Tag: kelsey browne

Lightning survive dominant Collingwood first half flourish

SUNSHINE Coast Lightning were eager to make it two from two in the Suncorp Super Netball competition, exposing the Magpies in the third quarter with their ball speed and defensive pressure to steal a four-goal win (51-47). With new faces across the court, the Magpies stunned the Lightning in the opening half with their accuracy to post and drive in the attacking third but the Lightning showcased their experience to work their way into the match and hold strong despite a final term push.

With Steph Wood a late out from the starting seven, the Lightning front line took a while to adjust with Cara Koenen and Peace Proscovia struggling to find their mojo thanks to the immense defensive pressure from the Pies. Proscovia had the yips early, missing a couple of consecutive goals giving the Magpies a chance to settle into the game. Madi Browne had an immediate impact for the black and white with the wing attack delivering an impressive overhead long bomb into returning goaler Shimona Nelson under the post. Nelson did not seem to skip a beat from the first whistle with the goal shooter commanding the ball under the post and doing the heavy lifting to open up a strong lead for the Pies.

Collingwood continued to press with newcomer Jodi-Ann Ward asserting herself on the game with an early intercept shutting down the space in the defensive goal circle to make life hard for the Lightning goalers. Magpies showcased their confidence and speed to capitalise on the Lightning’s missed opportunities skipping out to a five goal lead with a tick under 10 minutes left in the quarter. But the class of the Lightning was not to be underestimated with the home team rallying in the backend of the quarter. A couple of missed opportunities from both sides saw the ball bubble up and down the court before the Lightning wrestled back momentum. With the super shot in play goals went astray with both sides unable to sink them from long range instead it was Nelson that steadied the ship under the post for the Pies to reclaim the lead albeit by one goal at quarter time.

Lightning levelled the scores in the first minute of the quarter but Collingwood were determined to keep their lead with Nelson delivering at the post moments later. A Geva Mentor inspired intercept gifted the Pies another chance to score to stretch the lead to a couple of goals while the introduction of Matilda Garrett paid dividends with the goal defence having an immediate impact with a strong rebound and drive down the court. The connection between Madi and Kelsey Browne impressed with the two rotating through the space with great ease and delivering with precision into the Nelson under the post.

Struggling to have their usual impact in the goal circle the Lightning looked to the bench with Binnian Hunt making her debut in goal attack. The shooter showcased her classy footwork and nice touch to set up plays while Ward re-entered the game for the Pies in wing defence. A couple of offensive penalties from the goalers allowed the ball to swing up and down the court again but the Pies seemed to maintain control throughout the game.

Gabby Sinclair impressed with her play making abilities out the front and drive into the goal circle but the Lightning were not about to give up gaining some momentum in attack with Laura Scherian hitting circle edge and delivering high ball into Koenen. Karla Pretorius came into her own in the final minutes of the term winning back ball thanks to her impressive ball tracking abilities and sticky hands. But the biggest shock of all came when Wood entered the game and while she did not sink the super shot provided a pep in her teammates step to reduce the deficit to three goals.

It was goal for goal in the first couple of minutes of the second half with both sides scoring off their centre pass. The Magpies attack end kicked into gear with Molly Jovic driving hard into the pocket and going toe to toe with Laura Langman before Sunshine Coast upped the ante to eat into the three-goal margin. They threw everything they had at the Magpies in both attack and defence with Phumza Maweni covering Nelson at the post. The momentum steadily shifted with the Lightning drawing level thanks to Wood and Langman driving the attacking unit and creating a wealth of space in the goal circle.

Kelly Altmann was key for the Pies with the centre taking a well-read intercept and proving that she is not afraid to throw her body on the line, contesting every ball that came her way. But it was not enough to nullify the Lightning who were cooking with gas opening up a strong lead. Sunshine Coast were patient in attack playing the ball around the circle edge to reverse the half time deficit and establish a three goal buffer themselves.

The experience of the Lightning came into play in the final term, as Maweni reading the play like a book while their end to end transition stunned the Magpies who were simply unable to stop their drive through court. With the game getting away from them young goaler Nyah Allen took the game on nailing four goals straight to keep Collingwood in touch. The intensity went up a notch as the quarter ticked down with both sides applying a wealth of pressure down the court but in the end the momentum was with the Lightning as they secured their second win.

In her first game for the season Nelson displayed her scoring prowess nailing 32 goals from 37 attempts while goal attack Sinclair also plied her trade with six goals but down on her accuracy. Koenen was strong once again under the post for the Lightning with the young goaler converting 38 goals from 45 attempts at 84 per cent. The output from Proscovia was minimal with six goals while Wood was not overly accurate shooting at 50 per cent while on court. The work from Madi Browne in the attacking third did not go unnoticed amassing 10 goal assists while for the Lightning it was the defensive pressure of Maweni that shone true as the goal defence picked up six gains and seven deflections.

>>> LIGHTNING TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGPIES TEAM PAGE 

>>>FULL MATCH STATS

Sunshine Coast Lightning 10 | 11 | 16 | 14 (51)
Collingwood Magpies 11 | 13 | 9 | 14 (47) 

STARTING SEVEN:

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

Collingwood Magpies:

GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Madi Browne
C: Molly Jovic
WD: Melissa Bragg
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor

SSN Momentum Shifts: Round 1

THE exciting return of Suncorp Super Netball over the weekend saw some phenomenal matchups across all four games and some highly talented players take the court. The condensed fixture and introduction of rolling subs this year has seen plenty of young names already jump on the court and have a huge impact despite their lack of experience. We take a look at each game and note which players shifted the gears and switched up the momentum.

