Tag: gretel tippett

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. 

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

Diamond Liz Watson focused on Super Netball success with Melbourne Vixens

LIZ Watson is one of the most recognisable names in the netball world. The Melbourne Vixens turned Australian Diamonds wing attack provides a vital cog through the midcourt, using her netball nous to deliver crucial ball to her goalers and provide an option on circle edge with her impressive hold and clean hands. But like much of the world, Watson is having an unprecedented break from netball, having to switch up her plan and structure for the year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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While it was tricky in the beginning, Watson said the adjustment to isolated training has come in time thanks to routine and constant contact with her Vixens teammates and friends.

“I guess it was a bit tricky at the start when it all kind of happened but now I’ve got a bit of a routine and I’m still keeping busy with uni, we check in with the girls every day at Vixens which is really helpful,” she said. “So it sets up the day on what we’re required to do.”

Settling into a routine has made social distancing that little bit easier, working into training plan that fits around other ways of keeping busy during the pandemic.

“Before we went into lockdown we were pretty much match fit and I guess building up to competition mode, and now we’ve kind of had to strip that back and go right back to basic kind of fitness and strength,” Watson said. “Our training plans have been sort of up and down, so that’s probably the most tricky part and I think now we’re just starting to incorporate a bit more footwork and netball specific drills.”

“I love going for a big long walk in the morning, that kind of gets me moving and I guess sets up the day, but we are following a training program from the coaches so it’s set out every day – there’s either gym, conditioning and a bit of footwork stuff, but I also am loving doing a bit of palates and yoga, which is good because I don’t usually do that as much throughout the year.”

The past weekend was shaping up to be a blockbuster round one battle against Queensland Firebirds in the Suncorp Super Netball, one that Watson would have hoped to see replicate their 2019 matches, during which they defeated the Firebirds on both occasions. 

“It’s probably just, you know, the mental and physical idea that you’re preparing for a match, but now we’re going right back to sort of that preseason fitness base kind of work,” Watson said.

“We’d be having a pretty much a normal week at training but I guess that it’d probably be a bit lighter and throughout the back end of the week we’d have a light training session at the venue which would have been at Melbourne Arena for us. “That’s where we were playing round one so we would have headed there on the Friday for a training session and then played there on the Saturday, so a lot different at the moment, but yeah it is what it is, I guess.”

On the international stage, Watson is vice-captain of the Australian Diamonds, joining forces with a number of her Super Netball rivals. She said the vice-captaincy has given her a lot of confidence in her game, able to share the leadership load with a number of her teammates.

“It’s really special,” she said. “I think the one thing I love the most about it is that you actually are voted in from the team and I think that it’s really important to have that belief and confidence and trust from the teammates to put you into that position. “That gives me a lot of confidence going out there and actually being able to be the vice captain alongside Bass (Caitlin Bassett) as captain so it’s a really special group. “Everyone has to come together, obviously we’re rivals throughout the year but then we are teammates.”

Teaming up with quality players from across the country, Watson has had to switch up her game style on the odd occasion, namely when taking the court with one of her round one opponents in dynamic goal attack, Gretel Bueta. Watson also took on somewhat of a different role in the Diamonds in 2019, playing more of a centre role than her typical wing attack.

“I absolutely love playing with Gretel because you don’t really know what she’s going to do,” Watson said. “I think that’s something that we’ve learned and are really encouraged, is to let Gretel play the way she plays and we kind of mold in around that.”

“I think I definitely feel it more in my lungs in centre, rather than wing attack. “But yeah, I think that they’re quite similar in their positions and the gameplay isn’t too different… in all our analysis sessions we’re always talking so I was across what centres have to do typically in a game so from a game sense it wasn’t too bad.”

At the Vixens, Watson feeds a couple more conventional – but not any less talented – goalers in Caitlin Thwaites, Tegan Philip and Mwai Kumwenda, typically teaming up with captain Kate Moloney to feed into the goal circle.

“A good mid courter, our job is to make our goalers look good and we need to do that by playing to their strengths,” Watson said. “So someone like Tegan is very fast and speedy and Caity, she can hold really well and get that high ball in, so as a mid courter it’s about working with each goaler and actually enhancing their strengths as much as possible and letting them do their thing and kind of fitting in around their their gameplay.” 

