooters, Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler at their disposal, Jamaica could rise up the ranks or at least challenge those above them. Throw in highly touted and exciting young defender Shamera Sterling along with goaler Shimona Nelson and the Sunshine Girls have a very bright future which puts them in good stead to mix it with the best and take out the number one spot.

*Note: For a full breakdown of how rankings are established, check out the International Netball Federation rankings.

Top 20 players over 30: #20 Stacey Francis

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Kickstarting the countdown at number 20 is West Coast Fever and England Roses defender, Stacey Francis.

Francis has been a staple hold in the Fever defence line-up since their inception with her aerial ability and physicality a couple of her characteristics. She is not afraid to use her body work to get under the skin of her opponents and while she is not the tallest defender it is her speed and skill to read the play that makes her one to watch. The 32-year-old is electric on her feet able to cover the court with ease and can rotate through the defensive positions with ease. While goal defence is her preferred position, Francis has shown that she is more than capable of playing her role in wing defence with her nagging style of defence and nous to block her opposition’s space and vision.

She has shown no signs of slowing down leaving her mark in the England Roses team with her constant hands over pressure and desperation to have a flying shot at anything that goes past her. Francis is light on her feet able to burst out of the blocks and gobble up the cross-court ball. Standing at 180cm Francis uses every inch of her height to cause turnovers and create tips across the court while her tenacity to chase down the loose ball also makes her an integral member in any side.

Her combination with Fever teammate and Australian goal keeper Courtney Bruce is highly impressive, with the two able to rotate through the space and cause confusion with their high intensity and general netball smarts. Her connection with fellow West Coast teammates such as Shannon Eagland and Olivia Lewis is also strong with the defender using her experience to dictate space and create a calming presence down back. She is agile but most importantly is strong, not often out-bodied by opponents especially around circle edge Francis can have a profound impact in disrupting the attacking flow and creating issues for opposition teams trying to push forward. Francis uses her balance and quick footwork to dance around her opponent and while she is towards the twilight of her career has shown that she still has a few tricks up her sleeve.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)

What if … Mwai Kumwenda did not return to SSN in 2019?

IN the second last game of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season, Melbourne Vixens goaler Mwai Kumwenda injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), ruling her out not only for the rest of the season but so too much of the 2019 season. With athleticism and accuracy to boot, Kumwenda was a key cog in the goal circle for the Vixens and was sorely missed throughout the 2019 season despite the acquisition of another shooting sensation.

Kumwenda is highly reliable, able to post a high volume of shots and impose herself in the goal circle up against some of the worlds most renowned defenders such as Geva Mentor and Courtney Bruce. Her unique style of play allowed her to continuously have an influence under the post. While she is not the strongest or bulkiest shooter it is her clever positioning, fancy footwork and go-go gadget arms that make her such a challenge for opposition teams.

Sidelined for the majority of last season, new recruit and fan favourite Caitlin Thwaites took the centre stage alongside goal attack Tegan Philip. The two combined seamlessly with their impressive movement, shooter to shooter interplay and accuracy to post doing all the talking. However, with finals quickly approaching and Kumwenda on the mend, the inclusion of the Malawi shooter added an extra element to the Vixens’ somewhat predictable line-up, helping them surge ahead and take out third position on the ladder.

But what if Mwai Kumwenda did not return to SSN? Would the Vixens have gone as far as they did in 2019?

Her on-court influence is hard to deny. Simply the way Kumwenda moves and her effortless shooting action makes her incredibly hard to stop while her versatility to change from a holding to moving shooter adds another string to her bow. With pressure mounting towards the backend of the 2019 season the option to bring Kumwenda on for the Vixens paid dividends with the goal shooter able to absorb the pressure and shoot truly. Unfazed by the score or the theatrics of the game, Kumwenda was cool, calm and composed and forced other teams to shake up their defence given her impressive timing, aerial ability and strong hands on the take.

