WITH the 2021 free agency period officially open for business today, we pose the question of what kind of players each of the eight Suncorp Super Netball clubs need ahead of season 2022.
The Vixens are the easiest club to spot the hole in, with the goal attack position the clear area to switch up over the off-season. The Vixens confirmed yesterday that Kaylia Stanton would not be staying on with the club, which opens up a starting position for one of a number of viable options. The most likely choice looking at season 2021 would be Tippah Dwan, with the talented goal attack seeing very little court time throughout the year following the return of Gretel Bueta, and the type of player who would slot in nicely alongside Mwai Kumwenda. The Vixens and Firebirds could effectively do a straight swap between them with the Firebirds realistically needing a goal keeper for the upcoming season given the lateness of Tara Hinchliffe‘s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury this season, with Kadie-Ann Dehaney one who could benefit from further court time and could head north to achieve that.
With Sam Poolman‘s retirement announced yesterday and Kristiana Manu’a heading across the ditch to the ANZ Premiership, the GIANTS are also in need of a defender to fill the gap. While April Brandley has been in career-best form of late and Tilly McDonell has proved capable of holding strong in goal keeper, the club will certainly be looking for at least one more head to help lead the charge down back. Dehaney could be a viable option here, unless the GIANTS put their trust in McDonell and bring up a developing talent from the pathway to fill their last defensive position. The other big question for the GIANTS will be whether Kiera Austin will be right to play from Round 1 next season, because that will dictate whether they retain both Austin and Sophie Dwyer, or allow one to look elsewhere for a starting spot with the Vixens the clear option there.
Something needs to change in the Adelaide Thunderbirds lineup with no Suncorp Super Netball finals berths as yet, with the midcourt most likely to change given their strong options across the court. Maisie Nankivell did a solid job out in wing attack for much of the season, but given her defensive nous and the likes of Hannah Mundy potentially up for grabs, it would be smart for the Thunderbirds to push Nankivell into centre and put time into Mundy out the front, with a potential combination between Mundy and Georgie Horjus too good to pass up.
With an improved structure in 2021 and a head coach players seem to love, it does not look like the Collingwood Magpies will experience wholesale changes ahead of the 2022 season, with the Sunshine Coast Lightning looking to be in a similar position. For the Magpies, the initial thought is further bolstering their attack, with the likes of Kalifa McCollin rarely used this season for various reasons and a potential to jump ship. The Trinidad and Tobago international could hop over to the Lightning as an extra prong to the Cara Koenen and Steph Wood goal circle following the departure of Peace Proscovia and Binnian Hunt, while the Magpies may choose to elevate Nyah Allen in McCollin’s place. Phumza Maweni‘s departure from the club was somewhat expected, potentially heading back home to South Africa after a couple years away from family, with Ash Unie most likely to plug that hole on return from injury.
When looking at the likes of NSW Swifts and West Coast Fever, neither team needs anyone per se, but it is safe to say a couple of the players may be hoping to jump ship for more court time this season which means they may need to top up their current list accordingly. Sophie Garbin and Lauren Moore could be two Swifts premiership players looking to step up to starting roles, while Fever’s Olivia Lewis may be looking for a fresh start after sitting behind Courtney Bruce for a number of years. Rumours continue to put doubt upon the return of English internationals Nat Haythornthwaite (Swifts) and Stacey Francis-Bayman (Fever), with both more than capable of owning a starting spot if they stay.
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