With plenty of talent coming up through the pathways, Watson is well aware of the Victorian netball pathways given she followed them through in the traditional sense, even playing much of her junior netball at the State Netball and Hockey Centre where the Vixens train and hosted their impressive semi-final against Collingwood Magpies last season.

“I’m very lucky I’ve played and pretty much followed the Netball Victoria pathway to a tee,” Watson said. “I’ve been there ever since I started really, 11-years-old.”

Watson said the Victorian pathway helped curate her competitive streak, with the winning culture something that helps push every young player to keep putting their best out onto the court. 

“We always have a strong history of winning in Victoria, and right through nationals, Victoria were always expected to be in that top two, if not number one,” she said. “So it brings that competitive side and I think it’s great that we’ve got such a really structured pathway for young girls and they know the step by step to become a Vixen, and it’s easy when kids say to you, you know, how did you become a Vixen and I say ‘I followed this pathway, this is what you can do to get there’. “We’re very lucky in Victoria that we have that winning culture and that success and that’s because all our pathway is planned out right from when we’re juniors.”

Simone (McKinnis) has made a Vixens squad so we’ve got an extended squad of girls who are up and coming and I think that’s really important,” Watson said. “It’s so special. “As a young kid I remember going into the Vixens environment, even if it’s just for one training session, and you just see how they train and then you go back and you say, ‘that’s how I need to be training if I want to become a Vixen or be at that level’. “So I think it’s great that we’ve got this squad, and then they can go back to their clubs and I guess drive that standard with their local clubs too so I think having the extended squad has been really valuable for us.”

While the 2020 season is ultimately still up in the air, Watson said the Vixens’ season aims still ring true despite not yet taking the court. Having made finals last season but fallen short, the tenacious Vixens want to win back some of the glory that has evaded them in the Suncorp Super Netball and bring the trophy back to Victoria.

“We want to be the team that comes out of isolation the best… yes we can be fit and strong and deliver our programs but it’s that mental toughness that we’ve always been working on and that’s the side that I feel has let us down previously, that mental side of our game, and if we can come out of this isolation the toughest strongest team mentally, then nothing can really stop us,” Watson said.

As for fellow netballers who are itching to get back on the court and may be feeling a bit sluggish or unmotivated, Watson said it is useful to remember that everyone is in the same position and acknowledge that plenty of others are in far worse situations across the globe.

“I think it’s important to know that everyone’s probably feeling a little bit like that, even us as elite athletes do feel like that … I always think I’m so lucky – I am still playing, I still get to train and I still get to talk to my teammates every day, it’s just in a different way and that’s just the way it has to be right now,” she said. “I think just acknowledging that – yes it’s hard, but if we just sit here and say it’s hard then we’re not going to really move forward at all.”

“(We’re) all trying to work to come out as I guess, fitter and stronger but also just mentally ready to hit competition mode and, yeah, hopefully have a really good season. “Fingers crossed we do play some sort of netball in the back end of the year.”

Top 15 SSN training partners: #13 – Tippah Dwan

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball plate in 2020, with Queensland Firebirds goaler Tippah Dwan up next. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

No stranger to training with the big-wigs, having been with the Firebirds since 2017 – her final year of high school – Dwan has had a short career thus far after spending two years as a training partner for the Queensland side before getting the official call-up for Suncorp Super Netball season 2019. However, a broken foot in early 2019 saw her downgraded to a training partner once more heading into the 2020 season, putting to a frustrating halt her development at the domestic level. 

Sitting behind the likes of Gretel Bueta and Romelda Aiken in the circle, there is no better goal attack for the 20-year-old to learn off. The combination of Bueta and Aiken has proved to be a headache for many an opposition over the years, proving to be a crucial aid in Dwan’s development. While Dwan has not yet made a formal debut at Super Netball level, she gained valuable exposure in last year’s Team Girls Cup where she showcased her clean movement and netball nous.

