Tag: laura geitz

Memorable Matches: Firebirds defeat Swifts in 2015 ANZ Championship Grand Final

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is the Queensland Firebirds’ come-from-behind victory over the NSW Swifts in the 2015 ANZ Championship Grand Final.

It was the culmination of a massive ANZ Championship season which set the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts against one another, and the Swifts never looked like losing – before the Firebirds stunned in the final minutes of the match. It was a slow start for both teams and while the Swifts had the early lead, the Firebirds did not back down, contesting every single ball. With star players across the court it was all about momentum and the Swifts were swimming in it early, with Caitlin Thwaites and Sharni Layton impressing at both ends and connections all down the midcourt.

The feisty matchup saw neither team leave any stone unturned, with Laura Geitz and Kim Green seeing more of each other than a goal keeper and wing attack typically would. Meanwhile, quality defensive pressure from Julie Corletto and Layton saw the Swifts duo dominate much of the play, with Firebirds goalers Gretel Bueta and Romelda Aiken stopped in their tracks and unwilling to make risky moves. The Swifts had the accuracy going for them on court, with Thwaites and Susan Pettitt firing on all cylinders, unfazed by the persistent defensive pressure from the likes of Geitz and partner in crime, Clare McMeniman who continually pushed the shooters to attempt risky shots – though those shots continued to pay off. It was the Firebirds’ penalty count which saw them struggle for much of the match, almost doubling the Swifts’ at half time and finishing with a higher contact penalty count alone (66 and 16 obstructions) than the Swifts did overall (50 and 10).

While Swifts continued to prove too strong across the court, the Firebirds started to regain some control bit by bit, working their way into the match and continuing to pressure the Swifts and fight for a chance to win the second half. A quality third term from Geitz was part of the reason why the Firebirds were able to steal back momentum, holding Thwaites to just 12 goals in the second half – five in the third – while Aiken stepped up to ply her trade, shooting 28 in the second half to well and truly take the game by storm. While Geitz racked up the stats in the second half, the Swifts slowed down. Despite still holding the lead, it was clear the hosts were on their way back and were not about to lie down.

With the premiership in sight, Queensland unleashed at the right moment and with 30 seconds left on the clock levelled the scores, with the next centre pass going their way making for a tense countdown. The Firebirds played keepings off to finish, patiently chipping the ball around before Bueta went to post to deny a last second chance for the Swifts – with her only goal for the quarter seeing the Firebirds hit the front for the first time. With 14 seconds left on the clock, only a massive save would stop the Swifts from scoring, so Geitz did just that – taking a game saving intercept and passing the ball off, seeing the Firebirds defeat the Swifts 57-56 and sending the purple army into hysterics.

While not the most accurate of the day, sinking the winning goal was enough for Bueta, who shot 10 from 17 to provide a quality support for Aiken (47 from 51). It was a shared effort for the Swifts goalers however, with both Thwaites (30 from 34) and Pettitt (26 from 28m, 35 centre pass receives) providing scoreboard pressure and proving influential in attack. Bueta’s wealth of work to get the ball to Aiken was second to none, leading the assists with 20 from 32 feeds and 33 centre pass receives, while Swifts midcourter Green came in second with 17 from 38 and doing a lot more second phase work alongside Pettitt. It was a battle of the goal keepers, with both Geitz and Layton finding a wealth of turnover ball, though Geitz was the big performer with six intercepts (eight gains). Layton was not far behind with three intercepts (four gains but seven deflections) and shared the defensive stats with Corletto (two intercepts, three gains).

QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 11 | 14 | 16 | 16 (57)
NSW SWIFTS 14 | 16 | 15 | 11 (56)

Queensland Firebirds

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Caitlyn Nevins
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Clare McMeniman
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Bec Bulley, Verity Charles, Laura Clemesha, Beryl Friday, Amy Wild
COACH: Roselee Jencke

NSW Swifts

GS: Caitlin Thwaites
GA: Susan Pettitt
WA: Kim Green
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Abbey McCulloch
GD: Julie Corletto
GK: Sharni Layton

BENCH: Jade Clarke, Erin Hoare, Taylah Davies, Micaela Wilson, Steph Wood
COACH: Rob Wright

SHOOTING STATS

FIREBIRDS

Romelda Aiken 47/51
Gretel Bueta 10/17

SWIFTS

Caitlin Thwaites 30/34
Susan Pettitt 26/28

Compare the Pair: Laura Geitz and Shamera Sterling

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from different eras across the netball world, with the next showcasing goal keepers, ex-Australian Diamonds captain Laura Geitz and Jamaican superstar, Shamera Sterling.

Two tenacious defenders, that while they have different ways of going about their game still provide plenty of similarities such as their respective ability to turn over the ball with ease and anticipate openings to go for that massive intercept. Another glaring similarity is their ability to turn a game on its head, propelling the ball forward and generating further momentum with their big grabs and stellar footwork to get around the player and deflect the ball.

Up there with Liz Ellis as one of the great goal keepers, Geitz is one of those players who has gone down in history for her ability to not only apply pressure to her player one on one but also use her leadership to control the play to win games off her own back. Geitz also formed a formidable and crucial element in any team she played with thanks to her experience and netball nous, able to be a consistent figure down back and use her cleanliness to disrupt play with ease. She was not afraid to contest the loose ball, using her speed off the mark and clean hands to scoop the ball up to safety. Geitz was a general in goal keeper, always ready and looking for that cross-court ball to intercept and was able to be a huge threat even when her timing was off – if rarely – to stay back on her player and apply pressure over the shot. Her long arms and lean over the shot caused plenty of headaches for goalers while her quick footwork shut down any easy access into the attacking third. 

Sterling may not have anywhere near as much experience as Geitz collected over the years, but in her short time on the international stage she has lit up the court with the immense skill she possesses. While not the cleanest player, Sterling has plenty of time for her development and has ultimately come along in leaps and bounds over the last year, honing her craft to still provide that same constant pressure but stay away from the whistle a fraction. A threatening player with long limbs and go-go gadget arms to cherry pick the ball from midair, Sterling has proved time and time again that she can contest and challenge even the greatest goalers in the world with her ability to confuse the feeder and find the intercept, while she is also able to gather the ball with speed to get it back in the safe hands of her attackers.

Laura Geitz
71 caps, 2008-2015

Shamera Sterling
~40 caps, 2016-present

International All-Stars players edition: Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

CONTINUING our theme of All-Star teams, South Africa and London Pulse star goal shooter, Sigi Burger compiled her own dream team. Take a look at her selections and reasoning behind each player.

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My All-Star Team:

Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

So when Draft Central asked me to do this, it literally took me a month to get the article to them because up until the morning that I’m writing this, I couldn’t decide who my dream team would be. The netball world is so rich in players with amazing skills, court craft, natural hunting instincts and flair, that I had to think hard and deep about certain positions on court.

However, this is the team I have decided upon.

Irene van Dyk. I decided on Irene as she has been my role model since I could remember. Growing up all I wanted to be was the next Irene. With incredible athleticism, accurate shooting, a body stronger than an ox and ripped like a piece of meat eaten by a hungry dog, Irene carved the shooting position as we know it today. Having played both for South Africa (I went to the same uni!) and New Zealand, to achieve such incredible things and to be a force to be reckoned with, and then to still stay so humble, it’s just incredible. Not to mention I TOTALLY fangirled when she followed me back on Instagram in 2017.

Gretel Bueta. Flair, skills, elevation and speed. Never has a netball player had such a dramatic impact on a game because they play so ‘differently’- from two-metre layups, jump shots, jump passes, athleticism that should NOT be normal! Gretel’s pace is incredible and her playing is un-markable. You simply do not know what she is going to do next and she is still so young, and does it all with a huge smile on her face. Also one of the sweetest people there is.

