Tag: gretel bueta

2020 SSN: Season preview – Queensland Firebirds

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team with the Queensland Firebirds next on the list.

Coach: Roselee Jencke
Captain: Gabi Simpson
2019 finish: 8th

It was a disappointing season for the Firebirds last season only mustering up one win for the season. Despite being competitive throughout the season they simply fell off the boil and could not maintain a consistent four quarter performance which ultimately let them down time and time again. They were also struck by injury throughout their campaign with star Jamaican goal shooter, Romelda Aiken sidelined for a lengthy stint paving the way for Spar Proteas goaler Lenize Potgieter to join the ranks while centre Mahalia Cassidy had her season cut short thanks to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The Firebirds also farewelled a couple of veterans in the purple dress with wing attack Caitlyn Nevins and goal keeper Laura Clemesha both retiring at season end to cap off what was a less than memorable season for the Firebirds.

2020 expectations/predictions:

With Gretel Bueta announcing her pregnancy there is some uncertainty surrounding the attacking end, and it will be extremely difficult for the Firebirds to find someone of the same calibre considering wealth of work she does across the court. Bueta oozes plenty of class, strength and dynamism that is unmatched meaning the attack end will have a gaping hole in 2020 and it will be up to Aiken and Ine-Mari Venter to really steer the ship. Although more comfortable in goal shooter, Venter will have her work cut out for her in goal attack with the South African having to bring the ball down court.  Through the midcourt the highly anticipated return of Cassidy will generate plenty of interest while youngster Macy Gardner will be hoping to make a splash in her first full season at the club. Former Vixens midcourter, Lara Dunkley will also be eager to showcase her dominance through the centre court with her speed, change of direction and pin point precision while livewire Jemma Mi Mi will be hoping to build on her consistency from last season and really drive that attacking third with her impressive speed off the mark and fancy footwork. The leadership of Gabi Simpson is a focal point for the Firebirds with the wing defence able to spark her side into action thanks to her aerial presence, intercepting ability and tenacity. Defensively the Firebirds boast one of the most unpredictable and exciting combinations in Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe. Both still only 22-years-old, the defenders are renowned for their physicality, hunt for the ball and strong connection, something they will be hoping to kick up a gear in 2020 and have a lasting impact.

Key player:

Struggling with injury last season expect Aiken to answer with a bang this season and recapture her dominant form especially considering she will be the main avenue to goal. The 196cm goaler can change the course of a game in an instant given her skill to score with ease. She is a commanding presence under the post while her aerial ability is second to none able to constantly reel in skyscrapers. She stunned many last season, on the odd occasion switching ends and plying her trade as a goal keeper, using her long limbs to defend the shot and get in the head of opposition goalers. Her versatility could once again be called upon for the Firebirds in 2020, but expect Aiken to spend majority of her time parked under the goal post where she does her most damage with her high volume of shots and relative accuracy. Her strength on the rebound is another crucial element in her game play, filling her teammates with confidence that if their shot comes up short she can reclaim possession.

Team list:

Romelda AIken
Gretel Bueta
Mahalia Cassidy
Lara Dunkley
Rudi Ellis
Macy Gardner
Tara Hinchliffe
Kim Jenner
Jemma Mi Mi
Gabi Simpson
Ine-Mari Venter

Opinion: Which teams in the SSN will benefit from the Super Shot?

IN light of the introduction of the Suncorp Super Netball “Super Shot” Draft Central casts an eye over which team will benefit from the new rule and which teams may struggle. The Super Shot allows goalers in the last five minutes of each quarter to earn double the points if they can sink them from beyond the designated 3 metre arc. 

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

The new attacking end will have their work cut out for them this season boasting a very different line-up to last year. Headlined by Lenize Potgieter the Thunderbirds will be relying on the South African shooting sensation to lead the way under the post. The Tbirds could be disadvantaged with the new rule given Potgieter, Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges do most of their damage from close to the post. However the possible return of Sasha Glasgow could provide some relief with the goal shooter confident from range. The Thunderbirds would be wishing that the Super Shot rule was introduced last year with the now retired, long bomb specialist Maria Folau at their disposal. 