The young goaler has plenty of potential and leadership experience after progressing through the Netball Queensland pathways. At age 20 she has plenty to look forward to in the future, especially learning off the impressive talent at the Firebirds. Dwan is clean with ball in hand and an ability to move well in the circle without clogging space. She aims to pick up where she left off prior to injury last year, and will look to prove herself for Queensland Fusion in the Australian Netball League (ANL) this season.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)

Who will be the next captain of the Australian Diamonds?

WEST Australian born shooter, Caitlin Bassett is a focal part of the Diamonds and has been for almost 10 years. Since taking the role as captain in 2017, Bassett has not taken a backwards step paving the way for her teammates. She is cool, calm and collected under the post making her an imposing figure for any opposition outfit. But with the goal shooter turning 32 this year, Draft Central takes a look to the future and contemplates some potential players that could take the reins when Bassett retires from international duties.

Liz Watson:

The wing attack is one of, if not the classiest, midcourter in the world with her silky skills constantly on display. She is a smooth mover and works extremely hard across the court credit to her high endurance and netball IQ. With the vice-captaincy under her belt both at the Diamonds and Melbourne Vixens, Watson could be an ideal option to take the reins when the time comes. She is a versatile player that can easily control the tempo of the game with her change of pace. Watson has proven that she has what it takes to stand up under pressure and can make changes depending on what the team needs switching seamlessly into centre from her preferred wing attack position. her ability to understand the game, hit the circle edge with precision and treasure the ball makes her a key component of the Diamonds squad. She is not overawed by the physicality of the game and has strong connections across the court, allowing herself to assert her dominance when need be.

Gretel Bueta:

Bueta has quickly become one of the most damaging players on the netball court. Her sheer athleticism, dynamic movement and strength is unmatched and while she is not the most orthodox shooter that is what makes her so exciting. Her unpredictable game play provides that spark on the court and can lift a team when they are struggling to get going and generate that winning momentum. Over the past 12 months, Bueta blossomed into a key figure under the post for the Diamonds credit to her netball smarts and ability to adapt her game play. Her ability to consistently stand up under pressure and apply defensive pressure gives her that extra element of star power throw in her general spatial awareness and aerial ability and Bueta is one of the most influential players on court. She can move between goal attack and goal shooter with ease and while she plays with a unique sense of flair and physicality, Bueta has displayed that she is not afraid to take the game on and lead the team to success.

Courtney Bruce:

Already captain of the West Coast Fever, Bruce has shown that she has the leadership and general netball nous to lead a team both on and off the court. She helped to guide her side to the Suncorp Super Netball grand final in 2018 and while they did not win, she played an integral role. She oozes excitement and skill able to take the ball at full flight and swat away any passes. Although she can be costly at times when it comes to penalties, it is her innate ability to win ball back that makes her a true star. Bruce can easily sense the moment and force a turnover or create something out of nothing thanks to her read of the play, quick feet and sense of urgency. While the goal keeper is 26 she has been a key cog in the Diamonds line-up for a long time and has a wealth of experience at the highest level possible. Playing alongside the likes of Laura Geitz and fellow seasoned defenders Bruce has developed into a game changer and a source of inspiration on court for many teammates.

Compare the Pair: Sharelle McMahon v. Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett)

THE Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two players from different Australian Diamonds eras, with the next showcasing goal attacks Sharelle McMahon and Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett).

Two gamechanging, explosive and recognisable names in the netball world, Sharelle McMahon and Gretel Bueta are polar opposites in their gameplay but both changed the netball landscape with their impressive movement, accuracy and dynamic play. While goal attacks typically play second fiddle to their respective goal shooter, neither of these players dulled their shine for the goal shooter to take all the credit, instead taking on a larger role and stepping up when required to do whatever it takes to get the goals on the board. While different in their approach to the game, there’s no question that while Bueta is credited with changing the face of modern netball, McMahon and her dazzling career walked so Bueta could run.

