Tag: Latanya Wilson

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.

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.

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown – #25/#24

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 begins with a pair of defenders in teenage Jamaican Latanya Wilson and England A’s Summer Artman. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

At number 25 is Jamaican young gun Latanya Wilson, with the feisty defender a new addition to the Celtic Dragons in the Vitality Netball Superleague in 2020. While her cleanliness on court may leave something to be desired, there is no question that Wilson has the ceiling to grow into a massive threat in international netball. After only two matches from four rounds for the Dragons, Wilson sits on a whopping 14 intercepts – and while one of those matches was missed due to suspension, Wilson remains a real key player to watch on court with her timing sure to improve once the season continues. Wilson has been fortunate to learn off fellow Sunshine Girls defender Shamera Sterling, playing a similar game style with her hunt of the ball and long limbs.

Fellow Superleague defender Summer Artman sits at number 24, with the English goalkeeper a significant reason for Team Bath’s success so far in 2020. Artman’s timing and hunt for the ball is impressive, and while she is on the shorter side for a defender, she makes up for it with her vertical leap and timing on the jump. She has found her form in recent seasons, working alongside and learning from veteran Eboni Usoro-Brown and has shown significant signs of improvement as the last line of defence for Team Bath in Usoro-Brown’s absence this season. Artman’s communication and constant pressure makes her a crucial player for the side while her youth proves she has plenty left in the tank. Artman has four caps to her name for the English Roses, debuting in 2017. Since then she has been a key defensive rotation in the newly coined “England A” team as a real impact player where required, with the hope of landing a coveted spot in the Roses in the future.

Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)

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 review: Round 3 – Pulse among three sides undefeated

ALL five home sides won in Round 3 of the Vitality Netball Superleague, with Team Bath, Manchester Thunder and London Pulse continuing to reign supreme, sitting undefeated after three rounds. Interestingly, outside the top four the leaderboard is still relatively even, with rankings five through eight on only the one win, while two sides sit at the bottom of the table with no wins thus far.

Strathclyde Sirens (61) defeated Surrey Storm (53)

Sirens got their first win on the board for the season with a stellar performance against Surrey Storm, proving they do have the ability to surprise teams and be a real contender in 2020. It was a great first half effort that kept them on the ball with Bethan Goodwin (41 goals) and Lynsey Gallagher (20 goals) impressive from the get-go, applying offensive pressure to ensure the ball stayed up the attack end and only missed four goals apiece in an all-round terrific effort. Captain, Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell worked in tandem with clever movement through the midcourt keeping their respective opposition in Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin relatively quiet. Sirens defenders, Zanele Vimbela and Natalie Bright did a solid job shutting down Storm shooters Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin, with Hankin shooting at less than 70 per cent accuracy making it tough for the side to work their way back into the contest. Bailey was on form with 37 goals from 39 attempts but it was not enough against a hungry Sirens outfit.

Team Bath (63) defeated Wasps Netball (51)

Team Bath dominated in the second half against the Wasps in Round 3 to continue their phenomenal 2020 form, remaining undefeated at the top of the ladder. Wasps came out with a point to prove early, with stalwart midcourter Jade Clarke leading from the front while Rachel Dunn and Iona Christian proved a solid combination working well in attack, with Dunn interestingly carrying the shooting load with 46 goals from 47 attempts, in comparison to what is typically a shared effort with Katie Harris. Harris put in the hard yards in goal attack but to no avail, unable to work herself into the game thanks to the defensive effort of Bath’s Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman, who completely dominated defensively in the second half and only let in 19 goals after half time. It was a second half blitz from Bath that got their nose in front to win the match, shooting 36 goals in the second half to run away with the 12 goal win. The combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis continues to improve with Commane shouldering the load with 45 from 49 shots while Drakeford-Lewis impressed with 18 from 19 attempts. New midcourter Khanyisa Chawane continues to prove her place in the side, slotting in nicely with Rachel Shaw, Imogen Allison and Fionnuala Toner through the midcourt to create an exciting centre-court unit.

