Tag: liana leota

Fantasy Head 2 Head – Australia vs. New Zealand 1990 to now

AUSTRALIA and New Zealand have been locked in their fair share of battles throughout history so Draft Central has combined the ultimate fantasy team combining players from the 1990 era to now. With a host of star players littered across the court it is hard to determine which country has the upper hand given both sides ability to turn a game on its head with their explosiveness and ability to do the unthinkable.

Australia:

GK: Liz Ellis
GD: Laura Geitz
WD: Renae Ingles
C: Natalie Bode (nee Von Bertouch)
WA: Kim Green
GA: Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett)
GS: Sharelle McMahon
BENCH: Claire McMeniman, Catherine Cox, Julie Corletto

Over the years the Diamonds have had a multitude of a-class players take the court none more than the legendary Sharelle McMahon. The Bendigo born shooting prodigy was one of a kind with her smooth movement and strong drives consistently on show while her ability to hit the scoreboard with ease was another feature of her game. Goal attack, Gretel Bueta however, has a very different approach. The unconventional shooter is renowned for her explosive power, speed and towering height. She has developed into arguably one of the Diamonds most important assets given her influence on the court. Classy, wing attack Kim Green is another handy inclusion in the hypothetical side with her bullet like passes and ability to stop on a dime a key feature of her game. Her physicality and hustle sets her apart from other midcourters while the likes of Natalie Bode is a more consistent and tempered centre. Renae Ingles has been one of the Diamonds key contributors with her long arm span causing all sorts of havoc for attackers thanks to her ability to block their vision into the circle. Her deceptive speed, quick reactions and intense defensive pressure creates opportunities for turnovers time and time again. Although she is typically a goal keeper, Laura Geitz was too good to sit on the bench and has spent some time throughout her career out in goal defence. Geitz was one of the most exciting defenders to watch given her tenacity and ability to sense the moment and take a big intercept that would change the court of the game. The former Diamonds captain oozed nothing but class, composure and netball smarts always able to muster up something to disrupt the flow in attack. Fellow defender, Liz Ellis was similar consistently able to get hands to ball and force a turnover. Ellis will go down as one of Australia’s most prominent netball figures leading her country to World Cup glory. Geitz’ partner in crime Claire McMeniman made the bench thanks to her attack on the court and ability to shut players down with her tagging style of defnce while through the midcourt the likes of wing defence Julie Corletto made her way into the team. In the shooting circle, it is hard to go past Cath Cox with the talented shooter able to score from anywhere in the circle and put up a hefty total.

New Zealand

GK: Casey Kopua
GD:  Katrina Rore
WD: Joline Henry
C: Laura Langman
WA: Liana Leota
GA: Maria Folau
GS: Irene Van Dyk
BENCH: Catherine Tuivaiti, Julie Seymour, Leana de Bruin

It is hard to deny that the Silver Ferns had one of the most prominent and damaging shooters that netball has ever seen in Irene Van Dyk. The talented South African come New Zealander guided her side to many famous victories over the Aussies thanks to her cool calm and collected approach to the post plus her ability to hold space directly under the post. In the goal attack position, Maria Folau was renowned as the long bomb shooter able to slot them with her heels flapping on the edge of the circle. Folau was one of a kind, consistently backing herself from range and able to inflict pain with her silky shot and clever movement around the circle. In the centre it is hard to go past the talent which is Laura Langman. The gut running midcourter is in a league of her own able to run all day and night often exhausting opponents and using her high netball IQ to slice through opposition defences. While her attacking is high class so too is her defensive work able to take match winning intercepts thanks to her endurance and class. Joline Henry was part of the furniture down back for the Ferns able to seamlessly rotate between wing defence and circle defence to provide a point of difference for New Zealand. But the combination of Katrina Rore and Casey Kopua has been one for the ages with the two creating a formidable duo time and time again. Just like fine wine, the two got better with age given their understanding and intense pressure to force turnovers or go out hunting for cross court balls. Their arms over pressure in the circle is a key attribute causing hesitation and held balls. On the bench the likes of Catherine Tuivaiti, Julie Seymour and Leana de Bruin were all great servants to the Ferns. Tuivaiti was often brought on as that impact player under the post able to hold her own and shoot accordingly while Seymour was recognised as one of the greatest centres of all time. Defensively de Bruin was a mastermind able to create something out of nothing.

