Tag: kelsey browne

Top 20 players over 30: #12 Nat Medhurst

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Although she is currently on a netball hiatus with pregnancy, Nat Medhurst comes in at number 12 on the countdown.

The Collingwood Magpies goaler elevated her game again last year with her effortless movement across the court and sheer netball smarts constantly on display. Her on-court leadership and ability to control the front end made her an integral member in the Magpies side, able to direct traffic and control the flow of the game. Although she is not renowned for her high volume of shots it is her play making ability that sets her apart from fellow goal attacks able to see the play two steps ahead of the next. The 36-year-old has an uncanny ability to drop into space when needed and can sense the moment to stand up under pressure. Her floating style of play across the court is varied with her hard drives into the circle to beat the defender and gain prime position under the post, which in turn keeps the opposition on their toes.

She is not afraid to take on the contest relying on her quick footwork to out manoeuvre and outsmart her opponent while her quick hands leave many in awe. There is no denying that the fast footed Medhurst has gotten better with age, darting around the court easily and exploiting every little bit of space there is to offer. There is nothing more poetic than seeing Medhurst’s baseline drives in full swing, able to burst through the circle and receive the ball. She is renowned for her impressive balance and spatial awareness able to step on to one foot and do a full 360 to assess her options and off-load the pass.

Her delivery into the circle is second to none, able to release that high ball into the likes of current shooting partner Shimona Nelson, and former teammates Jhaniele Fowler and Caitlin Bassett with ease. Her connection with the likes of Kelsey Browne, Kimiora Poi and Kim Ravaillion started to blossom towards the tail end of the season with the midcourters able to read Medhurst’s movement and play accordingly.

When she is on there is almost no stopping Medhurst who has proven that she has the calibre to explode and cause all sorts of headaches for defenders, whether it be with her play making capabilities or skill to go to post. Medhurst has a lovely high release shot that makes it hard for defenders to stop and while she does not contribute a large amount to the scoreboard it is her presence that makes her a commanding figure in the goal circle.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)
#18 Ama Agbeze (Severn Stars/England)
#17 Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning/South Africa)
#16 Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball/England)
#15 Chelsea Pitman (Adelaide Thunderbirds/England)

#14 Romelda Aiken (Queensland Firebirds/Jamaica)
#13 Madi Browne (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)
#12 Nat Medhurst (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)

Fantasy teams: Australia/Jamaica v. New Zealand/England

WITH a wealth of netball talent across the world Draft Central has created two teams based on the current top four nations according to the International Netball Federation rankings. The first team comprises of first and fourth – Australia and Jamaica – while the second team is made up of players from New Zealand and England. The line-ups include injured players that have recently featured in their respective country’s team.

Australia & Jamaica (Diamond Girls)

GK: Shamera Sterling
GD: Jo Weston
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Liz Watson
WA: Kelsey Browne
GA: Gretel Bueta
GS: Jhaniele Fowler

BENCH: Caitlin Bassett, Adean Thomas, Courtney Bruce

The Diamond Girls are bookended by Jamaicans given their height and dominance in those respective positions. The defensive end is set to cause fireworks with the likes of Shamera Sterling taking out the goal keeper position. The exciting Jamaican goal keeper is renowned for her intercepting ability, impressive aerial skills and classy footwork to get up to the high balls and propel it back down the court. Australian Diamond, Jo Weston is set to pull on the goal defence position given her ability to shut down opposition goalers with her tagging style of defence and skill to block vision and space in the defensive third.

Through the midcourt it is Diamonds top heavy with dynamo Liz Watson taking out the centre position. Although she is more commonly seen in wing attack, Watson has proven that she has the endurance and skill to have an influence across all thirds and use her speed and precision passing to deliver into the goalers with ease. Speedster, Kelsey Browne takes out the wing attack position credit to her dynamic footwork to dance around the circle edge and exploit every inch of space. Her impressive vision and skill to vary her passes into the shooters makes her hard to stop when on song. Coming in at wing defence is Ash Brazill, with the Australian Diamond able to move into centre as well when needed. There is no denying that she is one of the most athletic midcourters in netball history with her aerial ability and speed off the mark.

In the shooting circle, it is a combination of twin towers with excitement machine, the unpredictable Gretel Bueta getting the nod at goal attack. She is simply unstoppable both in the air and at ground level able to gobble up everything that comes her way while her increased accuracy makes her even more of a threat. Bueta consistently uses her athleticism and strength to out-position defenders under the post and shoot truly. Jamaican shooting machine, Jhaniele Fowler takes out the goal shooter position thanks to her continued dominance, height, strong holds and high volume. Her ability to use her body and feet to ward off defenders is second to none.

Unlucky not to get the start is Australian captain, Caitlin Bassett who was just pipped at the post by Fowler while the likes of Adean Thomas through the midcourt and defender Courtney Bruce also just missed out.