Since taking the court in 2017, Kumwenda has proved that accuracy and volume is no issue posting 588 goals in 2017 and 501 goals in 2018. While her 2019 season was interrupted, her accuracy did not waver, only missing nine of her 66 attempts. Her strong connection with the likes of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney was another focal point for the Vixens’ late success, with the midcourters easily able to sight the Malawian shooter and deliver the ball on a silver platter to her. The innate understanding between the trio allowed the Vixens to thread the needle through the defence and apply both attacking and scoreboard pressure, giving them the edge in the semi-final against Collingwood.

While she is not the sole reason the Vixens were able to triumph their way into the preliminary finals she was a key aspect to their success, able to come on and have an influence when need be. Although the Vixens also had South African Ine-Mari Venter amongst the mix the still developing shooter at times lacked the explosiveness and experience of Kumwenda.

Compare the Pair: Liz Ellis and Courtney Bruce

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from different Australian Diamonds eras, with the next showcasing Australian goal keepers, Liz Ellis and Courtney Bruce.

With tenacity, constant pressure and an ability to do the impossible, Ellis and Bruce are two threats on the international stage with plenty of hunt for the ball and creativity to get it. Their respective excitement-generating play has helped turn the tides of their teams over and over, while their anticipation to leap for the intercept or make that game-changing deflection has them both as household names for netball fans. While the two players have entirely different game styles, it’s their respective commitment to the game at hand that sets them apart, able to adjust depending on their opposition to continue to maintain control game after game.

Ellis is one of the best defenders the world has seen, and as a constant threatening force to be reckoned with in defence there is no surprise why that is. Her read of the play was impeccable while her rotation in the circle to drop back or go on the hunt is testament to her trust in her teammates to fall back and form a wall in defence. Her speed to turn over the ball was crucial for the Diamonds while her captaincy proved her strength on court as not just a player but leader as the most capped player in Australian netball history.

The ex-captain was a force to be reckoned with, always ready to take possession with her impressive closing speed and reach over the netball. Her ability to anticipate patterns and turn the game on its head allowed her to make the game her own, and with three world titles and two Commonwealth Games gold just at international level – not counting domestic achievements – Ellis will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time.  

Courtney Bruce may not have the same number of caps but has well and truly proved herself in recent years with the Diamonds, forming a critical pairing with Jo Weston on the international stage where she can play that exciting intercepting role. With pressure and constant intensity to match, Bruce’s ability to anticipate the ball speeding down the court is crucial and paired with her speed off the mark she can create that defensive breathing room to propel the ball back up the court.

While Bruce does not have the Diamonds captaincy, her consistency and ability to turn over the ball sees her lead the West Coast Fever. Still only 26-years-old, Bruce has plenty left in the tank with her creativity sure to spark many a turnover for the Diamonds in the coming years. While her past year has been plagued by injury, Bruce will intend to be right as rain for the next year of international competition.

Liz Ellis
122 caps, 1993-2007

Courtney Bruce
33 caps*, 2017-present

Which goal keeper would you pick in their prime?
Liz Ellis
Courtney Bruce
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Netball fantasy teams: West Coast Fever All-Stars v. Adelaide Thunderbirds All-Stars

THE West Coast Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds have a highly decorated history with both clubs boasting a long line of a-class players since their inception. Draft Central has comprised two All-Star teams filled with past and present players.

West Coast Fever:

GK: Courtney Bruce
GD: Eboni Usoro-Brown
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Shae Brown
WA: Madi Browne
GA: Nat Medhurst
GS: Caitlin Bassett

BENCH: Jhaniele Fowler, Stacey Marinkovich, Ama Agbeze

Although they have not tasted a lot of success throughout their time in both the ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball, the West Coast Fever has been home to a wealth of highly talented netballers both from an Australian and international perspective. When it comes to the goal circle the Fever have been littered with stars none bigger than Australian Diamonds captain, Caitlin Bassett. The towering goal shooter really made a name for herself under the post for the Fever with her strong holds, lanky arms and volume. Her connection with teammate and fellow former Diamond Nat Medhurst was near on unstoppable. Medhurst was the real playmaker inside the attacking third with her impressive balance, vision and ability to think two steps ahead of her opponents. While she did not put up a high amount of goals it was her off the ball work that made her such a damaging player.