Queensland Firebirds (48) defeated by Sunshine Coast Lightning (66)

In a match-up between a new-look young side and the highly experienced Lightning, there was plenty of talent out on the court. The Firebirds fielded a relatively young midcourt, with Tippah Dwan one of the major talking points out the front in goal attack. Finishing with 11 goals (three super shots) at 67 per cent on her first outing, the goal attack stood up in attack with her smooth movement and confidence, while Mahalia Cassidy did not skip a beat on her return from injury, going toe-to-toe with Laura Langman for much of the game. For the Lightning it was Steph Wood who stepped up to the plate, sinking 10 super shots to go with her four short range attempts and turning the tide of the game in the process. A huge last quarter was what saw the Firebirds’ demise, with Phumza Maweni racking up three gains in that quarter alone and limiting the Firebirds to just six goals to finish.

Adelaide Thunderbirds (62) defeated by West Coast Fever (74)

In a high scoring affair both the Thunderbirds and Fever blooded some youngsters, proving the amount of talent the two states having coming up through their pathways. While the Thunderbirds only won the one quarter, Lenize Potgieter was strong as ever at the post with Sam Gooden and Georgie Horjus having an impact off the bench, with Gooden racking up nine super shots and Horjus showcasing her speed on the drive. Maisie Nankivell was stellar through the midcourt with 12 assists and two intercepts though caught a lot of attention from the umpires. For the Fever, the real surprise packet was Alice Teague-Neeld with the goal attack stepping up to the plate and earning player of the match accolades for her effort out the front with four of her 10 goals super shots. Jhaniele Fowler showcased her long bomb ability with two super shots to contribute to her hefty 52-goal tally, while young gun Sunday Aryang provided a handy connection defensively with plenty of speed allowing her to collect two gains. 

GIANTS Netball (61) defeated by NSW Swifts (63)

The tightest match of the round saw the GIANTS come dastardly close to victory against the reigning premiers, with the Swifts holding on as the seconds counted down. Lauren Moore was the big difference in this one, with the 22-year-old winning player of the match for her non-stop running and ability to impact the contest with five intercepts to her name. Sam Wallace has not skipped a beat over the off-season sinking six super shots, while the consistent rotation between returning captain Maddy Proud and speedster Nat Haythornthwaite kept the GIANTS defenders guessing on the feed. For the GIANTS, Amy Parmenter was a workhorse with seven intercepts while Kiera Austin showcased her versatility rotating between wing and goal attack and youngster Sophie Dwyer took the court for just five minutes but sunk two super shots to close the margin.

Melbourne Vixens (63) defeated Collingwood Magpies (52)

With so many new players in the Magpies lineup this season it was just experience and trusted connections that got the Vixens over the line in a tight tussle. Madi and Kelsey Browne made phenomenal returns from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, with their ability to spot Emma Ryde at the post what kept the side in it for the majority of the match. Jodi-Ann Ward had a solid start in her Super Netball debut, topping the Magpies’ intercept tally with two and injecting plenty of physicality to the defensive circle and at the centre pass. The Vixens’ major switch was Kate Eddy’s rotation from wing defence into goal defence, which saw Jo Weston apply her height around the circle edge and ultimately changed the game in the final quarter as the Vixens were finally able to take some control. 

Melbourne Vixens experience proves too strong for Collingwood

THERE has been a lot of player change over since the last time the Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies met in the 2019 semi-final, but unfortunately the result did not change for the Pies with the Vixens reigning supreme by 11 goals (63-52). With no Kim Ravaillion, April Brandley, Ash Brazill or Nat Medhurst the experience of Vixens shone true in the final term despite being well matched for the first three quarters.

It was a very even start for both teams, going goal for goal in the opening couple of minutes and feeling each other out. With Shimona Nelson unavailable it was up to Emma Ryde to lead the way for the Pies inside the goal circle with the towering goaler holding strong and proving to be the go-to girl under the post for the Magpies. She made full use of her height taking strong rebounds while goal attack Gabby Sinclair stepped up to the plate, shooting from range and taking the hard drive into the circle to draw the attention of Jo Weston and create a two goal lead. The return of Madi and Kelsey Browne paid dividends for the Pies in attack with the duo combining exceptionally well and putting on the afterburners to deliver into the circle.

Strong defensive pressure from the Vixens paid off creating a turnover and capitalising to level scores at six goals apiece. Despite the Magpies holding early momentum the Vixens fought their way back into the contest thanks to the pressure of Weston and Kadie-Ann Dehaney to create another turnover down in the Magpies attack. Up the other end the unexpected combination of Mwai Kumwenda and Caitlin Thwaites out in goal attack worked exceptionally well together keeping Geva Mentor’s head on a swivel. Thwaites sunk the first super shot for the Vixens prompting them to go on a run and open up a four goal lead. Tegan Philip had a shaky start to the game missing her first three shots and plunging the Vixens into an inaccurate end to the term but still holding a two goal lead.

Looking for more potency in their attack the Vixens reverted to their traditional shooting combination of Thwaites in at goal shooter and Philip out in goal attack with the duo looking more comfortable to post. Liz Watson continued to dominate with her impressive feeds and skill to hit the circle edge. For the Pies the youthful midcourt provided plenty of excitement with Molly Jovic displaying her strength around circle edge while co-captain Madi Browne showcased her extraordinary vision into the circle and clever touch.

