Tag: laura langman

Fantasy teams: Australia/Jamaica v. New Zealand/England

WITH a wealth of netball talent across the world Draft Central has created two teams based on the current top four nations according to the International Netball Federation rankings. The first team comprises of first and fourth – Australia and Jamaica – while the second team is made up of players from New Zealand and England. The line-ups include injured players that have recently featured in their respective country’s team.

Australia & Jamaica (Diamond Girls)

GK: Shamera Sterling
GD: Jo Weston
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Liz Watson
WA: Kelsey Browne
GA: Gretel Bueta
GS: Jhaniele Fowler

BENCH: Caitlin Bassett, Adean Thomas, Courtney Bruce

The Diamond Girls are bookended by Jamaicans given their height and dominance in those respective positions. The defensive end is set to cause fireworks with the likes of Shamera Sterling taking out the goal keeper position. The exciting Jamaican goal keeper is renowned for her intercepting ability, impressive aerial skills and classy footwork to get up to the high balls and propel it back down the court. Australian Diamond, Jo Weston is set to pull on the goal defence position given her ability to shut down opposition goalers with her tagging style of defence and skill to block vision and space in the defensive third.

Through the midcourt it is Diamonds top heavy with dynamo Liz Watson taking out the centre position. Although she is more commonly seen in wing attack, Watson has proven that she has the endurance and skill to have an influence across all thirds and use her speed and precision passing to deliver into the goalers with ease. Speedster, Kelsey Browne takes out the wing attack position credit to her dynamic footwork to dance around the circle edge and exploit every inch of space. Her impressive vision and skill to vary her passes into the shooters makes her hard to stop when on song. Coming in at wing defence is Ash Brazill, with the Australian Diamond able to move into centre as well when needed. There is no denying that she is one of the most athletic midcourters in netball history with her aerial ability and speed off the mark.

In the shooting circle, it is a combination of twin towers with excitement machine, the unpredictable Gretel Bueta getting the nod at goal attack. She is simply unstoppable both in the air and at ground level able to gobble up everything that comes her way while her increased accuracy makes her even more of a threat. Bueta consistently uses her athleticism and strength to out-position defenders under the post and shoot truly. Jamaican shooting machine, Jhaniele Fowler takes out the goal shooter position thanks to her continued dominance, height, strong holds and high volume. Her ability to use her body and feet to ward off defenders is second to none.

Unlucky not to get the start is Australian captain, Caitlin Bassett who was just pipped at the post by Fowler while the likes of Adean Thomas through the midcourt and defender Courtney Bruce also just missed out.

New Zealand & England (Silver Roses)

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Laura Langman
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Jo Harten

BENCH: Helen Housby, Serena Guthrie, Jane Watson

There is no shortage of star power across the court for the Silver Roses with key players across each third of the court. Each player oozes class, experience and an innate winning ability. Starting down back is arguably one of the most experienced defenders and goal keepers in the world, Geva Mentor. The England Roses defender is in a league of her own, able to read the play and swat the ball away with her well-timed leaps and pressure over the shot. Moving out into goal defence is versatile New Zealand defender Katrina Rore renowned for her aerial presence and intercepting ability. She is light on her feet able to spring into action at any time and also possesses that attacking element to transition the ball from one end of the court to the other.

The defensive minded Karin Burger is another sure start for the Silver Roses with her impressive wingspan and quick change of direction. Burger proved to be a key cog for New Zealand able to direct traffic down back and can seamlessly switch into circle defence when needed such is her netball IQ. Her balance around circle edge ensures she remains a constant threat to force turnovers while in centre it is hard to go past the services of Laura Langman. The veteran Silver Fern is simply unstoppable able to run all day and everyday using her ball movement to open up the attacking end and deliver pin-point passes. Although she is more defensively minded able to apply pressure on the ball carrier and pick off intercepts her ability to switch into attack makes a never-ending threat. In at wing attack is England Roses midcourter and part-time shooter Nat Haythornthwaite. Although more commonly seen delivering the ball to the goalers with her clever placement around circle edge, quick footwork and hard drive to circle edge Haythornthwaite can slide into goal attack when needed.