Madi Browne. with her quick feet, agility, ball handling skills and confidence to feed a shooter, it would definitely be Madi Browne, and for sure would she be able to feed the powerful duo of Gretel and Irene. Her never give up attitude is exactly what any team needs in the attacking side of court. Is there any ball that Madi cannot get into the circle? Her vision for her circle attackers is unrivalled. Her pace through court is so quick that not even being double marked makes a difference.

Laura Langman. Pace, accuracy, power and vision. Feisty, competitive, skills second to none and a complete powerhouse. With the amount of experience and confidence she boasts she would be the perfect person to keep everyone calm on court and with her strength in both attacking and defending I couldn’t think of a better centre to bring the ball through court. She is untouchable.

Ash Brazill. The MOST determined fighter of a player there is. Injuries, non-selection, height issues, etc. – Whatever has been thrown at Ash, she has just thrown it straight back. Her stamina on court is terrifying – SHE JUST DOES NOT STOP RUNNING. When she and Laura Langman play against each other, it’s a dream to watch. An incredible mentor and role model to so many. PLUS she’s always smiling.

Karla Pretorius. For some of you, you might not know how Karla has really blossomed into the exceptional player she is today. For starters, she wasn’t ever selected in any state/county/provincial teams during her school career. This all happened after school, really highlighting that there is no set time for anyone to have to achieve something by a specific time to be successful one day. She is the best goal defence of all time. Being smaller in stature, but that sixth sense and hunting instinct running strongly through her veins. She gets tips and intercepts that no one sees coming, is always just there to pick up a loose ball and has composure through it all. Very well deserved player of the tournament in 2019 Netball World Cup.

Laura Geitz. Simply the best and ruthless with her defending, incredible footwork, athleticism, rebounds that were terrifying in the aggression – you didn’t want to miss when Laura was under the post. She used to lead her players through her passion and love for her team and the game. Was relentless in her hunting for the ball. Every wing and goal attack knew if the ball was not on during the feed, it was game over. Just an exceptional player.

On the bench:

Ameliaranne Ekenasio. No team would be complete without Meels who plays an amazing goal shooter or goal attack and stays focused throughout, keeps calm under pressure and boasts an extremely successful shooting average. Her infectious smile and go-getter personality would also bring a great vibe to the team.

Liz Watson. Liz would make a great part of this team and she could confidently play any midcourt position and absolutely nail it with her aggression, composure in tight situations and incredible ball handling skills and accurate passing, as well as her tenacious go-getter attitude fighting until the final whistle has been blown.

Sharni Layton. No team is complete without a Sharni Layton. Sharni is one of those that you know you could put on court and she would give 120 per cent for her entire duration on court, bringing a presence both in her skills and defensive play but as well as her voice and personality. An immediate doom on any other team to face them. She would be the secret weapon and the intimidation factor. Her play was incredible and any goal shooter or goal attack would have their hands full with her playing against them. Plus an amazing personality and positive spirit.

This is my team, and I’d also just like to thank my mate Megan Pugh for helping me make the final decisions on this difficult task. I’m happy with the team I put forward and thank goodness they would never actually play against each other, because good luck to any team trying to face this strong 10.

SIGI BURGER’S ALL STARS

GS: Irene van Dyk
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Madi Browne
C: Laura Langman
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Liz Watson, Sharni Layton

Memorable Matches: Roses make history with 2018 Commonwealth Games gold

WITH netball taking a back seat to the coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is England’s inaugural Commonwealth Games gold, defeating Australia by one goal on home soil in 2018.

A memorable match for many Aussies – and not in a good way, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match was one for the ages as England quite literally pipped Australia at the post to reign supreme. While Australia led the competition in majority of the stats, this was England’s opportunity to topple to Diamonds for the first time and they were not about to let their greatest gold medal chance slip away. England may have been the underdogs, playing in their first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal match, but it was that goal which saw the Roses turn it out on Australian soil.