Both sides tried to gain some form of continuity as Mentor displayed her class and experience with her pressure over the shot while Vixens newcomer Kate Eddy proved anything you can do I can do better, gobbling up a well-read intercept and sending the ball screaming down the court. The end-to-end play from the Vixens stunned the Magpies defence with their ability to treasure possession and punish them pushing out to a three goal lead. Undisciplined errors for the Pies continued to gift the Vixens chances to score as Kate Moloney led the way through the centre with her calming nature and turn of speed.

Collingwood debutant Jodi-Ann Ward plied her trade out in goal defence winning back a wealth of ball however the Pies focused too much on the high ball into Ryde allowing Emily Mannix to be a real nuisance under the post and get hands to ball, upsetting Ryde’s cleanliness and consistently attacking her hands to force the ball dribble out of court. The rolling subs continued to shake up the game for both sides with Nyah Allen entering her first match and hitting her stride with the first super shot. Increased intensity from the Pies saw them draw level heading into the break.

The third term followed suit with Kumwenda restoring the lead for the Vixens and finding their rhythm in attack. The midcourt connection from Eddy and Moloney was on song early with the duo applying a wealth of pressure at the transverse line to clog Collingwood’s centre pass. Ward was not afraid to take the game on, throwing her body at every contest and creating a battle in the air while fellow goal defence Weston displayed her tagging style of play to cover Sinclair’s every move and make life difficult for the Magpies in attack.

It continued to be goal for goal throughout the third term with neither side willing to give an inch. Three-foot marking seemed to be the flavour of the term with each and every player applying strong hands over pressure to block their opponents’ vision. Kelsey Browne upped the ante with her dynamic footwork and speed of release working well into Ryde but Dehaney remained a threat with the Vixens goal keeper riding her every step of the way.

Holding a two goal lead the Melbourne Vixens threw the magnets around with Eddy switching into goal defence and Weston donning the wing defence bib to nullify the influence of Kelsey Browne out the front. The constant rotations in the goal circle paid dividends for the Vixens with Collingwood unable to settle defensively but the Pies refused to go away drawing level once again five minutes into the final term. Both Matilda Garrett and Mel Bragg worked gallantly but simply could not shut down Philip and Watson respectively. In the end it was the experience of the Vixens that came through as their tried and tested connections enabled them to wear down the Collingwood unit and capitalise on their chances.

The shooter rotations worked wonders for the Vixens with Thwaites nailing 11 goals from 11 attempts at 100 per cent while from two point range she managed two goals from three attempts. The efforts of Philip did not go unnoticed with the goal attack sinking 16 goals as well as three goals from the two point range. Kumwenda played an instrumental role with a team high five goals from 10 attempts on the super shot. For the Pies Ryde was the go to girl with 34 goals at 90 per cent while Sinclair posted an overall 10 goals for the game. Madi Browne had the ball on a string in her return from injury with 13 goal assists while Vixens wing attack Watson also starred with a whopping 28 goal assists. Defensively Eddy burst out of the blocks with five gains and four intercepts.

>>> VIXENS TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGPIES TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

MELBOURNE VIXENS 15 | 14 | 16 | 18 (63)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 13 | 16 | 14 | 9 (52)

STARTING SEVEN

Vixens

GS: Mwai Kumwenda
GA: Caitlin Thwaites
WA: Liz Watson
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Kate Eddy
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Kadie-Ann Dehaney

Magpies

GS: Emma Ryde
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Madi Browne
WD: Melissa Bragg
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in just a couple of days, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. One of the most interesting adaptations this season is the addition of rolling subs, with a few teams that could benefit more than others in different parts of the court.

Starting with last season’s premiers, the NSW Swifts have plenty of talent on their bench that proved they could impact where required last season. Over the past few seasons the development of Sophie Garbin has been impressive with the youngster finding patches of court time last season and a huge benefit of her improvement could see her jump on as an impact player where required to assist Helen Housby and Sam Wallace. Through the midcourt, the Swifts have some high quality names in the mix with Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite all dominant attackers and Proud returning from injury, as well as some stellar youngsters on the bench who can ply their trade when required. In defence the side is a little less versatile than past seasons so is unlikely to see as much change as past seasons, though expect to see the likes of Lauren Moore ply her trade to rest Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner.

Sunshine Coast Lightning are almost in a completely different position to the Swifts in that they rarely made use of their bench in past seasons, bar to rotate Steph Wood, Cara Koenen and Peace Proscovia last season. Given Wood is the most confident on the long bomb, expect the pocket rocket to be the main offender in the last five minutes of the quarter while Koenen can push out to goal attack when required to assist Proscovia at the post, though we are still yet to see who will take the starting spot alongside Wood. What we could see from the Lightning is a different kind of rolling rotation through the midcourt, with potential of Laura Langman and Laura Scherian shuffling for a different approach to the centre position or to rest given the condensed fixture will see double the games in a short amount of time.

Heading to the Melbourne Vixens and it is much the same story to the Lightning, with rotations expected in the goal circle but significant and trusted connections formed down the rest of the court. With a number of goalers who are able to sink the long bomb, expect the Vixens to adapt their rolling subs based on the game at hand, with the trio of Mwai Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip all able to ply their trade from anywhere in the circle. While the Vixens have been known to not make a huge amount of changes in past seasons, the addition of Kate Eddy this season could open up different defensive combinations, though the tried and tested duo of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston has rarely faltered with little rotations expected unless injury strikes.

