Tag: hannah knights

What if….. The VNSL introduced the Super Shot?

THE introduction of the two-goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) has been the biggest shock to the netball community in recent history. Coaches, players and the biggest names in netball across the world have come forward with their thoughts on the introduction of the controversial rule change. But what would happen if the UK followed in the footsteps of the SSN and introduced a reward for long-range shooting?

No team would benefit more from this rule change than Wasps Netball. Renowned as the “long bomb queen” Rachel Dunn has a habit of slotting them from anywhere in the circle, and even from outside when it comes to Fast 5. She was the MVP at the British Fast 5 All Stars in 2018 and just missed out on that title in 2019 to the formidable Jo Harten. Backed up by Katie Harris and Alexia Baker, Wasps would be unstoppable if they managed to keep the score close during the first ten minutes of each quarter. With the experienced Dunn at the post, and their exciting defensive line of Fran Williams and Hannah Knights creating plenty of turnover ball, they would be back on top as the team to beat.

London Pulse’s Chiara Semple is another master of the long bomb. With good accuracy from range and the typical New Zealand confidence to post, Semple would most likely benefit from the Super Shot rule, as she typically shoots from distance anyway. With Sigi Burger standing at 6′ 5″ under the post for the rebound, Pulse could fire these off all day long. Especially given their exciting form at the start of the 2020 season, this would add another advantage to the already improving side. Another team with confidence in their attack end is Team Bath. You would expect youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to rise to the challenge of a two-goal shot if it were introduced, and her connection with Kim Commane would provide a strong starting point.

Two England Roses who do not shy away from a long ranger are Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher for Manchester Thunder and Saracens Mavericks respectively. These two have such great composure on their shot and have both been going from strength to strength over the past few seasons. Whilst Fisher usually takes the majority of her shots from under the post, she is accurate from anywhere, memorably sinking one from near the transverse line in Fast 5. For Thunder, Cardwell has so much strength on the hold and knows how to create space for herself to find good mid-range shooting position. Given her skill in the circle, it would not be hard for her to transition into an exciting long-range shooter. Both of these teams benefit from strong and experienced shooting partnerships, Fisher with Kadeen Corbin, and Cardwell with Kathryn Turner, giving them the edge over teams with only young blood in the attacking end. Saracens Mavericks also have the advantage of defensive mastermind Razia Quashie, as well as tall tower Jo Trip, to scoop up any stray shots and build pressure at the back.

Both Celtic Dragons and Severn Stars have potential secret weapons when it comes to shooting from further away from the post. Jamaican import Rebekah Robinson has fantastic movement in the circle for Dragons and is a playmaker with the ability to shoot long when needed. England Fast Nets player Lucy Herdman delighted fans with her distance shooting at Fast 5 in 2019, leading Dragons to their first-ever semi-final in the competition. She now plies her trade for Severn Stars and while we did not see much of her on court during the short 2020 season, Herdman would be a valuable asset for Stars to have up their sleeve.

The remaining teams would probably struggle to keep up based on their current shooting strengths. Loughborough Lightning’s Ella Clark does have the experience shooting from range due to her basketball background, however her accuracy can sometimes falter when she is under heavy defensive pressure. Another team that would need to improve their accuracy to post are Strathclyde Sirens. Lynsey Gallagher can be a real threat, and as a shorter goal attack, she does tend to take shots from further out. However Sirens are usually less accurate than other teams on their goal conversion, and in a situation where shots are worth more than one point, this could really hurt their chances. For Surrey Storm, their issues lie in other areas of the court. Karen Bailey typically shoots from under the post, and while Sophie Hankin is a possible threat from further out, Storm would need to stay in touch with other teams to secure wins. After a shaky start to 2020 they will be rebuilding, and hopefully will have secured some of their structures by the time netball resumes.

Netball fans in the UK, like many in Australia, are generally not keen for the introduction of the Super Shot in the VNSL. Sara Bayman has been openly critical of the decision on the Netball Nation podcast, stating that the rule change moves even further away from the international game. She accused the new rule of “sabotaging your own national team” and believes it is likely to bring more bad news for the Diamonds. However, Tamsin Greenway has claimed this is a chance for netball to evolve and suggests we will see a move away from the tall holding shooter slotting them in from under the ring. Clubs in the UK may be glad this is being trialled down under and not in the VNSL during such a time of uncertainty for netball in the UK. Due to the backlash from netball fans in the UK, it seems unlikely that such a bold move would be considered, especially when the influence of broadcasters in England is much lower than in Australia.

What if… the next England International window clashed with the VNSL?

WITH ongoing uncertainty around the timing of future international fixtures for the Roses, Draft Central considers what would happen if England matches overlapped with the upcoming 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season. Which teams would find they had key players missing from their starting lineups, and which youngsters could take the opportunity to show what they are made of? The below is purely opinion-based, with a potential England squad based on recent selections. Unsurprisingly, the top five teams from last year would be the most heavily impacted if their Roses were called away on International duty.

