Tag: liz ellis

Sharelle McMahon: Pathway to the 1999 World Netball Championship

IN the second instalment of our chat with Australian netball champion Sharelle McMahon, we take a look at her netball journey and that 1999 gold medal.

PART 1 – Sharelle McMahon: Pushing the boundaries.

McMahon’s pathway to the top level went a little differently to how it goes nowadays, with the talented goaler introduced to some familiar names along the way who propelled her into the world of elite sport. 

“When I talk about my development and how I came to be in Melbourne playing netball, I have to talk about my athletics part of my story as well,” McMahon said. “I actually was lucky enough to be coached by [Olympic gold medalist] Debbie Flintoff-King for a period of time, she ran some coaching clinics throughout Victoria … out of that group of people that she worked with right across Victoria she selected about 15 of us to go up to the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) and train up there with her.”

“So I was 13-years-old at that stage, maybe 13 about to be 14,” she said. “I was really young and it was really the first time that I’d experienced anything like being at the AIS or seeing Debbie Flintoff-King and I took an enormous amount out of getting to know her and in many ways to me it kind of opened my eyes … she can do something amazing like that, why couldn’t I do something like that. “And so for me, that relationship with Debbie although it was only pretty short-lived was really significant for me.”

Fast-forward a couple of years and McMahon went on to debut for Australia in 1998, before sinking the winning goal at the 1999 World Netball Championships to catapult her into netball stardom. 

“Being able to take it (netball) further and I guess replicate what I saw Vicki Wilson do in some ways – I remember watching her in the 1991 World Cup and I’d never seen netball played at the elite level, never. I’d kind of never even realised there was an Australian team!” McMahon said. 

“I clearly remember thinking, I want to do that. “That looks so, so fantastic. “And so, to actually be named in the team alongside her for the first time, it was kind of surreal. “It was really like what am I doing here. But it was amazing.”

The 1999 World Netball Championships final against New Zealand was littered with contentious decisions by the umpires that are still brought up even 20 years later.

McMahon ‘controversially’ entered the court during the latter stages of the third quarter of the final amidst confusion from both teams and in a physical and close encounter against the Ferns, there is plenty that was questioned both at the time and still today.

Jill McIntosh, our coach, had come over to me, actually not long before I went on the court,” McMahon said. “So, I don’t even know how long I was on the court for that in the third quarter, a few minutes, I think. “But she had come over and said to me ‘you’re going on at three quarter time so that’s what I had expected.

“I had been told I was sitting on the bench and so I had put my mind into that and was fully into that, and possibly should have been a little bit more ready to go on court because when Jill did come over and tap on my leg it gave me a huge shock to think that I was actually going out on court so that was my kind of initial reaction, and then those couple of minutes in the third quarter were a bit of a blur.”

What was nerve-wracking for spectators was amplified on the court, and while Australia was down by a solid margin by the final change, the instructions on how to turn the match on its head were clear as the teams returned to the court.

“I will never forget the feeling in the three quarter time huddle when we were down by six goals, and I think then went down to seven early in the fourth quarter,” McMahon said. “But Jill was very methodical about what we had to do and it was only a couple of turnovers is the reality of that situation. “When I talk to the girls about that we clearly remember that message from her, don’t think about the bigger picture or trying to make up the – oh my god, six goals, how do you do that – let’s break it down. It’s only three turnovers, and that is easily doable and we actually did that really quickly.”

“We were all just single minded about being able to get this game back, so you know I just threw myself into the game, probably literally, really. “And I remember Jenny Borlase screaming at me that whole quarter, ‘drive! drive!’ and so that’s what I was doing. “Wherever I was going. I was going hard and I didn’t care who was in the way or what I was doing. That’s what I was doing.”

“It was goal-for-goal for quite some time because we got the margin back pretty quickly, and then Donna Loffhagen had the ball under the post of course with only 20 seconds to go – I know there was 20 seconds to go because we had a time clock on the bench and I looked over and I remember the scores were level and I knew that it was New Zealand’s centre pass next. “And so, I fully remember standing on the court looking down as she was taking that shot thinking, well that’s it we’ve lost the World Cup. “But she missed, and what an amazing rebound it was – when I see that footage of Liz Ellis jumping up and taking that rebound, that is not easy to do. Being able to get up and take that rebound.”

