Tag: kim commane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netball fantasy teams: VNSL Roses v. VNSL International All Stars

FOLLOWING the huge success of the thrilling Diamonds vs All Stars Bushfire Relief game in March, it got us thinking about another hypothetical exhibition match, with international Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) players facing up to the top England Roses squad members who are currently plying their trade in the UK.

VNSL Roses:

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)
GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)
WD: Laura Malcolm (Manchester Thunder)
C: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)
WA: Gabby Marshall (Saracens Mavericks)
GA: Ellie Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
GS: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

BENCH: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath), Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning), Jodie Gibson (Saracens Mavericks)

This Roses fantasy squad has a huge amount of experience and depth across all areas of the court. In the 2020 Netball Nations Cup, we saw the emergence of a new England shooting partnership between Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher – nicknamed “Fishwell”. Whilst Cardwell is usually seen wearing the goal shooter bib, in goal attack she opened up the shooting circle nicely for Fisher and can sink a sweet long bomb herself. This partnership would certainly give any defensive lineup a lot of headaches, especially given Fisher’s clever footwork and shooting accuracy. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis also plays more of the traditional goal attack role with her speed and strong drives and could provide another look for the shooting end. Whilst Drakeford-Lewis is at the beginning of her international career, she would be well supported in this lineup. She is likely to become a key option for England in the future – especially given she can also move into wing attack if needed, much like a versatile Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin.

In the midcourt, a balance of experience and youth creates this formidable unit. Youngster Gabby Marshall has great vision at wing attack and can keep any wing defence busy so they don’t go looking for trouble. Marshall is backed up by the veteran Jade Clarke who can keep a cool head in the middle and dictate play with ease. Tenacious tagger Laura Malcolm completes this midcourt lineup. Though she spent some time away from the England setup, her recent performances in the red dress have been outstanding. Nat Panagarry proved herself capable at the Netball World Cup 2019, showing that she is a confident team-player and can have an impact when needed. She has a good read of the game and her infectious energy can really lift a team.

The defensive end is where this team gets exciting. Whilst you have the reliable and gutsy Fran Williams out the front causing havoc, you also have one of the most threatening defenders coming up the England ranks in Razia Quashie at the back. Whilst Quashie is not the tallest defender in the game, she clearly has the athletic ability and pure strength to be a game-changer. With this defensive end, the difficulty may be the partnerships. As we saw in the Bushfire Relief game, putting two defending superstars out on court together doesn’t always mean they gel easily. I would love to see this combination out on court for England more as Quashie and Williams have such complementary styles of play. Given time together they could become a lethal partnership. Jodie Gibson is another versatile and experienced defender, providing a sparky and reliable option at the back should the defensive end need to change tactics.

VNSL International All Stars:

GK: Zanele Vimbela (Sirens, SA)
GD: Latanya Wilson (Dragons, JAM)
WD: Nia Jones (Stars, WAL)
C: Caroline O’Hanlon (Thunder, NI)
WA: Liana Leota (Stars, NZ)
GA: Alexia Baker (Wasps, AUS)
GS: Sigi Burger (Pulse, SA)

BENCH: Kim Commane (Bath, AUS), Adean Thomas (Pulse, JAM), Jo Trip (Mavericks, NZ)

This International All Stars side is undoubtedly stacked with talent. At the shooting end, it’s hard to ignore the threat of Sigi Burger under the post, given her 98% shooting average after three rounds of the 2020 VNSL Season. New to the VNSL, Alexia Baker is no stranger to high-quality netball, having been a Queensland Firebirds training partner. She knows how to feed a holding shooter like Burger and can also provide a solid option to goal. Kim Commane had an outstanding start to the 2020 season, ending up in the top five goal scorers, and she provides another different style of play to keep the defenders guessing. While this shooting end has very few international caps between them, these players have demonstrated their skills domestically and wouldn’t shy away from an opportunity on a bigger stage.