Collingwood Magpies:

Relying heavily on Shimona Nelson under the post the Magpies may have a difficult 2020 season given the close range in which the goal shooter does her damage. Nelson came along in leaps and bounds in season 2019 and will be looking to elevate her game once again this season and will more than likely be the spearhead for the Magpies attack end. Newbie Julia Woolley has proven at Victoria Netball League (VNL) level that she can shoot from anywhere and could be a key prospect for the Magpies when it comes to the Super Shot. Although more comfortable on the mid-range shot, Woolley can shoot from the perimeter while Gabby Sinclair is also another possibility to wreak havoc in the final five minutes of the quarter. 

GIANTS Netball:

It will be a good combination of long bomb and close range shooting with the two GIANTS goalers possessing very different styles. Although both renowned for their holding style of play, England Roses goaler Jo Harten is accustomed to the long bomb, able to rock back on the shot and score. Able to shoot from both under the post and perimeter it will be up to Harten to deliver from further out in the final five minutes of the quarter to try and give the GIANTS that competitive edge. While Caitlin Bassett is dominant under the post, able to put up a wealth of shots she does not venture far out from her comfort zone meaning the Super Shot scoring will lie heavily on Harten and potentially youngster Kiera Austin. Although Austin does not get a wealth of court time in the goal circle she has proven that she can come on and have an impact with her ability to back herself from mid-range. 

Melbourne Vixens:

Renowned for their long bomb shooting thanks to the likes of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip the Melbourne Vixens are in good stead with the introduction of the Super Shot. Both goalers have continuously proven that they can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle with their composure and skill on constant display. Thwaites while strong under the post is equally as damaging from close to the perimeter and while Philip is more commonly known for her baseline drives and mid-range shots she is not afraid to back herself from range, making the Vixens a real threat in 2020. Although Malawian goal shooter, Mwai Kumwenda is not known for her long range shooting she can rely on the likes of Thwaites and Philip to steer the ship from distance and can focus on delivering from under the post.  

NSW Swifts:

Another team in a strong position with the new rule is the Swifts with England Roses goal attack Helen Housby a commanding presence close to circle edge. Although more comfortable with her mid-range shooting, Housby can sink them from distance and deliver, potentially making her the go to girl in the latter half of the quarters. Sophie Garbin is another option that can shoot from further out and while it is not her go to shot, her ability to stand up and deliver could make her an interesting prospect for the Swifts in the dying minutes of the quarter. Trinidad and Tobago goal shooter Sam Wallace is renowned for her skill and strength directly under the post but may have to look at broadening her range to suit the SSN rule change. 

Queensland Firebirds:

There is no denying that the Firebirds game plan centres around Romelda Aiken and Gretel Bueta who are both recognised for their close range shooting. Aiken is arguably one of the most formidable goal shooters in the competition with her aerial presence, long splits and high volume of shots. The only downside being the majority of her goals come from directly under the post, placing a wealth of pressure on the Firebirds attack unit to generate more scoring opportunities. Coming from a basketball background Bueta is used to shooting from distance but on the netball court the dynamic goaler opts to edge closer to the post. Although she has proven over time that she can convert from further out many are used to Bueta doing the most damage from a metre or so under the post. The inclusion of Ine-Mari Venter may provide that element of long range shooting that could benefit the Firebirds when it comes to converting on the Super Shot. 

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

After a breakout season last year Cara Koenen will be hoping to go even bigger this season to really leave a mark on the competition. While she is most comfortable under the post and does most of her scoring from there, the Sunshine Coast local can shoot from mid-range, making her a viable option when it comes to the two point shot. However, the Lightning are well placed having the likes of Australian Diamonds goaler Steph Wood who is able to carry the load when it comes to shooting from further out. Wood is no slouch in the goal circle, able to shoot from just about anywhere and use her turn of speed to receive the ball and goal. Rounding out the shooting options for the Lightning is Ugandan goaler Peace Proscovia, while typically known for her holding role under the post, she might have to get on the move more in 2020 to create additional scoring chances.

