Tag: kim ravaillion

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 – #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

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)

Netball fantasy teams: All-Star Queensland teams

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

Queensland Firebirds:

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

BENCH: Nat Medhurst, Chelsea Pitman, Rebecca Bulley

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

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

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

BENCH: Cara Koenen, Laura Scherian, Phumza Maweni

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

Who would win?

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

Who wins this All-Star battle of the Sunshine State?
Queensland Firebirds
Sunshine Coast Lightning
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What if… Kelsey and Madi Browne did not do their ACLs?

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

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

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

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

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

Nat von Bertouch

Compare the Pair: Natalie Bode (nee von Bertouch) and Kim Ravaillion

THE Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two players from different Australian Diamonds eras, with the next showcasing midcourters, Natalie Bode (nee von Bertouch) and Kim Ravaillion.

Both handy centres with an ability to rotate through midcourt if need be, Bode and Ravaillion were not the flashiest players in the business but both got the job done with their intensity and pressure running down the court. Their respective two-way running and transition from attack to defence was seamless and often made their opposition pay for any errant passes, staking a claim on the netball and chasing it down with their respective bursts of speed off the stand-still. While both had similar traits, the two centres could not be more different in the way they go about the court and the pressure they maintain, with Ravaillion tending to stick to a more zone defence thanks to her experience in wing defence while Bode would stick to her opposition like glue.

A key fixture in both the Australian Diamonds and Adelaide Thunderbirds, Bode was touted as the greatest centre in the world on a number of occasions, able to create turnovers aplenty and feed seamlessly into the goal circle. She had a willingness to push hard in every contest with her constant movement while her speed and footwork to get to circle edge was second to none, forming stellar partnerships with her goalers to ensure everyone in the team was doing their job. Elevated to vice-captain of the Diamonds in 2008, she continued to step up every match and create a formidable opposition through the middle of the court, while her impressive work rate and clean hands made her deadly on circle edge. Meanwhile, her hands over pressure and endurance saw her unable to be outrun or outmuscled.

While Ravaillion may have stepped away from international netball in recent years, one cannot disregard the impact of the centre who stepped on court for the Diamonds before making her domestic debut back in 2013. Her form may not have been crash hot in recent Diamonds outings with the side needing a little more flash in the midcourt, but her speed and endurance is testament to her strong work ethic, intensity and timing. What she may lack in the excitement department she makes up for in her strength, able to body up on opposition and give back every hard hit she takes with her determination and ability to hold her ground. While Ravaillion has not taken to the international stage for a few years now, she has not formerly retired, so is a real smoky for future Diamonds selection once she is back on the netball court.
_

Natalie Bode (nee von Bertouch)
76 caps, 2004-2012

Kim Ravaillion
60 caps, 2013-18

Which Australian Diamonds centre would you take?
Natalie Bode (nee von Bertouch)
Kim Ravaillion
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Top 5 Australian midcourters from 90s to now

THROUGHOUT Diamonds history there has been a host of star players rotate through the midcourt, particularly the centre and wing attack positions. Since entering a new decade we decided to rank the top five midcourters from 1990 to now. This is an opinion-based article based on the perceptions of the individual writer and how they rank against other centre court players.

#1 Kim Green
Green was a main-stay in the Australian Diamonds midcourt, from making her debut in 2008 to her international retirement in 2015. With extraordinary timing and skill to boot combined with an uncanny ability to create something out of nothing, Green made the wing attack position her own. She could turn on a dime and deliver pin point passes time and time again. Green was a fierce competitor, unfazed by the physical nature of the game and instead thriving on it. Although the latter half of her career was marred by injury she consistently displayed her cleanliness with ball in hand and game making ability. She was renowned for her impressive timing, able to drive hard to the top of the circle and use her dynamic change of pace to create space in the attacking third. Green had arguably one of the safest sets of hands in Diamonds history, able to reel in errant passes while her balance was second to none. She was a real playmaker and provided a steady head, lowering her eyes and delivering bullet passes. The talented wing attack capped off her career with two World Cup championships and a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

#2 Nat von Bertouch
The talented centre was not afraid to take the game on, using her ball speed and quick footwork to beat her opponent. Von Bertouch was a class above many of her competitors, using her experience and leadership to dictate space in the attacking third and create opportunities inside the goal circle. She worked hard to secure prime position at the top of the circle while also plying her trade defensively to limit her opponents’ free-flowing movement. The former Diamond had speed to burn along with high endurance, allowing her to run the court with ease and making her hard to stop when on song. Credit to her dominance on the international scene, von Bertouch led the Diamonds to back-to-back World Cup victories while also being handed the reins as inaugural captain of the Adelaide Thunderbirds. She was dynamic across the court, often instigating the forward thrusts and threading the ball through the defensive pressure.