The goal circle oozes nothing but class, shooting prowess and versatility with both able to switch between positions. Ameliaranne Ekenasio takes out the goal attack position with her smooth movement constantly on display while her ability to slot them from anywhere makes her an ominous threat for opposition teams. She is cool, calm and collected under the post and is not afraid to re-position to get into a more commanding spot while her ball handling skills is second to none. Much like her fellow goaler, Jo Harten can stand up and deliver long bomb after long bomb. Her ability to shake up her game style from a holding to a moving shooter keeps defenders on their toes.

Rounding out the squad is England Roses goaler Helen Housby along with teammate and defensive midcourter Serena Guthrie while Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson is the final piece of the puzzle.

Who would win?

Given the versatility of the Silver Roses it is fair to say that they have the upper hand over the Diamond Girls with each of their players able to move into another position with ease. The Silver Roses ooze dominance from the defensive unit right through the midcourt to the goalers, able to exploit the Diamond Girls especially through the midcourt.

Who will replace Laura Langman when she retires?

ONE of the most impressive and threatening midcourters in the world is New Zealand product, Laura Langman. Despite showing no signs of slowing down, Langman’s retirement is imminent with the gut running centre edging ever closer to the 40 mark at 34. She has proven to be a real barometer for any side she plays in whether it be domestic or internationally.

Langman oozes nothing but class, endurance and experience something that many wish they had. She is renowned for her ability to do the unthinkable and simply stand up under the pressure. The New Zealand Silver Ferns veteran is one of the key cogs in their line-up with her ability to link up both the defensive and attacking ends with her movement and impressive game play. But the big question remains; who will replace the star midcourter when she retires?

Shannon Saunders

The Southern Steel midcourter has spent her time in and out of the Silver Ferns side but really, showcased her skill in the 2019 Netball World Cup after being recalled to the squad. Saunders is more of an attacking style midcourter able to switch into that wing attack role when needed. She has proven that she has the calibre and netball nous to mix it with the best in the world and run out that centre position with her clever game play and good timing. Saunders is exciting to watch, able to dart around the court and vary her passes into the circle thanks to her vast skill set. She can read the play and deliver the ball accordingly. The 29-year-old also does the defensive things well, able to create doubt in the feeder’s minds with her constant pressure around the circle edge. Her electric connection with fellow Silver Fern and wing attack, Gina Crampton also puts her in good stead to take the reins from Langman if and when the time comes.

Sam Winders

The 24-year-old plays a very similar role to that of Langman, with Winders renowned for her defensive style of play. She is a gut running centre that is quick off the mark and applies a wealth of pressure on the ball carrier with her hands over pressure and three-foot marking. Winders still has plenty of development left in her but has proven that she is a true leader on-court with her clever plays and strong movement. Her ability to create space in the attacking third and then seamlessly transition into defence is a testament to her high netball IQ. Winders is quick on her feet able to shadow her opponent and go toe-to-toe with her around circle edge and create tips and turnovers. She is strong on the take and uses her body well to outhustle her opponents. The defensive minded midcourter has spent time in the Silver Ferns but will be hoping to solidify her role in the black dress.

Kimiora Poi

Although she is still coming up through the ranks and has limited exposure to the international stage, Poi has come along in leaps and bounds. She is an energiser bunny across the court constantly on the move and repositioning. The centre court player has speed to burn with her dynamic footwork often wrong-footing opponents allowing her to hit circle edge with ease. Her variety of passes into the circle, quick hands and good vision makes her a strong option to secure a more permanent role in the Ferns outfit. Poi plays more of an attacking style with her movement and positioning but is no slouch when it comes to defence able to block space and cause confusion. She can read the play well and insert herself into the gaps to either force a turnover or create an attacking foray.