Loughborough Lightning struggled when gutsy midcourter, captain and Vitality Rose Nat Panagarry was injured during the first game of the 2020 season. She provides a ton of experience to an otherwise fairly junior Lightning lineup. This lack of leadership on court, unfortunately, showed in their 14 goal loss to Team Bath at the season opener, and a narrow loss to Manchester Thunder two rounds later. The likes of Jess Shaw and Hannah Williams were required to step up to replace their captain and provide a link through court. Whilst they demonstrated plenty of zip and confidence in attack, Loughborough still missed the dogged defence of Panagarry during these games and would likely suffer as a result if she were to be absent again in the future.

Next, we take a look at reigning champions Manchester ThunderEllie Cardwell and Laura Malcolm both proved they deserve court time in the red dress during the 2020 Netball Nations Cup and would be high on the list for England selection. Luckily for Thunder, they have a fantastic goal shooter in Malawi international Joyce Mvula, who maintained 87 per cent accuracy in the opening rounds of the 2020 season. Thunder would certainly miss Cardwell’s clever footwork and ability to shoot from range, however Mvula provides a strong and reliable option. Manchester also has a tenacious midcourter in Amy Carter, who is capable of switching between centre and wing defence with ease. She provides a huge amount of energy and defensive pressure through court and could easily slide into the gap left by Malcolm. In the next few years, we will surely see this exciting youngster earn a starting spot in the Roses, and fingers crossed in Season 2021 she will benefit from further court time.

One team that would be heavily impacted by a scheduling clash is the talent stacked Saracens Mavericks. They are peppered with Roses talent across all three areas of the court, from George Fisher to Gabby Marshall, not to mention Jodie Gibson and Razia Quashie. Losing a holding shooter of the calibre of Fisher, even for one match, would heap pressure on someone like Kadeen Corbin to provide a clear option in the goal circle. In the midcourt, Marshall is an engine and provides support to Sasha Corbin and Georgia Lees, often coming on as an impact player. Although we haven’t seen Gibson on court for Mavericks yet due to injury, she will no doubt become a starting defender next season. Losing gold medal winner Gibson to England duties, combined with the absence of Quashie, would be a huge loss for Mavs. Quashie collected the highest tally of intercepts in the first three rounds and without her Jo Trip would have to bear a heavier defensive load than she is used to.

In contrast, Team Bath has a wealth of depth and experience across the squad. Despite starting the 2020 season without Serena Guthrie or Eboni Usuro-Brown the youngsters in this side have already proved they can step up when their big names are away. Co-captains Summer Artman and Kim Commane are rock solid, supported by versatile Fi Toner and exciting South African international Khanyisa Chawane. Not to mention Imogen Allison who really rose to the challenge in the first three games of 2020 and proved she has a bright future ahead. Artman and Allison have cemented themselves as future Roses, and after a fantastic start to 2020 they will be looking forward to plenty of court time next season.

Wasps Netball is another team that benefits from an experienced lineup. Although in this scenario they would most likely be without Fran Williams (who ranks in the top five for intercepts and deflections), the likes of Hannah Knights and Josie Huckle both have an excellent read of the game and the athleticism to back it up. The main issue would be if Wasps were without England veterans Jade Clarke and Rachel Dunn. Dunn has won more domestic titles than Geva Mentor and Clarke has over 170 caps for England. Wasps would struggle without these two game changers and whilst Katie Harris and Amy Flanagan have plenty of Superleague experience between them, it is likely the team would still miss the impact of the seasoned duo of Clarke and Dunn.

Celtic DragonsLondon PulseSevern StarsStrathclyde Sirens and Surrey Storm don’t currently have players in their squad who would be likely to be called up for England selection. However, the World Youth Cup is scheduled for June 2021. If all squads stay the same, Pulse would be missing several key bench players including Kira RothwellFunmi Fadoju and Olivia Tchine. This will certainly be something for Superleague coaches to consider when choosing how to balance their squads for next season.

Memorable Matches: 2019 VNSL Grand Final

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is Manchester Thunder’s impressive come-from-behind win over Wasps Netball in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wasps

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

COACH: Mel Mansfield

Thunder

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

COACH: Karen Greig

Vitality Netball Superleague review Round 4: Stars stun Wasps while Thunder make it four on the trot

ONLY two games were played in Round 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) as a result of the coronavirus. While not all the games went ahead, the two games that happened provided plenty of intrigue and a surprising upset.