With an international career spanning 14 years, 118 international caps and four years as captain of the Australian Diamonds, McMahon is a household name in the netball community for her leadership, cleanliness and ability to turn a game on its head. Debuting for the Diamonds at only 21-years-old, McMahon went on to shoot the winning goal in the 1999 World Netball Championships while her domestic career was just as illustrious, playing over 200 matches for the Melbourne Phoenix and Vixens. With clean hands, an impressive split and one of the most recognisable shooting actions, McMahon was light on her feet and easily able to evade her defenders again and again, making her a crucial player on the court even towards the end of her career. McMahon was inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame 2016 after retiring from the sport in 2013.

Bueta is a vastly different player to McMahon but shares a few common traits, namely the impressive split and ability to impact on the game. An ex-basketballer, Bueta brings her athleticism and aerial ability to the forefront on the netball court, able to find the ball with ease while her height and endurance makes her hard to stop on the court. While her physicality had eyebrows raising early in her netball career, Bueta has since found a happy medium contesting the netball, with her pressure, volume and accuracy seeing her dominate time and time again. Bueta shot 394 goals in the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season with 96 per cent accuracy, while her international form has rarely faltered, able to step back into goal shooter if need be thank to her height at the post. While she typically shoots from close range and whips out the fancy footwork with her signature layup shot, Bueta has proved she can apply scoreboard pressure further from the post when confident making her a real danger to the opposition.

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Sharelle McMahon
118 caps, 1998-2011

Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett)
35, 2015-present

*at time of publish

Who would you pick in Goal Attack?
Sharelle McMahon
Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett)
Created with Quiz Maker

Memorable matches: Firebirds end Fever’s unbeaten run – SSN 2018

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look back at memorable matches. Next up is the Queensland Firebirds’ massive 10-goal win over West Coast Fever in Suncorp Super Netball Round 5 2018, ending the Fever’s dominant start to the season.

While perhaps not the highest profile match in recent netball history, the Firebirds outfit of 2018 was a classy unit with an ability to beat any team if the day was right. Fever had proved dominant for the opening four rounds of the season and with the skill and precision passes to target goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler always in position at the post, they had thus far seemed impossible to stop. However a classy outing from the Firebirds ensured the time was right, with a stellar defensive effort from Laura Geitz and Tara Hinchliffe propelling the play back up through the centre of the court.

It was a physical match from the get-go with neither side willing to back down and the Firebirds having the upper hand early. With so many players willing to dive into the contest there were a few injury scares throughout – including a moment where Gretel Tippett seemed in pain with a knee issue but carried on – while the closeness of the scoreboard had the Firebirds home crowd up on their feet. While only up by four goals at the final change, the Firebirds stepped up a gear in the final quarter with Gabi Simpson and Mahalia Cassidy crucial in delivering turnover ball, with their tenacity and  hunt for the netball propelling the side to the stellar 10-goal victory. The two sides combined for a whopping 150 penalties between them and were relatively equal in turnovers, proving the closeness and intensity of the match and making it real testament to the Firebirds for staying ahead of the Fever.

It was the Firebirds’ transition down court that was the kicker for the Fever, with Caitlyn Nevins and Cassidy creating havoc with their crafty passes early while Tippett’s movement and footwork came out to play, with confidence coming in spades. Romelda Aiken was clean and accurate, shooting majority of the goals but creating space for Tippett to work her magic with her split and excitement with ball in hand. The defensive pressure from the Firebirds up the court was impressive with Geitz (three intercepts) and Hinchliffe (six gains) dominating in the back end.

Courtney Bruce had a quiet match with just the two gains and 25 penalties, atypical for the usually dominant defender, allowing Tippett and Aiken to control all the movement in the goal circle and unable to create space of her own to deflect with ease. Bruce still managed five deflections but was not able to take possession credit to the tenacity of the Firebirds’ midcourt pressure, playing out in goal defence for majority of the match while Stacey Francis moved out to wing defence. Young gun midcourter Jess Anstiss had a stellar match limiting the impact of Nevins early and moving into wing attack proving her versatility, collecting a team high three intercepts and just the three penalties. Nat Medhurst proved valuable alongside Fowler with her ability to read and create the play, while her timing allowed her to find space in the circle to open up Fowler at the post or turn and shoot for the long bomb. While she only put up the 11 goals for the match, her 22 goal assists kept the Firebirds on their toes thanks to her ability to switch up her movement and passing. While Fowler provided the target at the post, it was this match where teams were able to find an opening into how to defend the stocky goal shooter. Despite that, her clean footwork and aerial ability allowed her to find plenty of the netball while her accuracy saw the Fever stay in the match even when the Firebirds seemed to take off.