Who would win?

History would suggest that the Aussies should take the honours given that since 1990 the Diamonds have won five World Cup titles against their Trans-Tasman rivals along with three Commonwealth Games gold medals, in which each of the aforementioned players had a monumental impact in. However, the games have been close in each of these encounters with a mere goal separating both countries at times showcasing just how stacked both sides are. Considering Australia’s defensive edge it would be fair to tilt the scales slightly in their favour but the combination of Van Dyk and Folau is one to be enviable of.

Vitality Netball Superleague review Round 4: Stars stun Wasps while Thunder make it four on the trot

ONLY two games were played in Round 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) as a result of the coronavirus. While not all the games went ahead, the two games that happened provided plenty of intrigue and a surprising upset.

Severn Stars (59) defeated Wasps (54)

The first game of the round well and truly lived up to the hype with the Stars pulling off one of the biggest coups this season with a five-goal win over the Wasps. The Stars established a handy lead in the first quarter and steadily built on it heading into the main break with a three-goal buffer. But the Wasps are a classy unit and showed just how easily they can flip the script going on a scoring rampage of 18 goals to 10. The strong fight back did not last long though, with the Stars landing the final blow in the last quarter with an impressive 10-goal turnaround. Severn simply could not be denied under the post piling on a whopping 20 goals while keeping the Wasps under wraps and limiting their attacking ball movement. They simply could not maintain their high intensity third term falling short and notching up their third loss for the year a feat they would not have been expecting heading into the season. The Wasps were force out of their usual game style racking up 20 unforced errors and while defensively they were strong winning the deflections and intercepts tally the Stars took the cake when it came to accuracy and ability to stay away from the whistle.

Georgia Rowe was a key cog in the Stars win with the towering goal shooter only missing one goal for the game and nailing a game-high 47 shots. Rowe was unstoppable under the post making it look effortless with her clever movement and connection with shooting comrade Paige Reed. The goal attack managed to put on 12 goals and while her accuracy was down, missing six goals she played a pivotal support role. Defensively Towera Vinkhumbo was in a league of her own with the new recruit racking up the stats with four intercepts and four deflections. Wasps’ shooter Rachel Dunn was her usual dominant self in the goal circle with her impressive timing, strong hands and range on full display with 45 goals while both Sienna Rushton and Alexia Baker struggled to find their rhythm with a combined nine goals. With the attacking end struggling to fire, Fran Williams led the way down back with her ball winning ability and desperation. Williams finished with two rebounds, four intercepts and one deflection while goal keeper Hannah Knights imposed herself with two intercepts and one deflection. Jade Clarke found herself back in wing defence up against former Silver Fern Liana Leota who was clever with ball in hand and played a big role in creating scoring chances for her side.

Surrey Storm (42) defeated by Manchester Thunder (60)

Manchester kept their undefeated run intact with a dominant 18-goal win over the lowly Storm. The Thunder raced out of the gates opening up a six goal lead at the first break and extending it to 13 by half time. It was a complete performance by the reigning premiers who looked slick across the court and never really gave the Storm a chance. Although their scoring dried up in the second half, only adding 27 goals to their tally compared to their 33 in the first half, the Thunder still romped it home, keeping the home side under double digits in the fourth quarter. When it came to penalties around the court the away side won the battle with 49-42 while they also had the upper hand when it came to intercepts with Thunder highlighting their defensive prowess with 16 to seven. Despite the Thunder being costly around the court with nine more turnovers 22-13 they managed to win enough of the ball back to do damage on the scoreboard and run out with the win.