Saracens Mavericks (61) defeated Severn Stars (45)

Saracens Mavericks went two from two with their second victory over Severn Stars in as many weeks, though the Stars certainly did their homework, limiting the home side’s shots on goal for a slightly better outcome than their Round 1 outing. Towera Vinkhumbo, Ella Powell-Davies and Ama Agbeze well and truly had their work cut out for them in defence, and a caution to Vinkhumbo did little to help the matter with George Fisher (42 from 43) and Kadeen Corbin (17 from 18) on form with speed, timing and communication alike, while stellar feeds from Georgia Lees and Sasha Corbin on circle edge kept the Stars defenders on their toes. Razia Quashie and Jo Trip put their defensive prowess on show combining for nine intercepts and propelling the ball back up the court, forcing Stars shooters Georgia Rowe (29 goals), Paige Reed (14 goals) and Lucy Herdman (two goals) to work hard to find purchase in the goal circle. 

Manchester Thunder (67) defeated Loughborough Lightning (64)

Manchester Thunder timed their run to overtake Loughborough Lightning to perfection coming back from a 12 goal deficit at times to run out with a three goal victory. They shot the lights out in the second half with a 39 goal to 28 display after the main break credit to their offensive pressure. Player of the match Laura Malcolm did what she does best, finding plenty of the ball through the midcourt and rotating through to wing attack late, using her tenacity to find loose ball and feed to a range of options at the post. While Kathryn Turner did not put many goals on the board, her work off the body to open up space in the circle was second to none, allowing Joyce Mvula to dominate to post, shooting 37 goals while Eleanor Cardwell was also prolific with 24 goals from 28 attempts. For Lightning, Mary Cholhok was impressive as ever and especially unstoppable early, with her height making her a massive and imposing threat under the post. Midcourt defender Jas Odeogberin showed off her game smarts moving into the goal circle late to impart some of her phenomenal pressure on Mvula and Cardwell. This loss sees Lightning in a similar position to last season with only the one win across opening rounds, but with a finals berth last year the side is sure to lift in the coming weeks to replicate their 2019 form. Meanwhile, Manchester will want to continue this undefeated run and maintain third spot on the ladder.

London Pulse (69) defeated Celtic Dragons (38)

The lone Monday night match was shaping up to be a close one before the announcement that key Dragons defender Latanya Wilson would not take the court after being sent off for rough conduct in Round 2. Pulse well and truly took advantage of the goal keeper missing out, with Sigi Burger dominating at the post and proving her value to the side. Both sides were quick to the punch, unable to be split early with neither side really dominating in the first quarter, before Pulse extended a five goal lead by half time to set up a solid second half. Dee Bolakoro and Paige Kindred put in the hard yards early but had a tough battle after half time, with Pulse pulling ahead thanks to a 40 goal to 15 second half, well and truly leaving the visitors behind and proving their first few wins were not just flukes. Halimat Adio was on fire for Pulse, winning back a wealth of ball and teaming up well with Lindsay Keable to force long bombs from the Dragons, while midcourter Adean Thomas was key through the centre, providing pressure and opening up space. Burger showed all her class at the post, with impeccable timing and ability to find the ball  highlighting what makes her such a key pickup for the Pulse side. 

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 3 – Pulse look to go three from three in unprecedented start to season

ROUND 3 of the Vitality Netball Superleague is set to be an impactful one, with teams looking to really stamp their mark on the competition. London Pulse are in the unlikely position to put a third win on the board when they take on ninth placed Celtic Dragons, despite only putting two on the board for the whole of the 2019 season, while Team Bath will want to cement themselves as the team to beat when they host the Wasps, with a win to see them retain top spot with Pulse and Manchester Thunder hot on their tail.

Strathclyde Sirens v. Surrey Storm
Emirates Arena

Eighth placed Sirens will be raring to go in this contest, going down the past two rounds in close encounters and coming up against a side that is fairly achievable in fifth ranked Surrey Storm. Storm have only the one low-scoring win on the board for the season so far, and having played only on Monday evening, have a four day turnaround for this match. It will be an interesting match given the respective lists, with both sides boasting some key names to post with Bethan Goodwin for the Sirens and Karyn Bailey for Storm sitting on similar stats for the season despite their sides’ winning records so far. Meanwhile, an intriguing midcourt battle is sure to commence between highly experienced Claire Maxwell and Mikki Austin, with both players able to rotate to suit their sides’ needs when required. Both players picked up a valuable intercept last round while Maxwell also collected four deflections to Austin’s two, making for a solid turnover game in the midcourt. Storm will want to lift their form in the penalty department, collecting 56 penalties last round compared to the relative cleanliness of the Sirens with 35 Look for another close encounter, and while Storm will have the drive to get another win on the board, Sirens are in with a good chance to pip Storm at the post if they can apply enough pressure through the midcourt to deny easy ball to the goal circle.  