“Maybe we’ll talk about some of the calls that led up to that situation, I’m not sure but then the ball came down court; did Kath Harby-Williams step, possibly, I don’t know; did someone replay the ball, possibly; did I contact when I took the ball for that last time, I don’t know, possibly! AlI know is that when Liz got that rebound, I just switched back into playing. I wasn’t fully conscious about the dire situation we were in really, because I just went back to playing. So when I took that shot, the enormity of it really wasn’t on my shoulders because I was just turning and taking a shot. I didn’t have time to think about it, I put the shot up and that was that. And it was only when the umpire signalled full time that I realised that meant we had won the game.”

“I don’t know the right way to explain how I tackle that situation but the reality is for me is that I just put everything out there, I’m not going to think about the things that can go wrong, as much as I can I just I just wanted to get out there and do everything I possibly could, so that I knew that I’d left everything out on the court and not be able to walk off thinking ‘if only I’d done that’, that was my mindset and that’s how I kind of got to that stage, I guess.”

McMahon went on to play in three World Cups and four Commonwealth Games campaigns, collecting a combined four gold medals along the way. But an elusive fourth World Cup in 2011 evaded her as injury struck.

“I had watched Vicki Wilson play in four World Cups and there was part of me that thought I would love to do that… so that World Cup that we were preparing for, that I was going to captain the Diamonds, was only three months away,” she said. 

“You know, without probably making really firm decisions on it, it just felt like the right time to retire so I was ready for that … and then I snapped my Achilles – thought actually someone kicked me, I was very angry about that – and then I turned around and realised that no one was standing there, and that was bad news.

“I think kind of post that and when all the emotions settled down, I just didn’t feel right having my final moment on the netball court being carried off with a ruptured Achilles, it just didn’t feel right.”

While McMahon retired from the international scene with that injury, she made a triumphant return to the domestic competition with the Melbourne Vixens before retiring overall in 2013.

Thanks to Sharelle McMahon and the supervising team at Parkville Netball Competitions – Joel Owen, Juleen Maxfield and Penny Carlson – for giving Draft Central access to this session.

Note – All questions throughout the meeting were contributed by the aforementioned umpiring cohort and supervisors, with just snippets of the hour-long meeting making the cut and much of the conversation revolving around umpiring.

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
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Memorable Matches: New Zealand break Diamonds’ 16 year World Championship run

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is the New Zealand Silver Ferns’ drought-breaking victory over the Australian Diamonds for the 2003 Netball World Cup gold in Kingston, Jamaica.

It was a match of pure physicality and supreme determination from both sides, with the Aussies insistent on continuing their winning streak but the Ferns with a fire in the belly, having not won a World Cup trophy in 16 years. Both teams had some stellar players, with plenty of recognisable names among them. While Australia won the second half, it was New Zealand’s threatening first half that put them in with the lead, able to hold on throughout despite the Aussies’ fight.

New Zealand took an early lead, winning the first quarter thanks to the dominant pairing of Irene van Dyk and Belinda Colling, seemingly one step ahead of the Australians. It was van Dyk’s first World Cup with New Zealand and the South African dual citizen quickly paid dividends for the side, with the accuracy and drive giving the Ferns something they had been missing in previous years. While the likes of Kathryn Harby-WIlliams and Liz Ellis picked up a wealth of loose ball, the Ferns duo were unstoppable at the post, combining well and applying constant scoreboard pressure to put the Aussies on the back foot. 

Up the Australian attacking end, Sharelle McMahon had a constant barricade in Sheryl Clarke blocking easy access into the circle, and while McMahon’s clean footwork and speed allowed her plenty of crucial ball, it was a physical encounter between the two. Clarke’s five intercepts and game changing deflection resulting in a gain in the dying minutes – were critical for the turn of the match, with the final quarter going back and forth as the Diamonds fought to come back. 