Liana Leota is a typical wing attack, extremely crafty and with a wealth of tools in her arsenal to feed the goal circle effectively. In the centre position, Caroline O’Hanlon is so impressive, not only due to her insane fitness but also her defensive pressure and a cool head. Leota and O’Hanlon combined effectively to secure Manchester Thunder’s Grand Final win last season, and could easily replicate this successful chemistry. Supported by Nia Jones in wing defence, the position where she is arguably her strongest, this midcourt unit would have no issues with transition play and swift goal conversion. Adean Thomas has also demonstrated her flair and skill, both at the VNSL and for Jamaica. Thomas is unpredictable, exciting and would be a great impact player in this lineup.

In the defensive circle, Latanya Wilson has been compared to a young Shamera Sterling and this glowing comparison is not undue. Wilson has fantastic aerial ability and was sitting on 14 intercepts when the VNSL was cancelled. This was just one behind the leader in Quashie, and Wilson racked up this impressive tally despite the fact she was suspended for one game due to dangerous play. Whilst discipline is an area to improve on, her surprising gameplay and rangy limbs would be a valuable asset in goal defence for the All Stars. Teaming up with Wilson is South African, Zanele Vimbela. Vimbela has proven her worth internationally and is surely next in line to the goal keeper bib for South Africa after Phumza Maweni. She is a fearless defender who attacks the ball and provides consistent pressure to unnerve the opposition feeders. Able to cover both positions effectively is Mavericks stalwart Jo Trip. Her height and experience mean she can make a difference in close games and would be a valuable addition to the All Stars.

Who would win?

The International All Stars have a tremendous amount of talent and a really diverse range of playing styles. However, the Roses consistency and familiarity with each other would most likely mean they would take the win. The battle would be lost and won in the midcourt, as the two sides are fairly evenly matched at both ends – with the Roses’ shooting circle slightly superior to the All Stars’. This would be a great spectacle of VNSL talent, but it’s likely the Roses would be able to edge out the All Stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VNSL: Leading stats

ALTHOUGH the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) season is on hold Draft Central casts an eye over the leading player in each statistical area after four rounds and the influence they could have on the competition if they continue on that trajectory when the season resumes.

GOALS:
It is no surprise that England Roses and Wasps Netball goal shooter, Rachel Dunn is head of the leader board with the quick footed and accurate goaler amassing 158 goals from her four outings. Dunn is a commanding figure under the post and while she does not tower over defenders it is her precise movement that gives her that competitive edge and if she continues that form it will go a long way for the Wasps. In at second on the leader board is Severn Stars shooter, Georgia Rowe with 151 goals to her name across four matches. In their three appearances Mary Cholhok notched up 146 goals, while co-captain and Team Bath goal shooter Kim Commane managed 137, mounting a good foundation for Bath to build off upon their return. Rounding out the top five is Saracen Mavericks youngster and shooting sensation George Fisher who asserted herself on the competition with 131 goals in just three games. Fisher could be a key reason for her side’s success in 2020 with her strong holds and clever positioning.

Accuracy:
Putting up shots is no easy feat but being able to convert them is even harder. But that did not seem to be an issue for Spar Proteas goaler and new London Pulse recruit Sigi Burger who tops the table at 97.64 per cent given she converted 124 goals out of 127 attempts across her three games. Cholhok comes in at second with the Ugandan shooter proving to be no slouch under the post with a conversion rate of 94.81 per cent, while Rowe managed 94.38. Dunn also featured in the top five with her accuracy under the post working wonders sitting at 92.94 while Fisher managed 131 goals from 142 attempts at an impressive 92.25 per cent.

Intercepts:
There is no shortage of stars when it comes to defence with none bigger than up and coming Roses defender and Saracens Mavericks goal keeper Razia Quashie. The light-footed defender is able to gobble up any intercept that comes her way credit to ability to read the play. Quashie currently sits pretty on top of the leader board with 15 intercepts across the first three games of the season and if she keeps it up will give the Mavericks a fighting shot at the premiership. Jamaican youngster and Celtic Dragons defender Latanya Wilson also starred in her two appearances impressively racking up 14 intercepts while Towera Vinkhumbo proved to be a wall in defence for the Severn Stars with 13 intercepts to her name. The experienced Emma Dovey takes out fourth spot with 12 while England Roses dynamo Fran Williams showcased her defensive prowess with 11 intercepts across three games. If Williams can up the ante it could be the spark the Wasps need to get back on the board in 2020.