With ultimately one of the greatest lineups England has ever hand – perhaps only rivalled by their current list – they were just too strong for the overconfident Diamonds who faltered at the final hurdle and could not compete with the tenacious Roses when it came down to the nitty-gritty. For the Diamonds, the match came down to extensive rotations which the side had dealt with throughout the entire tournament. The Roses however came in with a different mindset, only rotating as they saw fit and able to form a consistent barrier against the formidable Aussies. 

It was an even start by both teams, with neither team really able to find much momentum such was the impact all 14 players were having on court. The two sides were evenly matched with both goal keepers in Laura Geitz and Geva Mentor forming tough barriers in their respective circles. Mentor racked up a whopping 12 gains throughout the match, putting on a clinic with her cleanliness and the ease with which she found the ball, using goal shooter Caitlin Bassett’s consistency against her. Geitz and April Brandley were solid as ever, fairly clean in their defence and finding plenty of loose ball. 

While Australia started out clean, not finding much whistle, the two sides evened up as the match went on, seeing the Roses clean up their act and forcing errors from the Diamonds who seemed out of sorts with the closeness of the game – which saw both teams even at 25 goals apiece at half-time. Liz Watson entered the game to take on the likes of Serena Guthrie, providing some real gut-running against the star centre. While it took some pressure off the attack with Watson’s quick hands doing wonders, Guthrie’s overall athleticism is tough to overcome while her immense endurance saw the midcourter continue to ply her trade and propel the ball back up the court.

The Diamonds got back into the groove in the third but while they had the goals on the board, the side seemed out of sorts thanks to the constant pressure applied down the court from the Roses. That being said, Australia’s full court defensive pressure impressed with just the four goalers not picking up gains – but it was the constant changing of goalers that seemed to work in England’s favour.

For the Roses, there were little changes throughout, with only some small impact options taking the court to ply their trade. Goalers, Jo Harten and Helen Housby were consistent from the start and had a couple of patches where their defenders were on top, namely the beginning of the first and third quarters thanks to Australia’s rotation for fresh feet in Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston, but ultimately continued to ply their trade and coming into the final quarter were well aware of what had to be done to win the game despite a slower third term.

Full credit has to be given to England’s final quarter effort, shooting 16 goals to overcome Australia’s three quarter time lead and forcing error upon error from the Diamonds. England was just much cleaner with ball in hand, treasuring possession where Australia seemed to throw away far more ball than their typical game. Australia all but fell apart in the final term, collecting a whopping 25 penalties – 22 contacts – compared to England’s 10 overall. When you compare that number to Australia’s seven penalties overall in the first quarter, it’s hard to not think of what could have been if the consistency had remained from the beginning to end.

It was a goal on the buzzer from Housby which cemented the win for England, making history as the Roses collected their first Commonwealth gold, well and truly earning the win against the reigning champions, 52-51. At the post, Harten topscored with 34 goals at 87 per cent accuracy, while Bassett was not quite as influential with 22 goals from 24 attempts – though she did miss out on the third quarter. Housby came in next with 18 goals while Steph Wood and Susan Pettitt shot 12 and 11 goals respectively to provide another option in the circle. 

The consistency of Gabi Simpson was impressive, with the athletic midcourt defender the only Aussie to play out the full 60 minutes. Simpson used every inch of her pressure to impact on the Roses’ ability to find the goal circle, impeding former Australian representative Chelsea Pitman from finding avenues to the ring and providing impressive speed and pressure up the court. Pitman racked up 18 goal assists from 28 feeds, while Watson was not far behind with 17 assists from 27, only having played the three quarters. Geitz racked up five gains in her half on court and was well and truly missed in the final quarter, while Simpson’s consistency and pressure saw her collect four gains and Guthrie three with her threatening speed.