West Coast Fever:

With Jhaniele Fowler the go-to-girl, West Coast might have to shake-up their game plan for the 2020 season in order to benefit from the Super Shot. The towering goal shooter is prominent under the post able to shoot quickly, accurately and at a high volume. But with most of Fever’s goals coming from within a metre or so of the ring, the Fever might have to look to Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton more often to capitalise on the two point shot. Stanton can shoot from further out  while Teague-Neeld hardly puts up a shot instead proving to be a playmaker in the attacking third with her quick hands and vision into the circle. While accuracy can be an issue for both Stanton and Teague-Neeld at times the new rule could cause a few headaches for the Fever in 2020 with the team in green potentially forced to stray from their usual game play of turn and deliver to Fowler under the post.

Memorable Matches: Firebirds defeat Swifts in 2015 ANZ Championship 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 the Queensland Firebirds’ come-from-behind victory over the NSW Swifts in the 2015 ANZ Championship Grand Final.

It was the culmination of a massive ANZ Championship season which set the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts against one another, and the Swifts never looked like losing – before the Firebirds stunned in the final minutes of the match. It was a slow start for both teams and while the Swifts had the early lead, the Firebirds did not back down, contesting every single ball. With star players across the court it was all about momentum and the Swifts were swimming in it early, with Caitlin Thwaites and Sharni Layton impressing at both ends and connections all down the midcourt.

The feisty matchup saw neither team leave any stone unturned, with Laura Geitz and Kim Green seeing more of each other than a goal keeper and wing attack typically would. Meanwhile, quality defensive pressure from Julie Corletto and Layton saw the Swifts duo dominate much of the play, with Firebirds goalers Gretel Bueta and Romelda Aiken stopped in their tracks and unwilling to make risky moves. The Swifts had the accuracy going for them on court, with Thwaites and Susan Pettitt firing on all cylinders, unfazed by the persistent defensive pressure from the likes of Geitz and partner in crime, Clare McMeniman who continually pushed the shooters to attempt risky shots – though those shots continued to pay off. It was the Firebirds’ penalty count which saw them struggle for much of the match, almost doubling the Swifts’ at half time and finishing with a higher contact penalty count alone (66 and 16 obstructions) than the Swifts did overall (50 and 10).

While Swifts continued to prove too strong across the court, the Firebirds started to regain some control bit by bit, working their way into the match and continuing to pressure the Swifts and fight for a chance to win the second half. A quality third term from Geitz was part of the reason why the Firebirds were able to steal back momentum, holding Thwaites to just 12 goals in the second half – five in the third – while Aiken stepped up to ply her trade, shooting 28 in the second half to well and truly take the game by storm. While Geitz racked up the stats in the second half, the Swifts slowed down. Despite still holding the lead, it was clear the hosts were on their way back and were not about to lie down.

With the premiership in sight, Queensland unleashed at the right moment and with 30 seconds left on the clock levelled the scores, with the next centre pass going their way making for a tense countdown. The Firebirds played keepings off to finish, patiently chipping the ball around before Bueta went to post to deny a last second chance for the Swifts – with her only goal for the quarter seeing the Firebirds hit the front for the first time. With 14 seconds left on the clock, only a massive save would stop the Swifts from scoring, so Geitz did just that – taking a game saving intercept and passing the ball off, seeing the Firebirds defeat the Swifts 57-56 and sending the purple army into hysterics.

While not the most accurate of the day, sinking the winning goal was enough for Bueta, who shot 10 from 17 to provide a quality support for Aiken (47 from 51). It was a shared effort for the Swifts goalers however, with both Thwaites (30 from 34) and Pettitt (26 from 28m, 35 centre pass receives) providing scoreboard pressure and proving influential in attack. Bueta’s wealth of work to get the ball to Aiken was second to none, leading the assists with 20 from 32 feeds and 33 centre pass receives, while Swifts midcourter Green came in second with 17 from 38 and doing a lot more second phase work alongside Pettitt. It was a battle of the goal keepers, with both Geitz and Layton finding a wealth of turnover ball, though Geitz was the big performer with six intercepts (eight gains). Layton was not far behind with three intercepts (four gains but seven deflections) and shared the defensive stats with Corletto (two intercepts, three gains).

QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 11 | 14 | 16 | 16 (57)
NSW SWIFTS 14 | 16 | 15 | 11 (56)

Queensland Firebirds

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Caitlyn Nevins
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Clare McMeniman
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Bec Bulley, Verity Charles, Laura Clemesha, Beryl Friday, Amy Wild
COACH: Roselee Jencke

NSW Swifts

GS: Caitlin Thwaites
GA: Susan Pettitt
WA: Kim Green
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Abbey McCulloch
GD: Julie Corletto
GK: Sharni Layton

BENCH: Jade Clarke, Erin Hoare, Taylah Davies, Micaela Wilson, Steph Wood
COACH: Rob Wright

SHOOTING STATS

FIREBIRDS

Romelda Aiken 47/51
Gretel Bueta 10/17

SWIFTS

Caitlin Thwaites 30/34
Susan Pettitt 26/28

Players that got away: Kate Shimmin

THERE are a number of netballers in the world that have or could have pulled on the international dress for more than one country throughout the career. With netball on hold due to the outbreak of COVID-19 Draft Central has decided to take a look at those players and their international careers and what could have been. The next in line is Australian defender turned England Roses representative Kate Shimmin.

Although she never exclusively played for the Diamonds, there is no denying that Shimmin is one of the most electrifying defenders to grace the court with her impressive aerial abilities. After spending years training with the Diamonds squad and representing Australia in the 2014 and 2016 Fast5 series’, the talented defender decided to switch teams and countries in hope for more opportunities on the big stage. Shimmin also donned the green and gold dress at Under 21 level showcasing her skill and dominance but never quite managed to crack into the Diamonds team given the amount of star power.

Standing at 185cm she is not the tallest defender to pull on the goal keeper or goal defence bib but she well and truly makes up for it in the air, using her leap to bounce into the air and snatch the ball. She is never out of the contest, constantly throwing her body on the line to reel in an intercept and is hungry for turnover ball. She is a versatile defender that can also move into wing defence when needed and is quick on her feet. The long armed defender is able to cause doubt over the shot and deflect crucial ball to provide her team with a wealth of opportunities. She can switch her defensive mindset to a more attacking one in a heartbeat, and often provides that backup option on the transverse line. Her game play has gone to another level alongside the likes of excitement machine Shamera Sterling and Shadine van der Merwe at the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Now playing for the England Roses, Shimmin has proven that she has the class and skill to perform at an international level matching up against the likes of Silver Ferns shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Having only played in five international games so far, the future is bright for Shimmin with the 28-year-old defender looking to cement her spot in the squad on a permanent basis. Playing alongside Geva Mentor, Stacey Francis and the experience of Jade Clarke out in wing defence, Shimmin has plenty of knowledgeable netballers to aid in furthering her craft. She is deceptively quick off the mark and can adapt her play accordingly depending on what the team needs. She can inject that element of surprise and physicality to keep the attackers on their toes and never settles in defence constantly on the look out for the next move.

Faced with the likes of towering Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler and Romelda Aiken in the SSN along with Australian captain Caitlin Bassett and power house Gretel Bueta, Shimmin has become accustomed to the tall timbers and the importance of quick footwork to get under the skin of her opponents. With talent to boot, it is fair to say that Australia well and truly missed out on the services of Shimmin when it comes to wearing the Diamonds dress, however the Roses will be extremely happy to have acquired the defender.

International All-Stars players edition: Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

CONTINUING our theme of All-Star teams, South Africa and London Pulse star goal shooter, Sigi Burger compiled her own dream team. Take a look at her selections and reasoning behind each player.