#3 Madi Browne
Browne is the gift that keeps on giving, able to deliver on both an international and domestic stage. Despite donning the wing attack bib more often in the latter half of her career the talented midcourt player can also cause damage in centre, using her signature balks and vision to pierce the defensive unit. She is strong around the circle edge, able to ward off her opponents and command the ball to allow the goalers to reposition. Browne is not afraid to deliver risky passes credit to her high level of execution and netball nous. Her timing and acceleration is a key element of her gameplay, able to break away from defenders and create free space. Although she is not the most athletic player her smarts and ball use are second to none, hardly ever wasting a ball. Throughout her time with the Diamonds, Browne won a gold and silver medal from the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games respectively.

#4 Lauren Nourse
It is hard to deny the brilliance and craftiness of the former Queensland Firebirds and Diamonds midcourt star. Although she suffered her fair share of injuries throughout her career she provided plenty of magic moments, able to deliver the ball with precision. She fought hard to claim prime position on the circle edge and used her speed to dart around the court and have an impact at every stage. Her on-court leadership was a crucial element of her game play, often directing traffic in the attacking third. Nourse was dynamic across the court, able to set up plays and use her quick footwork to manoeuvre around her player to receive the ball. She won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2007 and continued that dominant form at a domestic level, leading the Firebirds to multiple finals appearances.

#5 Kim Ravaillion
The former Queensland Firebirds centre and now Collingwood midcourter has speed and endurance to boot. Ravaillion is renowned for her ability to run her opponent ragged credit to her impressive stamina and tagging mindset. While she is not the most attacking centre the defensive work she does off the centre pass is second to none, clogging up space and using her three-foot marking to block the vision of her opponents. Despite not being the flashiest player she has proven to be a key cog through the midcourt and often acting as the link between the defence and attacking end. In her prime you could always count on her to pull something out of the bag and hunt any cross-court ball that came her way. Her speed on transition is second to none while her crafty ball placement in the circle is a key feature of her game, able to release with confidence. At 26 she already has a Commonwealth gold and silver medal to her name and will be looking to add to her collection in years coming.

New Zealand Super Club: Magpies claim crown over Mystics

COLLINGWOOD Magpies have become the first non New Zealand-based side to take out the Super Club competition title, defeating Northern Mystics by seven goals yesterday. It was a tight affair throughout the contest, with the Magpies increasing the lead by a goal each term, before enjoying a bit more freedom in the last to secure the 49-42 victory. Nat Medhurst was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) after a mammoth effort of 17 goals from 18 attempts at 94.4 per cent accuracy, as well as 18 goal assists from 22 feeds.

The game started with Medhurst playing more than just an assisting role, nailing all five goals and assisting with four to partner-in-crime, Shimona Nelson. The Jamaican was strong under the post, grabbing a rebound and converting eight of her 10 attempts, while Ash Brazill and Gabrielle Sinclair combined for seven goal assists from eight feeds. Up the other end, Geva Mentor was using her experience to try and counter the talented Grace Nweke, taking a crucial intercept, but also giving away four penalties. Nweke scored 10 goals from 12 attempts and picked off two rebounds in the first term, while her fellow goaler, Bailey Mes had two goals from three attempts, as well as three goal assists from four feeds. Elisabeth Toeava was strong with six goal assists from eight feeds, while Phoenix Karaka continued her great form at goal defence with a couple of clever intercepts.

Leading by a goal at the first break, it was much of the same in the second term with the sides remaining the same throughout the first half. Three of the four shooters did not miss a shot in the quarter, with Nelson (nine) and Medhurst (three) combining for 12 goals, as Nweke (eight and a rebound continued to do everything asked of her). Medhurst had three turnovers, but also assisted with eight goals, making the most of her eight feeds thanks to her carefully crafted passes. Through the midcourt, Toeava was creating plenty of opportunities for the Mystics, racking up a team-high five goal assists from six feeds, while centre Tayla Earle had three from four and grabbed an intercept. Karaka and new defensive partner, Sulu Fitzpatrick also managed to intercept a Medhurst pass, with Matilda Garrett doing the same up the opposite end as both teams recorded five general turnovers for the quarter. Heading into the main break, the Magpies led by just two goals and the final was shaping up as a thriller.