Heading to a new look Collingwood Magpies side and it is safe to say that the Magpies will see plenty of rotations, especially with the return of Madi and Kelsey Browne from injury. With the dynamic sisters able to impact in any position through the midcourt and potentially set to be rested in patches to work up to full match fitness with no recent practice matches behind them, expect a couple of the Magpies’ young guns in Mel Bragg and Molly Jovic to take full control of their opportunities to get valuable court time. The goaling unit will be crucial for the Pies, with Shimona Nelson and Gabby Sinclair all but expected to play full games at this point with Julia Woolley returning to her Victorian Netball League side. This puts training partners Emma Ryde and Nyah Allen in good stead to make their Magpies debut but also puts a question mark over their heads with Allen having no prior SSN experience and Ryde a goal shooter like Nelson. Defensively, expect Jodi-Ann Ward and Matilda Garrett to be the major switch-ups in goal defence, with Ward also able to ply her trade in wing defence and Geva Mentor holding strong in goal keeper. 

Sitting just out of the top four last season, this GIANTS unit is looking very similar and is sure to benefit off the rolling subs with Kiera Austin a fantastic long shot to rotate into goal attack with fellow long bomb specialist Jo Harten at the post during the five minute two goal super shot period. Austin will likely fill the wing attack hole left by Kim Green at the end of last season for much of the rest of the quarters, with Caitlin Bassett important at the post and plenty of time for the goaling unit to meld better than they did in season 2019. After some fiddling last season Jamie-Lee Price secured the centre position with Amy Parmenter holding ground at wing defence little midcourt changes are expected except in the instance of the final five minutes, with Maddie Hay a potential to come off the bench where required. Defensively, Kristiana Manu’a and Sam Poolman are expected to hold down defence with assistance from Matilda McDonell.

After a disappointing season last year, West Coast Fever has nowhere to go but up and will likely see the most rolling sub movement through their goal circle in much the same way as they did in 2019. With Jhaniele Fowler as consistent and reliable as they come at the post, much of the movement will likely come from Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld, though Stanton’s goal shooter experience could prove crucial given she and Teague-Neeld are certainly more confident and used to the long bomb than Fowler. While it would be a huge change not having Fowler at the post, perhaps the switch-up is what the Fever need up forward when the two goal super shot comes into play. When it comes to  the midcourt and defence the Fever were forced to blood up a couple less experienced names last season that saw some impressive development, giving plenty of confidence to rotate where required. While Courtney Bruce is unlikely to rotate from goal keeper, Stacey Francis had a couple of runs out in wing defence last season while Jess Anstiss is a versatile midcourter meaning there could be plenty of movement in this Fever side.

A much-improved 2019 season saw the Thunderbirds suffer injuries aplenty and a bottom two finish while the off-season saw a flurry of changes. The retirement of long bomb specialist Maria Folau will hurt the Thunderbirds with the super shot coming into effect so shortly after her time with the side, and while the T’birds still have some stellar goalers, the likes of Lenize Potgieter and Sasha Glasgow are not the most adaptable, playing out most of their time in goal shooter. Still potentially in recovery from her 2019 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture, Glasgow will likely be rested early in the part of the season leaving much of that attacking rotation to Charlee Hodges and Sam Gooden out the front with Hodges expected to get the start. With a highly versatile back-end, expect Kate Shimmin, Layla Guscoth and Shamera Sterling to really utilise the rolling sub with each defender able to add something different to the circle, while Shadine Van Der Merwe can also be a handy option down back.

Like the Magpies, expect the Firebirds to really take advantage of the rolling subs in 2020 with a couple of young, inexperienced names and plenty of upcoming talent in the mix. With a couple of young defenders holding down the circle expect to see some rotation between Kim Jenner, Tara Hinchliffe and Rudi Ellis, while the experience and consistency of Gabi Simpson will hold up well in wing defence and highly unlikely to change from her regular post. The attacking midcourt will be down to Jemma Mi Mi and the hopeful return of Mahalia Cassidy, although young guns Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley are both capable of rotating in where required especially if Cassidy is still a while off returning from ACL recovery. The real question for the Firebirds is what will happen in attack, with Romelda Aiken the obvious go-to girl at the post but no official replacement for Gretel Bueta as of yet. The rolling subs rule will allow the Firebirds to really feel out connections, with South African import Ine-Mari Venter the only viable option for the time being as the sole additional goaler on the list, though training partner Tippah Dwan is a solid option on the bench after being a quality option in preseason last year prior to injury.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

 

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 1

DESPITE a last minute fixture change the highly anticipated return of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) is set to kick off this weekend with cross town derbies the main flavour of the round. With COVID-19 restrictions in place for many of the states, teams have made the last minute dash to the Sunshine State meaning all four games will be played at Nissan Arena.

Queensland Firebirds v. Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday, 1 August

Grand finalists Sunshine Coast Lightning will be eager to get the wood over their state side rivals and prove that they will once again be the team to beat in 2020. Despite losing the grand final last year the Lightning have had little to no turnover in the off-season with the major change coming in the coaches box with Kylee Byrne taking charge. For the Firebirds they have been dealt a huge blow with Gretel Bueta announcing her pregnancy and subsequently out for the season.

With options aplenty in the goal circle for the Lightning expect the two time premiers to rotate their options to find their best combination. Entering her second SSN season Ugandan shooter Peace Proscovia will be hoping to bring her intensity and accuracy to post to become a real force to be reckoned with in the circle. Bursting onto the scene last year, Cara Koenen is another option in at goal shooter for the Lightning able to go to post from range and showcase her clever movement. But it is her versatility that could cause headaches for the Firebirds defensive unit able to switch out to goal attack when needed. The ever-reliable Steph Wood is crafty with ball in hand and not afraid to put up the long bomb and while she did not finish the way she would have liked last year will be keen to make amends in 2020. Although still young, the combination of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe will have to be on song from the opening minute of the match if they are to shut down the Lightning attack. Jenner and Hinchliffe are both renowned for their ball winning ways but can often rack up the penalties, which is something they will have to monitor in this clash to limit the amount of free opportunities to go to post. The injection of Rudi Ellis could provide a point of difference and some extra height to nullify either Proscovia or Koenen at the post.