AUSTRALIA 14 | 11 | 13 | 13 (51)
ENGLAND 13 | 12 | 11 | 16 (52)

Australia

GS: Caitlin Bassett
GA: Susan Pettitt
WA: Madi Robinson
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: April Brandley
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Caitlin Thwaites, Courtney Bruce, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Steph Wood
COACH: Lisa Alexander

England

GS: Jo Harten
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Chelsea Pitman
C: Serena Guthrie
WD: Beth Cobden
GD: Eboni Usoro-Brown
GK: Geva Mentor

BENCH: Ama Agbeze, Nat Haythorthwaite, Jodie Gibson, Jade Clarke, Kadeen Corbin
COACH: Tracey Neville

SHOOTING STATS

Australia

Caitlin Bassett 22/24
Steph Wood 12/14
Susan Pettitt 11/12
Caitlin Thwaites 6/6

England

Jo Harten 34/39
Helen Housby 18/21

Netball fantasy teams: 1999 World Cup All-Stars v. 2015 World Cup All-Stars

OVER the years there have been some a-class players grace the court with them all coming together at the most coveted event in the netball calendar. With so many influential players from varying countries Draft Central has made a team from the 1999 World Cup and 2015 World Cup compiled of star players from the respective tournament.

1999 World Cup team:

GK: Liz Ellis (AUS)
GD: Kathryn Harby-Williams (AUS)
WD: Carissa Tombs (AUS)
C: Julie Seymour (NZL)
WA: Tracey Neville (ENG)
GA: Vicki Wilson (AUS)
GS: Irene Van Dyk (RSA)
BENCH: Sharelle McMahon (AUS), Nadine Bryan (JAM), Sonia Mkoloma (ENG)

Five different nations feature in the 1999 World Cup team with Australia holding a few extra places in the squad after taking out the gold medal. It is no surprise that goal keeper Liz Ellis gets the nod with the Australian defender putting her best foot forward throughout the 1999 World Cup. Her court coverage is impressive with the 183cm defender able to swat away any balls that came her way and propel it back down the court. Joining partner in crime is Kathryn Harby-Williams with the goal defence impressing with her hands over pressure and ability to take a timely intercept thanks to her vision and anticipation.

In wing defence is Australian Diamonds representative Carissa Tombs. The centre court player knows how to block her opponent with her quick footwork and clever body positioning around the circle edge. Through the midcourt versatile Silver Fern, Julie Seymour takes out the centre position. Renowned for her defensive pressure and no-nonsense approach Seymour starred across the court and was more than capable to deliver perfectly weighted passes into the goalers. Tracey Neville could move between both wing attack and goal attack and given the star power throughout the 1999 World Cup found herself out in wing attack in this team. She is crafty with ball in hand and can find space with ease.

Moving into the circle it is headlined by none other than shooting sensation Irene Van Dyk. Although she is more renowned for her time with the Silver Ferns, Van Dyk took charge for the Spar Proteas in 1999 with the goaler able to slot them with ease. Her fancy footwork and accuracy to post is what makes her so hard to stop, able to command the ball and score truly. In at goal attack is Diamonds goaler Vicki Wilson who made her presence felt in the gold medal match with her attacking intent and desire to go to post.

On the bench is Sharelle McMahon who made her World Cup debut in 1999 and proved to be a key cog for the Diamonds attacking unit while Jamaican midcourter Nadine Bryan and England defender Sonia Mkoloma round out the team.

2015 World Cup team:

GK: Laura Geitz (AUS)
GD: Casey Kopua (NZL)
WD: Renae Ingles (AUS)
C: Laura Langman (NZL)
WA: Kim Green (AUS)
GA: Maria Folau (NZL)
GS: Mwai Kumwenda (MAL)
BENCH: Caitlin Bassett (AUS), Erin Burger (RSA), Geva Mentor (ENG)

The team is top heavy in Diamonds players, thanks to Australia taking out the gold medal at the World Cup and Silver Ferns notching up the runners-up trophy. Defensively the 2015 team is quite strong with former Australian Diamonds captain Laura Geitz taking out the goal keeper position given her dominance and impressive on-court leadership. Her ability to make something out of nothing and use her long limbs to get hands to ball made her simply unstoppable throughout the tournament. Joining her down back is Silver Ferns defender Casey Kopua with the goal defence well recognised for her intercepting skill and go-go gadget arms to pick off errant passes.