Deflections:
It is not easy to get deflections but Leah Middleton has made it a part of her repertoire with the former Queensland Firebirds training partner in the Suncorp Super Netball displaying an innate ability to do just that. She has been a key cog for the Surrey Storm amassing 15 deflections across the start of the season. Manchester Thunder’s Loreen Ngwira also starred prior to the postponement of the season with 15 deflections to equal Middleton. Ngwira played a handy role last year and seems to be following on from that, giving her side a chance to gain another premiership. Testament to her defensive skill, Dovey also managed to get herself in the top five for deflections with nine while South Africa, Zanele Vimbela also proved to be a handy inclusion for the Strathclyde Sirens with the lanky defender able to get a hand in everything and create nine deflections. The final spot in the top five goes to Fran Williams with the Wasps defender using her quick feet to track the ball and force a tip.

Who is the biggest threat to Thunder’s crown?

THE 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Season saw a massive rise in competitiveness across the competition with a number of teams vying for a spot in the finals. While it was Manchester Thunder that got the chocolates last year, any number of teams could have beaten another high flyer on their day in a fairly even season. 

But while 2019 was an exciting year for netball in England, 2020 has already had a phenomenal start with a number of teams proving their off-season pick-ups and form could be a big threat to Thunder’s chances of repeating their 2019 season.

With plenty of teams in the running for the 2020 crown, which teams have the most chance of knocking Manchester off after the first few rounds?

Team Bath

The blue and gold came so close in season 2019, falling at the final hurdle but ultimately coming in third with a six-goal win against Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff. Where Bath may have fallen last season, they have been nothing if not threateningly consistent this year with three convincing wins under their belt, all by 10-plus margins. Worth noting is that while Manchester currently sits ahead of Bath on the ladder, the Thunder played one more match than Bath prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, meaning Bath could well and truly have been ahead if not for the pandemic. 

Bath lost major names in Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usoro-Brown over the off-season but do not appear to have skipped a beat with the likes of Kim Commane and Imogen Allison stepping up. Commane has so far posted bigger volume and accuracy in the goal circle, while Allison continues to be a barometer for success with her energiser bunny speed and drive through the midcourt. If Bath can continue its early domination when and if matches resume as normal, it could be a real force to be reckoned with come finals.

London Pulse

Ultimately the biggest bolter from a frustrating inaugural season wooden spoon, Pulse have locked down a spot amongst the top of the ladder with three wins from three matches, only behind Bath in percentage. While only one of Pulse’s wins was by a comfortable margin, the side is arguably in a better position than last year where they only managed the two wins – albeit with a very different looking team. 

Key pick-up Sigi Burger has had an immediate impact on court for Pulse, with the South African a dominant fixture at the post with an innate ability to find the ball. Add in speedy Jamaican recruit Adean Thomas through the midcourt and young defensive talent Funmi Fadoju and the new-look side has plenty of excitement up its sleeve. That being said, what the Pulse have in talent they could lack in experience playing together with so many new names, especially when you factor in an unexpected break from all aspects of the team-oriented sport, meaning there is no guarantee that the side has the experience to take it to an inaugural premiership if they were to get there.

Saracens Mavericks

The Mavs certainly have the talent to get there in season 2020 so it will be more about consistency when it comes to the rest of the year, with a very similar side to their 2019 campaign which slipped out of finals contention towards the latter stages of the season. With young talent heading up either end of the court in England Roses members George Fisher and Razia Quashie alongside more experienced names in Sasha and Kadeen Corbin, the Mavericks have plenty of potential to go far if given the chance. Another side with only three matches played prior to restrictions, the Mavericks won their first and third games – interesting both against Severn Stars – and had a close shave against Wasps Netball in Round 2.

Compare the Pair: Nat Haythornthwaite and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from across the netball world, with the next showcasing England Roses, Nat Haythornthwaite and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.