Firebirds collected enough wins to make finals, but a one-goal loss to Sunshine Coast Lightning saw them knocked out at the final hurdle, while Fever went on to lose three more matches during the 2018 season, dropping a second game to the Firebirds in Round 12 and in turn then falling to the Lightning on home turf in the 2018 Grand Final. 

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FIREBIRDS 17 | 18 | 16 | 20 (71)
FEVER 16 | 14 | 17 | 14 (61) 

STARTING SEVEN

Queensland Firebirds

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Tippett
WA: Caitlyn Nevins
C: Mahalia Cassidy
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Tara Hinchliffe
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Laura Clemesha, Kim Jenner, Jemma Mi Mi
COACH: Rosalee Jencke

West Coast Fever

GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Nat Medhurst
WA: Ingrid Colyer
C: Verity Charles
WD: Jess Anstiss
GD: Stacey Francis
GK: Courtney Bruce

BENCH: Shannon Eagland, Kaylia Stanton, Annika Lee-Jones
COACH: Stacey Marinkovich

SHOOTING STATS

Queensland Firebirds:

Romelda Aiken 45/51
Gretel Tippett 26/28

West Coast Fever:

Jhaniele Fowler 48/49
Nat Medhurst 11/14
Kaylia Stanton 2/2

 

Fantasy Head 2 Head – Australia vs. New Zealand 1990 to now

AUSTRALIA and New Zealand have been locked in their fair share of battles throughout history so Draft Central has combined the ultimate fantasy team combining players from the 1990 era to now. With a host of star players littered across the court it is hard to determine which country has the upper hand given both sides ability to turn a game on its head with their explosiveness and ability to do the unthinkable.

Australia:

GK: Liz Ellis
GD: Laura Geitz
WD: Renae Ingles
C: Natalie Bode (nee Von Bertouch)
WA: Kim Green
GA: Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett)
GS: Sharelle McMahon
BENCH: Claire McMeniman, Catherine Cox, Julie Corletto

Over the years the Diamonds have had a multitude of a-class players take the court none more than the legendary Sharelle McMahon. The Bendigo born shooting prodigy was one of a kind with her smooth movement and strong drives consistently on show while her ability to hit the scoreboard with ease was another feature of her game. Goal attack, Gretel Bueta however, has a very different approach. The unconventional shooter is renowned for her explosive power, speed and towering height. She has developed into arguably one of the Diamonds most important assets given her influence on the court. Classy, wing attack Kim Green is another handy inclusion in the hypothetical side with her bullet like passes and ability to stop on a dime a key feature of her game. Her physicality and hustle sets her apart from other midcourters while the likes of Natalie Bode is a more consistent and tempered centre. Renae Ingles has been one of the Diamonds key contributors with her long arm span causing all sorts of havoc for attackers thanks to her ability to block their vision into the circle. Her deceptive speed, quick reactions and intense defensive pressure creates opportunities for turnovers time and time again. Although she is typically a goal keeper, Laura Geitz was too good to sit on the bench and has spent some time throughout her career out in goal defence. Geitz was one of the most exciting defenders to watch given her tenacity and ability to sense the moment and take a big intercept that would change the court of the game. The former Diamonds captain oozed nothing but class, composure and netball smarts always able to muster up something to disrupt the flow in attack. Fellow defender, Liz Ellis was similar consistently able to get hands to ball and force a turnover. Ellis will go down as one of Australia’s most prominent netball figures leading her country to World Cup glory. Geitz’ partner in crime Claire McMeniman made the bench thanks to her attack on the court and ability to shut players down with her tagging style of defnce while through the midcourt the likes of wing defence Julie Corletto made her way into the team. In the shooting circle, it is hard to go past Cath Cox with the talented shooter able to score from anywhere in the circle and put up a hefty total.