In the midcourt it is hard to go past the likes of Laura Langman with the talented centre able to run all day and all night. Her endurance base is second to none and is a real barometer for the Ferns with her gut running, impressive ball handling skills and sheer athleticism. The wing defence position goes to Renae Ingles with the quick footed defender able to cover the court with ease and use her speed off the mark to force turnovers. Moving into wing attack is Diamond Kim Green, the electric wing attack simply sliced through the defence with her pin point passes and impressive balance around the circle. Throw in her speed off the mark and dynamic change of direction and Green was an easy choice.

New Zealand specialty long bomb shooter Maria Folau impressed throughout the 2015 campaign with her cool, calm and collected mentality at the forefront of her game play. She is light on her feet and can sink them from anywhere in the circle such is her accuracy and range.  Malawian goal shooter, Mwai Kumwenda took the competition by storm with her accuracy to post and unconventional style of play. The flamboyant goaler showcased her aerial ability throughout the 2015 campaign starring time and time again with her strong hands and balance.

Rounding out the bench is current Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett while South African midcourter Erin Burger is also amongst the mix. The final spot on the bench goes to England Roses star and talented defender Geva Mentor.

Who would win?

Both sides are littered with a host impressive players that are renowned for their game changing abilities and dynamic movement and while it is difficult to decide which team would have more of a competitive edge the 2015 side has that extra touch of class. With stars on the bench the 2015 squad oozes depth and star power with each player able to burst onto the court and have a profound impact.

Netball World Cups 16 years apart, who wins?
1999 NWC All-Stars
2015 NWC All-Stars
Created with QuizMaker

International All-Stars players edition: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks/England Roses)

CONTINUING our theme of All-Star teams, England Roses and Saracens Mavericks shooting dynamo, George Fisher compiled her own dream team. Take a look at her selections and reasoning behind each player.

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My All-Star Team:

George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks/England Roses)

When I was first asked to put together my All-Star team by Netball Draft Central, I was really excited at the prospect of completing this. However when I actually started to pick my team, I realised just how hard it was with the calibre of players past, present and coming through. I could have picked at least four for every position.

So this is what I ended up with, and I would so love to see this team perform for real!

I had to start with the legendary Irene Van Dyk. This decision pretty much speaks for itself, being one of the most capped international players of all time, with her flair, athleticism and by God the way she takes a ball, not to mention her accuracy at shot and her cool and calm attitude, I just couldn’t start with anyone else.

So joining Van Dyk in the D is none other than Jo Harten. Most people see her as a goal shooter but I really enjoy watching her out on court. She has so much flair and passion and the will to win. She is always someone you want on your side and paired with Van Dyk in the D, there will not be any loose balls that don’t end up in their hands, with trick passes, amazing catching and shot accuracy, this would be my dream shooting team.

So up next is wing attack. I really struggled with this position with the likes of Tamsin Greenway, Liz Watson, Nat Haythornthwaite, Bongiwe Msomi and Chelsea Pitman in the mix, but I’ve finally gone for Liana Leota, someone who I personally have thoroughly enjoyed watching over the past few years in the Vitality Superleague. Her court craft, game knowledge, leadership paired with her decision-making ability to land on edge of the D and deliver killer balls to the shooters make her my wing attack. And all this while being the mother to five children, what a total inspiration to all sportswomen!

We come to the centre and for me it’s always a toss-up between Serena Guthrie or Laura Langman to who will have which bib, centre or wing defence? I’ve put Langman as my centre as she is a total powerhouse. Strong, quick, able to bring the ball up court, feed the D with ease and bringing an air of calm to the whole team.