Boasting a stacked midcourt with the likes of Silver Ferns veteran Laura Langman and Diamonds representative Laura Scherian the Lightning will be hoping to exploit the young Firebirds midcourt of Jemma Mi Mi, Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley. Bueta’s absence will leave a w=hole both through the midcourt and in the goal circle meaning it will be up to Romelda Aiken to lead the charge under the post and do the heavy lifting. Defensively the Lightning have one of the strongest combinations with Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius constantly on the hunt for any loose ball and able to apply a wealth of pressure both on the shot and through transition. With Ine Mari Venter or Tippah Dwan likely to take the goal attack position expect the Lightning to double down on Aiken at the post and freeze up any easy avenue to post.

Given Sunshine Coast’s strong connections down the court and their never say die attitude they should have the upper hand against the Firebirds.

Adelaide Thunderbirds v. West Coast Fever
Saturday, 1 August

Both sides had an up and down season last year and will be hoping to put their foot down in Round 1. When they met in the concurrent round last year it was the Adelaide Thunderbirds that got the job done ended their 23 game losing streak. It was a feat they will be hoping to repeat this season against a relatively unchanged West Coast Fever line-up.

There is no denying that Jhaniele Fowler is the go-to girl for the Fever. Standing at 196cm the goal shooter is the Fever’s get out of jail free card, able to bomb it long into her and she will deliver on the scoreboard. She is prolific to post and oozes nothing but class, composure and balance to reel in errant passes. The battle in the air will be exciting to watch with Shamera Sterling a real menace for the Thunderbirds given her long limbs and impressive leap. Still solidifying their starting goal attack, both Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton will have to up the ante if they are to draw attention off Fowler at the post. Both goalers have the ability to go for the long bomb and are clever with ball in hand to create space but at times lack confidence, something the Thunderbirds will be hoping to exploit. The return of Layla Guscoth will bolster the Thunderbirds line-up with the experienced defender able to tag players out of a game with her shadowing style of play while Kate Shimmin is another viable option inside of the defensive circle to provide that spark and athleticism.

With Fowler up one end the other bookend for the Fever is captain and Australian Diamonds goal keeper Courtney Bruce. She is a hardnosed defender, constantly on the lookout for an intercept and uses her quick feet to will herself to the ball. Her lean over the shot is impressive while her physicality alongside Stacey Francisconstant niggle can offset opposition goalers. In her first official outing as a Thunderbird, South African Lenize Potgieter will have her work cut out for her but is no stranger to the big stage often letting her quickfire shot and accuracy to post do the talking. While it may take a couple of minutes for her to settle into the match expect Potgieter to control the flow in attack and be the main avenue to goal with Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges to play more of a supporting role. Neither Gooden or Hodges played at SSN level last year meaning the T’birds frontend will have a very fresh look this season with experienced heads in Potgieter and Chelsea Pitman to lead the way.

It will be an intense battle with both teams vying to kickstart their season in style and showcase their development. A settled line-up could give the Fever a slight edge however the T’birds have a couple of game changers across the court.

GIANTS Netball v. NSW Swifts
Sunday, 2 August

Fresh off a premiership the NSW Swifts will be hoping to make it back-to-back grand final wins and it all starts here with a clash against their state rivals. The Swifts stunned many last season with their remarkable season and will be hoping to build on that momentum this season. After narrowly missing the finals last season the GIANTS will have a real fire in the belly and another preseason together could give them that edge they have been looking for.

Both sides boast a relatively young and developing midcourt making for an intriguing battle through the centre third. The loss of Kim Green could be huge for the GIANTS but Kiera Austin is shaping up to be the favourite to replace the veteran with her impressive ball placement, speed across the court and vision into the circle while centre Jamie-Lee Price will be looking to elevate her game even further. Although more accustomed to the wing defence position, Price showed last year that she has the endurance and skillset to flick the switch and deliver in attack, something the GIANTS will be hoping to see more of this season. No longer the new kid on the block, Amy Parmenter will be keen to back up her stellar 2019 season and prove it was not a one off with her speed off the mark, tenacity and silky footwork set to match up on Swifts wing attack Natalie Haythornthwaite or returning captain Maddy Proud. Coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) Proud offers experience and excitement in attack with her fancy footwork and hustle for prime spot on circle edge while Paige Hadley is dynamic in centre able to light up the court with her speed and read of the play.

Defensively the combination of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner will have their hands full with Caitlin Bassett and Jo Harten at the post. Klau and Turner found their rhythm last season with their defensive prowess, ability to set up a wall down back and cleanliness to attack each and every play. But Bassett and Harten are no easy beats, oozing nothing but netball smarts and experience to work the ball around the court and get into damaging positions. Harten is not afraid to go for the long bomb which could prove a problem with the introduction of the super shot while Bassett’s accuracy wavered at times last season, something she will be hoping to address.

If Sam Wallace and Helen Housby can get on top of Sam Poolman and Kristiana Manu’a it will go a long way in setting the tone for the Swifts and ultimately claiming the win.

Melbourne Vixens v. Collingwood Magpies
Sunday, 2 August

The last time these two sides met the Melbourne Vixens got the last laugh, dominating the Pies in the semi-final from start to finish. But since then the Magpies have had a complete overhaul with four of their starting seven all not taking the court this season while the Vixens have maintained a stable list with Kate Eddy the only person to join the fray, replacing Renae Ingles. Having played no practice matches due to the COVID-19 restrictions both sides could come out a bit rusty but that will not stop either team from fighting tooth and nail to secure the first derby win.