Severn Stars (59) defeated Wasps (54)

The first game of the round well and truly lived up to the hype with the Stars pulling off one of the biggest coups this season with a five-goal win over the Wasps. The Stars established a handy lead in the first quarter and steadily built on it heading into the main break with a three-goal buffer. But the Wasps are a classy unit and showed just how easily they can flip the script going on a scoring rampage of 18 goals to 10. The strong fight back did not last long though, with the Stars landing the final blow in the last quarter with an impressive 10-goal turnaround. Severn simply could not be denied under the post piling on a whopping 20 goals while keeping the Wasps under wraps and limiting their attacking ball movement. They simply could not maintain their high intensity third term falling short and notching up their third loss for the year a feat they would not have been expecting heading into the season. The Wasps were force out of their usual game style racking up 20 unforced errors and while defensively they were strong winning the deflections and intercepts tally the Stars took the cake when it came to accuracy and ability to stay away from the whistle.

Georgia Rowe was a key cog in the Stars win with the towering goal shooter only missing one goal for the game and nailing a game-high 47 shots. Rowe was unstoppable under the post making it look effortless with her clever movement and connection with shooting comrade Paige Reed. The goal attack managed to put on 12 goals and while her accuracy was down, missing six goals she played a pivotal support role. Defensively Towera Vinkhumbo was in a league of her own with the new recruit racking up the stats with four intercepts and four deflections. Wasps’ shooter Rachel Dunn was her usual dominant self in the goal circle with her impressive timing, strong hands and range on full display with 45 goals while both Sienna Rushton and Alexia Baker struggled to find their rhythm with a combined nine goals. With the attacking end struggling to fire, Fran Williams led the way down back with her ball winning ability and desperation. Williams finished with two rebounds, four intercepts and one deflection while goal keeper Hannah Knights imposed herself with two intercepts and one deflection. Jade Clarke found herself back in wing defence up against former Silver Fern Liana Leota who was clever with ball in hand and played a big role in creating scoring chances for her side.

Surrey Storm (42) defeated by Manchester Thunder (60)

Manchester kept their undefeated run intact with a dominant 18-goal win over the lowly Storm. The Thunder raced out of the gates opening up a six goal lead at the first break and extending it to 13 by half time. It was a complete performance by the reigning premiers who looked slick across the court and never really gave the Storm a chance. Although their scoring dried up in the second half, only adding 27 goals to their tally compared to their 33 in the first half, the Thunder still romped it home, keeping the home side under double digits in the fourth quarter. When it came to penalties around the court the away side won the battle with 49-42 while they also had the upper hand when it came to intercepts with Thunder highlighting their defensive prowess with 16 to seven. Despite the Thunder being costly around the court with nine more turnovers 22-13 they managed to win enough of the ball back to do damage on the scoreboard and run out with the win.

It was a trying game for the Storm shooters, with Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin receiving plenty of close attention from their opposition. Bailey was the main scoring source for Surrey, with the experienced goaler proving to be a rock under the post with six offensive rebounds to go with her 24 goals. Hankin although she was not overly accurate still had an influence with her 11 goals while through the midcourt Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin worked tirelessly to deliver the ball into the circle. However it was the defensive efforts of Caroline O’Hanlon and Amy Carter that stood head and shoulders above the rest through the midcourt with the two taking a combined six intercepts and five deflections. Australian defender, Leah Middleton also had a profound influence and while she received plenty of attention from the umpire with 18 penalties her ball winning ability was on display with a couple of timely tips to disrupt Thunders attacking flow. For Thunder, the shooting load was evenly spread across both Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell. Mvula was strong under the post with her aerial presence and accuracy on display finishing with 25 goals while Cardwell top-scored with 29 goals from 36 attempts at 81 per cent. In the defensive circle the tried and tested duo of Loreen Ngwira and Emma Dovey wreaked havoc confusing the space with their constant movement and hunt for the ball. Ngwira notched up four intercepts and six deflections while Dovey managed two rebounds, four intercepts and four deflections to cap off an all-round impressive performance by the visiting side.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 2 – Team Bath continues hot start to season

THE second round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) brought plenty of controversy and close encounters with sides battling hard to claim early ascendancy. New recruits continued to make waves in their new colours while the tried and tested combinations of years gone by also proved to be the difference in narrow wins.

Severn Stars (56) defeated by Manchester Thunder (65)

The Thunder made it two from two to open the season downing the Severn Stars in convincing fashion. It was an even first term with only one goal separating the sides at quarter time before the Thunder started to hit their straps in the second to extend their lead. But a strong third quarter from the Stars kept them alive scoring 17 goals to reduce the margin and keep them in touch heading into the final quarter. However, the Thunder were not about to lie down piling on the pain in the final quarter with an impressing 19 goals to run out with a strong nine goal lead. Accuracy proved no issue for either side with a combined 14 shots missed while Manchester proved to be stronger under the post offensively with 11 rebounds.