New Zealand

GK: Casey Kopua
GD:  Katrina Rore
WD: Joline Henry
C: Laura Langman
WA: Liana Leota
GA: Maria Folau
GS: Irene Van Dyk
BENCH: Catherine Tuivaiti, Julie Seymour, Leana de Bruin

It is hard to deny that the Silver Ferns had one of the most prominent and damaging shooters that netball has ever seen in Irene Van Dyk. The talented South African come New Zealander guided her side to many famous victories over the Aussies thanks to her cool calm and collected approach to the post plus her ability to hold space directly under the post. In the goal attack position, Maria Folau was renowned as the long bomb shooter able to slot them with her heels flapping on the edge of the circle. Folau was one of a kind, consistently backing herself from range and able to inflict pain with her silky shot and clever movement around the circle. In the centre it is hard to go past the talent which is Laura Langman. The gut running midcourter is in a league of her own able to run all day and night often exhausting opponents and using her high netball IQ to slice through opposition defences. While her attacking is high class so too is her defensive work able to take match winning intercepts thanks to her endurance and class. Joline Henry was part of the furniture down back for the Ferns able to seamlessly rotate between wing defence and circle defence to provide a point of difference for New Zealand. But the combination of Katrina Rore and Casey Kopua has been one for the ages with the two creating a formidable duo time and time again. Just like fine wine, the two got better with age given their understanding and intense pressure to force turnovers or go out hunting for cross court balls. Their arms over pressure in the circle is a key attribute causing hesitation and held balls. On the bench the likes of Catherine Tuivaiti, Julie Seymour and Leana de Bruin were all great servants to the Ferns. Tuivaiti was often brought on as that impact player under the post able to hold her own and shoot accordingly while Seymour was recognised as one of the greatest centres of all time. Defensively de Bruin was a mastermind able to create something out of nothing.

Who would win?

History would suggest that the Aussies should take the honours given that since 1990 the Diamonds have won five World Cup titles against their Trans-Tasman rivals along with three Commonwealth Games gold medals, in which each of the aforementioned players had a monumental impact in. However, the games have been close in each of these encounters with a mere goal separating both countries at times showcasing just how stacked both sides are. Considering Australia’s defensive edge it would be fair to tilt the scales slightly in their favour but the combination of Van Dyk and Folau is one to be enviable of.

SSN All-Stars prove no match for Diamonds in Bushfire Relief game

THE Diamonds claimed victory over the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) All-Stars (66-53) in the Netball Bushfire Relief game. Australia’s strong connections down court proved to be the difference between the two teams with their ability to weave their way down the court and use their change of speed to exploit the All-Stars side. Despite having a stacked line-up it took a while for the All-Stars to gel, but a potential third quarter comeback had the Diamonds worried before they resorted to their usual ways and ran out comfortable winners. The new rules did not seem to bother either side instead they embraced the rolling subs and two-point shot with both sides making the most of the changes.

It was a big game for the Diamonds with coach Lisa Alexander heading up her last game and Caitlin Thwaites pulling on the green and gold dress for the last time. With Ash Brazill ruled out of the clash due to a potential anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained in her AFL Women’s game against Melbourne, Gabi Simpson made the switch from All-Stars to Diamonds, while Amy Parmenter was elevated into the All-Stars squad. The disruption did not seem to unsettle the Diamonds, with Simpson slotting back in seamlessly credit to her skill, defensive pressure and pre-existing connections with a host of players while Parmenter added plenty of excitement.

With the centre pass starting with the All-Stars it did not take the Diamonds long to create a turnover with Courtney Bruce taking an impressive intercept, proving why they are world number one with Gretel Tippett rewarding Bruce’s efforts with a goal. The Diamonds continued their merry way building on their connections and using their experience together to slice through the All-Stars defensive unit. The combination between Geva Mentor and Karla Pretorius was strong with the two drawing upon their time at the Lightning to rotate through the circle and use their feet to cause confusion in the circle but it was not enough to put off Tippett, Thwaites and Caitlin Bassett. Thwaites scored the first super shot of the game proving that she was going to go out in style thanks to her long range shooting and smooth movement. Australia opened up a four-goal lead with five minutes left in the opening term before really ramping it up to take a commanding eight-goal lead into the first break.