Two highly versatile players, Haythornthwaite and Drakeford-Lewis don’t entirely match up – with Haythornthwaite predominantly a wing attack and Drakeford-Lewis typically a goal attack – but both can rotate into the other’s position with ease to create an extra option in and around the circle. With speed and netball nous driving down the court, the pair can both have a big impact on circle edge and have an ability to apply pressure on the scoreboard, throwing an extra spanner in the works for their opposition. The pair were both in the Roses squad for the three-match test series against South Africa in late 2019 and again for the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in January, with Haythornthwaite heading the team.

Haythornthwaite’s eye for the ball and ability to find open space is testament to her work off the body, using her quick feet to evade her opposition and create chaos through attack. Her clean hands and ability to land on circle edge make her a crucial option in attack for the NSW Swifts in the Suncorp Super Netball, working in tandem with fellow England international Helen Housby and crafting a solid partnership in and around the circle. Haythornthwaite does not find herself inside the circle all that often for the Swifts but is a solid option at the post if need be, able to control the ball well and slot in seamlessly. Her ability to get out at the centre is credit to her speed off the mark, quickly gaining ground and propelling the ball down the court.

21-year-old Drakeford-Lewis is still a relatively unknown quantity on the international stage with just the two caps under her belt, but has crafted an impressive pairing at the post with Australian Kim Commane at Team Bath over the past season. She sat at a shooting accuracy of 87 per cent for the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague season, winning the VNSL Young Player of the Season Award for her effort. With clean hands, quick footwork and an uncanny ability to evade her defender, Drakeford-Lewis continues to ply her trade in the goal circle with accuracy and volume alike. She is not afraid to shoot from distance or play more of a feeder role, able to provide that versatility that the Roses tend to have in the side. Drakeford-Lewis is one of 25 young players we put in our International Young Guns countdown, coming in at number 23.

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Nat Haythornthwaite
50 caps, 2015-present

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
2 caps, 2017-present

Do you opt experience or youth of the England Roses in the attacking third?
Nat Haythornthwaite
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
Created with QuizMaker

Commane shooting goals overseas

WITH COVID-19 still holding up much of the sporting world, we will take a look at some Australian names that are making waves overseas, starting with New South Wales born goaler, Kim Commane.

A handy past player for the NSW Swifts (ANZ Championship), Melbourne Vixens and through various Victorian netball pathways, Commane was thrown back into the netball ring in 2018 when Vixens goaler Mwai Kumwenda went down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, giving Commane an opportunity to rejoin the national league for the first time since 2016 – when she was an injury replacement for Tegan Philip. While being an injury replacement has its downfalls, Commane took it upon herself to make it clear why she deserves a spot on the court and, though it was the final match of the Suncorp Super Netball season, it saw clubs overseas in the Vitality Netball Superleague take notice of her shooting prowess with new and exciting international opportunities coming to fruition.

The goal shooter joined Team Bath for the 2019 season, making an immediate impact. The crafty goaler well and truly cemented her spot in the side, teaming up with the likes of Serena Guthrie, Eboni Usoro-Brown and plenty of other key names, having the ball on a platter for much of the successful season which saw Bath take home the bronze. Commane made herself a key cog in the defensively minded side, transitioning the ball into attack with ease and creating a formidable option at the post with her height, strength and accuracy, using her experience and game smarts to work her way around the goal circle. She collected the Team Bath Players’ Player and Coaches’ Awards in 2019, won multiple match ‘most valued player’ awards and was named Fan Favourite for the season.

Looking towards the 2020 season, Commane once more signed with Team Bath and was named captain this season, leading the new-look side as they hope to go one step further in 2020. Team Bath won its first three rounds before the competition was postponed, sitting in second on the ladder – but having played one less match than its ladder leading rivals and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder.  

Commane has impressed on the stats sheet again this season with 137 goals at 92 per cent from just the three appearances and the one turnover to her name. With a never-say-die attitude and a constant drive to improve, Commane is one to watch with plenty left in the tank thanks to her cleanliness and ability to get the job done under pressure.

Commane wrote a preseason Player Diary on the BiG Showdown, which you can read here.