It was a shooting showdown, with Stars goal shooter Georgia Rowe leading from the front with an impressive 43 goals from 45 attempts at 96 per cent. Rowe was strong under the post holding her space and using her hands to reign in passes that came her way. Up the other end, Joyce Mvula owned the circle with the Thunder goaler going about her business with 22 goals and Eleanor Cardwell doing even more damaging finishing with 32 goals to her name. Cardwell rotated between shooter and goal attack highlighting her endurance and skill under the post while Kathryn Turner also plied her trade in the goal circle with 11 goals. Through the midcourt Amy Carter and Ashleigh Neal combined well to feed the Thunder shooters while both Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke for the Severn Stars worked tirelessly in attack to hit the circle edge and provide good ball use to the shooters. Defensively Ama Agbeze stood tall with her experience on full display with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies also having an impact down back but not able to effectively shut down the Thunder offence.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

After a poor start to their first home game of the season the Lightning clawed their way back into the game and overran the Sirens who seemed to have all the answers in the opening term. Loughborough only managed a mere seven goals in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to the Sirens overwhelming pressure and ability to combat everything that the Lightning threw at them. But that quickly changed with Loughborough bursting out of the blocks in the second with 18 goals and returning the favour to their opposition limiting them to nine goals of their own. With momentum behind them the Lightning continued on that trajectory applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure with consecutive quarters of 17 goals apiece while the Sirens failed to recapture the same intensity they had in the first term gifting the Lightning a hard-fought win. To a certain extent the Sirens will be ruing their inaccuracy with 12 shots going astray while both sides will be pleased it was a relatively low penalty game with 45 and 35 apiece despite Samantha May receiving a warning due to her 14 penalties.

The Lightning were led by Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok with the goal shooter cool, calm and composed under the post only missing two goals and sinking an impressive 46 proving to be the go-to girl in her sides win. Cholhok was strong in the circle with Ella Clark playing a strong support role with 13 goals to keep the Lightning in the fight. Vicki Oyesola proved to the difference down in defence with her ability to read the play and take important intercepts or disrupt the attacking flow with her well-timed deflections. Up against Oyesola Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher showcased their strength and connection with clever shooter to shooter interplay. Goodwin was the dominant shooter with 31 goals from 38 attempts while Gallagher made an important 15 goal contribution while the seven goal cameo appearance from Niamh McCall was not enough to get them over the line. Zanele Vimbela continued her hot form in the defensive third with the defender racking up three intercepts pairing with Natalie Bright with ease. Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell were strong through the midcourt for the Sirens but wing Hannah Williams proved too much to handle with her clever touch around the circle edge.

Celtic Dragons (52) defeated by Team Bath (71)

The clash between the Dragons and Team Bath was filled with plenty of intensity and ferocity with Jamaican recruit Latanya Wilson order off the court after an ill-disciplined performance on the court. Down a player in the final term the Dragons found it hard to keep up with Team Bath who took it all in their stride and put on a show in the last quarter scoring a whopping 23 goals to 12 to run out with another strong win. It was an even start to the game with both sides sitting at 13 goals apiece before Bath got some separation in the second with a 19-goal term, a lead they were not willing to surrender despite their opponent’s best efforts. In the rebounding department, the ball seemed to fall Bath’s way credit to their positioning under the post winning both the offensive rebounds 12 to six and defensive nine to two.

After a stellar performance in her debut match Wilson tried to recreate her impressive form but struggled to stay away from the whistle. Her clumsiness and inability to play to the umpire’s call caused havoc, initially forced to the bench before re-entering the game and giving away a late penalty that was the final straw for the defender who found herself sent off for the remainder of the game leaving her side in the lurch. Abigail Tyrrel was a Trojan in defence working tirelessly to cover the slack left by Wilson but it was no match for the highly skilled shooting unit of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.  The load was relatively evenly split with Commane nailing 37 goals and Drakeford-Lewis posting 25 goals while newcomer Betsy Creak showed her hot hand with nine goals at 100 per cent. Co-captain Summer Artman was solid in goal keeper along with Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin out the front. For the Dragons, the shooting combination of Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman proved to be strong with Clinton nailing 31 goals and Coleman slotting 15 but it was not enough to worry the scoreboard. Shona O’Dwyer was a key cog in wing attack with her ability to feed the ball into the goalers.

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

It turned out to be a close contest between the Storm and Pulse with the latter prevailing thanks to their ability to ride the storm and hold strong under pressure. The Pulse well and truly blew the Storm out of the water with a staggering 19 to six goals opening term proving just how much power they have under the post. But the Storm were not about to be embarrassed fighting back hard in the second quarter giving the Pulse a taste of their own medicine with 18 goals of their own and keeping the Pulse to nine. With the margin at four goals at half time Surrey continued their hot form in the third quarter to take a slender one goal lead heading into the final change but failed to maintain that intensity falling agonisingly short. Storm had their fair share of chances missing 18 goals while the Pulse only missed seven shots. In terms of other key statistics neither side could be split with penalties 56-53 and intercepts seven to nine.