It was a trying game for the Storm shooters, with Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin receiving plenty of close attention from their opposition. Bailey was the main scoring source for Surrey, with the experienced goaler proving to be a rock under the post with six offensive rebounds to go with her 24 goals. Hankin although she was not overly accurate still had an influence with her 11 goals while through the midcourt Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin worked tirelessly to deliver the ball into the circle. However it was the defensive efforts of Caroline O’Hanlon and Amy Carter that stood head and shoulders above the rest through the midcourt with the two taking a combined six intercepts and five deflections. Australian defender, Leah Middleton also had a profound influence and while she received plenty of attention from the umpire with 18 penalties her ball winning ability was on display with a couple of timely tips to disrupt Thunders attacking flow. For Thunder, the shooting load was evenly spread across both Joyce Mvula and Eleanor Cardwell. Mvula was strong under the post with her aerial presence and accuracy on display finishing with 25 goals while Cardwell top-scored with 29 goals from 36 attempts at 81 per cent. In the defensive circle the tried and tested duo of Loreen Ngwira and Emma Dovey wreaked havoc confusing the space with their constant movement and hunt for the ball. Ngwira notched up four intercepts and six deflections while Dovey managed two rebounds, four intercepts and four deflections to cap off an all-round impressive performance by the visiting side.

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

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

Severn Stars  v. Wasps Netball
Worcester Arena

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

Surrey Storm v. Manchester Thunder
Surrey Sports Park

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

Loughborough Lightning v. Saracens Mavericks
Sir David Wallace Arena 

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

Celtic Dragons v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sports Wales National Centre

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

Team Bath v. London Pulse
Team Bath Arena

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

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

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

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

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

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

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

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

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

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

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

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

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

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

Severn Stars v. Manchester Thunder
Worcester Arena

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

Loughborough Lightning v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sir David Wallace Arena

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

Celtic Dragons v. Team Bath
Cardiff Met University

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

Surrey Storm v. London Pulse
Surrey Sports Park

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

Wasps Netball v. Saracens Mavericks
Ricoh Arena

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

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 1

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

GK: Latanya Wilson (Celtic Dragons)

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

GD: Loreen Ngwira (Manchester Thunder)

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

WD: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)

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

C: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

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

WA: Liana Leota (Severn Stars)

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

GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)

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

GS: Kim Commane (Team Bath)

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

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

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

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 1 – Team Bath and Mavericks claim big victories

ROUND 1 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) started in style with reigning premiers Manchester Thunder keeping the good times rolling, while last years cellar dwellers London Pulse got an early win on the board.

Strathclyde Sirens (51) defeated by London Pulse (53)

It was a tight contest from the opening quarter with only three goals separating them at half-time credit to the high intensity from both sides and desperation to get the first win on the board. A strong 12-goal final quarter all but gifted the Pulse the win doing just enough to keep the Pulse at bay. It was hard to differentiate between both teams but the Pulse made the most of their opportunities under the post sitting at 51 per cent while defensively they gobbled up 100 per cent of rebounds that came their way. Meanwhile the Sirens showcased their defensive prowess with more intercepts.

Shooting duo Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher formed a strong partnership and although Goodwin slotted more goals with 31 compared to Gallagher’s 20 the load was relatively evenly spread. Goodwin showcased her vision as well collecting 13 goal assists and strength to take four rebounds. Through the midcourt Claire Maxwell showed her worth with two intercepts and a deflection but gave the ball away cheaply with 10 penalties and four turnovers to her name. Recruit Zanele Vimbela set tongues wagging with the highly touted South African defender picking up six intercepts and three deflections for her efforts. For the Pulse the addition of Sigi Burger paid dividends with the towering SPAR Proteas shooter nailing 44 goals proving to be a key target under the post. Chiara Semple played a good support role to Burger in the circle while Adean Thomas was impressive through midcourt. The defensive trio of Michelle Drayne, Lindsay Keable and Helimat Adio proved to be too much to handle with the three picking up six intercepts and two deflections between them.