Teaming up with Clarke in defence was Vilimaina Davu, who delivered constantly applying pressure on Cynna Neale and McMahon at the post and forcing errors from the likes of Natasha Chokljat and Rebecca Sanders on circle edge, putting doubt in their minds. New Zealand’s typical zoning play was critical throughout, holding onto the ball with ease and denying the Aussie any clean motion or movement through the centre third. Cath Cox joined the fray in Neale’s replacement later in the match, able to apply some extra fancy footwork.

The physicality hit its peak in the final term, with a young Temepara Bailey being sent off – something ultimately unheard of in netball today, but a call which marked Bailey as the first ever player sent off in a World Cup final. It was her tenth contact that saw the call made, forcing Lesley Nicol into the centre bib and enabling two quick goals from the Aussies to draw even with the Ferns down a player on court, but the two minutes on the bench only put more fire in the belly of the New Zealand outfit, with a bigger drive and desire to get that elusive gold medal. 

The dying moments saw deflections aplenty, with neither side able to steal momentum long enough to score, but the Ferns’ early efforts were enough to get the win over a stellar Australian opposition, breaking the drought 49-47.

AUSTRALIA 10 | 12 | 12 | 13 (47)
NEW ZEALAND 14 | 13 | 10 | 12 (49)

STARTING SEVEN

Australia

GS: Cynna Neele
GA: Sharelle McMahon
WA: Natasha Chokljat
C: Rebecca Sanders
WD: Peta Scholtz
GD: Kathryn Harby-Williams
GK: Liz Ellis

BENCH: Alison Broadbent, Cath Cox, Janine Ilitch, Nicole Richardson, Eloise Southby
COACH: Jill McIntosh

New Zealand

GS: Irene Van Dyk
GA: Belinda Colling
WA: Anna Rowberry
C: Jodi Brown
WD: Lesley Nicol
GD: Sheryl Clarke
GK: Vilimaina Davu

BENCH: Tania Dalton, Leana de Bruin, Temepara Bailey, Anna Scarlett, Adine Wilson
COACH: Ruth Aitken

Compare the Pair: Liz Ellis and Courtney Bruce

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from different Australian Diamonds eras, with the next showcasing Australian goal keepers, Liz Ellis and Courtney Bruce.

With tenacity, constant pressure and an ability to do the impossible, Ellis and Bruce are two threats on the international stage with plenty of hunt for the ball and creativity to get it. Their respective excitement-generating play has helped turn the tides of their teams over and over, while their anticipation to leap for the intercept or make that game-changing deflection has them both as household names for netball fans. While the two players have entirely different game styles, it’s their respective commitment to the game at hand that sets them apart, able to adjust depending on their opposition to continue to maintain control game after game.

Ellis is one of the best defenders the world has seen, and as a constant threatening force to be reckoned with in defence there is no surprise why that is. Her read of the play was impeccable while her rotation in the circle to drop back or go on the hunt is testament to her trust in her teammates to fall back and form a wall in defence. Her speed to turn over the ball was crucial for the Diamonds while her captaincy proved her strength on court as not just a player but leader as the most capped player in Australian netball history.

The ex-captain was a force to be reckoned with, always ready to take possession with her impressive closing speed and reach over the netball. Her ability to anticipate patterns and turn the game on its head allowed her to make the game her own, and with three world titles and two Commonwealth Games gold just at international level – not counting domestic achievements – Ellis will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time.  

Courtney Bruce may not have the same number of caps but has well and truly proved herself in recent years with the Diamonds, forming a critical pairing with Jo Weston on the international stage where she can play that exciting intercepting role. With pressure and constant intensity to match, Bruce’s ability to anticipate the ball speeding down the court is crucial and paired with her speed off the mark she can create that defensive breathing room to propel the ball back up the court.

While Bruce does not have the Diamonds captaincy, her consistency and ability to turn over the ball sees her lead the West Coast Fever. Still only 26-years-old, Bruce has plenty left in the tank with her creativity sure to spark many a turnover for the Diamonds in the coming years. While her past year has been plagued by injury, Bruce will intend to be right as rain for the next year of international competition.