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My All-Star Team:

Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

So when Draft Central asked me to do this, it literally took me a month to get the article to them because up until the morning that I’m writing this, I couldn’t decide who my dream team would be. The netball world is so rich in players with amazing skills, court craft, natural hunting instincts and flair, that I had to think hard and deep about certain positions on court.

However, this is the team I have decided upon.

Irene van Dyk. I decided on Irene as she has been my role model since I could remember. Growing up all I wanted to be was the next Irene. With incredible athleticism, accurate shooting, a body stronger than an ox and ripped like a piece of meat eaten by a hungry dog, Irene carved the shooting position as we know it today. Having played both for South Africa (I went to the same uni!) and New Zealand, to achieve such incredible things and to be a force to be reckoned with, and then to still stay so humble, it’s just incredible. Not to mention I TOTALLY fangirled when she followed me back on Instagram in 2017.

Gretel Bueta. Flair, skills, elevation and speed. Never has a netball player had such a dramatic impact on a game because they play so ‘differently’- from two-metre layups, jump shots, jump passes, athleticism that should NOT be normal! Gretel’s pace is incredible and her playing is un-markable. You simply do not know what she is going to do next and she is still so young, and does it all with a huge smile on her face. Also one of the sweetest people there is.

Madi Browne. with her quick feet, agility, ball handling skills and confidence to feed a shooter, it would definitely be Madi Browne, and for sure would she be able to feed the powerful duo of Gretel and Irene. Her never give up attitude is exactly what any team needs in the attacking side of court. Is there any ball that Madi cannot get into the circle? Her vision for her circle attackers is unrivalled. Her pace through court is so quick that not even being double marked makes a difference.

Laura Langman. Pace, accuracy, power and vision. Feisty, competitive, skills second to none and a complete powerhouse. With the amount of experience and confidence she boasts she would be the perfect person to keep everyone calm on court and with her strength in both attacking and defending I couldn’t think of a better centre to bring the ball through court. She is untouchable.

Ash Brazill. The MOST determined fighter of a player there is. Injuries, non-selection, height issues, etc. – Whatever has been thrown at Ash, she has just thrown it straight back. Her stamina on court is terrifying – SHE JUST DOES NOT STOP RUNNING. When she and Laura Langman play against each other, it’s a dream to watch. An incredible mentor and role model to so many. PLUS she’s always smiling.

Karla Pretorius. For some of you, you might not know how Karla has really blossomed into the exceptional player she is today. For starters, she wasn’t ever selected in any state/county/provincial teams during her school career. This all happened after school, really highlighting that there is no set time for anyone to have to achieve something by a specific time to be successful one day. She is the best goal defence of all time. Being smaller in stature, but that sixth sense and hunting instinct running strongly through her veins. She gets tips and intercepts that no one sees coming, is always just there to pick up a loose ball and has composure through it all. Very well deserved player of the tournament in 2019 Netball World Cup.

Laura Geitz. Simply the best and ruthless with her defending, incredible footwork, athleticism, rebounds that were terrifying in the aggression – you didn’t want to miss when Laura was under the post. She used to lead her players through her passion and love for her team and the game. Was relentless in her hunting for the ball. Every wing and goal attack knew if the ball was not on during the feed, it was game over. Just an exceptional player.

On the bench:

Ameliaranne Ekenasio. No team would be complete without Meels who plays an amazing goal shooter or goal attack and stays focused throughout, keeps calm under pressure and boasts an extremely successful shooting average. Her infectious smile and go-getter personality would also bring a great vibe to the team.

Liz Watson. Liz would make a great part of this team and she could confidently play any midcourt position and absolutely nail it with her aggression, composure in tight situations and incredible ball handling skills and accurate passing, as well as her tenacious go-getter attitude fighting until the final whistle has been blown.

Sharni Layton. No team is complete without a Sharni Layton. Sharni is one of those that you know you could put on court and she would give 120 per cent for her entire duration on court, bringing a presence both in her skills and defensive play but as well as her voice and personality. An immediate doom on any other team to face them. She would be the secret weapon and the intimidation factor. Her play was incredible and any goal shooter or goal attack would have their hands full with her playing against them. Plus an amazing personality and positive spirit.