New Zealand & England (Silver Roses)

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Laura Langman
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Jo Harten

BENCH: Helen Housby, Serena Guthrie, Jane Watson

There is no shortage of star power across the court for the Silver Roses with key players across each third of the court. Each player oozes class, experience and an innate winning ability. Starting down back is arguably one of the most experienced defenders and goal keepers in the world, Geva Mentor. The England Roses defender is in a league of her own, able to read the play and swat the ball away with her well-timed leaps and pressure over the shot. Moving out into goal defence is versatile New Zealand defender Katrina Rore renowned for her aerial presence and intercepting ability. She is light on her feet able to spring into action at any time and also possesses that attacking element to transition the ball from one end of the court to the other.

The defensive minded Karin Burger is another sure start for the Silver Roses with her impressive wingspan and quick change of direction. Burger proved to be a key cog for New Zealand able to direct traffic down back and can seamlessly switch into circle defence when needed such is her netball IQ. Her balance around circle edge ensures she remains a constant threat to force turnovers while in centre it is hard to go past the services of Laura Langman. The veteran Silver Fern is simply unstoppable able to run all day and everyday using her ball movement to open up the attacking end and deliver pin-point passes. Although she is more defensively minded able to apply pressure on the ball carrier and pick off intercepts her ability to switch into attack makes a never-ending threat. In at wing attack is England Roses midcourter and part-time shooter Nat Haythornthwaite. Although more commonly seen delivering the ball to the goalers with her clever placement around circle edge, quick footwork and hard drive to circle edge Haythornthwaite can slide into goal attack when needed.

The goal circle oozes nothing but class, shooting prowess and versatility with both able to switch between positions. Ameliaranne Ekenasio takes out the goal attack position with her smooth movement constantly on display while her ability to slot them from anywhere makes her an ominous threat for opposition teams. She is cool, calm and collected under the post and is not afraid to re-position to get into a more commanding spot while her ball handling skills is second to none. Much like her fellow goaler, Jo Harten can stand up and deliver long bomb after long bomb. Her ability to shake up her game style from a holding to a moving shooter keeps defenders on their toes.

Rounding out the squad is England Roses goaler Helen Housby along with teammate and defensive midcourter Serena Guthrie while Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson is the final piece of the puzzle.

Who would win?

Given the versatility of the Silver Roses it is fair to say that they have the upper hand over the Diamond Girls with each of their players able to move into another position with ease. The Silver Roses ooze dominance from the defensive unit right through the midcourt to the goalers, able to exploit the Diamond Girls especially through the midcourt.

What if … the 2019 season was not riddled by ACL injuries?

2019 PROVED to be the year of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries with a staggering amount of players succumbing to the injury and bringing their season to an abrupt end. With players forced to the sidelines, clubs had to find injury replacements and look to various other leagues such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and ANZ Premiership to find someone to fill the void of their injured stars. Four out of the eight teams in Suncorp Super Netball got through the season unscathed when it comes to ACL related injuries.

But what if there were not as many ACL injuries? Would the Suncorp Super Netball ladder have looked different?

The Adelaide Thunderbirds were hit pretty hard with English international Beth Cobden struck down early in the season. With a relatively inexperienced line-up and new connections forming across the court it was hard to replace the high calibre player who oozed composure and versatility. Ruled out for the remainder of the season, the Thunderbirds missed her ability to stand up under pressure and think her way through the tricky passages of play. But unfortunately, the injuries did not stop there with youngster and shooting sensation Sasha Glasgow going down in Round 13 with an ACL injury of her own. Prior to that, the 21-year-old showcased her dominance under the post with her strong holds, accuracy to post and rangy shooting abilities. These two key injuries ultimately had an adverse effect on the Thunderbirds’ ability to compete consistently and at the highest level possible.

Despite making it to the finals, 2019 was a season of what ifs for the Magpies and one littered with injuries. Co-captain Madi Browne ruptured her ACL in the pre-season Team Girls Cup and failed to take the court throughout the season and it is fair to say that her presence was well and truly missed out on her court. Her slick ball movement, spatial awareness and dynamism makes her hard to stop when on song. Towards the tail end of the season sister, Kelsey Browne also fell victim to the ACL curse, ruling her out for the remainder of the season and putting a dampener on their finals hopes. It was clear that the connection both Browne sisters had with their goalers and fellow midcourters was lacking despite recruiting the services of Kimiora Poi to help fill the void.

Overall, it was a difficult season for the Firebirds, only winning a handful of games throughout the year and also riddled with injuries. In Round 5 Mahalia Cassidy’s season was cut short with the talented midcourter suffering her second ACL injury. Her speed and endurance was missed across the court with the fancy footed centre court player able to exploit any bit of space and deliver the ball into the goalers. Cassidy’s absence had an impact on the Firebirds’ drive through the middle and reliability with the centre known for her consistent and strong defence.