Liz Ellis
122 caps, 1993-2007

Courtney Bruce
33 caps*, 2017-present

Which goal keeper would you pick in their prime?
Liz Ellis
Courtney Bruce
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All-Time Dream Teams: Sophie Taylor vs. Taylah Melki

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

SOPHIE’S STARS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAYLAH’S TROOPS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which team do you think would win this clash?
Sophie's Stars
Taylah's Troops
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Netball fantasy teams: Commentators v. Coaches

WHILE now renowned for their presence off court whether it be behind a microphone or boundary side these commentators and coaches were once known for their on-court prowess. Both sides consist of former players from across the globe now turned media personalities or coaches whether it be assistant or head.  To be eligible to make either team they must have held a position in either role in the past two years.

Commentators:

GK: Liz Ellis
GD: Laura Geitz
WD: Bianca Chatfield
C: Anna Stanley
WA: Tamsin Greenway
GA: Sharelle McMahon
GS: Cath Cox

BENCH: Anne Sargeant, Adine Wilson, Ama Agbeze

There is no shortage of talent behind the mic with each and every player in the squad showcasing their class and talent at both an international and domestic level. Starting in goal keeper is none other than fan favourite and Australian Diamonds royalty Liz Ellis. The talented defender was an easy pick given her influence on court, long arms, ability to clog up space and come out for a screaming intercept when needed. Much like her defensive counterpart, Laura Geitz was another sure starter even though she was pushed out to goal defence to accommodate for Ellis. The former Diamonds goal keeper turned commentator was an excitement machine down back, generating plenty of turnover ball and using her impressive timing to perfection. Moving out to wing defence is Melbourne Vixens great and fellow Diamond defender Bianca Chatfield. Although typically known for her presence in circle defence, Chatfield is no stranger to the wing position with her height and long arm span doing a wealth of damage to block her opponents vision into the circle. New Zealand commentator and former Silver Ferns representative Anna Stanley takes out the centre position with the highly skilled midcourter possessing class and speed to boot. Her experience and nous on the court was unquestionable able to thread the needle with her passes and good vision while wing attack and former England Roses star Tamsin Greenway oozes plenty of game changing attributes. Arguably one of the headline duos in the team is the goal circle pairing of Sharelle McMahon and Catherine Cox. The two Australian Diamonds dynamites lit up the court with their explosiveness and deadeye accuracy. McMahon is a smooth mover, renowned for using her light and quick footwork to glide across the court while Cox can play both the holding and moving shooter with great ease. one thing that is fair to say is they hardly missed with the two making the most of their opportunities inside the goal circle and most importantly were not afraid to back themselves from range. Unlucky not to get the start was Anne Sargeant while the likes of midcourter Adine Wilson also just missed out despite pulling the bib on 79 times for the Ferns. Rounding out the team is former England Roses captain and defender Ama Agbeze with the lanky goal keeper known for her hunt for the ball, quick movement and ability to create something out of nothing.

 

Coaches:

GK: Roselee Jencke
GD: Claire McMenimen
WD: Simone McKinnis
C: Temepara Bailey
WA: Noeline Taurua
GA: Vicki Wilson
GS: Irene Van Dyk 