Sigi Burger has made herself at home in the new pink dress having an immediate impact under the post with her commanding height, good movement, holding ability and most importantly accuracy to post with 32 goals from 34 attempts at 94 per cent. She was ably assisted by goal attack Chiara Semple with 12 goals while wing attack Adean Thomas highlighted her ability to find space and thread the needle in the attacking third with her quick release. Wing defence Funmi Fadoju put up a strong performance for the Pulse doing her role to disrupt the attacking flow with four intercepts while goal keeper Halimat Adio plied her trade confusing the space and picking up three intercepts. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska proved that anything you can do I can do too with two intercepts combining well with fellow defender Katy Hughes. In the shooting circle, Karryn Bailey proved to have a hot hand with 35 goals while Sophie Hankin chipped in with 14 goals of her own.

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

In the final match of Round 2 the Wasps got on the winners list for the first time in 2020 after going down last week to reigning premiers, Manchester Thunder. Jade Clarke got things underway with the first centre pass of the game and that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with the Wasps claiming an early lead in the first quarter and building on that as the game went on. A strong second quarter performance from the home side helped to set up the win with the Mavericks unable to get their noses in front despite reducing the margin after half time. It was an even performance under the post with each side only missing nine goals apiece while the rebounding column was won by the Wasps both in offence and defence.

England Roses and Wasps goaler Rachel Dunn led from the front letting her consistency and silky movement do all the talking while he volume was another key aspect of her game with 33 goals. Australian youngster Alexia Baker made her debut, pairing nicely with the experience of Dunn in the circle and showcasing just how much class she has with 11 goals from 13 attempts. Katie Harris also put in the hard yards in the circle with an important 13 goals to get the Wasps over the line. Jo Trip and Razia Quashie had their work cut out for them against high quality opposition with Quashie displaying her defensive prowess with four intercepts and two rebounds. Sasha Corbin was her usual solid self through the midcourt finding space and using her experience to weave her way through the traffic to deliver well weighted passes into sister Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher. Fisher was strong to post with a game-high 38 goals such is her dominance and skill while Kadeen managed 15 goals. But both were put under the pump thanks to Wasps’ defenders Fran Williams and Hannah Knights with the two collecting six rebounds and five intercepts between them.

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

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

Manchester Thunder v. Wasps Netball
Arena Birmingham

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

Team Bath v. Loughborough Lightning
Arena Birmingham

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

Saracens Mavericks v. Severn Stars
Arena Birmingham

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

Celtic Dragons v. Surrey Storm
Arena Birmingham

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

Strathclyde Sirens v. London Pulse
Arena Birmingham

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

VNSL 2020 team preview: Wasps Netball

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

Coach: Mel Mansfield
Captain: Hannah Knights
2019 finish: 1st (Runners-up) (16-4)

Wasps were impressive all through 2019, with their cleanliness, speed down court and each player’s individual ability to turn the tides of the match just three of their major pros. But while they had a stellar season, the Wasps were pipped at the post after dominating for majority of the season and went down in the grand final in devastating fashion.

2020 predictions:

Given the Wasps fell at the final hurdle last season, it is safe to say they will be raring to go this season to dominate the contest once more. They did not lose a load of talent at the end of last season but really just added to an already extensive list of key names, making for another tough outfit that a lot of sides will need to find ways to combat early, especially the goaling lineup of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris whose consistency and ability to share the load went far last season. Fran Williams has also elevated her game over the off-season in the England Roses, making for Roses names in key positions across the court to hold ground and maintain consistency. The addition of Aussie youngster Alexia Baker will bring plenty of excitement and unpredictability to the Wasps line-up who are renowned for their consistent game play. 

Key player: Jade Clarke (C/WD)

With experience and a wealth of talent to boot, Clarke is always one to watch on court with her dynamic movement, read of the play and ability to dictate her opposition’s next step. Her versatility through the midcourt makes her a real barometer for the Wasps, and her vision around the edge of the circle is key for collecting loose ball and creating turnovers. Clarke works tirelessly both ways to ensure she has an impact both defensively and offensively consistently proving she is not afraid to put her body on the line.

Team list:

Jade Clarke
Rachel Dunn
Hannah Knights
Fran Williams
Iona Christian (Severn Stars)
Tamsin Moala
Katie Harris
Sienna Rushton
Alexia Baker (Queensland Firebirds)
Beth Dix
Ally Housley
Hannah Leighton
Josie Huckle
Amy Flanagan
Sophia Candappa

Vitality Netball Superleague wrap: Grand Final

IN such a big season of the Vitality Netball Superleague, it is no wonder the biggest game of the season went down to the wire. Despite a hard and fast start from Wasps Netball, Manchester Thunder came back from a six-goal buffer to win by five goals, with an exceptional shared goaling accuracy of 89 per cent all but cementing the victory. Meanwhile, Team Bath bumped off Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff, finishing the finals series in the same position they started at.