While the NSW Swifts went on to win the coveted 2019 SSN premiership it was without their inspirational captain Maddy Proud who did her ACL midway through the year. Proud was arguably in career best form with the midcourter consistently showcasing her strength around the circle edge and quick hands. The Swifts showed plenty of grit and determination throughout the season but with recruits like Kayla Cullen and Katrina Rore both plying their trade for the club it put them in good stead to come out on top. The versatility through the midcourt added an extra element of class to the already strong and well-connected Swifts outfit.

If the Thunderbirds were given a clear run at the competition free from injury they could have potentially registered more wins, while Collingwood could have gone further into the finals series given their midcourt depth and versatility. While the Firebirds struggled to generate wins, the option to bring Cassidy on could have given them that extra element of unpredictability to their starting line-up. Although the Swifts reaped in the rewards it would have been interesting to see how they competed with the likes of Proud amongst the mix for a whole season.

Top 15 SSN training partners: #8 Sharni Lambden

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. Coming in at number eight is Collingwood Magpies midcourter, Sharni Lambden. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

A talented defensive midcourter, 22-year-old Lambden has caught plenty of attention on the international stage from a young age, part of the Australian Diamonds Development Squad 2016 with plenty of drive to improve and consistency through the centre despite not yet having that big opportunity to line up in the Super Netball. Lambden is a valuable partner with the Magpies, able to apply pressure on both the ball and the player while also being able to be that impact player where required. While unlucky on the Magpies part with injuries aplenty over the court last season potentially impacting the side again this season, Lambden could have a real chance to break into the Collingwood side if she puts her best foot forward at training.

With an ability to switch between centre and wing defence, Lambden can be a crucial link-up through the midcourt with her drive down the court and ability to switch between offensive and defensive mindsets with relative ease. Already familiar with the training partner role after being on the list for the past two seasons with the Magpies, Lambden will look to continue her development alongside midcourt injury returnees Madi and Kelsey Browne while Ash Brazill is sure to be a solid mentor playing a similar role at the club despite being highly unlikely to make her return in 2020. A crucial link through an already star-studded midcourt at the Tasmanian Magpies in the Australian Netball League, Lambden has been touted as a massive threat for a while coming so will look to put that into practice this year.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
#12 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS Netball)
#11 Chelsea Blackman (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#10 Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)

All-Time Dream Teams: Sophie Taylor vs. Taylah Melki

IN a battle of Draft Central writers and Centre Pass Podcast presenters, Sophie Taylor and Taylah Melki have compiled their respective “dream teams” consisting of players from across the globe both past and present. There are a few common players throughout but both have brought their own reasons to the table making for an interesting match-up.

SOPHIE’S STARS:

GK: Liz Ellis (AUS)
GD: Karla Pretorius (RSA)
WD: Renae Ingles (AUS)
C: Serena Guthrie (ENG)
WA: Kim Green (AUS)
GA: Sharelle McMahon (AUS)
GS: Caitlin Thwaites (AUS)

BENCH: Mwai Kumwenda (MAL), Liz Watson (AUS), Casey Kopua (NZL)

Anyone who knows me or has listened to the podcast will not be surprised by my goal circle selections for this head to head. In goal attack I have the one and only Sharelle McMahon. She is one of my netball icons and has been since a young age, and her resilience and leadership both on and off court is something that I have always looked up to. Her ability to impact the play off the ball and her approach to the goal circle were both things that I took away from her time on the domestic and international stages. In at goal shooter is Caitlin Thwaites, one of my all time favourite netballers with her cleanliness and ability to constantly one-up her game and create plays in the circle. Both players have certainly influenced me as a netballer and are such striking players with their poise and accuracy on court, able to form crucial pairings with their teammates for a cohesive circle combination – I have no doubt that they could get on court together now and form a threatening pair in the goal circle.

Through the midcourt I have chosen two ex-Diamonds and an England Rose, with the centre bib going to Serena Guthrie. She is one of those exciting players who can win a game off her own back, but what I like most about Guthrie’s game is her defensive approach to the centre position. Her speed and resilience to just keep going is impressive while no one can beat her in the athleticism department. For wing attack I had a harder time making a choice but ultimately went with Kim Green. Green is another of those players who can race around and have an impact wherever she goes, but her speed at the centre pass and feeds on circle edge are what drew me to her as a fan. She’s a real workhorse who gets the job done without all the flair and dramatics which is what really draws me to her on the court and she’s just a genius with how she puts the ball into the circle. Wing defence was another tough choice for me to make with a few names coming to mind, but ultimately I had to go with one of the most consistent wing defenders in the competition for a long time, Renae Ingles. What I love most of all watching her is her speed and ability to have an impact both on and off the ball, phasing out her opposition and doing the hard work to allow her circle defenders to maintain control and propel the ball back to attack.