Team Bath v. Wasps Netball
Team Bath Arena

Team Bath will look to rewrite their 2019 form against the Wasps with a win this time around, needing a solid win to maintain top spot on the ladder with both Manchester Thunder and London Pulse looking to overtake. With two convincing victories to start the season, Team Bath haven’t really been challenged yet this season meaning this is the Wasps’ opportunity to throw a spanner in the works against the side that lost two key experienced cogs at the end of last season. Wasps may not have had the desired start to 2020, but well and truly proved they have still got it in them with a win last round against the Mavericks, making this a real test of a match for Bath. Both sides boast stellar attacking and defensive units, but while Bath tend to focus more on winning ball back through defence, it is Wasps’ ability to create opportunities in attack that could be the real kicker in this one with a close match expected. The combination of Katie Harris and Rachel Dunn is key for the Wasps, but they will be tested by the work rate of Bath’s Summer Artman and Tash Pavelin, who have combined well in the opening rounds. An interesting battle will ensue in the opposite goal circle, with Fran Williams among the highest penalised players for the season so far (30 from two games) while Bath’s key fixture in goal shooter, Kim Commane, is hitting the scoreboard with ease, with 92 goals from 100 attempts for the season so far.

Saracens Mavericks v. Severn Stars
Hertfordshire Sports Village

These sides are in the unprecedented position to play each other once more after going head to head in Round 1. Mavericks have a real chance to make up for a frustrating loss against the Wasps last round when they take on the Severn Stars who are unlucky to be sitting at the bottom of the ladder. The Mavericks had a slow start last time they met before a massive second quarter well and truly turned the tables, with the Mavs dominating in the second half. The combination of Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed worked much better in Round 2 with the Stars attackers improving on their Round 1 effort, while defensively Towera Vinkhumbo well and truly cleaned up her act, still racking up the penalties but was far cleaner on her offensive work, making for a much better all-round defensive effort. For the Mavericks it was another slow start last week that saw them narrowly beaten by the Wasps, and with two cautions and a warning to their name last round they will need to clean up their act to put another win on the board. George Fisher has been dominant as ever this season, really making her mark on the competition while goal keeper Razia Quashie will want to continue her impressive form with 11 intercepts from two matches, but will want to lift her offensive game having thrown away valuable ball 15 times. Mavericks are likely to come out of this one victors once more, though the Stars are sure to try and put in a four quarter effort to replicate their opening quarter effort in Round 1.

Manchester Thunder v. Loughborough Lightning
Belle Vue

Lightning will look to make their way up the ladder after a disappointing Round 1 effort saw them hanging around the bottom, though a Round 2 win over Strathclyde Sirens keeps them in the game. But Thunder have the confidence and ladder standing to get the job done with stellar back-to-back performances seeing the side in second at this early stage. Both teams have a handful of impact players, with Mary Cholhok heading up the Lightning outfit in goal shooter, sitting on 94 per cent accuracy for the season so far and using her height well to control the contest from under the post. Coming up against Cholhok are Loreen Ngwira (five intercepts, nine deflections from two matches) and Emma Dovey (five intercepts, five deflections) making for an interesting battle. Meanwhile, Lightning’s Hannah Williams has also been solid in the deflections department starting the season, working well through the midcourt to turn over ball and relieving some of the pressure the defensive end cops. Sam May, Alice Harvey and Vicki Oyesola will need to disrupt play and will intend to force the likes of Eleanor Cardwell, Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner to rotate as they have in the opening rounds. The ease of rotation for the Thunder should be something for their opposition to worry about, with the transition between players seamless and clearly able to have the impact the side requires depending on how their attack is holding up. Lightning have not been afraid to mix up their midcourt thus far but will have a tougher time this round, so will need their defensive midcourters to be up to the job of propelling the ball back towards goal.