BENCH: Norma Plummer, Tracey Neville, Nicole Richardson

This squad is filled with some of the most recognised and highly established netball coaches at either an assistant or head coach position in the world. They range from international and domestic leagues but most importantly were silky smooth on the court. Firebirds head coach and former Diamonds defensive coach, Roselee Jencke is a star in her own right. She represented the Diamonds 43 times and was a real commanding presence down back with her hands over pressure and quick footwork to get around the body and force turnovers. After playing under Jencke at the Firebirds the now Diamonds specialist coach Clare McMeniman is set to pull on the goal defence bib. With class, defensive pressure and three-foot marking a couple of her key attributes it would be hard to go past the skilful defender. Although she was not the flashiest player it was her ability to shut down opponents with her tagging style of defence and skill to drop back into space and cherry pick passes and propel the ball back down the court with ease. Successful Vixens coach, Simone McKinnis has a firm grasp on the wing defence position thanks to her dynamic movement while veteran and now coach with the Northern Stars Temepara Bailey was a sure start in centre. Bailey is one of the most durable players able to run all day and all night, using her change of direction to full effect and delivering the ball with ease into the circle. Arguably one of the most praised coaches in netball history, Noeline Taurua pulls on the wing attack bib with the classy netballer in a league of her own when it comes to awareness and tactics. Taurua was clever with ball in hand able to see the play with ease and create space to allow attacking forays to unfold. Vicki Wilson was a key cog for the Diamonds with her precise shooting, impressive ball movement, clever footwork and versatility to switch between goal attack and goal shooter. After spending time with the Central Pulse last year, superstar goal shooter Irene Van Dyk was an easy call up. Van Dyk is one of the most accurate shooters the world has ever seen and was never fazed by the physicality of the contest. Her strong holds, incredible ability to stand and deliver from right underneath the ring and silky footwork put her in a league of her own while her high volume of shots made her the complete package. On the bench is none other than the great Norma Plummer, along with the retired Tracey Neville while Collingwood Magpies assistant coach Nicole Richardson completes the team.

Who would win?

Although there is plenty of class across both sides the defence end of the commentators’ squad is stacked with a host of game changers. Both Ellis and Geitz are renowned for their impressive feats in big grand finals or gold medal matches making them a tough challenge even for the likes of the ever-impressive Van Dyk. Throw in the tried and tested combination of McMahon and Cox in the goal circle and the commentators side has the slight upper hand given their strong connections across the court and explosiveness.

Who wins in this hypothetical battle?
Commentators
Coaches
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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.

Compare the Pair: Cath Cox and Caitlin Thwaites

THE Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two players from different Australian Diamonds eras, with the first examining goal shooters, Cath Cox and Caitlin Thwaites

Arguably two of the most dominant goal shooters of the modern era, both Cath Cox and Caitlin Thwaites have formed dominant options to post for the Diamonds. Both champions in their own right, Cox and Thwaites may have different shooting actions and playing styles but certainly both gave the Aussies a valuable advantage in the goal circle with their respective consistency and accuracy to post. Both standing at 188cm, the two goalers were able to change up their game at the drop of a hat and both showed immense improvement throughout their time at the  top level. Off the international stage, both players provided crucial linkups for the NSW Swifts and Melbourne Vixens at different stages in their respective careers, with Thwaites still currently suiting up for the Vixens in 2020.

Cox spent 16 years in the Australian squad, with the veteran shooter debuting in 1997 and retiring from the green and gold in 2014. Cox was an agile goal shooter throughout her time on the international stage, and while she was not the tallest, she still provided a crucial target at the post with her ability to free herself from her defender with her quick feet and speed off the mark. Her footwork and split created a formidable pairing with the shooter able to find the goals with ease, while her clean hands and impeccable timing allowed her to create impressive plays. She earned her 100th test cap in 2012 – by which time Thwaites was also a member of the squad – and reached 108 caps by the time she retired in early 2014, becoming the third most capped player in Australian netball history behind Liz Ellis (122) and Sharelle McMahon (118) and overtaking fellow goal shooter Vicki Wilson (104).

While Thwaites may not have reached as many caps as Cox with 55 to her name, it was her deadly accuracy, movement and ability to shoot from anywhere in the circle that made her such a threat in goals for the Diamonds. Thwaites played second fiddle to Caitlin Bassett for much of her international career but still managed to slot into the side and have an impact when required thanks to her ability to change up the attacking third entirely. Thwaites has proved again and again an ability to thwart defenders with her agility and willingness to take on the contest, with her physicality and stellar split giving defenders a tough time going about their business and denying Thwaites at the post. Thwaites’ eight years in the Australian squad may be dwarfed by Cox’s 16 in comparison, but she had arguably just as much of an impact on the game and was a real fan-favourite for the Diamonds.