Celtic Dragons (43) defeated by Surrey Storm (44)

A mere goal separated both sides at the final whistle with the Surrey Storm coming from behind to knock over the Dragons and secure their first three points of the season. The Dragons had all the ascendancy but let it slip right through their fingers in the fourth quarter with the Storm adding 13 goals to their total compared to the Dragons who only managed to slot another seven. The Storm had more unforced turnovers than their opponents but sat at a higher shooting percentage helping them to just sneak past the Dragons.

Amy Clinton proved to be the go-to-girl for Celtic Dragons with the goal shooter doing the bulk of the scoring with 26 goals while the goal attack position rotated between Brittany Coleman who posted nine goals and Jamaican Rebekah Robinson with eight goals. In her first game of VNSL Latanya Wilson took the competition by storm and claimed player of the match honours thanks to her impressive defensive efforts to repel the ball coming down the court and do the unthinkable with 10 intercepts, two rebounds and three deflections. For Surrey, it was Australian Karryn Bailey that led the way in the goal circle with 31 goals while both Sophie Hankin and Yasmin Hodge-England chipped in with four and five goals respectively to get their side over the line. Through the midcourt, coach/captain Mikki Austin got the ball rolling with her clever movement and impressive vision.

Saracens Mavericks (70) defeated Severn Stars (49)

It was a convincing second half performance by the Mavericks who did not look like giving the Stars any chance to work their way back into the contest. After being surprised in the opening term thanks to the Stars opening up a six-goal lead, the Mavericks wrestled back momentum and put the foot well and truly down. The Mavericks put on a show in the second quarter adding a whopping 23 goals to their total and establishing a nine-goal lead heading into half-time. That lead only grew as the match went on, eventually running away with a 21-goal victory. Accuracy proved to be no issues for the Mavs, while their defensive intent was also on display winning the intercepts battle. The unforced errors column leaned towards the Stars while in terms of turnovers the Mavericks had more.

Roses goaler, George Fisher did not put a foot wrong in her outing for the Mavs with the talented goal shooter nailing 51 goals credit to her silky footwork and strong holds under the post. Fisher provided a good release target while goal attack Kadeen Corbin got to work opening up space around her and hitting the scoreboard with 19 goals. Not only did she do the attacking role well but so too made her presence felt in defence with two impressive intercepts. Defensively goal keeper Razia Quashie was a rock down back using her read of the play to pluck off seven intercepts along with two deflections. Her partnership with Jo Trip was strong stopping Severn Stars shooters Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed any easy avenue to goal. Rowe top scored for the stars with 32 goals while through the midcourt Liana Leota used her speed to hit circle edge. New comer Ama Agbeze had her moments of magic but collected plenty of attention from the umpire with eight penalties.

Team Bath (72) defeated Loughborough Lightning (58)

After falling short of the grand final in season 2019, Team Bath came out with a real point to prove and unfortunately for the Lightning they were on the end of their scoring barrage. Bath put on the after burners in the second half putting on a 20 and 19-goal spectacle to all but seal the deal ultimately running the Lightning off their feet. It was relatively even in the first quarter with both sides working on their connections across the court but once Bath kicked into gear they could not be stopped despite not having the likes of Eboni Usoro-Brown and Serena Guthrie. In terms of accuracy, Bath was deadly under the post making the most of their opportunities. Not only was their attacking end on fire, but so too defence claiming more intercepts and rebounds than Loughborough.

Team Bath underwent a leadership change over the off-season with Kim Commane and Summer Artman at the helm after Usoro-Brown announced her pregnancy. The co-captaincy seemed to do wonders for Commane, with the Aussie goaler putting on a clinic in the goal circle with an impressive 55 goals, while youngster Sophie Drakeford-Lewis chimed in with a handy 13 goals to really punish their opponents. Betsy Creak also played a good cameo role with her four goals while through the midcourt Imogen Allison plied her trade in centre getting hands to ball and delivering well-weighted passes into the circle. Mary Cholhok was the dominant shooter for the Lightning putting up 48 goals with goal attack Ella Clark nailing nine goals but it was not enough to worry Bath’s defence end. Nat Panagarry and Jessica Shaw shared the centre position while down back Alice Harvey worked tirelessly collecting three intercepts and two deflections in trying conditions.

