Tag: london pulse

Who is the biggest threat to Thunder’s crown?

THE 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague Season saw a massive rise in competitiveness across the competition with a number of teams vying for a spot in the finals. While it was Manchester Thunder that got the chocolates last year, any number of teams could have beaten another high flyer on their day in a fairly even season. 

But while 2019 was an exciting year for netball in England, 2020 has already had a phenomenal start with a number of teams proving their off-season pick-ups and form could be a big threat to Thunder’s chances of repeating their 2019 season.

With plenty of teams in the running for the 2020 crown, which teams have the most chance of knocking Manchester off after the first few rounds?

Team Bath

The blue and gold came so close in season 2019, falling at the final hurdle but ultimately coming in third with a six-goal win against Loughborough Lightning in the third place playoff. Where Bath may have fallen last season, they have been nothing if not threateningly consistent this year with three convincing wins under their belt, all by 10-plus margins. Worth noting is that while Manchester currently sits ahead of Bath on the ladder, the Thunder played one more match than Bath prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, meaning Bath could well and truly have been ahead if not for the pandemic. 

Bath lost major names in Serena Guthrie and Eboni Usoro-Brown over the off-season but do not appear to have skipped a beat with the likes of Kim Commane and Imogen Allison stepping up. Commane has so far posted bigger volume and accuracy in the goal circle, while Allison continues to be a barometer for success with her energiser bunny speed and drive through the midcourt. If Bath can continue its early domination when and if matches resume as normal, it could be a real force to be reckoned with come finals.

London Pulse

Ultimately the biggest bolter from a frustrating inaugural season wooden spoon, Pulse have locked down a spot amongst the top of the ladder with three wins from three matches, only behind Bath in percentage. While only one of Pulse’s wins was by a comfortable margin, the side is arguably in a better position than last year where they only managed the two wins – albeit with a very different looking team. 

Key pick-up Sigi Burger has had an immediate impact on court for Pulse, with the South African a dominant fixture at the post with an innate ability to find the ball. Add in speedy Jamaican recruit Adean Thomas through the midcourt and young defensive talent Funmi Fadoju and the new-look side has plenty of excitement up its sleeve. That being said, what the Pulse have in talent they could lack in experience playing together with so many new names, especially when you factor in an unexpected break from all aspects of the team-oriented sport, meaning there is no guarantee that the side has the experience to take it to an inaugural premiership if they were to get there.

Saracens Mavericks

The Mavs certainly have the talent to get there in season 2020 so it will be more about consistency when it comes to the rest of the year, with a very similar side to their 2019 campaign which slipped out of finals contention towards the latter stages of the season. With young talent heading up either end of the court in England Roses members George Fisher and Razia Quashie alongside more experienced names in Sasha and Kadeen Corbin, the Mavericks have plenty of potential to go far if given the chance. Another side with only three matches played prior to restrictions, the Mavericks won their first and third games – interesting both against Severn Stars – and had a close shave against Wasps Netball in Round 2.

Netball fantasy teams: ANZ Premiership All-Stars v. VNSL All-Stars

BOTH the ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) play host to a wealth of a-list talent making for some impressive squads. The ANZ Premiership is filled with a multitude of Ferns players while the VNSL also has a couple of Roses featured in the team creating an interesting contest between the two sides.

ANZ Premiership All-Stars:

GK: Jane Watson
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Shannon Saunders
WA: Gina Crampton
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Maia Wilson

BENCH: Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Whitney Souness, Phoenix Karaka