With the lead in favour of the Diamonds, the All-Stars had plenty to prove with England Roses teammates Chelsea Pitman and Helen Housby combining nicely in the attacking third with their clever movement and precise ball placement. Housby and Jamaican, Jhaniele Fowler found plenty of space in the goal circle against the likes of Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau with Fowler making full use of her height and reach. The continuous subs provided plenty of opportunities for players to come on and have an immediate impact, with Adelaide Thunderbirds defender Shamera Sterling using her lean over the shot and lanky arms to gobble up any missed shots or errant passes. Nine goals down, the All-Stars went for an all-Swifts approach with Nat Haythornthwaite, Housby and Sam Wallace all combining but it was not enough to draw back the margin with the Diamonds powering through and using their ball speed to work through the All-Stars defence. Through the midcourt, Liz Watson was electric using her quick feet and good vision to sight Tippett and Thwaites in the circle time and time again. The Diamonds were well and truly humming as the quarter went on unfazed by what the All-Stars line-up threw at them extending the lead to a whopping 18 goals at half time.

It was do-or-die for the SSN side and with the writing on the wall they upped their ante mounting somewhat of a comeback to reduce the deficit to 15 goals at half-time. Newcomer Kiera Austin got her fair share of court time and while she was not overly accurate on the shot her silky movement across the court caught the eye of many interested onlookers. The speed of Laura Scherian through the midcourt opened up the attacking end for the Diamonds with Laura Langman doing her best to combat her Sunshine Coast Lightning teammate with her defensive prowess and sheer stamina. It is hard to argue that Australia seemed to have the majority of the play dominating through the midcourt with Paige Hadley also doing a wealth of work to feed the ball into the goalers with her quick hands and work around the circle edge. The All-Stars dwindled the lead down to 11 goals before the Diamonds once again found their feet in attack thanks to long bomb two-point shot from Tippett and strong defensive work from the likes of Simpson and Turner with the two creating a wall in defence.

The final quarter continued the same fashion as the previous ones with the Diamonds dominating. The All-Stars simply had no answers for Australia unable to stop the rate they were scoring at and moving the ball at. Jo Harten had a hit and miss performance under the post struggling to find her usual range while up the other end Kristiana Manu’a and Emily Mannix both combined well using their intercepting ability to cause havoc. Thwaites was near on unstoppable in the goal circle with her strong hands and well timed movement on full display pairing with Tegan Philip to create a moving circle. Simpson showcased her elite skill with two intercepts in under a minute using her leap and strong hands to reel the ball in. It was a complete performance from the Diamonds with the All-Stars succumbing to their opponents strong connections across the court.

Tippett did the most damage on the scoreboard for the Diamonds converting 20 goals from 27 attempts at 74 per cent accuracy, with five of those goals coming from two-point range while Bassett 11 from 15 and Thwaites 10 from 13 were not far behind. Simpson had a game to remember with four intercepts and four deflections, while Klau impressed with five gains, five deflections and two intercepts. For the All-Stars Sterling led the way down back with a whopping eight gains, four intercepts and five deflections in what was a stellar performance by the developing Jamaican defender. In the goal circle Fowler was accurate to post with 19 goals from 20 attempts.

Netball Bushfire Relief game preview: Diamonds and All-Stars to battle it out in huge showdown

WITH pride on the line for both sides, the contest on Sunday between the Australian Diamonds and Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) All-Stars will draw plenty of attention. It will be the first game the Diamonds have played this year and will be hoping to kick their international campaign off in style while on the other hand the All-Stars will be aiming to showcase their array of talents and bring everything together.