The weight of putting up a competitive total ultimately falls onto the young shoulders of Shimona Nelson with the Collingwood goaler a dominant force under the post with her strong holds, aerial skill and height. With no Nat Medhurst out the front to deliver into her or put up shots it will be up Gabby Sinclair to fill the hole left and showcase her netball nous to dish off pin point passes and go to post. The added bonus and potential return of Madi or Kelsey Browne for Round 1 will also have a huge influence on the Magpies shooting unit with the duo able to release the ball with confidence and ease credit to their impressive vision, variety of passes and ball placement. But the Vixens have a tight defence with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston a threatening combination with their suffocating pressure, three foot marking and physicality to force turnovers aplenty.

Up the other end the Melbourne Vixens also have a three pronged attack with Mwai Kumwenda officially returning from her ACL injury in 2018 and joining tried and tested duo of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip. The three can all rotate seamlessly through the circle and, most importantly, quickly adapt to whatever scenario they are placed into. Thwaites and Philip are a concerning prospect for the Magpies when it comes to the super shot with the two reliable from range while Kumwenda is an excitement machine thanks to her leap and aerial presence. It will be up to Collingwood co-captain Geva Mentor to stand up in defence and win ball back for her side while both Matilda Garrett and Jodi-Ann Ward offer that element of unpredictability.

With Collingwood boasting a new look team expect the Vixens to exploit their developing connections with their quick ball movement and accuracy to post to catch them off guard and secure a win.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in less than a week, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. Number three on the countdown is the imminent return of some critical players and who have really benefited from the extended time off.

With anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries happening left, right and centre in 2019, the 2020 season will see a lot of players heading towards an eventual return and some who hope to take the court from Round 1 and make their mark from the get-go. Among those in the mix of of an early return are a couple of crucial midcourters, with both Madi Browne and Maddy Proud likely to hit the court as soon as possible given the extended break due to the COVID-19 crisis. While Browne and Proud were injured a couple months apart, both have suggested a Round 1 return which will surely boost their respective teams’ potential this season. 

Also expected back from ACL recovery this season but with no confirmation date on their return are Mahalia Cassidy, Kelsey Browne and Sasha Glasgow, with Cassidy expected to return prior to the latter two given her early-season injury. That being said, Cassidy and Glasgow are somewhat unaccounted for with little confirmation about their return apart from being on the playing lists, while there have been plenty of positives around Kelsey Browne’s recovery. The last player expected to return to the court is England international Beth Cobden, with the Adelaide Thunderbirds midcourter going down early in the season but no longer featured on the Thunderbirds’ playing list and leaving a question mark over her head. While it is all fun and games for the aforementioned six, star midcourter Ash Brazill is unlikely to return this season, only having ruptured her ACL in February. While seemingly on the road to an excellent recovery, it would take a miracle for the Magpies midcourter to make her return this season, though if there was anyone with the drive to do so it would certainly be Brazill.

Also returning in 2020 are a couple of Achilles injury sufferers, with Layla Guscoth and Tayla Honey both back at full fitness after respective injuries that kept them off the court. While Honey was struck down prior to last season beginning, fans saw plenty of star power from Guscoth before the England defender went down, with her return set to bring plenty of spark to the Thunderbirds’ backline. Tippah Dwan was another ruled out for the season prior to the 2019 season beginning, with the young goaler unfortunate to miss out, while Kate Eddy sat out for the end of last season and was unfortunate to miss out on playing in the Swifts grand final win. Lauren Moore may not have taken the court for the Swifts last season but was a huge loss off the bench, with the talented defender injured in the 2019 Australian Netball League (ANL) grand final but hoping to have an impact as a rolling sub in 2020. Tall timber Emma Ryde may just be a training partner with the Magpies this season but will hope to find some of the action, holding up well when required with the Thunderbirds last season before an untimely knee hyperextension ruled her out for the rest of the season.

Looking to players who may not have hit their full potential in 2019, there are a couple who returned from injury during last season and will hope to go one better this season and have more influence on the court. Mwai Kumwenda made her long awaited return just in time for a Melbourne Vixens finals berth, slotting in nicely to the goal circle but only playing in patches to reduce the risk of further injury. Fully recovered from her 2018 ACL rupture now and with no need to manage her load, expect the goal shooter to be fighting fit and ready to have a huge impact in attack. Romelda Aiken is another tall timber who had an interrupted season so will hope to have a greater impact this season, especially holding up a much less experienced attack-line, while two more critical players who look to be good to go are Courtney Bruce and Caitlin Bassett, with the Australian Diamonds bookends struggling with injury throughout patches of last season. While Bruce was out of action with an untimely elbow injury for a couple of rounds last season and did not quite have the same impact upon her return, Bassett had a niggling preseason injury that limited her accuracy to post early last year. Factoring in that Bassett was expected to also miss at least a few of the early rounds this season thanks to a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) rupture back in March, the extended break from sport will surely see her back in action from the starting whistle of Round 1 this week. 

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in less than a week, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. Number four on the countdown is how a number of crucial list changes could impact ladder positions and really change up this season compared to 2019.

Note: All ladder predictions are an average position based on Draft Central’s combined writer suggestions. 