Compare the Pair: Temepara Bailey and Laura Langman

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from across the netball world, with the next showcasing New Zealand Silver Ferns midcourters, Temepara Bailey and Laura Langman

Two players with plenty of versatility and an innate ability to constantly apply pressure, Bailey and Langman have both been constant threats through the midcourt for a number of years. With plenty of talent, both feisty players burst onto the international scene, and while the two players wear the centre bib they both approach the position and the midcourt very differently, making the pair a very interesting combination to look at.

Bailey may be on the shorter side but that never stopped her, overflowing with speed and energy through the midcourt, always a threat with her attacking style of play, always running circles around her opposition with her impressively clean footwork and ability to find open space to drive into. Bailey was not afraid of the whistle, willing to do almost anything for a win and was well and truly called out for it during the 2003 Netball World Cup final – where she was the first player to be sent off in a final – but that just made her an even more exciting and pressurised player to come up against, unpredictable and intense as she was. The speedster was more of an attacking threat, using her quick hands to send ball into the goal circle on a silver platter, but her explosiveness on defence was a credit to her tenacity and constant drive to go one better than her opposition.

Where Bailey was more of an attacking midcourter, Langman is renowned for her defensive pressure and ability to be a constantly smothering defensive midcourter. A wing defence turned centre, Langman is a physical threat thanks to her constant shadowing but can also turn up the heat offensively thanks to her transitional running and game smarts to adapt to the situation. While Langman’s defensive prowess is a given, her offensive take on her defensive game plan is what makes her such a tough opposition, using her vision off the ball and player to poke holes in defence and take intercepts that should not be possible. Her attacking pressure may not be as evident, stepping back to be an aid to her wing attack, but she can still apply plenty of pressure on circle edge with her ability to see patterns and open up passing options for her teammates with her clever read of the play.

Temepara Bailey
89 caps, 2000-2011

Laura Langman
163 caps, 2005-present

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

Top 20 players over 30: #19 Laura Scherian

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Coming up next at number 19 is Australian Diamonds and Sunshine Coast Lightning speedster, Laura Scherian.

With impressive take-off speed to dart across the court, 31-year-old Scherian is a great accompaniment to any team with her sheer netball know-how and reliability down the middle of the court. Able to have an impact in both wing attack and centre, the classy speedster creates a formidable option on circle edge with an ability to find space and sit herself on circle edge to feed into the goalers. 

At only 167cm, Scherian is a real energiser bunny with her ability to evade opposition and zip her way around the court. She can apply pressure in attack despite her smaller build and use her strength to whip past defenders to feed the ball with ease. Her drive down the court and transition between attack and defence is seamless, able to create and manipulate the space to find the ball. Scherian can cause mayhem through the centre court with her consistency and constant press forward, always one step ahead of the play with her netball smarts.

With plenty of experience playing alongside one of the greatest midcourters in the game in Laura Langman, Scherian has been able to adapt her skills more so to present a defensive option too, able to apply as much pressure in centre from a defensive perspective as her skill up in attack. Scherian’s experience and ability to adapt to the game at hand gives her a clear advantage over her opposition, and in a team which regularly switches its goalers depending on the match, she is always able to form a formidable connection with whichever option is heading up the post.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)

Who will be world number one by the end of 2021?

DESPITE not winning the past two major tournaments in the netball calendar Australia still sit pretty at number one in the world rankings. Last year, arch rivals New Zealand pipped Australia at the post with a thrilling one goal win at the Liverpool World Cup while England also reigned supreme in 2018, crushing Australian hearts in the gold medal match of the Commonwealth Games with a one goal victory. While international netball is uncertain at the moment given the COVID-19 outbreak, expect plenty of a-class clashes between the top nations when it returns. But with so much player development and new coaching techniques coming through, the top spot could change in the next twelve to eighteen months. Who will be number one netballing nation by the end of 2021?