Cath Cox
108 caps, 1997-2014

Caitlin Thwaites
55 caps, 2012-2019

Memorable matches: 1999 World Netball Championships final – Australia clinches third straight title in come-from-behind win

WITH netball taking a back seat to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. First up is Australia’s come-from-behind win over New Zealand at the 1999 World Netball Championships – now known as the Netball World Cup – in Christchurch, New Zealand, which saw Australia overcome a six-goal three quarter time deficit to reign supreme over the competition favourites. It was Australia’s third straight World Netball Championships victory and eighth title overall.

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It was a physical match from the get-go, with both teams coming into the final off the back of a tight semi-final. While New Zealand was expected to come up the goods, the Aussies put up a tough fight early with little separating the sides at quarter time. The Kiwis were clinical in the second, with shooting pair Donna Loffhagen and Belinda Colling just about unstoppable under the post, and unfazed by Liz Ellis and Kathryn Harby in defence. Julie Seymour and Anna Rowberry impressed through the midcourt, with the pair moving well through the pressurised goal third to feed crucial lobs to Loffhagen. 

The third quarter saw the heavens open for the New Zealand outfit, with consistency and cleanliness keeping their heads above water and extending to a six goal lead by the final change. Meanwhile, Australian coach Jill McIntosh was unafraid of switching it up, playing a young Sharelle McMahon in goal attack in the second half and rotating stalwart Jacqui Delaney – who had shot 12 of 18 – to the bench. While McMahon took some time warming into the match, thanks to defensive pressure from Belinda Charteris and Bernice Mene, it was this belief in the then 22-year-old that paid off, with captain Vicki Wilson (15 goals from 26 attempts) hitting the bench in the final quarter – in her final national cap – to make way for Jenny Borlase in goal shooter, with Borlase combining effortlessly with McMahon to shoot the lights out.

Australia was clinical in the final term, blowing New Zealand out of the water with an impressive 14 goal to six effort, levelling the scores midway through the term though New Zealand managed to draw back some of the momentum with the match well and truly coming down to the final seconds. A repeat toss-up in the late stages of the match is one of the more memorable moments, with little calling for a toss-up in today’s game and something that ate up precious time right under New Zealand’s goal post with little more than 40 seconds on the clock. But what the home side didn’t factor into the equation was the tenacity of Ellis, with the goal keeper leaping up to the ball and using her game smarts to propel it back down the other end. One thing Australia hasn’t lost over the past 20 years is its speed down the court, with the likes of Carissa Tombs, Shelley O’Donnell and Peta Squire racing down the court with ball in hand with McMahon fortunately on the end of it and unaware of the clock ticking down. 

It was a real combination of youth and experience that brought home the win, with Ellis dominating with her physicality dialling up a notch in the final quarter, sending Loffhagen flying and using her strength to bat the goalers away for the rebound. While McMahon only shot the six goals from eight attempts, her impact out on court far outweighed her volume and quick hands to feed to Borlase, who shot nine from 13 in the final quarter alone. For New Zealand, Loffhagen was impressive holding up for 30 goals but was unable to maintain accuracy in the last quarter, missing crucial chances to level scores or take the lead. 

This was both Wilson’s and Tombs’ last match for Australia, with both players retiring on the ultimate high following the 1999 victory.

NEW ZEALAND 13 | 10 | 11 | 7 (41)
AUSTRALIA 13 | 8 | 7 | 14  (42) 

STARTING SEVEN

New Zealand

GS: Donna Loffhagen
GA: Belinda Colling
WA: Anna Rowberry
C: Julie Seymour
WD: Lesley Nicol
GD: Belinda Charteris
GK: Bernice Mene

BENCH: Adine Harper, Teresa Tairi, Sonya Hardcastle, Lorna Suafoa, Linda Vagana
COACH: Yvonne Willering

Australia

GS: Vicki Wilson
GA: Jacqui Delaney
WA: Shelley O’Donnell
C: Carissa Tombs
WD: Peta Squire
GD: Kathryn Harby-Williams (Nee Harby)
GK: Liz Ellis

BENCH: Jennifer Borlase, Sharon Finnan, Janine Ilitch, Sharelle McMahon, Rebecca Sanders
COACH: Jill McIntosh

SHOOTING STATS

New Zealand:

Donna Loffhagen 30/42
Belinda Colling 11/20

Australia:

Vicki Wilson 15/26
Jacqui Delaney 12/18
Jenny Borlase 9/13
Sharelle McMahon 6/8

Top 5 Australian goal keepers from the 90s to now

THROUGHOUT Diamonds history there has been a host of star players in the goal keeper position. Since entering a new decade we decided to rank the top five goal keepers since 1990 to now. This is an opinion-based article based on the perceptions of the individual writer and how they rank against other defenders.