Northern Mystics pulled the trigger on the first change of the match, bringing on goal attack Saviour Tui for Mes, joining Nweke in the goal circle. Tui shot five of a possible seven in the quarter, while her teenage goal-shooting partner did not miss from her limited five opportunities. Toeava continued her strong work aiding the goalers with six assists from seven feeds, while Brazill picked up the bid in midcourt with four from six herself. In the goal circle, Nelson (five goals) and Medhurst (six) were spreading the load perfectly and not missing a shot, while Mentor added another intercept to her name up the other end as her and Garrett were working on limiting the flow to Nweke. Melissa Bragg even picked up a goal assist – from wing defence – in the third term with a bullet pass into the circle. The Magpies had an extra turnover, but two less penalties in the quarter, and again increased their lead by a solitary goal to lead by three at the final break.

Nelson became an incredibly imposing figure under the post in the final quarter, shooting 10 of a possible 13 goals, and picking up three rebounds, though also giving away three penalties and a turnover. Medhurst shot three from four but had three assists, while Brazill was the key playmaker through centre with six assists from seven feeds and one of her memorable intercepts. Mentor had yet another intercept in the defensive goal circle as the Mystics forward half started to falter and make a few more errors because of the raised pressure stakes. Mes returned to the court in the only other change, nailing two goals from three attempts along with three goal assists, but also four had turnovers to her name. Nweke managed another seven goals from eight attempts and a rebound in the quarter despite the pressure, while Toeava had nine feeds, five of which were goal assists and two were turnovers. She had three penalties, one less than Karaka, though the Mystics recorded three less for the entire term compared to their opponents. It was the nine to six turnovers that cost them in the end, with the Magpies piling on 13 goals to nine and winning, 49-42.

Nelson played a crucial role beside Medhurst in the goal circle during the final, shooting 32 of a possible 37 goals at 86.5 per cent accuracy, but collecting four rebounds. Up the other end, Nweke had 30 from 33 at 90.9 per cent, and also had four rebounds, but an equal game-high seven turnovers. Her goaling partner had seven turnovers too, with Mes finishing the game with seven goals from 10 attempts, and eight goal assists from nine feeds. Toeava was arguably the Mystics best, assisting with 22 goals from 30 feeds, while Karaka picked up five intercepts and 12 penalties. The other Mystics player to hold up the defensive end in an honest, hard-working game was Michaela Sokolich-Beatson who had one intercept and just four penalties opposed to Sinclair, who played out of her traditional goal attack position to give off seven assists from 12 feeds. Brazill won the centre battle convincingly against Earle, helping herself to 17 goal assists and one intercept, while Earle had seven and one. Garrett picked up a rebound and an intercept for the Magpies, while Mentor was at her clever best, picking off three balls up the defensive end. The Magpies were slightly a class ahead which resulted in the win during a game that showed the best ANZ Premiership sides can compete with the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) teams for large portions of the game – granted the Magpies were missing a couple of Diamonds in April Brandley and Kim Ravaillion from last season.

OTHER RESULTS:

Central Pulse (47) defeated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (45)

The Central Pulse bounced back from their loss to the Magpies to post a come-from-behind two-goal win over the Magic to claim third spot for the tournament. Leading by a goal at quarter time, the Pulse slipped up in the second term as the Magic slammed home 15 goals to nine to lead by five at half-time. The Pulse stole back the momentum with a 16-10 quarter themselves to lead by a goal heading into the final term, then extending that out to two by the final whistle in a 47-45 victory. Aliyah Dunn scored 32 goals from 35 attempts, while Tiana Metuarau had four from four, and a team-high 16 goal assists from 20 feeds. Katrina Rore was at her absolute best up the other end with three rebounds and an intercept, working well with Elle Temu who had one rebound and two intercepts as the Pulse rested Karin Burger. The Magic goal circle partnership of Kelsey McPhee (31 gals from 40 attempts) and Georgia Marshall (10 from 11) was strong despite McPhee’s inaccuracy, as Whitney Souness was the key in midcourt with a game-high 18 gaol assists from 26 feeds, and a key intercept.

Mainland Tactix (45) defeated by Southern Steel (50)

Southern Steel grabbed fifth spot with a terrific last quarter to overrun Mainland Tactix in a huge contest. The Steel burst out the blocks in the opening term to score 15-12 and take an early lead. The teams broke even in the second quarter before the Tactix took control, and the lead thanks to a 14-10 third stanza. The Steel decided to have none of that, blowing their opponents away in the final quarter with 14 goals to eight on the way to a 50-45 triumph. Jennifer O’Connell was massive at goal shooter, despite being inaccurate, posting up 38 goals from 51 attempts, as Kalifa McCollin managed nine from 11. Gina Crampton was busy through midcourt with 19 goal assists, but a game-high six turnovers, while Shannon Saunders had 14 goal assists from just the one turnover. In defence, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had three intercepts and one rebound. For the Tactix, up the same end as her sister, Te Paea Selby-Rickit shot 10 goals from 15 attempts at just 66.7 per cent, while picking up two rebounds and handing out eight goal assists. Ellie Bird was the key goal shooter with 31 from 36, while having a game-high five rebounds in the contest.