I have the one and only Karla Pretorius out in goal defence for obvious reasons – she is the best defender in the world at the moment and is a constant threat both in and outside the circle. Her ability to spark fear in her attackers without the messy physicality is a critical part of her game and something that netballers of all ages can come away with after watching her. Back in goal keeper is Liz Ellis, predominantly because when she was at her best, she was near-on unstoppable in defence. Her confidence and ability to influence the play was second to none, constantly providing a force in the circle which was testament to her work rate and constant drive for possession. 

On the bench I have a few more internationals in Mwai Kumwenda and Casey Kopua heading up opposite ends of the court. Kumwenda’s constant drive to improve her game and ability to adapt is testament to her impressive work ethic, making her a big threat at the post with speed and accuracy alive. As for Kopua, there is no denying her skill, precision and tenacity to get that massive intercept and throw the whole game off kilter. There were a plethora of midcourters to choose from but I ultimately went with Liz Watson. Her constant drive and intensity in attack is impressive and she is a real pillar of strength for both the Melbourne Vixens and Diamonds. Watson’s ability to step up again and again is something I really admire, pushing herself to be the very best and providing a real threat in attack.

TAYLAH’S TROOPS:

GK: Liz Ellis (AUS)
GD: Laura Geitz (AUS)
WD: Serena Guthrie (ENG)
C: Laura Langman (NZL)
WA: Liz Watson (AUS)
GA: Sharelle McMahon (AUS)
GS: Irene Van Dyk (NZL)

BENCH: Gretel Bueta (AUS), Kelsey Browne (AUS), Karla Pretorius (RSA) 

It was not an easy decision trying to figure out my all-star team but I think I have finally settled on a squad that oozes plenty of class, excellence and netball royalty. Starting in the goal circle it is hard to go past the most capped international player in netball history Irene Van Dyk. The New Zealand goal shooter was unstoppable under the post with her accuracy, high volume of shots and strength to single handedly take apart opposition defenders. In at goal attack is none other than Sharelle McMahon. It is fair to say that McMahon was one of the classiest netballers to grace the court, with her slick movement, precision with ball in hand and agility, throw in her accuracy and netball smarts and she was an easy selection.

The midcourt is headlined by international stars with veteran Laura Langman taking the centre position. Her sheer dominance across the court, ability to run both ways effortlessly, deliver pin-point precision passes into the circle and create defensive turnovers has earned her the position just nudging out Serena Guthrie. However, given Guthrie’s versatility to move into wing defence from centre, I pushed the defensive minded midcourter into wing. Her athleticism, tenacity and high level of endurance are just a couple of key attributes in her game play. While in at wing attack is Australian Diamond, Liz Watson. She boasts an impressive bag of tricks ranging from balance around the circle edge, quick footwork, good vision and silky hands to consistently deliver well-executed and perfectly weighted passes to her teammates.

This was arguably the hardest decision I had to make given there are so many highly talented defenders. Australian netball hero Liz Ellis gets the nod in goal keeper for my side thanks to her continued dominance. She was a key contributor to the Diamonds guiding them to countless victories with her intercepting abilities, read of the play, long arms and ability to shut down easy entrance into the goal circle. Although she is not in her usual position of goal keeper Laura Geitz is simply too good to sit on the bench hence the goal defence position. Over the past 10 years Geitz has been one of the most influential defenders with her attacking intent, nous to force turnovers with her continued pressure and skill to make something out of nothing.

Rounding out the final spots and unlucky not to get the start is South African defender Karla Pretorius. The exciting goal defence is a real livewire across the court with her dynamic movement, quick feet and long reaching arms to disrupt the attacking flow. Kelsey Browne has been chosen to fulfil the other midcourt position to help provide another attacking option given her speed off the mark and quick release into the circle. The final spot goes to the unpredictable and athletic Gretel Bueta. She is not the most conventional shooter and that is exactly why I chose her. Bueta is explosive on the court, creating plays out of nothing and more importantly has become incredibly reliable under the post to put up shots at a high accuracy.

Which team do you think would win this clash?
Sophie's Stars
Taylah's Troops
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Netball fantasy teams: All-Star Queensland teams

OVER the years there have been a multitude of stars pulling on the Firebirds dress and while the Lightning are still relatively new to the netball world compared to their state rivals, Sunshine Coast have had some A-list players come through the doors. Draft Central has comprised two teams filled with past and present players to create the ultimate Queensland rivalry line-up.