It was Manchester Thunder legend, Kerry Almond’s final game before retirement, and it was a fitting way to leave the competition – with a third Grand Final victory under her belt. The Wasps started off strong with a solid 16 goal to 11 first quarter, speeding away to an early lead as they shot four goals nil early in the first before Thunder got a goal on the board. Thunder’s patience through the midcourt is a key component of their play, however the Wasps took control of the movement early to limit options in attack and close space through the centre third. Wasps shooters, Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn were exceptional early, finding the post and space in the circle with ease, poking holes in Thunder’s defensive unit. Defensively, the likes of Almond and Emma Dovey seemed unable to bring their usual flair to the match, focusing more on preventing entry to the goal circle than generating excitement around the ring. However, it was not the lack of skill defensively for the Thunder that had the side chasing early, but instead the impeccable defensive work from Wasps’ Fran Williams and Hannah Knights, creating confusion for feeders as they battled relentlessly on Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula.

The second quarter saw a momentum switch as the Thunder put on the accelerator, shooting 18 goals to 11 to have a two goal lead at half time. Thunder’s composure settled as they finally took control, finding space in the goal third as Turner and Mvula started to come into their own, slotting goal after goal courtesy of pinpoint feeds around the circle. Forced errors across the court from the Wasps cost them, while the defensive unit seemed to take their foot off the pedal as Thunder’s confidence began to grow. Caroline O’Hanlon came into her own to start winning the centre court battle against dominant defensive midcourter, Jade Clarke, finding the ball better through the middle of the court and feeding well at the centre pass, switching it up as the Wasps fought for turnovers. Turner and Mvula continued to fight it out in the circle, gaining some ground and putting shots up from all over the ring.

But while a second half push from the Thunder seemed imminent, Wasps would not go down without a fight as an 18 goal to 10 third quarter saw the Wasps wrestle back control of the match to lead by six at three quarter time. Amy Flanagan was stellar in wing defence against speedy New Zealander, Liana Leota, limiting her space and reducing her role as Thunder struggled once again to move the ball through attack, missing the fluidity they gained in the second term. Leota’s ability to find the circle edge with ease was nullified by Flanagan’s brand of defence, causing issues as the circle defenders gained confidence once more, picking off the loose ball. Thunder’s errors started to creep back up as Wasps once again took the game by storm, with the likes of Bongi Msomi skilfully feeding lightning-fast passes into the circle under pressure.

The final quarter saw both sides battle for control, with Thunder wing defence, Laura Malcolm standing up and producing some of her best defensive work for the season against Msomi as the match came down to the wire. A spanner in the works midway through the final quarter saw dominant Thunder and Malawi Queens goal shooter, Mvula go down with a knee injury, causing an injury time-out for the side as Ellie Cardwell took the court in goals. In what many thought could be the straw to break the camel’s back, Cardwell stepped up to the plate and brought her own skill and exceptional footwork to the position, finding space and shooting at close to 100 per cent accuracy. The switch in goals seemed to spur on the Thunder, once again swinging the momentum in their favour and holding on despite the exceptional defensive efforts across the board from the Wasps, limiting the usually dominant side to only seven goals in the final term as Thunder ran away with it. Exceptional composure and skill under pressure saw Manchester Thunder win their third Superleague title, 52 – 57, fighting back and proving they were well deserving of the victory.

THIRD/FOURTH PLAYOFF: Loughborough Lightning v. Team Bath

In the pre-Grand Final opener it was down to the wire for the tough tussle between Bath and Lightning, with Bath coming out on top after a stellar second half shooting effort was too much for the Lightning (56 – 62). Down by one goal at the final change, Bath turned a corner to come out on top, shooting 19 goals to 12 to win the match and prove the dominant form they have displayed for majority of the season. Player of the match, Imogen Allison was well deserving of her title in wing defence, causing upsets around the court and making it difficult for Lightning to feed the ball into the circle. The likes of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kim Commane were exceptional at the post, retaining their dominant shooting accuracy as they put up shot after shot. Defenders, Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown were spot-on in the second half, causing issues in the goal circle as Lightning’s Ella Clark and Mary Cholhok struggled under pressure. Artman and Usoro-Brown did what they do best, creating turnovers and moving the ball back through the midcourt with speed and precision courtesy of Serena Guthrie in centre. Nat Panagarry was a shining light through the midcourt for Lightning, doing well early to disrupt movement and flow, while Vicki Oyesola and Tuaine Keenan took control early through defence to disrupt Bath’s rhythm in attack. However it was not enough, with Team Bath ultimately pulling back Lightning’s early lead to win by six goals.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Grand Final

SATURDAY’S Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final is set to be a big one, with the two highest scoring teams of the season raring to go in the biggest match of the league at London’s Copper Box Arena. Wasps Netball will defend their Superleague title and attempt their third victory in a row, while Manchester Thunder last won a premiership in 2015 so will be ready for a tough fight against the Wasps. Meanwhile, Loughborough Lightning will host Team Bath in a playoff for third as an opener to the Grand Final.