This is my team, and I’d also just like to thank my mate Megan Pugh for helping me make the final decisions on this difficult task. I’m happy with the team I put forward and thank goodness they would never actually play against each other, because good luck to any team trying to face this strong 10.

SIGI BURGER’S ALL STARS

GS: Irene van Dyk
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Madi Browne
C: Laura Langman
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Liz Watson, Sharni Layton

Top 20 players over 30: #7 Caitlin Bassett

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. In at number seven is Australian Diamonds captain and GIANTS Netball goal shooter, Caitlin Bassett.

Always a dominant figure on court, Bassett’s longevity is a testament to her ability to be a continuous threat inside the goal circle, consistently providing a quality target at the post and using her long arms to pick ball out of the air. While Bassett has had a couple issues with injury over the past year which has slightly impacted on her accuracy, the tall timber is still one of those players you do not want to come up against with her quick hands allowing her to reposition and use her height to advantage in the circle. A short range shooter, Bassett is most comfortable right under the post and with the accuracy she has there and the talent that plays in goal attack alongside her, Bassett does not need to be that long range option in the circle.

While not the most versatile player, the 32-year-old has proven that versatility is not crucial on the netball court with the captain able to use her experience to consistently be a commanding talent in goal shooter, with very little that defenders can do to stop her when she is on song. The graceful goaler is almost unstoppable underneath the post, making her a timeless option as defenders struggle to apply hands over pressure on the shot. Bassett’s presence is so impactful that she cannot be left alone in the circle, and with some threatening goal attacks playing alongside her over the years – the likes of Jo Harten with the GIANTS and both Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood with the Diamonds – she can form a handy option to take some of the pressure away from her teammates.

Bassett’s leadership has shown in spades over the years, with the clean and consistent goaler using her bounds of experience to take on defenders with ease and form a crucial member of any team she plays with. Bassett has a solid rebounding ability with her height and strong hands working wonders and can provide impressive hands over pressure after a turnover, allowing her to win precious ball back for her team and score quickly.

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)

Fantasy Team: AUS/NZ v. Rest of the world

THERE is no shortage of talent across the netball world with stars hailing from a range of different countries. Draft Central has created two teams, one comprised of players from Australia and New Zealand the other made up of netballers from around the globe.

Australia/New Zealand:

GK: Jane Watson
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Laura Langman
WA: Liz Watson
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Caitlin Bassett

BENCH: Gretel Bueta, Gina Crampton, Jo Weston

Starting in the defensive third it is hard to go past the tried and tested duo of Jane Watson and Katrina Rore. Watson has come along in leaps and bounds with her pressure over the shot, speed off the mark and impressive leap causing all sorts of havoc down back. Throw in the experience and class of Rore and the defensive unit is one to be envious of. Rore is electric, nimble on her feet and has proven to be a real barometer for any team, able to create tips and deflections time and time again.

The midcourt is littered with highly athletic netballers able to run all day and constantly do the unthinkable. Starting in wing defence is Ash Brazill, with the Diamonds midcourter renowned for her aerial ability and flashy style of play. Brazill can create plenty of turnover ball and has a high endurance to run toe to toe with her opponent all game. It is no surprise that the centre bib goes to Silver Ferns and netball legend Laura Langman. With experience to boot, speed off the mark, explosiveness and undeniable netball smarts Langman is one of the most exciting midcourters to take the court. She can single handedly turn the game on its head with a perfectly timed intercept or a pin-point pass into the circle. Diamond, Liz Watson takes out the wing attack position with the speedy centre court player strong around circle edge. Her vision is second to none and is constantly two moves ahead of her opponent such is netball understanding. Watson oozes class, dynamism and precision able to deliver the ball into the goalers with great ease.