Queensland Firebirds:

GK: Laura Geitz
GD: Clare McMeniman
WD: Gabi Simpson
C: Kim Ravaillion
WA: Lauren Nourse
GA: Gretel Bueta
GS: Romelda Aiken

BENCH: Nat Medhurst, Chelsea Pitman, Rebecca Bulley

The Firebirds are one of the most successful clubs in netball history winning three ANZ Premiership grand finals but have struggled to have the same influence since the inception of Suncorp Super Netball. But that has not stopped a high calibre of players from gracing the court. It is no surprise former Firebirds and Diamonds captain, Laura Geitz gets the nod at goal keeper with the highly talented defender in a league of her own. Geitz was a key contributor the Firebirds’ continued success throughout the ANZ Championship with her impressive on court leadership, tenacity and cleanliness to attack the ball. Partner in crime Clare McMeniman takes out the goal defence position thanks to her impressive timing on court, ability to read the play and tagging style of defence. The two were renowned for their immense pressure over the shot, ability to switch things up in the defensive circle and undeniable attack. Current captain, Gabi Simpson is set to pull on the wing defence position with her sheer athleticism constantly on display. Her aerial skills and speed off the mark make her a tough opponent, while her strength around the circle edge adds another element to her game play. Although she made the move to the Magpies in 2017, Kim Ravaillion was a staple in the Firebirds line-up with the gut running centre well and truly leaving her mark on the competition, helping to push her side to grand final victory in 2016. Her good vision and delivery into the circle made her just about unstoppable from anywhere on the court consistently creating something out of nothing. Ravaillion’s high level of endurance, netball smarts and defensive pressure are heer most prominent attributes. In wing attack is none other than Lauren Nourse. The former Diamonds representative possessed some real class around the circle edge with her slick hands, quick footwork and solid positioning in the attacking third.  Moving into the goal circle is arguably one of the most dynamic duos netball has seen. Dynamo Gretel Bueta takes out the goal attack position with the 191cm shooter owning the goal circle with her energy and exciting game style. Bueta is no average goaler, willing to take on the contest and use her athleticism to outmuscle opponents time again. Her combination with Romelda Aiken is second to none with the two connecting seamlessly. Aiken has been a long-standing servant of the club with her commanding height, high volume of shots and relative accuracy doing wonders for the Firebirds. Throw in her ability to get up to the high balls and consistently deliver even under pressure and Aiken was a sure start. Unlucky not to get the starting nod is current Magpies goaler Nat Medhurst with the smooth mover an integral member in the squad’s earlier success while Roses wing attack Chelsea Pitman also finds herself on the bench. Rounding out the team is Rebecca Bulley and while she only spent a short amount of time with the club had an influence on court.

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Karla Pretorius
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
C: Laura Langman
WA: Kelsey Browne
GA: Steph Wood
GS: Caitlin Bassett

BENCH: Cara Koenen, Laura Scherian, Phumza Maweni

Despite only being around for three years the Sunshine Coast have played host to a number of international stars that have helped shape their impressive legacy. Much like their state rivals, the Lightning won back-to-back grand finals in 2017 and 2018 announcing themselves as true competitors. Although she has now departed the club, Roses star Geva Mentor was an easy choice to get the start at goal keeper. Standing at 191cm the defender oozes class and composure under pressure and is clean across the court able to manoeuvre around her opponent and force turnovers with her lanky arms. She is strong under the post and has an uncanny ability to read the play and disrupt the attacking flow. Arguably the world’s best goal defence, Karla Pretorius takes the bib thanks to her dynamic movement, go-go gadget arms, read of the play and ability to make something out of nothing. She is one of the most exciting defenders to watch with her unpredictable nature and attacking mindset constantly on display. Maddy McAuliffe pulls on the wing defence position with her defensive pressure and three-foot marking while New Zealand superstar Laura Langman takes the cake at centre. Langman is renowned for her impressive endurance, play making ability, change of direction and sheer athleticism. Her ability to sense the moment and stand up to the pressure is unfathomable consistently able to deliver the ball on a platter to the attackers while her defensive pressure to block the attacking forays makes her the complete package. Moving into wing attack is speedster Kelsey Browne and while she made the move to Collingwood her impact and influence throughout 2017 and 2018 was unquestionable. Her skill to persistently hit the circle edge, dart around the court and use her quick footwork to reposition made her hard to stop. Browne was a real pocket rocket for the Lightning connecting well with Steph Wood. The goal attack is a smooth mover, able to glide across the court and set up plays thanks to her spatial awareness and general netball nous and while she may not put up a wealth of shots, she has an uncanny ability to sense the moment and deliver. The goal shooter position goes to Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett with the towering goaler a commanding presence under the post. Her long limbs, strong holds and consistency to put up a high volume of shots makes her a challenging prospect for opponents. On the bench is young up and coming star Cara Koenen who burst onto the scene last year with her strong movement, clean hands and accuracy to post while Laura Scherian takes out the midcourt position. Spar Proteas representative Phumza Maweni finalises the squad with her defensive pressure.

Who would win?

With star players in each position it is hard to separate both sides given the amount of game changers across the court, so it comes down to consistency, something the Firebirds line-up possesses. While the Lightning squad has more international flavour with representatives from New Zealand, England and South Africa the Firebirds boast a well-connected and experienced squad.

Who wins this All-Star battle of the Sunshine State?
Queensland Firebirds
Sunshine Coast Lightning
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What if … Laura Langman did not return to SSN in 2019?