The ANZ Premiership is littered with New Zealand Silver Ferns representatives as shown by this stacked line-up. But their strength really lies in their defensive end with Jane Watson taking out the goal keeper position. Watson is a machine down back with her cleanliness, hunt for the ball and ability to shut down opponents with ease a couple of her key attributes. The goal keeper is not afraid to back herself, often out hunting for an intercept with her quick feet doing all the work while her lean over the shot is highly intimidating. Fellow defender and veteran Katrina Rore is one of a kind. Just like a fine wine she continues to get better with time, able to read the play with ease and disrupt the attacking flow of the opposition with her aerial ability and long arms. Rore is never out of the contest always able to weasel her way back into the play and is strong in transition thanks to her offensive minded style of play. Wing defence and partner-in-crime at the Central Pulse, Karin Burger is another key cog down back. Burger has really come into her own in recent seasons with her tenacity and tagging style of defence often wearing opponents down. Her long arms and height causes havoc in the wing defence position while her deceptive speed gives her another competitive edge around circle edge to swat away any passes into the goal circle. Throw in her ability to move into goal defence or keeper and Burger is one of a kind for the All-Stars line-up. Through the midcourt, the tried and tested duo of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton adds another strong element to the already stacked squad. While Saunders is more defensively minded, she can hit the circle edge and provide an option in attack while teammate, Crampton consistently showcases her impressive vision into the circle with her pinpoint precision passes and good timing. Crampton has good balance around the circle edge and is not often worried by the physicality of the game. Headlining the goal circle is none other than fan favourite Ameliaranne Ekenasio. The highly talented goaler has class to boot able to sink them from just about anywhere in the circle while her impeccable timing is envious. Ekenasio is renowned for her smooth movement in the circle, strong baseline drives, quick ball movement, accuracy and most importantly ability to stand up under pressure. Youngster Maia Wilson takes out the goal shooter position with the towering shooter able to hold strong and provide a commanding target under the post. Unlucky not to make the starting All-Stars squad are Silver Ferns shooter Te Paea Selby Rickit, speedy midcourter Whitney Souness and Northern Mystics defender, Phoenix Karaka.

Vitality Netball Superleague (VNLS) All-Stars:

GK: Razia Quashie
GD: Fran Williams
WD: Nat Panagarry
C: Jade Clarke
WA: Caroline O’Hanlon
GA: Eleanor Cardwell
GS: Rachel Dunn

BENCH: Sigi Burger, Adean Thomas, Eboni Usoro-Brown

Although the VNSL has less Roses players in the competition due to the majority of them joining the Suncorp Super Netball League, there are still plenty of classy players amongst the ranks. When it comes to options in the goal circle there was no shortage of possibilities, however it was veteran and deadeye shooter Rachel Dunn that claimed the starting goal shooter position. Dunn is one of the most experienced shooters in the league with her silky footwork, strong hands and impressive timing consistently on display along with her accuracy. While Eleanor Cardwell is typically suited to the goal shooter position she has proven that she can do just as much damage out in goal attack with her clever ball placement into the circle and strong movement. Through the midcourt Caroline O’Hanlon provides plenty of experience with her gut running and ability to hit the circle edge time and time again. Adding to the experience through the midcourt is Jade Clarke with the Wasps centre consistently able to do the unthinkable. Clarke oozes class, netball understanding and is cautious with ball in hand able to dish off well weighted passes making her an easy pick for the all-stars squad, while also able to move into wing defence given her defensive abilities. Loughborough Lightning’s Nat Pangarry dons the wing defence position thanks to her defensive skills, long arms, speed off the mark and ability to cause havoc down back to propel the ball into the attacking third. She can clog up space with her shadowing movements and can read the play often forcing turnovers. Roses representative Fran Williams takes out the goal defence position. Williams is an excitement machine and works tirelessly down in defence to build pressure and cause confusion with her quick feet and three-footy marking. She is not afraid to go out and hunt the ball and has a good netball nous to sense the moment. Rounding out the starting seven is goal keeper Razia Quashie. The goal keeper is strong, not often outmuscled under the post and uses her long arms to intimidate shooters when going for goal. Making their way onto the bench for the VNSL all-stars is London Pulse and South African goaler Sigi Burger, Jamaican Adean Thomas and former Roses defender Eboni Usoro-Brown.

Who would win?