Adelaide Thunderbirds

With Maria Folau retiring at the end of 2019 the Adelaide Thunderbirds are in an interesting position, with some quality players through the middle and back end of the court but a somewhat inexperienced front-end. While Lenize Potgieter has taken up a starting position in goal shooter, the side will surely miss their long bomb sharpshooter, with the goal attack position now down to the likes of Charlee Hodges and Sam Gooden though neither of the duo took the court at Super Netball level in 2019. With Beth Cobden also removed from the mix with injury last year and no Australian Netball League (ANL) development pathway in 2020 to work back to full fitness, the side will rely a lot on its young players. Defensively, the return of Layla Guscoth will be a massive step in the right direction for the Thunderbirds, with the Draft Central team expecting the T’birds to sit a fraction higher on the ladder position than they did in 2019. 

Draft Central prediction: 5th
2019 finish: 7th

 

Collingwood Magpies

Like the Thunderbirds the Collingwood Magpies saw a flurry of changes following the 2019 season, though many were forced changes such as Ash Brazill doing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) back in February. Alongside Brazill, the Magpies will also go ahead without Nat Medhurst, Kim Ravaillion and April Brandley this season with the trio sitting out of the 2020 season due to pregnancy and ultimately leaving holes across all three thirds of the court. That being said, some handy pickups such as Jamaican import Jodi-Ann Ward and elevated midcourters Mel Bragg and Molly Jovic will help to bolster the Magpies’ stocks and the return of both Madi and Kelsey Browne from injury will do wonders for the side. That being said, the new and mostly untried connections of the team sees Draft Central pit the 2020 Magpies lower on the ladder than last year mainly due to the loss of valuable experience across all three thirds.

Draft Central prediction: 6th
2019 finish: 4th

 

GIANTS Netball

The GIANTS are in an interesting position for the 2020 season, suffering very little changes to their 2019 list. The loss of Kim Green to retirement could be the real kicker this year, with the champion wing attack a crucial cog through the GIANTS midcourt over the past few years and leaving a gaping hole in attack. While Kiera Austin is a tried and true candidate to slot in there if need be, the young goal attack could be crucial during the last five minutes of each quarter in goal attack for super shot attempts, meaning the wing attack position could be left to inexperienced youngster Maddie Hay. The GIANTS could be a huge threat if they iron out midcourt issues early, with the Draft Central team seeing the side go one better than last season with potential for a finals berth.

Draft Central prediction: 4th
2019 finish: 5th

 

Melbourne Vixens

Melbourne Vixens are in much the same position as the GIANTS this season but with the added bonus of a solid 2019 season behind them. With just the one major change at the end of 2019 with club legend Renae Ingles retiring, the Vixens snatched up Kate Eddy who will provide an almost like-for-like replacement, with connections already forged from coming through the Victorian pathways over the years. Eddy’s versatility to ply her trade as a circle defender could also be a huge addition to the side which has been up there in finals consideration but not yet been able to break through those top teams. It looks like the Vixens will hope to blood up some young talent with Tayla Honey returning to the side after injury kept her away from the court in 2019, and despite the new inclusions expect the Vixens to be right up there for finals contention this year. 

Draft Central prediction: 1st
2019 finish: 3rd

 

NSW Swifts

NSW Swifts had a huge 2019 and while they lost Eddy, the return of captain Maddy Proud is sure to pay dividends with the speedster providing another quality midcourter to an already stacked team. The Swifts proved they had the confidence in their bench last season and came out of it with a premiership making this season crucial for the side to prove last year was not just a fluke with plenty of young names amongst the group. Lauren Moore returns to the group after injury last season and is an adaptable defender to assist down back, while the elevation of midcourter Sophie Craig after her 2019 form saw her have an impact on the bench despite not starting the season with a contract will see the Swifts right up there once more. With a top two finish last year, expect the Swifts to back up there again this season.

Draft Central prediction: 2nd
2019 finish: 2nd

 

Queensland Firebirds

Queensland Firebirds had a struggle to the finish last season and surely would have been looking to go one better this season if it wasn’t for the sudden loss of Gretel Bueta to pregnancy. The departure of Bueta for the season leaves a huge hole, with the tall timber one of the greatest goalers of the competition and a key cog in attack for the Firebirds with her accuracy, commitment and flair. A trio of past Vixens headline the major changes, and while a replacement goal attack is yet to be announced, the addition of Ine-Mari Venter could see her have an impact in the goal circle. That being said, the South African product is a goal shooter by trade making for a difficult position for the Firebirds with a goal attack bib handy. The addition of Lara Dunkley could inject some speed through the midcourt with her tried and tested connection with Venter a handy bonus, while Rudi Ellis joins the Firebirds defence though her inexperience at SSN level could leave something to be desired. Unless they have a miracle up their sleeve, 2020 looks like it could be another rebuild year for the ailing Firebirds with the Draft Central team seeing the side struggle to put wins on the board again this season.

Draft Central prediction: 8th
2019 finish: 8th

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning

Sunshine Coast Lightning have been consistently up there throughout the Suncorp Super Netball over the years so expect the side to continue its winning form with its consistent names proving time and time again that age is just a number. With zero major changes compared to last season after a tumultuous 2018/19 changeover, the Lightning will be one of the closest-knit teams out there this season and as always, will be one to watch out for with a number of players who can change a game with a snap of their fingers. The only change the Lightning have coming into the season is their new coach in Kylee Byrne, who replaced Noeline Taurua at the end of 2019. A high calibre team like the Lightning should not suffer too much from the switch, with the Draft Central team placing the Lightning a fraction lower purely because it is an older team which could suffer from wear and tear as the condensed season goes on.