London Pulse v. Celtic Dragons
Copper Box Arena

London Pulse will want to make it three from three this week in their first home game of the season, and go into this match as the favourites in a massive change from their 2019 form. They take on the ailing Celtic Dragons who showed plenty of development last season, and given they didn’t make massive changes over the off season, the Dragons will really want to prove they have the consistency and ability to get over the line when the underdogs. Granted, the two sides have com up against vastly different opposition in the opening rounds, with Pulse taking home two narrow wins (two points and one point respectively), while the Dragons were unlucky to lose out to Bath last round after slaying close for much of the match. Dragons will need to fix their cleanliness issues in defence with new recruit Latanya Wilson a talented inclusion to the side but sent off the court last round, leaving the side with a hole in defence, unable to replace Wilson in goal keeper once she was sent off. For Pulse, a key cog in goal shooter is Sigi Burger, who is sitting on a whopping 97 per cent accuracy so far this season and will want to continue her stellar start to the season. With Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker feeding well in the opening rounds, Dragons’ Sophie Morgan and Paige Kindred will want to be at their best to prevent easy goal assists and get the ball back through the midcourt.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 2 – Team Bath continues hot start to season

THE second round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) brought plenty of controversy and close encounters with sides battling hard to claim early ascendancy. New recruits continued to make waves in their new colours while the tried and tested combinations of years gone by also proved to be the difference in narrow wins.

Severn Stars (56) defeated by Manchester Thunder (65)

The Thunder made it two from two to open the season downing the Severn Stars in convincing fashion. It was an even first term with only one goal separating the sides at quarter time before the Thunder started to hit their straps in the second to extend their lead. But a strong third quarter from the Stars kept them alive scoring 17 goals to reduce the margin and keep them in touch heading into the final quarter. However, the Thunder were not about to lie down piling on the pain in the final quarter with an impressing 19 goals to run out with a strong nine goal lead. Accuracy proved no issue for either side with a combined 14 shots missed while Manchester proved to be stronger under the post offensively with 11 rebounds.

It was a shooting showdown, with Stars goal shooter Georgia Rowe leading from the front with an impressive 43 goals from 45 attempts at 96 per cent. Rowe was strong under the post holding her space and using her hands to reign in passes that came her way. Up the other end, Joyce Mvula owned the circle with the Thunder goaler going about her business with 22 goals and Eleanor Cardwell doing even more damaging finishing with 32 goals to her name. Cardwell rotated between shooter and goal attack highlighting her endurance and skill under the post while Kathryn Turner also plied her trade in the goal circle with 11 goals. Through the midcourt Amy Carter and Ashleigh Neal combined well to feed the Thunder shooters while both Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke for the Severn Stars worked tirelessly in attack to hit the circle edge and provide good ball use to the shooters. Defensively Ama Agbeze stood tall with her experience on full display with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies also having an impact down back but not able to effectively shut down the Thunder offence.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

After a poor start to their first home game of the season the Lightning clawed their way back into the game and overran the Sirens who seemed to have all the answers in the opening term. Loughborough only managed a mere seven goals in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to the Sirens overwhelming pressure and ability to combat everything that the Lightning threw at them. But that quickly changed with Loughborough bursting out of the blocks in the second with 18 goals and returning the favour to their opposition limiting them to nine goals of their own. With momentum behind them the Lightning continued on that trajectory applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure with consecutive quarters of 17 goals apiece while the Sirens failed to recapture the same intensity they had in the first term gifting the Lightning a hard-fought win. To a certain extent the Sirens will be ruing their inaccuracy with 12 shots going astray while both sides will be pleased it was a relatively low penalty game with 45 and 35 apiece despite Samantha May receiving a warning due to her 14 penalties.

The Lightning were led by Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok with the goal shooter cool, calm and composed under the post only missing two goals and sinking an impressive 46 proving to be the go-to girl in her sides win. Cholhok was strong in the circle with Ella Clark playing a strong support role with 13 goals to keep the Lightning in the fight. Vicki Oyesola proved to the difference down in defence with her ability to read the play and take important intercepts or disrupt the attacking flow with her well-timed deflections. Up against Oyesola Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher showcased their strength and connection with clever shooter to shooter interplay. Goodwin was the dominant shooter with 31 goals from 38 attempts while Gallagher made an important 15 goal contribution while the seven goal cameo appearance from Niamh McCall was not enough to get them over the line. Zanele Vimbela continued her hot form in the defensive third with the defender racking up three intercepts pairing with Natalie Bright with ease. Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell were strong through the midcourt for the Sirens but wing Hannah Williams proved too much to handle with her clever touch around the circle edge.