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown – #23/#22

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 25 players under 25-years-old across the netball world. The countdown continues at number 23, with English shooter and recent Roses addition Sophie Drakeford-Lewis along with up and coming Australian defender Matilda Garrett in at 22. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Recently named in the Roses squad in the series against South Africa, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has plenty of promise and will be hoping to continue her development. Although she has only played two international caps the goal attack has plenty of upside at 21-years-old that will excite the England fans. The up and coming shooter is a smooth mover, able to effortlessly glide across the court and while she does not put up a wealth of shots makes her presence known on the scoreboard when need be. She is cool, calm and collected under pressure and has played a good support role to the likes of Kim Commane at Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) level for Team Bath. Her high netball IQ and natural instincts are what makes her such an exciting prospect. She has plied her trade at the development levels with the Roses taking part in the Youth World Cup where she won bronze highlighting just how much class and skill she has.

Coming in at 22 is Collingwood Magpies defender, Matilda Garrett. She has had an up and down Suncorp Super Netball career so far, struggling to find her feet last year after suffering a calf injury in the early stages but has shown plenty of potential. She is an exciting prospect that has a bright future ahead of her, given her ability to read the play, get hands to ball and create turnovers. Her lean over the shot is one to be envious of, able to upset goalers with her hands over pressure and has had some high quality role models throughout her career playing with the likes of Geva Mentor, April Brandley and Sharni Layton all of which have represented their respective countries at the highest levels. Having played for Australia in the World Youth Cup in 2017, Garrett is not afraid of the big stage able to stand up under pressure and perform something she will have to do this season given the Pies list.  2020 will be a big year for Garrett with the highly touted defender looking to ramp it up a gear and have a profound impact down back with her quick feet and skill to shut down players.

Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)

Vitality Netball Superleague stats: The story so far

WITH the Vitality Netball Superleague postponed until April 30, only two Round 4 matches went ahead over the weekend and the final three matches suspended until further notice. Manchester Thunder took top spot by default with a win this round, with no other leading sides taking the court. We take a look at some of the key players across the league this season so far.

Veteran Rachel Dunn hit the top of the leaderboard this week with a solid performance against Severn Stars (45 from 47 attempts), overtaking Georgia Rowe for most goals, but with key shooters Mary Cholhok (146 goals from three games), Kim Commane (137 from three) and George Fisher (131 from three) all hot on her tail and down one game at this stage in the season. Sigi Burger remains the most accurate (shooting at 98 per cent) despite not yet playing this round, while Rowe was clinical at the post on Saturday, missing only one shot (47 goals from 48 attempts) and leading her side to victory. While undefeated Manchester Thunder does not have any goalers on the leaderboards for accuracy or volume, the side has a wealth of skill thanks to a rotating circle of Ellie Cardwell (125 goals from 146 attempts at 86 per cent), Joyce Mvula (101 from 116 at 87 per cent) and Kathryn Turner (28 from 38 at 74 per cent) and trust in their players to get the job done, not relying on just the one player to carry the load. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Lynsey Gallagher are up there in the tally in at goal attack, shooting 56 and 55 goals respectively to start the season on a high.

Out in defence, Razia Quashie and Latanya Wilson lead the way in intercepts with 15 and 14 respectively. Neither player took the court this week due to match cancelation but somehow still sit ahead of the likes of Towera Vinkhumbo (13 intercepts), Emma Dovey (12) and Fran Williams (11) who have all played four games apiece. Wilson has only taken the court on two occasions this season thanks to a match suspension, making it all the more impressive that she is up there in the intercept count, with the talented Jamaican laying out her physicality and tenacity on the court. Vinkhumbo remains the most highly penalised in the competition with 58 penalties to her name, though Loreen Ngwira and Williams are close behind with 56 and Williams leading the turnover count at 22. Both Severn Stars and Wasps Netball sit on only one win from four matches, meaning messiness in defence could be a real catalyst for the sides dropping much needed matches so early in the season – but also shows a real opportunity for improvement if they can work on the penalty count while matches are postponed. Leah Middleton and Ngwira should be happy with their respective output in defence with 15 deflections apiece after four rounds, contesting the ball well and Middleton especially not finding a heap of the whistle.