#1 Liz Ellis

There is no denying that the former Australian captain and star goal keeper is one in a million and is renowned for her extreme defensive pressure. She could turn a game on its head with her read of the play, go-go gadget arms and strong leadership on court. Although she was not renowned for her flashy gameplay Ellis was able to wear her opponents down, proving to be a stalwart in defence. She used her lean over the shot to put doubt in goalers’ minds and used her quick feet to get around the body of opponents and cause confusion to force turnovers. Ellis has one of the most decorated international careers in Australian netball history, winning an impressive three World Championships (1995, 1999, 2007) and two Commonwealth gold medals highlighting her defensive prowess. While she shone on the international stage, Ellis was no slouch in the domestic league winning four premierships with the Swifts.

#2 Laura Geitz

Former Australian Diamonds and Queensland Firebirds captain Laura Geitz paved the way for future goal keepers with her skill and class. Geitz could sense a moment and capitalise no matter what thanks to her dynamic play and ability to read the flow of the game. she could pull off the unthinkable in the blink of an eye using her long reach to cause turnovers or take a big intercept. Her footwork was exceptional, able to cleanly work her way around the body of the goalers and cause confusion to pick off errant passes. Her on-court leadership was second to none, often providing a steadying head down back to help reset play and push forward. She was versatile able to body up against opponents or turn to a more zoned defence to run through and pick off passes making her exciting to watch. Throughout her career Geitz racked up two Commonwealth Games silver medals and one gold medal along with World Cup golds. Her dominance was also felt at a domestic level winning three ANZ Premierships with the Firebirds.

#3 Sharni Layton

Arguably one of the toughest and most physical competitors on the netball court thanks to her never say die attitude and commitment to the contest. Layton was no slouch down in the goal circle, using every inch of her experience to dictate the space and cause turnovers.  Although she was costly at times when it came to penalties you could always count on the talented goal keeper to pull something out of the bag. Her physical nature often rubbed players up the wrong and allowed her to capitalise and pick off passes to inflict pain on the opposition. She was an energiser bunny on the court, running rampant in the defensive goal circle and using her leap to get hands to ball. Layton made her mark both on the international stage along with domestically despite jumping around a bit. She was a part of the gold winning side in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won gold in 2015 at the World Cup.

#4 Bianca Chatfield

The Melbourne-born defender was a staple hold down back for Australia using her commanding height and quick feet to consistently pose a threat. Chatfield holds the title of the youngest player to debut for Australia playing her first game at 18 and not looking back since. She was damaging with her long reach, physical nature and ability to prevent the ball from entering the goal circle. She was one of the most durable and versatile players able to switch out to goal defence when needed thanks to her experience and netball understanding. Chatfield played in both the 2007 World Cup winning squad and 2014 Commonwealth Games to cap off her an already impressive career. She was one of the most consistent players at the domestic level racking up a whopping 244 games and won four ANZ Premierships.

#5 Courtney Bruce

Bruce could be seen as a mix of both Layton and Geitz in her game play using her physicality and timing to disrupt the flow of opposition shooters. The Western Australian goal keeper has gone from strength to strength and despite suffering recent injuries has been crucial to the Diamonds in the past couple of years. She can read the play with ease and take important intercepts when needed making her a key player for the green and gold. Her acceleration is impressive, able to cover the court with ease while her footwork in the circle is solid able to manoeuvre around the body and cause confusion for the feeders. Bruce still has plenty of time left in her career and while she has tasted some success will be looking to build on her trophy room, having made it to the grand final with the Fever but falling short and collecting two silver medals from the past World Cup and Commonwealth Games.