Celtic Dragons (52) defeated by Team Bath (71)

The clash between the Dragons and Team Bath was filled with plenty of intensity and ferocity with Jamaican recruit Latanya Wilson order off the court after an ill-disciplined performance on the court. Down a player in the final term the Dragons found it hard to keep up with Team Bath who took it all in their stride and put on a show in the last quarter scoring a whopping 23 goals to 12 to run out with another strong win. It was an even start to the game with both sides sitting at 13 goals apiece before Bath got some separation in the second with a 19-goal term, a lead they were not willing to surrender despite their opponent’s best efforts. In the rebounding department, the ball seemed to fall Bath’s way credit to their positioning under the post winning both the offensive rebounds 12 to six and defensive nine to two.

After a stellar performance in her debut match Wilson tried to recreate her impressive form but struggled to stay away from the whistle. Her clumsiness and inability to play to the umpire’s call caused havoc, initially forced to the bench before re-entering the game and giving away a late penalty that was the final straw for the defender who found herself sent off for the remainder of the game leaving her side in the lurch. Abigail Tyrrel was a Trojan in defence working tirelessly to cover the slack left by Wilson but it was no match for the highly skilled shooting unit of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.  The load was relatively evenly split with Commane nailing 37 goals and Drakeford-Lewis posting 25 goals while newcomer Betsy Creak showed her hot hand with nine goals at 100 per cent. Co-captain Summer Artman was solid in goal keeper along with Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin out the front. For the Dragons, the shooting combination of Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman proved to be strong with Clinton nailing 31 goals and Coleman slotting 15 but it was not enough to worry the scoreboard. Shona O’Dwyer was a key cog in wing attack with her ability to feed the ball into the goalers.

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

It turned out to be a close contest between the Storm and Pulse with the latter prevailing thanks to their ability to ride the storm and hold strong under pressure. The Pulse well and truly blew the Storm out of the water with a staggering 19 to six goals opening term proving just how much power they have under the post. But the Storm were not about to be embarrassed fighting back hard in the second quarter giving the Pulse a taste of their own medicine with 18 goals of their own and keeping the Pulse to nine. With the margin at four goals at half time Surrey continued their hot form in the third quarter to take a slender one goal lead heading into the final change but failed to maintain that intensity falling agonisingly short. Storm had their fair share of chances missing 18 goals while the Pulse only missed seven shots. In terms of other key statistics neither side could be split with penalties 56-53 and intercepts seven to nine.

Sigi Burger has made herself at home in the new pink dress having an immediate impact under the post with her commanding height, good movement, holding ability and most importantly accuracy to post with 32 goals from 34 attempts at 94 per cent. She was ably assisted by goal attack Chiara Semple with 12 goals while wing attack Adean Thomas highlighted her ability to find space and thread the needle in the attacking third with her quick release. Wing defence Funmi Fadoju put up a strong performance for the Pulse doing her role to disrupt the attacking flow with four intercepts while goal keeper Halimat Adio plied her trade confusing the space and picking up three intercepts. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska proved that anything you can do I can do too with two intercepts combining well with fellow defender Katy Hughes. In the shooting circle, Karryn Bailey proved to have a hot hand with 35 goals while Sophie Hankin chipped in with 14 goals of her own.

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

In the final match of Round 2 the Wasps got on the winners list for the first time in 2020 after going down last week to reigning premiers, Manchester Thunder. Jade Clarke got things underway with the first centre pass of the game and that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with the Wasps claiming an early lead in the first quarter and building on that as the game went on. A strong second quarter performance from the home side helped to set up the win with the Mavericks unable to get their noses in front despite reducing the margin after half time. It was an even performance under the post with each side only missing nine goals apiece while the rebounding column was won by the Wasps both in offence and defence.