Manchester Thunder (62) defeated Wasps Netball (55)

In the grand final rematch it was once again the Thunder that got the wood over the Wasps with a seven-goal victory. The Wasps were never really in the match with the Thunder establishing an early lead and keeping them at arms-length throughout. Just like a well-oiled machine Manchester kicked into gear from the first whistle forcing the Wasps onto the back foot and shutting down any easy avenue to goal. The Thunder seemed to reign supreme in all areas over the court with their accuracy marginally better than the Wasps and collecting both more intercepts and rebounds than their opponents highlighting their increased hunt for the ball. Despite having a higher percentage of turnovers with 71 per cent compared to 29 per cent they managed to have an impact when they had ball in hand.

With plenty of deadly options under the post, Eleanor Cardwell got the start and did the most damage with the shooter putting on 40 goals while Joyce Mvula also showcased her explosiveness with 17 goals of her own. Kathryn Turner also hit the scoreboard with five goals highlighting the versatility they have in the goal circle. Through the midcourt both Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm used their vision and speed to have an impact across the court whether it be in defence or in transition. Defensively Loreen Ngwira was a rock picking up four intercepts showcasing her strength and read of the play. For the Wasps the tried and trusted combination of Rachel Dunn and Katie Harris lived up to expectations with the two rotating through the circle nicely and complimenting each other’s style of play. Dunn was the top scorer with 34 goals while Harris showed her worth under the post with 20 goals. Jade Clarke was strong in wing defence while Fran Williams showed her impressive footwork and defensive mindset with two intercepts and six deflections.

VNSL 2020 season preview: Can Manchester go back-to-back?

WITH the 2020 season of Vitality Superleague Netball (VNSL) set to commence on the weekend expect plenty of fireworks. After a disappointing 2019 the Strathclyde Sirens and London Pulse will be hoping to climbs the ranks while the Wasps and Manchester Thunder will be hoping to continue their reign at the top of the table.

Potential top four:

It is hard to see the top four changing too much from last year’s finalists given the limited changeover of players and the high level at which these sides played at. With the grand final loss still fresh in their memory, expect the Wasps to come out with a real vengeance and look to go one better in season 2020. They have a high calibre of players with the likes of Rachel Dunn, Fran Williams and Jade Clarke crucial cogs across the court for the Wasps making them the team to beat this season. But the Wasps will have to combat Manchester Thunder who have gone from strength to strength in recent years thanks to the plethora of talent across the court. The experience of Caroline O’Hanlon and Joyce Mvula makes them an unstoppable force while the steady development of Amy Carter and Laura Malcolm is an ominous thought. Throw in the likes of goaler Eleanor Cardwell and Manchester could be shaping up to be premiership contenders. Another possible top four contender is Team Bath who showed they have the skill to take it to the top teams but suffered from inconsistency. Bath have lost superstar Serena Guthrie with the talented midcourter stepping away but her absence will allow the likes of Imogen Alison to step up to the plate. Aussie goaler Kim Commane has proven to be rock solid under the post while the development of Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Summer Artman could be the winning edge they are looking for. The Mavericks showed plenty of strong sings last season and once again will be pushing for a top four spot after falling just short in season 2019. New recruit Jodie Gibson could be the missing piece for Saracens with her defensive pressure and experience pairing with the likes of Razia Quashie down back. Towering goal shooter George Fisher is another key player to keep an eye on for the Mavs while sisters Kadeen and Sasha Corbin are a dynamic duo. If all things go to plan, they could quite easily leapfrog fellow teams and make their way into finals.