Through the midcourt, the likes of Laura Malcolm, Imogen Allison and Adean Thomas remain crucial and influential for their respective sides, holding up well defensively to turn over the ball and feeding with ease in attack. Jamaican speedster, Thomas has proved a handy cog through the midcourt for Pulse, which had nowhere to go but up after a disappointing inaugural season in 2019 – something the side has certainly done despite not playing yet this round. As for the likes of Malcolm (Manchester Thunder) and Allison (Team Bath), it’s their innate ability to rotate through any position in the centre court that makes them such tough contenders, especially in undefeated teams. While both sides boast great defensive capabilities, they can both go forward when required to put their feeding ability to the test and show off their defensive pressure in attack. Veteran midcourters Jade Clarke, Nat Panagarry and Sasha Corbin may not be able to boast being undefeated thus far, but have kept the wheels turning across the court for their respective sides and are known for their consistency and ability to create something out of nothing to spur their side to victory.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 4 – Bath and Pulse face off for top spot

ROUND 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague will see an unprecedented top-of-the-table clash on Monday night to finish off the round, with Team Bath and London Pulse facing off for top spot. On the other end of the spectrum, eighth ranked 2019 finalists Wasps Netball will take on ninth-placed Severn Stars in the opening match of the round in what will be a real test for Stars and a real make-or-break game for Wasps.

Severn Stars  v. Wasps Netball
Worcester Arena

In a massive start to Round 4, Wasps will look to redeem themselves from a slow start to the season, with the side sitting in eighth on only one win and two losses for the season already after only conceding the four losses overall in 2019. While the opening rounds don’t necessarily speak for the season, the Wasps will want to take advantage of taking on a side lower than them and use this opportunity to work their way up the ladder. Stars are in the unprecedented position of being only one behind Wasps on the ladder but will know not to come into this match too cocky or expectant, with the Wasps known for their cleanliness and consistency in defence. Interestingly, both sides have come up against two of the same sides at this early stage, with both teams going down to Manchester Thunder, Wasps by seven goals and Stars by nine, making for an intriguing battle if Stars can stay close. The real difference however is the sides’ different reactions to taking on the Mavericks, with Stars going down twice with big margins compared to Wasps’ four goal victory. Rachel Dunn has been the key player for Wasps this season with all attention turned toward the veteran goal shooter with accuracy and precision. Meanwhile, Iona Christian in wing attack has been a handy addition to the side, slotting in smoothly with Jade Clarke and Dunn. Stars’ Towera Vinkhumbo may not be the cleanest player but has certainly had an impact in defence, working well with Ella Powell-Davies while the likes of Ama Agbeze can enter the contest when required and have an immediate impact. In goals, Georgia Rowe has been the main target for Stars with the experience of Liana Leota in wing attack able to provide pinpoint feeds into the circle. 

Surrey Storm v. Manchester Thunder
Surrey Sports Park

Manchester Thunder will look to go four from four with a win in this match, with the potential of moving to the top of the ladder if results on Monday go their way, making this a big match for the reigning premiers. Surrey Storm on the other hand have had a shaky start to the season with only the one win on the board back in Round 1, and that was only by the one goal over Celtic Dragons. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes will be in for a tough one against the attacking combination of Joyce Mvula, Kathryn Turner and Ellie Cardwell, with the trio creating a massive threat for Thunder. The three shooters have combined seamlessly across the opening rounds, sharing the load in goals and all offering different options which is what makes them such a difficult opposition. In goals for Storm are Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin who have had a fairly solid start to the season, and while Hankin’s accuracy has left something to be desired, Bailey’s height has proven useful with her rebounding ability. The midcourt battle is set to be an interesting one with Mikki Austin at Storm’s helm, leading from the front with her agility and footwork, taking on the likes of Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon, with both players able to have an impact through the midcourt. Defensively, the consistency of Emma Dovey and Rebekah Airey will be tough for Storm to break through, especially with the likes of Loreen Ngwira also in the mix and able to switch up the circle monumentally. Meanwhile, the calm but consistent effort of Laura Malcolm in wing defence is sure to keep the pressure on.