Wasps Netball (41) defeated by Northern Stars (52)

In the battle of the two bottom sides, it was Northern Stars who handed the Wasps the last place honours thanks to a convincing 11-goal win. The Stars led by two goals at the first break then dominated the second to hold an eight-goal advantage by half-time. The Wasps hit back to make it a more manageable six-goal deficit by the final break, before Northern took control once again, piling on 15-10 in the final term to claim the 52-41 victory. Stars’ shooter, Maia Wilson poured on 34 goals from 44 attempts, had five rebounds and seven goal assists from eight feeds, while Jamie Hume had 14 goals from 17 attempts, as well as seven goal assists and an assist. Kate Burley was reading plays like a picture book up the other end with four of her team’s nine intercepts, while Mila Reuelu-Buchanan had a game-high 18 goal assists from 37 feeds. For the Wasps, veteran shooter Rachel Dunn scored 28 goals from 32 attempts, as well as three rebounds close to the post. Katie Harris helped out with 12 from 14, and five goal assists, as Beth Dix worked hard in wing attack thanks to 11 goal assists from 21 feeds. Up the other end, Josie Huckle managed three rebounds.

New Zealand Super Club: Collingwood Magpies vs. Northern Mystics preview

AFTER a week of hotly contested action in New Zealand, Collingwood Magpies and Northern Mystics will face off in a do-or-die clash tonight at the Trafalgar Centre. The game will see a number of tantalising head-to-head matchups, but none more so than that of Geva Mentor and Grace Nweke.

Mentor is considered the world’s best goal keeper, with the English Roses international star, and Collingwood co-captain an absolute rock in defence. She can not only nullify her opponent, but have the flair, grace and class to pick up that crucial intercept and read the ball coming into the goal circle. Outside of her obvious playing ability, Mentor is a composed leader who with Matilda Garrett in the circle, will look to restrict the flow of goal-scoring opportunities to Nweke. As for Nweke, she is the future of Silver Ferns’ netball, already being the standout shooter in a side that features a current Silver Ferns goaler in Bailey Mes. Nweke might still be a teenager, but her smarts and skill, as well as pure volume make her a dangerous prospect for any opposition defence. While Nweke is yet to break through for a Silver Ferns’ debut, it cannot be too far away and she would relish coming up against the best possible opponent. Many eyes will be watching the battle to see how Nweke copes, because it will be a great measure of where she is in the scheme of international netball.

Moving onto the midcourt, and Elisapeta Toeava has proven to be a really slick and delicate user of the ball in wing attack, something the Magpies’ defence will have to be wary of. While Nweke is able to capitalise on her opportunities, it is Toeava, and the likes of Danielle Gray and Tayla Earle who are feeding the ball through to Nweke in the circle. The Magpies have an inexperienced midcourt with the exception of Ash Brazill, as the dominant utility has stepped up in centre, a role she is expected to become more permanent in for 2020 following regular center, Kim Ravaillion‘s absence due to pregnancy. Brazill is surrounded by some up-and-coming talents in Melissa Bragg – who has long been considered good enough for Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) but has just been second in the wing defence role to Brazill – as well as Maggie Lind who in the Super Club tournament has shown she can cope against some talented ANZ Premiership defenders. She might have to deal with Michaela Sokolich-Beatson in the final, who has been in some good form through that role.

Looking at the Magpies’ shooting circle, it will be hard for the Mystics to try and contain the towering presence that is Shimona Nelson. The Jamaican goal shooter is still 21-years-old and getting better by the day, taking firm control during the Super Club tournament, with some great work under the post and accurate shooting – something that has been a knock on her in past years. It helps when teamed up alongside Nat Medhurst who is as reliable as they come, assisting Nelson and then putting up shots herself when required, while Gabrielle Sinclair has also had SSN experience there. The Mystics will look to Silver Ferns’ Phoenix Karaka in order to quell the Magpies’ attack, picking up three rebounds and three intercepts in the semi-final yesterday, though also picking up 10 penalties. Sulu Fitzpatrick is the keeper handed the duties of trying to contain Nelson, which will always be a difficult task.

The Magpies head into this game as strong favourites, having comfortably accounted for ANZ Premiership reigning champions, Central Pulse. The Mystics will need to have superb games from all their top stars to get the job done but with the likes of Nweke and Karaka on fire, anything is possible.