With plenty of talent amongst both sides it is tricky to decide who would have the edge however given that the ANZ Premiership All-stars team is virtually filled with Silver Ferns players it is fair to say that they should have the upper hand. Their strength clearly lies in the defence end and while the VNSL All-stars line-up has a couple of handy goalers in the mix they would have to be on their a-game to overcome the prowess of the Ferns. The ANZ Premiership squad is strong through the midcourt with their dynamic movement and experience further adding to their competitive edge.

Which All-Stars team would win in this match up?
ANZ Premiership All-Stars
Vitality Netball Superleague All-Stars
Created with Quiz Maker

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown: #2

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 25 players under 25-years-old across the netball world. Coming in at number two is South African and London Pulse shooting sensation Sigi Burger. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

The South African product has class to boot able to turn a game on its head with her dominant shooting and commanding figure in the goal circle. Burger has proven time and time again that she is reliable under the post able to put up a wealth of shots and most importantly do so at a high accuracy. Since making the switch to the London Pulse in 2020 in the Vitality Superleague, Burger has not skipped a beat leading the way for her team with her clever positioning, strength on the take and netball nous. In her three games for the season, prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Burger managed a whopping 124 goals from 127 attempts at an average of 41 goals per game and a staggering at 98 per cent for the season highlighting her shooting prowess. She is strong on the take not often outmuscled by the likes of a-list defenders such as Eboni Usoro-Brown, Razia Quashie or Fran Williams consistently displaying her immense talent and smarts. Although she is still developing her connection with new teammates in Chiara Semple and Emma Thacker in goals along with Adean Thomas, Ashleigh Dekker and Michelle Drayne through the midcourt Burger has made herself a viable target with her strong holds. Her ability to read the play and drop back into the space or move her feet to reposition makes her an integral member in any team.

The 24-year-old has not spent a lot of time out on court for the Spar Proteas having only played 19 caps but has grown with confidence and stature each outing. Taking part in both the World Cup and Nations Cup, Burger has shown that she can hold her own out on court against some of the most dominant defenders but will want to make herself a more permanent member in the squad. The 194cm goal shooter often competes with the likes of teammate Lenize Potgieter and Ine-Mari Venter for the starting goal shooter bib but has shown that she can quite easily come on and have an impact thanks to her long arms and ability to reign in errant passes. Her timing in the circle is highly impressive while her quick hands to reposition under the post is another important element of her game play.

_

Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)
21. Razia Quashie (England)
20. Sophie Garbin (Australia)
19. Imogen Allison (England)
18. Kelly Jury (New Zealand)
17. Tara Hinchliffe (Australia)
16. Aliyah Dunn (New Zealand)
15. Whitney Souness (New Zealand)
14. Amy Parmenter (Australia)
13. Cara Koenen (Australia)
12. Kate Eddy (Australia)
11. Kiera Austin (Australia)
10. Grace Nweke (New Zealand)
9. Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Jamaica)
8. Ine-Mari Venter (South Africa)
7. Kimiora Poi (New Zealand)
6. George Fisher (England)
5. Kim Jenner (Australia)
4. Maia Wilson (New Zealand)
3. Fran Williams (England)
2. Sigi Burger (South Africa)

Netball fantasy teams: Australia A v. England A

THERE is no denying that both Australia and England have a wealth of talented players coming up through the ranks therefore Draft Central has created two teams filled with players named in each country’s respective development, extended or futures squads and have played less than 15 international caps.

Australia A:

GK: Tara Hinchliffe
GD: Kim Jenner
WD: Amy Parmenter
C: Jess Anstiss
WA: Jemma Mi Mi
GA: Kiera Austin
GS: Cara Koenen

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Tayla Fraser, Matilda Garrett