Finals contenders:

After making the finals last year it will be hard for Loughborough to be discounted from the finals talk given their ability to apply full court pressure and a relatively unchanged line-up. Boasting the likes of Nat Panagarry and Mary Cholhok the Lightning are a real chance to make it into the top four again but with other teams strengthening and recruiting key players may be edged out of contention. It is hard to not consider Severn Stars as a possible top four side after claiming sixth spot last season and adding the likes of Ama Agbeze, Nia Jones and midcourter Liana Leota to the fold in 2020. They have all the makings to be a high-quality side, but suffer from inconsistency, something they will be hoping to iron out this year. After finishing mid-table last season the Celtic Dragons could be in for a challenging 2020 but still have the likes of Dee Bolakoro and new-comer Latanya Wilson to lead the way in the defensive end. They have welcomed a wealth of new players into the fray with Rebekah Robinson and Shona O’Dwyer also entering the mix meaning it may take some time for the side to settle into a rhythm and really hit their straps.

Outsiders:

Despite the inclusion of South African shooting star Sigi Burger it could be another tricky year for London Pulse. Burger will offer a great target under the post with her height and strong holds while the addition of Michelle Drayne could add further star power to the shooting circle. The Strathclyde Sirens have a relatively unchanged line-up heading into 2020 and will be hoping to find better connections across the court to put out a more consistent four quarter performance. Recruit Zanele Vimbela will add a wealth of excitement to the Sirens defensive stocks while shooters Bethan Gooden and Emma Barrie have proven to be a dynamic duo when on song. After finishing eighth on the ladder the Surrey Storm will be hoping to improve their rankings this year thanks to the recruitment of goaler Karyn Bailey but could be a star player or two away from really taking it to the top teams.

VNSL 2020 team preview: Severn Stars

WITH the 2020 season of the Vitality Netball Superleague now upon us, we take a look at each team heading into a massive year in Superleague netball. The next team in our season preview is Severn Stars.

Coach: Melissa Bessell
2019 finish: 6th (7-11)

Despite a slow season, the Stars do not have too much to be disappointed about with clear improvements throughout the season and a real ability to come up with shock wins. While they had plenty of talent across the court last season, they did not have the polish to get the job done consistently and were ultimately unable to really compete against the tougher teams.

2020 predictions:

With a number of big pick-ups this season, the real question for the Stars is whether they will have the connections across the court to improve on their 2019 form and create a new brand of Stars netball that can really compete with the best. The likes of Celtic Dragons trio, Nia Jones, Bethan Dyke and Lucy Herdman will bring a solid connection to make for an interesting addition to the side while veteran, Liana Leota can bring a wealth of experience to a side that seemed to lack that last season. They have really bolstered their stocks through the midcourt with Dyke, Jones and Leota all able to rotate through wing attack, centre and wing defence giving them plenty of options heading into 2020. Towera Vinkhumbo will be another one to watch throughout the season with the Malawian defender able to get hands to ball and hopefully create turnover opportunities for her side to capitalise on. 

Key pick-up: Ama Agbeze GD/GK (London Pulse)

Ex-captain of the England Roses, Agbeze will bring not just a wealth of knowledge and experience but also the winning mentality the Stars need to go one better this season. With leadership skills and an ability to lead from the front, Agbeze has the game smarts to win a game off her own back and the cleanliness to intervene attacking forays. With balance and strength to boot, expect Agbeze to play her role but also bring a different aspect to her play with her ability to elevate the young players around her. The defender can switch between goal keeper and defence when needed and is not afraid to back herself to go for intercepts and propel the ball back down the court. 

Team list:

Sam Cook (player-coach role)
Liana Leota (Manchester Thunder)
Nia Jones (Celtic Dragons)
Bethan Dyke (Celtic Dragons)
Georgia Rowe
Paige Reed
Lucy Harris
Ella Powell-Davies
Lucy Herdman (Celtic Dragons)
Ama Agbeze (London Pulse)
Towera Vinkhumbo (Malawi)
Hannah Howl
Chloe Carchrie
Jane Taylor
Ellie Gibbons
Chloe Cubello

2020 Pre-season Manchester Invitational preview: Mike Greenwood Trophy

FOUR Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) teams will battle it out for the Mike Greenwood Trophy as part of the Pre-season Manchester Invitational. Following Team Bath hosting its BiG Showdown earlier in the week, reigning VNSL premiers, Manchester Thunder will host this pre-season tournament which plays out over one day. Each team will play three round-robin matches against the other teams competing, with the top two sides at the end of the day facing off for the overall title.