Australia: 207 rating

With the number one spot sewn up, the Diamonds are primed to continue their reign at the top of the netball ladder. They are almost 30 points ahead of their next competitor showcasing their sheer ability to dominate opposition countries and win comfortably. The Diamonds are renowned for their clinical style of play and will be hoping to extend their lead over the other nations and hold onto top spot for years to come. The next layer of young up and coming players such as Jamie-Lee Price, Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau are already filtering through the camp giving the Diamonds plenty of hope for the future. The Diamonds have a couple of aces up their sleeve to remain at the top of the ladder with goaling sensation, Gretel Bueta one of them. Bueta has taken the world by storm with her explosiveness and unpredictability both under the post and across the court while the likes of Liz Watson and Courtney Bruce have become staples in the line-up.

New Zealand: 179 rating

Fresh off a World Cup win, the Ferns have well and truly re-established themselves as a netball powerhouse. After undergoing somewhat of a rebuild in 2018, the Ferns look bigger and better than previous years with stars across the court. According to the current international netball world rankings the Silver Ferns are just ahead of England but are still a distance away from the top of the table Diamonds, though that will not stop them from taking a swipe at the coveted position. Unfortunately, the Ferns have already said goodbye to some fan favourites in Maria Folau and Casey Kopua who have been key contributors for ten-plus years given their on court prowess and sheer dominance, while it could be argued that veteran Laura Langman is on her last legs, meaning the Ferns will have to strike soon if they are to take out that prime position. Under the guidance of Noeline Taurua the Ferns have developed into a formidable outfit renowned for their discipline and pin-point accuracy, something that will go a long way in helping their climb up the ladder, not to mention the wealth of depth they have coming up through the ranks in the ANZ Premiership.

England: 173 rating

With an ageing team, it is really now or never for the England Roses to reach the top and cement themselves an a-list team. They have well and truly found their form in the past couple of years taking out the 2018 Commonwealth Games and showcasing their impressive form throughout the Nations Cup. With a host of their stars and starting seven heading towards the twilight of their career such as Geva Mentor, Jo Harten and Serena Guthrie, the Roses will have to throw everything they have at New Zealand and Australia to make a serious assault on prime position in the world rankings. Only sitting two points behind the Ferns, England definitely have the firepower to overtake New Zealand and if they continue on their winning ways could take the crown from Australia.

Jamaica: 172 rating

The Sunshine Girls have come along in leaps and bounds thanks to a host of their players joining the likes of the Suncorp Super Netball, Vitality Netball Superleague and ANZ Premiership to help further develop their craft. It is almost unheard of to even consider Jamaica as a potential number one nation but it is not impossible given they are only one point behind England and have some key players that can single handedly change the course of a game. With towering and prolific shooters, Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler at their disposal, Jamaica could rise up the ranks or at least challenge those above them. Throw in highly touted and exciting young defender Shamera Sterling along with goaler Shimona Nelson and the Sunshine Girls have a very bright future which puts them in good stead to mix it with the best and take out the number one spot.

*Note: For a full breakdown of how rankings are established, check out the International Netball Federation rankings.

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.

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Anstiss rising to the top for West Coast Fever

WITH netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak we take a look back at our interview with up and coming midcourt star Jess Anstiss which appeared in our inaugural magazine.

The fire still burns for West Coast Fever midcourter, Jess Anstiss after narrowly falling to the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the Suncorp Super Netball grand final last year. The Fever had an outstanding 2018 season rocketing up the ladder after an average 2017 campaign. West Coast were arguably the most dominant team with their accuracy to post, clinical defence and physicality across the court an integral part of their game plan.

Anstiss was a key cog in their finals assault with her defensive work around the circle second to none clogging up the attack end of her opposition. Standing at 171cm the tenacious wing defence is not one to shy away from a fight with her fierce and competitive attitude a key feature of her game.

“I’m a very competitive person so I do really like the competition aspect to it and when you win that feeling and doing it with nine other girls out on court yeah I really enjoy the relationships that you build,” she said.