WASPS NETBALL vs. MANCHESTER THUNDER
5:30 pm

Thunder will come into this match with confidence coming off the back of two high pressure wins over the Wasps this season in Rounds 2 and 11. Both sides have shown time and time again this season that they can stand up to the pressure when the moment arrives, so this grand final is sure to finish with a bang. In what is expected to be a big final match of the season for both teams, it is likely to be the midcourt play that has a significant effect on results, with Thunder’s Caroline O’Hanlan, Liana Leota and Laura Malcolm likely lining up against the highly skilled Jade Clarke, Bongi Msomi and Amy Flanagan. In what is a fairly mixed offensive-defensive midcourt battle, it will be down to who removes their opponent from the match and is able to produce scoring opportunities under pressure. With the likes of Leota and goal shooter, Joyce Mvula appearing to have the ball on a string against Team Bath in the semi finals, Wasps are likely to look to the defensive unit of Clarke and Flanagan to shut down Leota’s skilled feeds and reduce scoring opportunities before the ball enters the circle. For Wasps, the skilled rotation and footwork of Hannah Knights, Fran Williams and Josie Huckle will prove vital as they fight to keep the ball out of the hands of their opposition in Mvula, Ellie Cardwell and Kathryn Turner. Thunder will have a similar issue through their defence, with speedster, Msomi almost unstoppable with ball in hand, especially with the likes of prolific shooters, Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris at the post to share the load. The defensive partnership of captain, Emma Dovey and retiree, Kerry Almond will be key in this match, with the pair needing to be at their absolute highest calibre to ensure they limit the Wasps from putting shots up, while Rebekah Airey has the ability to come off the sidelines and have an immediate impact.

LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING vs. TEAM BATH
3:00 pm

In what is a slightly lower stakes game on Grand Final day, Loughborough Lightning and Team Bath will take the court one last time for the 2019 season as they fight to finish third on the VNSL ladder. Team Bath, like Manchester, will come into this matchup with a leg up, having beaten the Lightning on both occasions this season. However, Lightning will be raring to go given their big loss against Wasps in the semi final, so will want to come out strong against the defensive pressure of Bath. Last time they met, Bath only come out on top by two goals, so are likely to fight tooth and nail to ensure they get a third win in a row. Bath’s aerial defensive unit of Summer Artman and Eboni Usoro-Brown will have a task ahead of them as they take on tall goalers, Mary Cholhok and Ella Clark, while down the other end Lightning’s defence will also need to be on fine form as they take on the likes of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, whose partnership and volume has improved with every match together. The matchup between England Roses’, Serena Guthrie and Nat Panagarry is sure to be one to watch, with both players ready and willing to put their body on the line to ensure victory for their side.

Vitality Netball Superleague wrap: Round 14

ROUND 14 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) saw two table topping clashes and potential finals teams go head-to-head, as Team Bath hosted Loughborough Lightning in a down to the wire thriller, while the Saracens Mavericks went down to Wasps Netball. The surprise win of the weekend however saw ladder leaders, Manchester Thunder suffer a shock loss to the Severn Stars, cementing 2019 as one of the best and most competitive seasons ever. In other results, the Celtic Dragons put on a stellar performance against the struggling Strathclyde Sirens while London Pulse almost got over the line against Surrey Storm.

It was a big game on Friday night as third took on fourth, with Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning fighting it out for finals contention. Despite a slow start, a dominant third quarter put Bath in a good position to take a strong win as they took back the lead, but a sloppy final quarter almost saw the Lightning take home the points as the home side struggled to convert. It was a tight final few minutes before the end of the game handed Bath some relief, coming away with a two goal win (57 – 55). The Lightning came in strong to lead by three at half time, but seemed to run out of steam after half time while Bath came in with confidence. A stronger final quarter saw Lightning reduce the margin and opportunities into the circle, but to no avail as they went down to Bath for the second time this season. Lightning have proved to be a surprise package this year, beating the higher ranking teams and going down to sides far lower on the ladder, so will be disappointed they missed this opportunity to get one over Bath and solidify their position in the top four. Bath defender, Summer Artman was a standout defensively, crowding the goal circle well with Eboni Usoro-Brown and putting immense pressure on Lightning goalers, Mary Cholhok and Ella Clark. The likes of Kim Commane, Sophie Drakeford Lewis and Laura Rudland were on song in the goal circle, standing up against the intensity of Lightning’s hands-on defence, while Serena Guthrie pulled out the full force of her talent, producing turnovers to feed back forward. This win will be a big confidence booster for Bath, who have lifted over the past few weeks to prove that they deserve a finals position, while Lightning will need to regroup ahead of next week’s clash against the Sirens to ensure they have the points to make finals ahead of the Mavericks.