The teams that are competing are of course hosts, Manchester Thunder, as well as Loughborough Lightning, Team Bath and Saracens Mavericks. The Mavericks and Bath come into the tournament with some hitouts under their belt following the BiG Showdown, where the sides faced off in the final there. The Mavericks won both those clashes, so it will be fascinating to see how Bath responds when the two teams meet at 3pm on Saturday. The day opens with the Mavericks taking on the Thunder, before Loughborough Lightning have back-to-back games against Team Bath and the Thunder. Bath will then take a turn at back-to-back matches against the Mavericks and Thunder, with the Mavericks playing the Lightning in the final match of the day prior to the final.

Manchester Thunder are the reigning premiers in the VNSL with their defensive unit one of their strengths on the court. The Thunder will need to overcome the retirement of defensive post, Kerry Almond, and departure of important wing attack, Liana Leota heading into the 2020 season. They have a towering presence in goal shooter, with experienced Malawi talent, Joyce Mvula having an impressive reach and high volume to post. The Thunder will undoubtedly test out a number of combinations to fill the holes left by the departures, but it will be interesting to see how they perform. With Northern Ireland veteran, Caroline O’Hanlon staying on, the Thunder still have experience in the front court. Add in Eleanor Cardwell who stepped up in crunch moments last season such as the VNSL Grand Final, and the Thunder could be a high scoring side.

Saracens Mavericks are coming off a successful BiG Showdown tournament where they would love to add some more silverware to their cabinet in this one-day event. Up front, George Fisher is a player who can make a difference, while Kadeen and Sasha Corbin – members of the England Roses development pathway – are other names to keep an eye out for. Razia Quashie in goal keeper is one of the best in the competition and someone who will hope to counter the likes of Mvula in the circle. Jodie Gibson is a huge addition to the Mavericks’ squad this season, crossing from Wasps over the off-season and will line-up in a defensive post and provide some great experience and strength.

Team Bath showed they will be another key title contender in the VNSL for 2020, following their performances at the BiG Showdown. With the experienced and now Bath Hall of Famer Serena Guthrie on the list – though now moving onto a non-playing role – she has helped develop the future of England netball, with Ebony Usoro-Brown already having an impact at international level, while Imogen Allison and Summer Artman are others who have shown great improvement throughout the 2019 VNSL season since Guthrie returned. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis up front is a real young talent and while raw, could be one to keep in mind for the future. She will learn plenty off Australian shooter, Kim Commane who has been a terrific force across multiple leagues, with the former Melbourne Vixens’ shooter a great mentor for any young shooter.

Loughborough Lightning have an almost unstoppable force in Mary Cholhok who on her day can put up a ridiculous amount of goals. Still only 22-years-old and standing at 201cm (6 ft 7 in), Cholhok has a reach that very few can match, and the Ugandan talent is one who will continue to standout on the world stage. The other major player in the Lightning’s side is Natalie Panagarry, who has captained Loughborough and also represented England at international level. The Lightning will also look to a young defensive duo this season in Annabel Roddy who has returned to the club, joined by former London Pulse defender, Jaz Odeogberin. Both have played international netball at junior level and are still only teenagers themselves. Add in the likes of Roses’ juniors Suzie Liverseidge, Alice Harvey and Beth Gabriel, and the Lightning have plenty of youth prospects coming through.

Pre-season Manchester Invitational Fixture:

12pm – Manchester Thunder vs. Saracens Mavericks
1pm – Team Bath vs. Loughborough Lightning
2pm – Manchester Thunder vs. Loughborough Lightning
3pm – Saracens Mavericks vs. Team Bath
4pm – Manchester Thunder vs. Team Bath
5pm – Saracens Mavericks vs. Loughborough Lightning
6pm – Final

*All local times