No team is complete without a Serena Guthrie – what a legend and not just for her on court ability. She would be in my wing defence bib for her never ending energy and grit on court to turn that ball over in any way possible. Watching her pick off balls, not just off the circle edge but all through court, with an athleticism that is unmatched is just incredible.

Now leading onto my goal defence, Casey Kopua. Her agility through the court at her height is phenomenal, matched with her ability to read the game and pull off interceptions is a game changer. Not only is she a danger out on court but her ability to sight turnovers in the D will put doubt into any feeder’s mind.

And goal keeper – again lots in the mix but came down to a choice of two, Laura Geitz or Geva Mentor to complete my team. For me it has to be Geva Mentor, strong, powerful, calm and a crucial interception maker. With her long reach and her elevation she puts doubt into the shooters’ mind and is a demon at taking those rebounds and paired with Kopua – what a total dream team.

So who’s on my bench! I’ve gone for a younger bench with players that have already made a massive mark on the international scene and I think are becoming total legends of our game. I’ve selected Maia Wilson as I thought she was outstanding at the Nations Cup and is really starting to hold down the front end for the Ferns. And up at the other end we have Shamera Sterling with her rangy frame and complete natural ability to play netball, she puts doubt in the feeders by confusing space so well and more often than not will come out with the ball. I also loved seeing her out at goal defence so two options in one. That leads me onto my final player Nat Haythornthwaite, not only does she have the fastest feet I have ever seen and a never give up attitude, she has the ability to nail the wing attack position but also step into the goal attack role seamlessly. Plus she is one of the nicest people I have ever met and helped me to grow into my shooting role at Wasps Superleague when I was just 17.

So that’s my All Star team! As I said before, it has been so hard to pick just the one player for each position due to the phenomenal past and present players that have influenced our game. 

Do you know what, I really love our sport. 

GEORGE FISHER’S ALL STARS

GS: Irene Van Dyk
GA: Jo Harten
WA: Liana Leota
C: Laura Langman
WD: Serena Guthrie
GD: Casey Kopua
GK: Geva Mentor

BENCH: Maia Wilson, Nat Haythornthwaite, Shamera Sterling

Players that got away: Ameliaranne Ekenasio

THERE are a number of netballers in the world that have pulled on the international dress for more than one country throughout the career. With netball on hold due to the outbreak of COVID-19 Draft Central has decided to take a look at those players and their international careers and what could have been. Next in the series is New Zealand sweetheart and gold medal winner Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

Although she never pulled on the green and gold dress, Ekenasio could have represented the Diamonds given she was born in Queensland. The shooter spent time with the Queensland Firebirds in the early stages of her career playing alongside some of Australia’s most notable defenders in Laura Geitz and Clare McMeniman. While she struggled for court time given the presence of Romelda Aiken, the talented goaler proved more than once that she was cool, calm and collected on court able to sink them from long range and back herself under pressure. Ekenasio would have been a handy inclusion in the Diamonds side with her silky movement and rangy shooting consistently doing the talking.

After spending four years with the Firebirds, Ekenasio decided to make the trek across the ditch and join the Central Pulse in the ANZ Championship where she blossomed into a shooting sensation full of confidence. A regular starter in the Pulse line-up, Ekenasio quickly became renowned for her ability to create space and become a force to be reckoned with on the netball court, eventually catching the eye of the New Zealand Silver Ferns.

She debuted for the Ferns in 2014 and became a permanent fixture in their line-up for years to come thanks to her impressive timing, strong drives, ability to glide across the court and sheer netball nous. She is a focal point for the Ferns side with the talented goaler not shying away from the pressure instead rising up to the occasion as shown in the dying seconds of the 2019 World Cup Gold Medal Match where she sunk one of the most important goals of her career.