2018 brought many memorable moments with Anstiss describing the surreal feeling of stepping out onto her home court with the crowd behind her.

“I’ve never really experienced too many grand finals in the past. WA has never really gotten that far and the atmosphere especially playing at RAC Arena was amazing in front of the home crowd. I guess the nerves are different to what just a normal game is and the lead up in the week is all very different but in the end of the day it was a normal game but the hype around it was insane,” she said.

Though her side made it to the big dance they fell agonisingly short and with the memories of the loss still fresh in the mind for the midcourter, she is hoping to make amends come season 2019.

“I guess we are going to try and use that grand final loss in a positive way this year and use it as fire in the belly and really come out. Throughout the pre-season it has been a really big driver for us to go that extra little bit so that we can try and win the grand final this season. It is hard to try and back up such a good season but I know this pre-season has been harder than last and yeah we seem to be stepping forward in the right direction I think,” she said.

The West Coast Fever have maintained a settle line up with the likes of bookends Courtney Bruce and star Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler signing on. Both players offer a great lot of character to the club on and off the court, with Fowler renowned for her relaxed nature, and captain Bruce using her fire to spur the team on.

“Jhaniele is amazing to play with. She’ll catch any ball that you put up and make your pass look good which is great for us centre court. But she also brings character to our team as well, she’s a quiet little assassin back in the shooting. But she brings lots of smiles and confidence to the whole team,” she said.

“Yeah Courts, loves to show her emotion I guess and that’s how she gets firing… she’s our captain so we look up to her and she gets out there and leads by example and comes out and takes those amazing intercepts. So we love Courto for the way that she shows her emotion and the smiles at the umpires make me laugh sometimes,” she said.

Since her introduction at the club Head Coach Stacy Marinkovich, has done wonders for the Fever providing plenty of experience and netball knowledge having played at the highest level for many years.

“Stacy has been an amazing coach for me especially she just seems to be able to bring the team together and works individually with athletes and knows exactly how to give feedback to individuals which is something not all coaches have the ability to do. So yeah she’s been great for the club and is a real big reason behind all of our success,” she said.

Given her dominant season for the Fever with her quick feet, hands over pressure and drive across the court Anstiss was rewarded for her hard work earning Australian selection.

“Yeah it was amazing to be selected into the squad last year. Something that I’ve dreamed of ever since I was a little kid. Yeah to be named amongst some of the best athletes in Australia it was a real honour,” she said.

But the accolades did not stop there for the humble wing defence taking out the Suncorp Super Netball Young Star award and Fever Best and Fairest award in her debut season. Anstiss ended the season with 12 intercepts, 31 deflections and 88 feeds showcasing her work both in defence and attack to provide that last pass into the goal circle.

“Yeah that was a big surprise, I didn’t think that was coming. But I guess individual awards are great but that wouldn’t come without the team playing around me, so I don’t really like getting them,” she said.

But before making it to the grand final and representing her country, Anstiss’ netball journey started at a young age following in the footsteps of her mother.

“I always grew up watching my mum play netball and then I guess it was just a natural thing to go into in primary school. Then mum coached me all throughout primary school and high school. So I guess watching her growing up made me want to play and be like her,” she said.

Anstiss did not always play through the midcourt, with the 22-year-old playing in goal attack for many years through her early stages before making the switch given her shorter stature. Swapping bibs did not seem to hinder the development of the talented netballer who has highlighted her versatility to swing between wing attack, centre and wing defence modelling the likes of New Zealand netball royalty, Laura Langman who has an impressive 151 caps to her name.

“The most prominent that I guess I still even look up to is Laura Langman. But in terms of Australians Nat von Bertouch was another one that I absolutely loved watching,” she said.

“I guess with Laura Langman it is her absolute doggedness and ability to both attack and defend and I guess Laura’s ability to read the play and same with Nat von Bertouch. I guess she was a more attacker player but just the way she knew exactly where to be at the right time,” she said.