Loughborough Lightning v. Saracens Mavericks
Sir David Wallace Arena 

The match between Lightning and Mavericks is set to be a real interesting one, with both sides impressive in their own right though Lightning – just like last season – have struggled to put their skill and pressure out on the court at this early stage of the season. While the Mavericks sit in the top four on two wins from three matches, Lightning sit in seventh on only one win but having lost to ladder-leaders Team Bath and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder, making this a relatively even contest. Meanwhile, Mavericks have played Surrey Storm twice in as many weeks meaning they haven’t had a real opportunity to prove themselves thus far thanks to match scheduling. Mavericks’ Razia Quashie will have the tough task of taking on Lightning goal shooter Mary Cholhok, who is as imposing as they get with her height and strength making her a key cog for Lightning’s defence. Quashie is just as impressive with her aerial ability making her an exciting player to watch, able to create intercepts out of nothing and lead from the back. The midcourt battle will be a real interesting one with the sides relatively well matched through the centre, though the real test for Lightning will be stopping the likes of Georgia Lees who has a tried and true combination with George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin in goals, with the duo continuing to be a threat. Lightning will rely on leadership from Nat Panagarry through the midcourt, while Lightning’s constant defensive rotation could come in handy against a side like Mavericks which relies on poking holes in defensive units, though could also go the opposite way entirely if Mavericks can take advantage early.

Celtic Dragons v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sports Wales National Centre

The Dragons come into this match sitting at the bottom of the ladder, with a one week suspension to key pickup Latanya Wilson making for a rough start to the season. While the Sirens have only got the one win on the board for the season, it is more about their lack of four quarter effort that sees them losing so far rather than an inability to win, as displayed by an impressive effort over Surrey Storm last round. While the Dragons have only gotten close to a win in the one match so far this season, they went without a goalkeeper for part of their Round 2 encounter with Team Bath and then missed Wilson’s pressure and presence on Monday against Pulse – the current top two sides. Dragons’ Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson did a solid job sharing the load last round but were in short supply of ball into circle, meaning the likes of Shona O’Dwyer and Sophie Morgan will want to be right on circle edge this round against a much more even competitor in Sirens. Defensively, Wilson will want to heed the warnings she’s had in past rounds to ensure she doesn’t leave her side in the lurch again this round, while Dee Bolakoro and Abigail Tyrrell will also want to maintain constant pressure in the circle. Sirens’ Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher impressed at the post last week with their cleanliness and ability to find the ball in the goal circle, with the circle work from Nicola McCleery and Gia Abernethy critical for the side in attack. Natalie Bright and Zanele Vimbela have created a formidable defensive unit, with Emily Nicholl a handy inclusion from the bench if need be. 

Team Bath v. London Pulse
Team Bath Arena

Wrapping up the round is one of the more exciting matches to start the season, with both Team Bath and London Pulse undefeated thus far in 2020. While Pulse had an unsuccessful start to their Superleague campaign, only getting two wins on the board in their inaugural 2019 season, the side has already surpassed last years form with three wins on the board and will look to run down an impressive Team Bath this round. While Bath made it to finals last season they had a somewhat rocky season, finding some solid form in patches but ultimately unable to push all the way. This season however they have proven considerably more consistent, winning by an average of 15 goals across the first three rounds of the season. While Pulse also remains undefeated, they only got over the line by a two and one-point margin in Rounds 1 and 2, making for an interesting battle. Pulse will be in for an interesting time against the dominant defensive pressure of Bath, with the likes of Imogen Allison, Khanyisa Chawane, Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman working flawlessly through defence to apply pressure and deny easy ball into the circle. Up the other end, the combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has improved tenfold since the 2019 season, making the side a real force to be reckoned with. Bath’s real problem will be limiting the impact of star Pulse shooter Sigi Burger, whose offensive pressure and height under the post makes her a critical name in the lineup. Burger’s movement for her height is impressive, making it easy for the likes of Michelle Drayne, Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker to feed into the circle and run the ball down while defensively the likes of Lindsay Keable, Halimat Adio and Funmi Fadoju have put in some impressive efforts this season so far.