Draft Central prediction: 3rd
2019 finish: 1st

 

West Coast Fever

With a disappointing 2019 campaign behind them after a huge 2018 that saw them make the grand final, the West Coast Fever are in a position to prove they have what it takes in the competition. But as one of the most predictable sides in the Super Netball they will have a tough job switching up play to get more wins on the board this season, with the Fever following in the Lightning’s footsteps and not making any changes for the 2020 season. While this is a bonus for the side, able to forge some stronger connections, the individual effort to post has hurt the Fever over the past year making for a make-or-break season for its attack unit if they cannot produce strong scoreboard pressure in the goal attack position.

Draft Central prediction: 7th
2019 finish: 6th

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

Compare the Pair: Kelsey Browne and Peta Toeava

THE next instalment in the Draft Central’s Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from different competitions, with the next showcasing midcourt attackers, Australia’s Kelsey Browne and New Zealand’s Peta Toeava

With plenty of breakout speed, class and feeding expertise, the likes of dynamic attackers Browne and Toeava are a force to be reckoned with on court. While both on the shorter side, their respective ability to find not only the space but the ball too makes them crucial players on court, able to change a game in a split second. Meanwhile, the pair also provide handy cogs at the transverse line, taking on that first faze of the play and continually backing up their respective efforts with speed and vision. With plenty of strength, consistency and a workrate to match, both Browne and Toeava have plenty of quality attributes any team would want to have on their side.

An energiser bunny with quick thinking on the pass and an ability to serve the ball on a silver platter to her attackers, Browne is one of those players who cannot be left alone for a moment. Her innate ability to find space through the midcourt and attack the play allow her to be a consistent and threatening option across the court, using her game smarts to switch on and provide a quality option on circle edge. Her vision is second to none and gives her plenty of opportunity to propel ball into the goal circle, using her dynamic movement and quick feet to dart around her defender to apply pressure in attack. While Browne was expected to miss much of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season due to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last year, fans will hope the Magpies will benefit off the delayed start to the season with potential for Browne to return earlier than expected.

With little hesitance and plenty of confidence on the assist, there is no doubt Toeava has been a quality midcourter for the Mystics this season, proving crucial with her quick hands and evasive footwork to find the ball with ease. Her ability to open up space for her teammates sees her play a critical role in every match, using her vision well to spot the way the play will head and provide a handy link through the midcourt. With impressive vision in attack, Toeava can ply her trade to feed into the circle from virtually anywhere in the goal third, using her evasive play to zip around her defender and propel ball straight to the post. Toeava is able to hold her ground well and while she is not the most defensively minded player, she is also consistently clean, able to apply pressure on the ball handler and attack the loose ball without finding too much of the whistle.

Kelsey Browne
18 caps, 2018-present

Peta Toeava
1 cap, 2018-present

2020 SSN: Season preview – Collingwood Magpies

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

Coach: Rob Wright
Captain: Geva Mentor and Madi Browne
2019 finish: 4th

The Magpies had a strange 2019 season, racking up seven wins and two draws. The side found plenty of purchase through the middle of the season and had a stellar patch to finish, making the finals thanks to a magnificent win against the Vixens in the last round, before then falling to the Vixens in the first round of finals. Overall, the Magpies were a force to be reckoned with thanks to their ability to pull out unsuspecting wins but also lost a couple of matches with a lack of consistency and connection down the court and a couple of major injuries putting their season in doubt. With Madi Browne ruled out prior to the season beginning and Kelsey Browne bookending with the same injury towards the end of the season, the side was interrupted but their good patches were better than most and proved that they could make just about any combination work if they were on. Shimona Nelson impressed upon her move to Melbourne, while Nat Medhurst was a crucial cog in attack, playing almost a dual role in and around the goal circle thanks to her wealth of experience to hold up the circle at times.

2020 predictions/expectations:

Collingwood have an entirely new-look team in 2020, with three crucial players in Medhurst, April Brandley and Kim Ravaillion ruled out with pregnancy and midcourt star Ash Brazill out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury acquired in February. But while the side has lost a wealth of experience, they have brought in some quality talent to replace them with Jamaican Jodi-Ann Ward joining the defensive fray to bolster ranks with Geva Mentor and Matilda Garrett, while Gabby Sinclair and Mel Bragg return to the team for a second season, with Bragg elevated to be a permanent player in 2020. Molly Jovic and Julia Woolley also join the fray for the first time, with the duo both snatched up to provide another option in attack and Woolley an interesting selection to join the goal circle given her lack of experience in the elite pathways. The team will need to ensure its connections are on point if they are to challenge some of the top teams in 2020, especially given the new two goal Super Shot with some inexperienced players in the midst.

Key player to watch:

Nelson had a breakout season last year, increasing her volume and accuracy across the season and will have to do the same in 2020 given the loss of Medhurst in attack. While Medhurst did a wealth of work to get the ball to Nelson in 2019, plying her trade and helping the young goaler develop her craft, Nelson will be the go-to girl this season  but could really lack that backup goaler stepping up that she relied on to generate ball, meaning the Magpies could be in a lot of trouble if she cannot get easy access to the ball under the post. With an impressive aerial ability and accuracy, plus her ability to put pressure on the scoreboard and she will be a real player to watch this season. Her development was second to none last season but will need to step up once again this year as the experienced player at the post, and will want to continue her development to ensure she brings her strong hands from the get-go to be a consistent threat at the post.

Team list:

Madi Browne
Kelsey Browne
Geva Mentor
Gabby Sinclair
Matilda Garrett
Mel Bragg
Jodi-Ann Ward
Shimona Nelson
Julia Woolley
Molly Jovic
Kelly Altmann

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)