The goal circle is headlined by two impressive shooters with Ferns goal attack, Ameliaranne Ekenasio getting the nod. Ekenasio is a smooth mover that glides across the court and is a real playmaker in the attacking third. She backs herself from range, able to shoot from anywhere in the circle and uses her quick footwork to reposition in the goal circle. In at goal shooter is Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett with the towering goaler renowned for her strong holds and high volume. Her positioning under the post is impressive able to ward off defenders with her angles and footwork, while also making the most of her long limbs to reel in passes going over the baseline.

The experience and class does not stop there with Gretel Bueta unlucky not to get the start but earning a spot on the bench, while versatile attacker Gina Crampton also earned herself a spot. The final place goes to Diamonds’ Jo Weston given her defensive pressure.

Rest of the world:

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Karla Pretorius
WD: Vangelee Williams
C: Serena Guthrie
WA: Bongi Msomi
GA: Helen Housby
GS: Sam Wallace

BENCH:  Lenize Potgieter, Chelsea Pitman, Shamera Sterling,

Kicking things off down in goal keeper is England Roses and netball veteran, Geva Mentor. The highly talented defender is nothing but class with her silky footwork, lean over the shot and skill to pick off passes entering the defensive third. She is deceptively quick and applies a wealth of pressure. Pairing with Mentor is Spar Proteas goal defence Karla Pretorius. The South African defender is in a league of her own with her speed off the mark and uncanny ability to reel in intercepts. She is simply unstoppable when on song, causing all sorts of havoc down back with her menacing style of play, quick footwork and long arms to force turnovers and propel the ball back down the court.

Through the midcourt Jamaican defender Vangelee Williams gets the nod at wing defence. She is a highly versatile player that can drop back into circle defence when needed but has an impressive skillset around the circle edge credit to her balance and netball smarts. Meanwhile, t is hard to go past England Roses midcourter, Serena Guthrie in centre. Guthrie is a running machine that just keeps on going, throwing herself at everything that comes her way. She has speed to boot and while she is more defensively minded can apply plenty of attacking pressure with her well-weighted passes into the goal circle. The 30-year-old is a key cog for any side able to provide that steadying presence and spark up when needed. In at wing attack is South African speedster Bongi Msomi, with the nippy midcourter able to dart around the court and create space in the attacking third. Msomi has lightning quick hands, able to fire off passes into the circle and is strong around the circle edge despite her slight frame.

The goal attack position goes to the cool, calm and collected Helen Housby. The Roses shooter is hardly ever frazzled and can shoot from anywhere in the circle, given her impressive range and accuracy to post. She is quick on her feet and is not afraid to take the hard drive into the circle to receive the ball. Her pairing with Trinidad and Tobago goaler, Sam Wallace is highly impressive with the two able to seamlessly move in the circle and create plays. Wallace is arguably one of the most laidback and underrated shooters and uses that to her full advantage, getting up to the high balls with ease while also putting up a wealth of shots.

Rounding out the team is South African and unconventional shooter, Lenize Potgieter along with Roses midcourter Chelsea Pitman and Jamaican excitement machine Shamera Sterling.

Who would win?

Both teams are packed with plenty of x-factor, however given that Australia and New Zealand sit one and two on the rankings it is fair to assume they might have the upper hand. The experience of Langman, Rore and Bassett in each third will help give the Diamonds/Ferns team that competitive edge over the rest of the world while their strength through the midcourt is also another key indicator.

Who will improve the most in 2020?

WITH Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) set to commence on August 1, we take a look at a couple of teams that might rise up the ladder this season after struggling in 2019. The delayed start to the season has gifted some clubs with valuable time when it comes to potentially regaining injured stars and working on connections with new recruits.

Queensland Firebirds:

Unfortunately, last year was not the Firebirds’ year, struggling to win games and play their normal game flamboyant game style, but hopefully 2020 will be a different story. With the likes of dynamic midcourter Lara Dunkley joining the ranks and Spar Proteas goaler Ine-Mari Venter also in the fold, Queensland have more versatility in the squad, giving them more options when things don’t go to plan on court. The Firebirds have a core group of a-list players such as captain Gabi Simpson in wing defence while powerhouse shooting duo Romelda Aiken and Gretel Bueta headline the attacking third. But it is the combinations around them that many can expect to flourish this season with the likes of defensive partners Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe. The young defenders have come along in leaps and bounds already and entering their third season together, could be what sees them win more games. They are strong in the air and apply a wealth of defensive pressure both over the shot and in the third itself, often out hunting for ball. If they can maintain a high level of intensity throughout the matches and stimulate some drive out of defence it will go a long way in pushing the Firebirds to further success this season.

