AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, starting off with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Coach: Tania Obst
Captain: Layla Guscoth and Chelsea Pitman
2019 finish: 7th
Breaking their 27 game losing streak in Round 1 against the Fever last year, the Thunderbirds seemed to uncover a new lease on life attacking the ball with intensity. Unfortunately they could not maintain that style of play throughout the season only notching up two more wins. Riddled with injuries, England Roses midcourter Beth Cobden was ruled out early with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and co-captain Layla Guscoth missed the second half of the season after rupturing her Achilles. Sasha Glasgow also went down late in the season with an ACL topping off what had been a trying season for the Thunderbirds. They will be keen to put that to bed in 2020 and put their foot down. Adelaide well and truly proved they have the defensive firepower to change the course of the game, something they will be hoping to build on this season to register more wins.
With the key loss and retirement of long bomb specialist Maria Folau and uncertainty surrounding Glasgow’s return the Thunderbirds shooting end oozes plenty of youth and inexperience when it comes to connections. Welcoming quickfire goal shooter and Spar Proteas star Lenize Potgieter the Thunderbirds attack will rely heavily on her to deliver while the likes of Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges will also have a challenge on their hands stepping into a new-look side. The midcourt remains relatively unchanged with Chelsea Pitman the key through the attacking third with her clever ball placement, speed on the pass, strong circle edge positioning and vision into the circle. Her output will be key to ensuring the goalers get good access. Defensively Adelaide are littered with ball winners, none bigger than Shamera Sterling. The Jamaican goal keeper took the competition by storm last year, using her long arms, speed off the mark and pressure over the shot to win ball back and cause havoc. The versatility of Kate Shimmin also worked wonders for the Thunderbirds while Shadine van der Merwe also slotted into the team seamlessly with her hands over pressure and strength to swing into circle defence or wing defence. The return of Guscoth will also be huge for the Thunderbirds with the England Roses representative able to have an impact with her calming nature, skill to win ball back and tagging style of play.
Key player to watch:
New to the Thunderbirds this season, Potgieter is a real playmaker and staple hold under the post for any team. She is quick on her feet, able to change up the angles in an instant and more importantly score quickly and accurately. Having played with the Steel in the ANZ Premiership last season and spending time with the Queensland Firebirds midseason the Proteas goal shooter is well aware of what it takes to perform at SSN level. She is unfazed by the physical nature of the game, instead relying on her strong holds, baseline drives and range to do all the talking. She is an exciting prospect for the Thunderbirds this season given it will be her first full SSN season and has proven time and time again on the international stage that she is a true competitor, able to read the play and command the ball.
Shadine van der Merwe