IN the inaugural season of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) back in 2017, New Zealand Silver Ferns veteran and centre Laura Langman played a crucial role in her sides’ premiership. The Sunshine Coast Lightning were filled with a wealth of talent ranging from Australian Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett, partner-in-crime Steph Wood and England Roses star Geva Mentor showcasing just how much talent was amongst the mix. At the end of 2017, Langman stepped away from SSN duties to comply with Silver Ferns regulations leaving the Lightning one star midcourter down. However, that did not faze them, going on to win their second premiership and make it back-to-back titles. But 2019 was slightly different. The Lightning had a major overhaul at the end of 2018 with fresh faces joining the 2019 roster and some of the more experienced ones departing for other clubs in the competition. Speedster and dynamic wing attack, Kelsey Browne made her way back home to Melbourne to be with sister Madi at Collingwood, while Mentor and Bassett both departed as well. With Browne gone there was a Langman-sized opening in the midcourt, one many netball fans were glad to see filled by the highly skilled centre.

But what if Langman did not return to SSN in season 2019? Would the Lightning have made it all the way to the grand final?

While we know that no team is better than any one player, the inclusion of Langman is like having an extra two players on court. The centre court player is in a league of her own, thanks to her unfathomable endurance, speed off the mark and defensive pressure. She can easily run a player into the ground while her netball knowledge is out of this world. Having played for upwards of 15 years at the highest level possible, Langman can quite easily change the course of a game single handily whether it be with a huge intercept or a well-timed feed into the circle Langman can do it all and she consistently proved that throughout the SSN season. But without her they may have struggled to generate the same winning formula. Her side had some teething problems early in the 2019 season, but the experience and of wisdom of Langman paid dividends thanks to her cool, calm head. With new shooter Peace Proscovia joining the Lightning and Cara Koenen taking the court more frequently the attack end had a very different look to it, while Laura Scherian had to find her feet in a new position back in wing attack. But it was Langman’s peace of mind, tactics and ball control that helped to steady the ship and provide options to either push forward or reset making her such an integral member.

Although their connections strengthened as time went on it was Langman’s ability to know where to place the ball, controlled speed and skill to stand up under pressure that got the Sunshine Coast over the line on a couple of close occasions. On the odd occasion when Langman was down on her usual output the Lightning suffered to generate that forward push or pressure through the midcourt indicating that if in fact she was not apart of the side in 2019 it may have been difficult for them to climb the ladder. It is not only her skill but so too leadership in trying situations that makes her that a-list player something that the Sunshine Coast well and truly cherished to get them over the line time and time again, having been the only team to not record a draw throughout last season.

While Langman is not the be all and end all of the Lightning she is a key cog in both the attack and defence end and given her side had gone through a major personnel change her presence on court played a huge role in making it to the grand final despite falling short on the day. Without Langman, the Sunshine Coast would have lacked that ace up their sleeve through the midcourt.

Would Sunshine Coast Lightning have made the 2019 SSN Grand Final without Laura Langman?
Yes
No
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What if… Kelsey and Madi Browne did not do their ACLs?

LAST season was shaping up to be the year of the Magpies in the Suncorp Super Netball after recruiting a wealth of A-list players. Fresh off back-to-back premierships, Lightning duo Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne joined the black and white, while former Australian Diamond and West Coast Fever star Nat Medhurst was also among some of the key signings for the club. In the first pre-season tournament, Collingwood reigned supreme taking out the inaugural Team Girls Cup thanks to their slick ball movement, defensive strength and speed. But unfortunately, the tournament was marred by injury with co-captain Madi Browne succumbing to what was later revealed as a season ending anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Often criticised for having too many highly talented midcourters with both Madi and Kelsey Browne, along with Kim Ravaillion and Ash Brazill the Magpies were at a crossroads. Although it was hard to replace the co-captain on court, they made do with the skilled list they had shuffling players around and later bringing in the likes of Silver Ferns dynamite Kimiora Poi. But the injuries did not stop there with Kelsey Browne also rupturing her ACL in August that season, all but putting a dampener on their 2019 grand final hopes.

So what if Kelsey and Madi Browne did not do their ACL in season 2019? Would Collingwood have progressed into the next stage of finals?

It is fair to say that both Kelsey and Madi Browne are the heart and soul of the club often providing that spark both on and off the court with their flashy style of play and excitement. With Madi going down before the season officially started it put a clear strain on the Collingwood line-up with the side struggling to find their rhythm in attack. The classy wing attack oozes experience and is strong around the circle edge, something that the Magpies lacked at times. Her ability to move into centre and have an influence also allowed Collingwood to shake-up their midcourt and keep opponents on their toes, something they would have been hoping to have up their sleeve throughout the season. With new connections in the goal circle thanks to recruits Medhurst and Shimona Nelson it took some time for the feeders to adjust to their varying styles meaning the experience and presence of Madi Browne was sorely missed in the early stages. Although they have similar styles the speed of Kelsey Browne is what made her such an integral player for the Magpies, able to dart around the court and exploit even the tiniest spaces. She delivered the ball with confidence and precision a skill that would have been highly valued heading into the finals.