England Roses and Wasps goaler Rachel Dunn led from the front letting her consistency and silky movement do all the talking while he volume was another key aspect of her game with 33 goals. Australian youngster Alexia Baker made her debut, pairing nicely with the experience of Dunn in the circle and showcasing just how much class she has with 11 goals from 13 attempts. Katie Harris also put in the hard yards in the circle with an important 13 goals to get the Wasps over the line. Jo Trip and Razia Quashie had their work cut out for them against high quality opposition with Quashie displaying her defensive prowess with four intercepts and two rebounds. Sasha Corbin was her usual solid self through the midcourt finding space and using her experience to weave her way through the traffic to deliver well weighted passes into sister Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher. Fisher was strong to post with a game-high 38 goals such is her dominance and skill while Kadeen managed 15 goals. But both were put under the pump thanks to Wasps’ defenders Fran Williams and Hannah Knights with the two collecting six rebounds and five intercepts between them.

2020 Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 2 – Mavericks look to topple Wasps to stay on top

THE Vitality Netball Superleague is back for Round 2 this week after a massive opening round saw five big matches play out with plenty of new names joining the fray and proving they have what it takes to dominate in the competition. With three games on Saturday and two on Monday, Round 2 of the Superleague is set to mix things up.

Severn Stars v. Manchester Thunder
Worcester Arena

The Severn Stars will have their work cut out for them this round, coming up against the reigning premiers in Manchester Thunder off the back of a disappointing Round 1 effort. The Thunder are sure to come out flying after a stellar performance last round saw them continue their streak over last season’s minor premiers Wasps, while the Stars will really need to lift their game after struggling against the wrath of the Mavericks. Stars key pickup Liana Leota will take on her former side after jumping ship at the end of last season, so will need to really prove her point through the midcourt to ensure the Thunder know what they’re missing through the midcourt. Thunder have their own weapons however, with Caroline O’Hanlon, Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm more than up to the task through the centre third, able to transition from defence to attack with ease, especially safe in the knowledge that Joyce Mvula, Ellie Cardwell and Kathryn Turner are able to have an impact to post. Stars have a plethora of options in defence, with Malawian, Towera Vinkhumbo proving she has what it takes in the Superleague last round while the likes of Ama Agbeze, Nia Jones and Ella Powell-Davies all have plenty to offer with experience and cleanliness alike. Georgia Rowe was a real target at the post last week with her height and clean hands, while Paige Reed provided a handy option when required to open up the circle and switch up the rotation.

Loughborough Lightning v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sir David Wallace Arena

With both sides heading in this round winless and sitting toward the bottom of the ladder, both Lightning and Sirens will want to up their game in Round 2. Despite a disappointing loss to Team Bath last round, the Lightning will likely still come into this match as the favourites against the Sirens, meaning the Sirens will really need to prove themselves as contenders and test the Lightning by applying pressure on key shooter, Mary Cholhok, who relies on her height to get the ball. Fellow Lightning goaler, Ella Clark will need to really inject herself into this game after going missing last round, while the likes of Nat Panagarry will want to lead from the front alongside Hannah Joseph and Vicki Oyesola transitioning through defence to propel the ball forward and prevent easy turnovers. Something the Sirens have going for them is the ability of their goalers to share the load, with Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher shooting relatively evenly last week and getting ready to welcome young gun Emma Barrie back into the fray after a breakout 2019 season. Sirens pickup Zanele Vimbela was a handy inclusion on the court last week with six intercepts so will want to mirror that effort against an ultimately stronger side than their Round 1 opposition.

Celtic Dragons v. Team Bath
Cardiff Met University

Celtic Dragons did not get the strong start they were after last round with a frustrating one-goal loss to Surrey Storm, while Team Bath continued their streak over Loughborough Lightning with a solid 14-goal win putting them into second on the ladder. Despite missing star centre Serena Guthrie this season, Bath proved they have got the guts, determination and skill to get the job done with the defensive minded side dominating last round, making for a really tough competitor for the Dragons who had patches of greatness last week but to no avail. Kim Commane was a revelation at the post for Bath last round, shooting 55 goals to be the top scorer of the week so the Dragons will need to be at their best to shut down the quick moving Aussie. Dee Bolakoro and Latanya Wilson will be set the task of shutting Commane down. Dragons’ midcourt will need to really stand up defensively to deny access to the circle. For Bath, the defensive effort through the midcourt was their real focus last season making for one of the toughest defensive units in the competition, so the likes of Summer Artman and Imogen Allison will need to hold that up with the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown no longer joining the fray due to maternity leave.