Next up saw Celtic Dragons host Strathclyde Sirens, giving the Dragons an opportunity to put their recent improvement on show and come away with a 10 goal win (59 – 49). The Dragons have been steadily upping their game quality and consistency this season, and their efforts seemed to finally come into effect as they stormed away to an early lead, giving the Sirens little opportunity to work back into the match. The Sirens have struggled in 2019 to finish out games, but put in a hard fought effort to keep the margin at ten with a strong second half. The Dragons will be happy to come away with their fifth win for the season, a victory that was required to keep the pressure on middle-table teams, Surrey Storm and Severn Stars. With accuracy issues plaguing Sirens shooters, Lynsey Gallagher and young gun, Emma Barrie at the post, Dragons, Stacian Facey and Dee Bolakoro were able to take advantage and shoot the ball back down court to attack. The likes of midcourters, Nia Jones and Kyra Jones combined well defensively through the midcourt, putting more pressure on Gia Abernethy and Nicola McCleery as they struggled to push the ball downcourt.

In a shock result, ladder leaders Manchester Thunder went down by three goals (47 – 60) to the Severn Stars, with the Stars coming in hot to disrupt finals hopes across the board. This was the third win in the row for the Stars, who continue to impress having put in the hard yards to work their way back up the ladder in recent weeks. The Stars did a stellar job keeping the Thunder’s volume of shots low, reducing them to an eight goal second quarter and proving that every side can be beaten by any team on their day. The Thunder are renowned for sinking a lot of goals in a short period of time, credit to the accuracy and rebounding efforts of Joyce Mvula and Ellie Cardwell, however could not seem to get hands to the ball with Sam Cook and Jodi-Ann Ward on fire in the circle. The dominant pairing of Kerry Almond and Emma Dovey seemed to be at a loss against Stars shooter, Georgia Rowe, who put on a clinic at the post and worked her way around defence effectively, forcing a change in defence as Rebekah Airey took the court in goal keeper. With some composed defensive pressure and flying intercepts from the likes of Cook and Ward, the Stars were able to combat the Thunder’s comeback and solidify their best win for the season so far. The Stars put the Thunder into an uncomfortable position with a lapse in confidence, forcing changes across the court as the normally composed Thunder side struggled to keep afloat. Despite some good patches, the Thunder had a frustrating off-week so will need a big lift ahead of Round 15 to maintain their position at the top of the ladder.

In another close match, the London Pulse came agonisingly close to their third win as they pushed Surrey Storm until the final buzzer, going down by only three goals (56 – 53). A strong first half gave the Pulse a three goal lead, before a 16 to 12 goal third quarter saw the Storm gain the upper hand after a sloppy second term. The lead changed a number of times, with both sides hungry for another win – the Storm chasing a second win for the week after a spectacular show against the Lightning, while the Pulse have shown immense improvement over recent weeks. The likes of Sigi Burger put on another exceptional performance while goalsneak, Rhea Dixon provided a great backup around the circle, slipping between defenders. Pulse captain, Ama Agbeze put on a strong effort, but a shaky defensive setup around the circle created issues for the away side, while the home crowd pushed the Storm to go the extra mile in attack to score. Storm wing attack, Emily Gulvin was a standout, pushing hard at every centre to receive the ball in prime position to move downcourt for circle entry.

The final match of the round saw the Saracens Mavericks host a full strength Wasps Netball, going down by seven points as both sides battled out the second half for the advantage (51 – 58). A 23 goal to 31 first half set up the win for the Wasps, coming out of the blocks fast to ensure an upset would not pip them at the post this week. The Mavericks have some issues to iron out in the coming weeks in order to fight back into the top four, fortunately sitting only one game below the Lightning on the ladder despite a disappointing few weeks on court. A late fight back from the Mavericks was not enough against the force of the Wasps who flexed their muscles. The Wasps were challenged at time and will be happy with the win, with the victory helping to even out the points with ladder leaders, Thunder. George Fisher was fortunately back on form this week, putting on a show at the post with Kadeen Corbin in goal attack. It was not accuracy that was the issue for the Mavericks, but the opportunities going to waste as the Wasps created errors, putting pressure on every ball and causing issues across the court for the Mavericks. For the Wasps, the likes of defenders, Fran Williams and Hannah Knights were excellent, forcing turnovers and creating options through the midcourt credit to the speed and craft of Bongi Msomi in wing attack. The ever reliable shooting duo of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris were clinical under the ring, sharing the load to create continuous options up forward.