Towards the backend of the season the Magpies seemed to find some strong form trouncing crosstown rivals Melbourne Vixens by 11 goals in the final game of the home and away season to walk into finals. But when it came to D-Day Collingwood was all out of options missing the depth on the bench and reliability of both Browne sisters. There were changeups across the court with wing defence come centre Brazill announcing herself as a real powerhouse with her athleticism and endurance and while she along with Poi and Ravaillion worked gallantly it was clear that there was a piece missing in the jigsaw puzzle. Gabby Sinclair often found herself out in wing attack to provide another option out the front while training partner Kelsie Rainbow was elevated to add to the midcourt stocks.

Given the fact that both Kelsey and Madi Browne offer such unique talent, speed and netball understanding an assumption could be made that Collingwood could have gone one further if not all the way had they not been affected by injury from the very beginning of the season.

Memorable Matches: Lightning win inaugural 2017 Suncorp Super Netball premiership

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 Sunshine Coast Lightning’s maiden premiership over GIANTS Netball in 2017.

The inaugural season of Suncorp Super Netball in 2017 was filled with highs and lows, with the ultimate high of expansion side Sunshine Coast Lightning winning the premiership in their first year together. The side boasted key names and combinations across the court which pushed them over the line, leaving the GIANTS in the lurch, 65-48. This was a memorable match for many, with the star-studded Lightning ruthless in their quest against the GIANTS exposing every flaw in their game plan and dominating across the board. The top two teams met twice prior to their grand final battle with both finishing in dramatic fashion – both collecting a one goal win apiece, but this time around the Lightning were relentless in their approach against a GIANTS outfit that had been smashed by injury throughout the season.

GIANTS may have won the first quarter, but it was Lightning that came out from then on and dominated the contest, relentless in their approach in the second quarter and taking an unprecedented five goal lead  into half time. Lightning relegated the GIANTS to less goals every quarter as the home side gained more and more confidence, rendering GIANTS unable to play their game and eventuating in the 17 goal victory.

The GIANTS were left wondering how it went so wrong. Geva Mentor had a starring role down back pairing with Karla Pretorius for one of their best outings for the season for the Lightning, constantly on top of Jo Harten and Kristina Brice. In the absence of Kim Green who was forced to the sidelines with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in Round 5, goaler Susan Pettitt took the wing attack bib and faced off against champion Laura Langman – who played her usual game, running laps around her opposition and finding plenty of turnover ball with four intercepts and a deflection to her name. While Pettitt did her job well, racking up 18 goal assists, it was the absence of midcourt backup that was exposed once she rotated into the circle that saw the Lightning well and truly take control, with Sarah Wall only managing the one assist in her 21 minutes on court while the Lightning seemed impenetrable.

While the defensive partnership of Bec Bulley and Sam Poolman was solid as ever, the duo was completely at the mercy of Caitlin Bassett and Steph Wood in the circle, who had the ball on a string thanks to speedster Kelsey Browne in wing attack, who took advantage of Jamie-Lee Price’s messiness in wing defence. Price impressed with one intercept and seven deflections – but only gathered gains off two – but it was her 15 penalties that allowed Browne to take full control. Bassett and Wood proved once again why they were one of the most threatening pairings in the circle with their ball use and sharing of the space throwing the GIANTS off at every turn. Lightning’s goalers were vastly more accurate than their GIANTS counterparts, combining for 91 per cent compared to the GIANTS’ 79 per cent, credit to the respective feeders. Brice was unable to compete with Mentor at the post, with Mentor collecting eight gains while Brice turned over the netball eight times and Harten five times. 

While Lightning revelled in the atmosphere, with the home court advantage certainly boosting their confidence, the GIANTS floundered and were unable to bring the same excitement and speed to their game play. While Serena Guthrie was doing a good job defensively to open up opportunities to get forward, it was a lack of offensive pressure that allowed the likes of Laura Scherian and Langman to get on top of the GIANTS while messiness across the court allowed Lightning to take full advantage of errors and penalties – with GIANTS collecting 20 more penalties overall.

A shared effort at the post between the GIANTS goalers was not enough, with the Lightning just far too good on the day for their counterparts and the Lightning going on to win their inaugural premiership by 17 goals.

LIGHTNING 13 | 19 | 16 | 17 (65)
GIANTS 15 | 12 | 11 | 10 (48)

STARTING SEVEN

Sunshine Coast Lightning

GS: Caitlin Bassett
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Laura Scherian
WD: Laura Langman
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Geva Mentor

BENCH: Erena Mikaere, Maddy McAuliffe, Cara Koenen
COACH: Noeline Taurua

GIANTS Netball

GS: Krissie Brice
GA: Jo Harten
WA: Susan Pettitt
C: Serena Guthrie
WD: Jamie-Lee Price
GD: Bec Bulley
GK: Sam Poolman

BENCH: Sarah Wall, Toni Anderson, Taylah Davies
COACH: Julie Fitzgerald

SHOOTING STATS

Lightning:

Caitlin Bassett 49/51
Steph Wood 16/20

GIANTS:

Kristina Brice 24/29
Jo Harten 20/25
Susan Pettitt 4/7

Top 5 international games of 2019

THIS year marked 12 months filled with international tournaments ranging from the Constellation Cup, Quad Series and most importantly the World Cup.