Surrey Storm v. London Pulse
Surrey Sports Park

The first of two Monday matches, this game between Storm and Pulse will be a real test to see which side can capitalise off a strong start last week with both sides coming into this game off the back of a tight victory. Both teams picked up key players over the off season so expect the goaling battle to be a big one, with internationals Sigi Burger (South Africa) and Karyn Bailey (Australia) lining up in goal shooter for their respective sides. A big question mark hanging over this match will be a matter of cleanliness, with these sides picking up a combined six cautions and one warning in Round 1. Both teams will want to clean up their act, though the intensity from both sides should make for a relatively contest across the court with some real interesting battles set to take place. The likes of Mikki Austin and Lorraine Kowalewska will be key cogs for Storm with their respective ability to change the game quickly a real  testament to their skill and timing. Kowalewska will have her work cut out for her against Burger who shot at 100 per cent last week, while Austin is sure to inject experience wherever she plays, taking on the likes of Ashleigh Dekker, Adean Thomas and Michelle Drayne through the midcourt.

Wasps Netball v. Saracens Mavericks
Ricoh Arena

Mavericks will be in for a tough one this round coming up against last season’s runner up in the Wasps, who are coming into this week off the back of a seven goal loss in Round 1. The Mavs will look to capitalise on their own massive start to the season after a 21 goal win over Severn Stars last week, making for a tough battle between two real contenders. These two sides stayed relatively similar over the off-season, not losing or gaining many key players, meaning the Mavericks will really need to build off their pre-season after going down to Wasps in close encounters twice last season. Both sides have key players across the court, with Wasps goalers Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris able to share the load evenly and accurately to post. It’s a different story for the Mavericks, with George Fisher shouldering a lot of the load in goal shooter while Kadeen Corbin works the circle and plays more of a feeder role, but can also turn and shoot to be a real threat. The feeding ability of Georgia Lees will be key for the Mavs, but with the experience of Jade Clarke and Amy Flanagan able to rotate through both centre and wing defence for the Wasps, the Mavs could be really tested. Defensively, the aerial ability of Razia Quashie in goal keeper will be key to produce turnover ball, though the real key will be to balance staying on the body of Dunn to deny entry to the circle and moving off to hunt loose ball in the goal third. Meanwhile, the likes of Josie Huckle and Fran Williams will be doing everything in their power to deny Fisher the ball.

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 1

WITH Round 1 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) done and dusted Manchester Thunder, Saracens Mavericks and Team Bath dominated Draft Central’s Team of the Week credit to a couple of strong performances over the weekend. Loughborough Lightning, London Pulse and Surrey Storm were the only sides not to feature a player in this weeks team.

GK: Latanya Wilson (Celtic Dragons)

In her debut game the Jamaican showed just what she is made of, winning player of the match honours thanks to her defensive prowess and hunt for the ball. Wilson used her long reach to cause all sorts of trouble in the defensive third picking up a whopping 10 intercepts and collecting four deflections. The goal keeper did not look out of sorts instead rising to the occasion and using her deceptive speed and clever footwork to move around the body of her opponent in the circle and confuse the space.

GD: Loreen Ngwira (Manchester Thunder)

The talented defender put up a strong wall in defence propelling anything that came her way back down the court while also displaying her attacking nous through transition. Ngwira used her physicality to win the ball collecting an impressive four intercepts thanks to her vision and quick footwork to cover the court with ease. Although she drew plenty of attention from the umpire with 22 penalties and an eventual caution she made up for it with her good timing and defensive pressure constantly forcing turnovers. Ngwira racked up seven deflections such is her read of the play and netball smarts.

WD: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)

Despite the loss, the wing defence worked tirelessly for the Wasps trying to stop any easy passage to goal and using her experience to out manoeuvre her opponent. Her drive through the midcourt and sheer netball understanding is hard to combat able to consistently re-offer. Although she is not the tallest or fastest Clarke knows exactly where to go on the court blocking any attacking forays and getting hands to ball with a timely deflection. Her ability to stay in play was also another key element of her game play only recording six penalties showcasing her cleanliness and high netball IQ.

C: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

In her new role though the midcourt Allison stepped up to the plate with the defensive minded centre showcasing her pressure creating a wealth of turnovers. Allison picked up two intercepts and three deflections highlighting her ability to get back and help out while also using her speed and good vision to deliver well weighted passes into the circle. The centre was a key cog through the midcourt providing link-up play and working hard to transition the ball down the court.