West Coast Fever:

After the highs of 2018, the Fever’s 2019 campaign was a little disappointing, unable to replicate that same intensity and strangle-hold over other teams in the competition. The loss of Nat Medhurst was substantial but with the likes of Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld in the mix for a second season, the Fever will be hoping to find a spark. While Stanton is known more for her goal shooter tendencies her ability to rotate into goal attack was solid, but at times lacked that play-making ability. On the other hand, Teague-Neeld struggled to find consistency in her game play and put up shots ultimately putting pressure on the Fever frontend. While there is no denying that Jhaniele Fowler is the go-to-girl, West Coast will be hoping to have ironed out their attacking issues and come back stronger than ever this season. With extra time to work on their connections in the goal circle the varying styles could be beneficial to the Fever and give them that edge to recapture their dominance.

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

After showing some promise early last season the Thunderbirds were hit with injuries that slightly derailed their season, but will be looking to build on their foundations in 2020. Experienced Roses defender, Layla Guscoth missed the second half of the season but given the extended break could make a comeback this season and have an impact. Her experience down back, pressure over the shot and tagging style of play will pay dividends and add that extra layer of class to the T’birds defensive unit. Her connection with Shamera Sterling, Kate Shimmin and Shadine van der Merwe could cause headaches for opposition attackers. While shooting sensation, Sasha Glasgow sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury late last season, the recruitment of Lenize Potgieter will hopefully fill that hole. The South African goaler is accurate to post, quick on her feet and can hold her own in the goal circle but if Glasgow was to return she could offer another option under the post whether it be goal attack or goal shooter. With more time to develop their connections both in defence and through the midcourt the Thunderbirds will be hoping to use that defensive pressure to bring the ball down court and create attacking forays.

Top 20 players over 30: #10 Caitlin Thwaites

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. Coming in at number 10 is none other than fan favourite and Australian netball sensation Caitlin Thwaites.

The Melbourne Vixens goal shooter is simply in a class of her own with her effortless movements and accuracy to post constantly leaving fans in awe. There is no denying that Thwaites is a marquee player able to single handily break a game wide open with her long bomb shooting, fancy footwork and versatility. While she is typically known for her role as a goal shooter the 33-year-old has developed her repertoire able to swing into the goal attack position and have just as much as a commanding presence with her impressive ball movement. Thwaites is a real play maker able to set up attacking forays while her ball control is second to none able to reel in errant passes time and time again.

Her connection with the likes of Tegan Philip is incredibly strong with the two able to rotate through the circle with ease and keep the defenders guessing. Her commanding presence under the post allows the likes of Kate Moloney and Liz Watson deliver the ball into her with ease. She can easily shake up her game style from a holding shooter to a moving one, able to get on the move and drive into the circle to keep heads turning and create confusion.

Thwaites is incredibly strong on the hold able to ward of defenders with her clever body positioning and experience. She is not often flustered or out-positioned under the post given her cool, calm and collected temperament and frequently puts up high numbers of shots to give her side that competitive edge. When Thwaites is on there is no stopping the powerhouse goaler who is quick on her feet and can simply shoot from anywhere despite pressure. She is a real leader in the attacking third for the Vixens able to stand up and absorb the pressure no matter the stakes and does not look like slowing down.

Recently retiring from international netball, Thwaites proved to be a real force to be reckoned with able to come on and inject herself in the contest. She was a key contributor under the post for the Diamonds with her reliability and netball smarts constantly on display. Her adaptability to combine with the likes of Gretel Bueta or Steph Wood was equally as impressive able to create space or tailor her game style to suit the goal attack a clear testament to her netball nous.

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)

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.