#1 Australia (51) defeated by New Zealand (52) – World Cup Final

The World Cup gold medal match lived up to the hype with traditional arch rivals going head to head in a one-goal thriller. In the end, it was the Silver Ferns that prevailed in the tight battle after going down earlier in the tournament. The Ferns showed nothing but class, composure and skill to withstand the Diamonds pressure and apply their own scoreboard pressure. Led by the retiring, Casey Kopua the Ferns seemed to have the upper hand with their slick ball movement and zoned style of defence to pick off passes and restrict Australia’s flow in attack. Laura Langman and Maria Folau were other key pillars throughout the high intensity game while goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio displayed her skillset. Unfortunately, the Diamonds struggled for consistency with the goal circle changing with Caitlin Bassett, Gretel Tippett and Steph Wood all spending time under the post. It was a heart in mouth game with reputation and national pride all at stake but led by coach Noeline Taurua the Ferns had utter control and never really looked like dropping the game.

#2 Zimbabwe (79) defeated Sri Lanka (49) – World Cup

In their first World Cup appearance, Zimbabwe well and truly announced themselves on the international stage taking it to Sri Lanka with a convincing performance. The Gems did not muck around putting the after burners on in the first quarter to establish a commanding lead and did not let up steadily building on their margin. The outing helped to put talented goaler Joice Takaidza on the map with Takaidza going on a scoring rampage with 59 goals from 62 attempts at 95 per cent. Another star player that emerged from the clash was goal defence Felisitus Kwangwa who showed her defensive prowess and ability to read the play racking up eight gains and seven intercepts. Zimbabwe’s strong performance was just one of many for the rest of the World cup.

#3 England (52) defeated Australia (49) – Northern Quad Series

Despite Australia securing the Quad Series for another year the Roses came out on top in a class match between the two sides. In recent times, there has been plenty of history with England pipping Australia at the post in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 and once again taking out the win against a strong Diamonds side. The game was filled with intensity, physicality and determination with neither side letting up on the pressure. Roses goal shooter Rachel Dunn was a star under the post showcasing her cool, calm and collected nature to pile on 13 goals in a row while Helen Housby and Jo Harten also played an important role. The lead chopped and changed throughout with both sides trying to find the right combo that could out manoeuvre the other the likes of Caitlin Thwaites, Kelsey Browne and April Brandley all doing the job on the court. The win sparked plenty of joy for the Roses who claimed an impressive win on home soil and set the tone for the rest of the international netball calendar.

#4 England (45) defeated by South Africa (48) – Northern Quad Series

The SPAR Proteas came to play in the Quad Series edging out England and claiming a narrow three-goal victory over the home side. South Africa proved that they have a wealth of talent and can mix it with the best in the world coming up against the likes of talented goal keeper Geva Mentor and owning the circle with their strong holds and accuracy to post. Despite a slow start to the game the SPAR Proteas really built into the game hitting their straps in both the second and third quarter to all but cement the win. It is fair to say South Africa were led by goal defence Karla Pretorius who once again showcased her experience and class to win the ball and transition it down the court. Pretorius paired well with Phumza Maweni to limit the influence of Dunn, Housby and Harten while the match-up between Bongi Msomi and Serena Guthrie brought plenty of intrigue. But all in all, this game was a real coming of age match for South Africa after years of being around the mark but never able to pull it off.

#5 Jamaica (52) defeated by South Africa (55) – World Cup

South Africa got off to a flyer in their pool match against Jamaica clearly asserting themselves and making it hard for the Sunshine Girls to catch up for the remainder of the game. It was close game for the majority with Jamaica clawing back the margin in the second half with a 17 goal third quarter but it was not enough to stop the juggernaut that was South Africa. Lenize Potgieter stood tall once again under the post using her signature quick release shot to full affect nailing 36 goals from 39 attempts while partner in crime Maryka Holtzhausen also played her role with 19 goals. Defensively South Africa had all the answers as well with Pretorius, Maweni and Khanyisa Chawane putting in the hard yards. It was a relatively disappointing outing for the Sunshine Girls who struggled to find their mojo and despite many tipping them to win simply could not generate the same scoring and defensive intent as their opponents. However, it was not through a lack of trying with Jhaniele Fowler leading the way with her commanding height and sheer accuracy only missing one of her 39 attempts. Youngster Shamera Sterling also plied her trade while Vangelee Williams also made her presence felt down back for Jamaica but it was not enough.