The All-Stars are littered with class acts across the court with Silver Ferns veteran Laura Langman named captain for the exhibition match. Langman is an excitement machine across the court with her dynamic change of pace, quick hands and ability to consistently do the unthinkable. Fellow midcourters in the likes of England Roses duo Chelsea Pitman and Nat Haythornthwaite will complement the speedy style of Langman, with both players renowned for the deliberate approach to circle edge. Wing defence Gabi Simpson will most likely head up the defensive side of the midcourt with her athletic ability and leap a couple of things in her extensive repertoire. Meanwhile Kate Moloney may also find herself rotating through the position given her more defensive style of play in the midcourt. The match-up through the midcourt will set tongues wagging with the likes of wing defence-cum-centre Ash Brazill potentially taking on Langman in what could be an action-packed battle. Brazill oozes athleticism and endurance while Diamonds teammate and wing attack Liz Watson has proven that timing and ball placement is no issue often delivering pin-point passes into the circle. Throw in the likes of Laura Scherian who has come into her own in recent times along with Paige Hadley and both sides have a relatively stacked line-up. Expect the wing defence role to fall to Jamie-Lee Price with her speed and hustle around the circle edge her bread and butter. Price will be looking to outmuscle the likes of Pitman and Haythornthwaite around the circle edge to limit scoring opportunities.

In the defensive circle itself, the All-Stars have a plethora of options none more daunting than the likes of Geva Mentor. The Roses goal keeper is in a league of her own credit to her experience and high netball nous while the likes of young up and coming Jamaican superstar Shamera Sterling will be hoping to set the court alight with her intercepting ability. Mentor will get the opportunity to reunite with former Lightning teammate, Karla Pretorius with the two posing a dominant threat to the Diamonds with their ability to deny ball into the circle with their extreme defensive pressure and skill to clog space. But Australian captain Caitlin Bassett is no stranger to the physicality and mind games that both Pretorius and Mentor play, having spent time with them at the Lightning and combating them at an international level for years. Bassett is strong in the air and under the post able to move her feet and hold space while in her final game before retirement Caitlin Thwaites will be hoping to leave a lasting legacy with her accuracy to post and ability to shoot from anywhere in the circle.  After a standout season for the GIANTS, Kristiana Manu’a will be hoping to make a splash and assert herself on the game while Emily Mannix knows what it takes to knock over the Diamonds having been inside of the Australian camp. Kiera Austin will get the chance to come up against club teammate Manu’a with the young Diamond hoping to highlight her smooth movement in the circle and accuracy to post. It is hard to go past the likes of Gretel Tippett with the star goaler winning the Liz Ellis Medal credit to her impressive 2019. Tippett will be hard to stop with her physical and athletic style along with her increased volume and accuracy to post while fellow goaler Tegan Philip will be wanting to cement her spot in the Diamonds side.

When it comes to the goal circle the talent does not stop headlined by towering Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler who has proven that volume is no issue while the Swifts’ Sam Wallace is no slouch in goal shooter able to use her aerial skills to reign in loose passes and shoot truly. Wallace will more than likely pair up with NSW teammate Helen Housby in the circle while Roses goaler Jo Harten’s combination with Housby could also be on display throughout the match giving the All-Stars coaches in Julie Fitzgerald and Briony Akle plenty to think about. Although the All-Stars have a stacked line-up the Diamonds will be hoping that their defensive connections between the likes of goal keeper Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston will disrupt their attacking flow and force turnovers. Both players are renowned for their hunt for the ball and intercepting ability. The potential match-up between Fever teammates Bruce and Fowler will be exciting with the two known for their aerial style of play and competitive nature. Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau will both also be hoping to impact the contest for the Diamonds with the defenders knowing Housby and Wallace’s game plan inside and out playing with them at the Swifts.

Expect a fireworks display from both sides with neither wanting to loose and key match-ups across the court especially considering the number of club teammate cross-overs across the court.

All-Stars
Jhaniele Fowler
Jo Harten
Nat Haythornthwaite
Helen Housby
Laura Langman
Emily Mannix
Kristiana Manu’a
Geva Mentor
Kate Moloney
Chelsea Pitman
Karla Pretorius
Gabi Simpson
Shamera Sterling
Sam Wallace

Australian Diamonds
Caitlin Bassett
Liz Watson
Kiera Austin
Ash Brazill
Courtney Bruce
Paige Hadley
Sarah Klau
Tegan Philip
Jamie-Lee Price
Laura Scherian
Caitlin Thwaites
Gretel Tippett
Maddy Turner
Jo Weston