Ekenasio oozes class, commitment and dedication, returning to the elite level of netball shortly after giving birth and has continued to deliver time and time again. Her on-court leadership as shown with her brief captaincy of the Ferns along with precision ball placement and skill to change up her game play depending who is on court with her makes her hard to stop. In recent outings her connection with Maria Folau has torn opposition defences apart, while at a domestic level, her shooter-to-shooter interplay with Aliyah Dunn is too hot to handle.

At the ripe age of 29, Ekenasio is not showing any sign of slowing down and still has plenty of years ahead of her as shown by fellow past and present Silver Ferns stars, Irene Van Dyk and Laura Langman. The 186cm goal attack has played 41 caps for the Ferns and will be hoping to build on that when netball returns. Although she is now a Silver Ferns, fan favourite, it is fair to say that the Australian born shooter would have been a valuable asset to the Diamonds given her high work rate, effortless movement and impressive footwork to dance across the court.

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

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

SOPHIE’S STARS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAYLAH’S TROOPS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queensland Firebirds:

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

BENCH: Nat Medhurst, Chelsea Pitman, Rebecca Bulley

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

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

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

BENCH: Cara Koenen, Laura Scherian, Phumza Maweni

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

Who would win?

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

Who wins this All-Star battle of the Sunshine State?
Queensland Firebirds
Sunshine Coast Lightning
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Who will be the next captain of the Australian Diamonds?

WEST Australian born shooter, Caitlin Bassett is a focal part of the Diamonds and has been for almost 10 years. Since taking the role as captain in 2017, Bassett has not taken a backwards step paving the way for her teammates. She is cool, calm and collected under the post making her an imposing figure for any opposition outfit. But with the goal shooter turning 32 this year, Draft Central takes a look to the future and contemplates some potential players that could take the reins when Bassett retires from international duties.

Liz Watson:

The wing attack is one of, if not the classiest, midcourter in the world with her silky skills constantly on display. She is a smooth mover and works extremely hard across the court credit to her high endurance and netball IQ. With the vice-captaincy under her belt both at the Diamonds and Melbourne Vixens, Watson could be an ideal option to take the reins when the time comes. She is a versatile player that can easily control the tempo of the game with her change of pace. Watson has proven that she has what it takes to stand up under pressure and can make changes depending on what the team needs switching seamlessly into centre from her preferred wing attack position. her ability to understand the game, hit the circle edge with precision and treasure the ball makes her a key component of the Diamonds squad. She is not overawed by the physicality of the game and has strong connections across the court, allowing herself to assert her dominance when need be.

Gretel Bueta:

Bueta has quickly become one of the most damaging players on the netball court. Her sheer athleticism, dynamic movement and strength is unmatched and while she is not the most orthodox shooter that is what makes her so exciting. Her unpredictable game play provides that spark on the court and can lift a team when they are struggling to get going and generate that winning momentum. Over the past 12 months, Bueta blossomed into a key figure under the post for the Diamonds credit to her netball smarts and ability to adapt her game play. Her ability to consistently stand up under pressure and apply defensive pressure gives her that extra element of star power throw in her general spatial awareness and aerial ability and Bueta is one of the most influential players on court. She can move between goal attack and goal shooter with ease and while she plays with a unique sense of flair and physicality, Bueta has displayed that she is not afraid to take the game on and lead the team to success.

Courtney Bruce:

Already captain of the West Coast Fever, Bruce has shown that she has the leadership and general netball nous to lead a team both on and off the court. She helped to guide her side to the Suncorp Super Netball grand final in 2018 and while they did not win, she played an integral role. She oozes excitement and skill able to take the ball at full flight and swat away any passes. Although she can be costly at times when it comes to penalties, it is her innate ability to win ball back that makes her a true star. Bruce can easily sense the moment and force a turnover or create something out of nothing thanks to her read of the play, quick feet and sense of urgency. While the goal keeper is 26 she has been a key cog in the Diamonds line-up for a long time and has a wealth of experience at the highest level possible. Playing alongside the likes of Laura Geitz and fellow seasoned defenders Bruce has developed into a game changer and a source of inspiration on court for many teammates.