Moving into wing attack is Madi Browne. The speedy centre court player oozes strength and excellent ball handling skills to deliver the ball with precision to the goalers. Shae Brown was a key contributor for the Fever, spending almost ten years at the club using her energiser bunny speed to dart around the court and cause havoc. The centre proved that she could run all day and was not afraid to put in the hard yards taking the strong drive to the top of the goal circle. It is no surprise that wing defence come centre Ash Brazill gets the start in the All-Star Fever team given her sheer athleticism, speed off the mark and ability to make something out of nothing. Brazill quickly developed into one of the most influential players with her defensive pressure constantly on show and desperation to attack the ball.

Down in defence is England Roses goal defence Eboni Usoro-Brown who is renowned for her body on body pressure, physicality under the post and ability to pick off intercepts. She is light on her feet and uses her long arms to cause confusion for the feeders looking into the circle. Current captain and Diamonds keeper, Courtney Bruce takes out the goal keeper position thanks to her tenacity and impressive leap. She does not take a backwards step on the court, consistently looking to take on the physical tussle and use her quick footwork to get around the body of her opponents and force tips and turnovers.

Rounding out the team is Jamaican shooting powerhouse Jhaniele Fowler along with former England Roses captain Ama Agbeze, while coach and former midcourter Stacey Marinkovich also earned herself a spot on the All-Star team.

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

GK: Sharni Layton
GD: Mo’onia Gerrard
WD: Renae Ingles
C: Natalie Bode (nee von Bertouch)
WA: Chelsea Pitman
GA: Erin Bell
GS: Maria Folau

BENCH: Carla Borrego, Maddy Proud, Rebecca Bulley

Over the years the Adelaide Thunderbirds have added to their trophy cabinet and experienced their fair share of success. With that success has come some highly talented players filtering through the club such as former Australian goal keeper Sharni Layton. She was one of the most dynamic and physical defenders in the game, renowned for her constant niggle and innate ability to go screaming out for an intercept. Her constant movement, hands over pressure and sheer pressure was a focal point of her game much like her defensive counterpart Mo’onia Gerrard. The goal defence was strong both in the air and at ground level, hustling for every ball that came her way and not giving her opponent an inch. Gerrard used her speed off the mark to force turnovers and apply pressure.

In at wing defence is none other than Renae Ingles. Arguably one of the most profound and impactful wing defences in the competition Ingles was the heart and soul of the Thunderbirds for many years, thanks to her on-court leadership and netball nous. Her go-get it attitude, long reaching arms and innate ability to sense the moment and make something special happen was second to none. Another former captain in Natalie Bode takes out the centre position with the dynamic midcourter able to run all day and ply her trade across the court. Her precision ball placement, strength around the goal circle and impressive vision made her hard to stop when on song. While in wing attack is England Roses and current Thunderbirds co-captain Chelsea Pitman. She is a smooth mover, that boasts plenty of class with ball in hand and a high level of execution.

The goal circle is full of long bomb specialists with yet another former T’birds captain and Australian Diamonds shooter, Erin Bell taking out the goal attack position. Her high release sky-scraper shots, silky movement across the court and cool, calm temperament was a key reason to their success. She was not afraid to back herself from range and showcased her spatial awareness every time she was on court. While she only spent one season with the Thunderbirds, Maria Folau had an undeniable impact in the goal circle with the long bomb specialist well and truly living up to her name. Her effortless shooting action and accuracy to post proved to be the key for the Thunderbirds throughout the 2019 season.

On the bench and unlucky not to get a start is defender Rebecca Bulley, renowned for her tagging style of play, while former basketballer Carla Borrego and fan favourite Maddy Proud both also got the call up.

Who would win?

Although the Adelaide Thunderbirds have won more premierships than the West Coast Fever throughout history, it is hard to go past the quality talent on the list. The Fever probably have the upper hand when it comes to goalers with the likes of Fowler, Medhurst and Bassett all at their disposal. Defensively both teams are stacked but the scales tilt towards the Fever given their extra depth.

Who wins this All-Star battle of the West and South?
West Coast Fever
Adelaide Thunderbirds
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