WA: Liana Leota (Severn Stars)

The experienced wing attack continued her merry way using her experience and speed to feed into the likes Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed. Leota backed herself across the court with her dynamic movement and change of speed a key component of her game play. Her attacking style of play and general netball understanding was on full display weaving her way through the attacking third and hitting the circle edge with pace and precision.

GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)

It is hard to go past the impressive performance of the Thunder goal attack who owned the position from the get go with her well-timed drives and strong hands on the take. She opened up space both in the circle and attacking third while her positioning under the post allowed her to collect valuable rebounds. Her accuracy and volume was high with Cardwell nailing 40 goals to keep her side well and truly in front throughout the contest.

GS: Kim Commane (Team Bath)

In her first game as captain, Commane did not disappoint with the highly skilled goaler able to sink them from anywhere in the circle nailing 55 goals. Her strong movement and ability to hold space in the circle gave her easy access to the post combining well with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis out the front. Commane was cool, calm and collected using her experience to create space in the circle while her clever footwork enabled her to demand the front space.

BENCH: Zanele Vimbela (Strathclyde Sirens), Sasha Corbin (Saracens Mavericks), George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

With impressive performances throughout Round 1 Vimbela, Corbin and Fisher were all unlucky to not get the start but made big enough impacts to earn a spot on the bench. In her first game for the Sirens, Vimbela jumped straight into the thick of things picking up an impressive six intercepts and three deflections credit to her defensive prowess and aerial ability to consistently get hands to ball. Through the midcourt Sasha Corbin was in fine form linking up with her sister in the circle and using her quick hands and footwork to secure circle edge and feed into the likes of Fisher. The Saracens goal shooter proved to be a dominant force in the goal circle with her commanding height, long reach and ability to reign in errant passes. Her accuracy and volume was also high converting an impressive 54 goals and four rebounds.

Umpires make their mark in VNSL Round 1

WITH Round 1 of the 2020 Netball Superleague done and dusted, we take a look at some of the biggest stats of a massive opening round of action.

Only one match went without umpire intervention in the opening round, with the weekend marred by a whopping 12 cautions and three warnings dished out across Saturday’s season opener. While cautions can be awarded to a player for any number of things, from talking back to an umpire to intimidation over a goaling attempt, it’s the three warnings that teams will need to heed going into round two, with winning side London Pulse collecting two of the three warnings. 

While disciplinary action from officiators can change from game to game and umpire to umpire, sides will need to watch themselves with defenders under the spotlight in a number of games this week. Pulse’s Halimat Adio collected 18 penalties and a warning for her defensive effort on Saturday, and fellow defender Lindsay Keable joined her on the warning list with 12 penalties. Manchester Thunder’s Loreen Ngwira got 22 penalties and four intercepts to her name in Round 1 along with a caution, while Severn Stars newbie Towera Vinkhumbo had similar stats with four intercepts and 10 less penalties but collected a warning in her first Superleague outing. England Roses defender Fran Williams had a tough time in the Wasps’ loss to Thunder, collecting eight gains but 15 penalties. 

While it is still only Round 1, after a miserable 2019 season the London Pulse may want to clean up their act to ensure they win games based on merit more so than their physicality especially when they come up against stronger competitors. Their opposition in Strathclyde Sirens were significantly cleaner with 52 penalties and along with Wasps Netball, Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning, received comparatively little umpire attention. Team Bath gets the bragging rights this round with only 24 penalties across the court this round, while two winning sides in Surrey Storm (62 penalties) and Pulse (61 penalties) topped the list with an average penalty count of 47 in Round 1.

In other stats this round, Team Bath’s Kim Commane (55 goals at 95 per cent accuracy), Mavericks’ George Fisher (51 goals at 93 per cent) and Lightning’s Mary Cholhok (48 goals at 92 per cent) led the charge on the goaling front, with the former two running away victors. Pulse goal shooter Sigi Burger also impressed for her new side, shooting 44 goals at 100 per cent accuracy. A few players put on a defensive clinic, with Razia Quashie collecting seven intercepts (but nine turnovers and a caution) while Latanya Wilson impressed in her first outing for the Celtic Dragons with 10 intercepts, though also threw plenty of ball away in the loss with 14 turnovers, the most of any team in Round 1.