No player in this Australian team has made their international debut yet, but have been named in the development squad credit to their potential. When it comes to weaponry inside the goal circle it is fair to say Australia has a couple of damaging options. Coached by Noeline Taurua for the past three years, Sunshine Coast Lightning goaler Cara Koenen is a force to be reckoned with thanks to her ability to glide across the court, smooth transitions, versatility and ability to shoot from anywhere. Koenen has quickly become an integral member in the Lightning squad and given she is only 24 still has plenty to offer for future years. Fellow goaler Kiera Austin is another handy inclusion with the GIANTS shooter able to switch between both goal attack and wing attack seamlessly. Although she does not put up a wealth of shots her ball placement and precise movement makes her a constant threat in the goal circle. Defensively Australia has a couple of viable options with Firebirds duo Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner both leading the way. The talented defensive unit have shown that they have class to boot with their hands over pressure, deceptive speed and ability to cause timely turnovers. Throw in their versatility able to seamlessly transition between goal keeper and goal defence with ease and both Hinchliffe and Jenner could build a formidable duo for years to come thanks to their tenacity and team work. Wing defence Amy Parmenter had a flash in the pan season in 2019 well and truly bursting onto the scene with her defensive prowess. Her connection with Jenner and Hinchliffe could hypothetically be the connection of the future down back with her gut running and speed a couple of key components of her game. Parmenter quickly became renowned for her pressure inside the defensive third, shadowing her opponents every move and clogging up space to pick off intercepts. Through the midcourt, defensive minded centre Jess Anstiss is another exciting prospect constantly hunting the ball and working hard to propel it back down into the attacking third. Meanwhile speedy wing attack, Jemma Mi Mi will bring plenty of excitement to the Australia A frontline with her dynamic movement, quick ball movement, fancy footwork and deadeye precision. Mi Mi is the third Firebirds player in the line-up showcasing just how much young up and coming talent they have in the ranks, with Mi Mi able to use her dash to create space in the attacking third and feed into the shooters easily. While there is plenty of class on the court, the bench is littered with a host of talent in the likes of Swifts duo Sophie Garbin and Tayla Fraser. Both showcased their dominance last season with Garbin doing the hard yards in the circle and Fraser highlighting her class with ball in hand. Matilda Garrett rounds out the Australia A team, with the highly touted defender able to use her height and smarts to cause havoc.

 

England A:

GK: Summer Artman
GD: Kate Shimmin
WD: Vicki Oyesola
C: Imogen Allison
WA: Gabby Marshall
GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
GS: George Fisher

BENCH: Ella Clark, Yasmin Parsons, Halimat Adio

This team is based off England’s extended squad and players named in the Roses Futures programs. The players named have taken the court less than 15 times internationally and have plenty of potential to develop into key cogs for the Roses in years to come.Starting in the goal circle it is hard to go past the efforts of George Fisher. The talented Saracens Mavericks goal shooter has racked up 12 international caps and will be looking to become a regular in the squad. Renowned for her height, strong hands, clever holds and ability to score freely, Fisher has a bright future ahead of her. In goal attack is Sophie Drakeford-Lewis who was also named in the extended Roses development squad. Drakeford-Lewis is only 21 and is an exciting prospect able to glide across the circle and drive into the circle with confidence. While she does not put up a wealth of shots her ability to detect the space and command the ball under the post makes her an exciting prospect for the future. Through the midcourt the likes of youngster Gabby Marshall is another one to keep your eye on given her success at such a young age. Her on court leadership is something to be envious and knows what it takes to win under pressure taking out the Bronze medal in the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup. Her ability to find space in the attacking third and deliver the ball on a platter to goalers sets her apart from fellow midcourters. Team Bath’s Imogen Allison takes out the centre position with the up and coming centre court player named in the Roses Future squad. She is classy with ball in hand but most importantly is renowned for her immense defensive pressure and gut running. Similar to the likes of Serena Guthrie, Allison has a no-nonsense approach constantly throwing her body on the line to win the ball back and propel it down the court. At just 21 Vicki Oyesola has locked down the wing defence position but can move into circle defence such is her skill and netball smarts. Rounding out the defensive end is Kate Shimmin and Summer Artman. Shimmin is no stranger to the big stage with her lean over the shot, aerial ability and impressive timing just a couple of things in her extensive netball repertoire. In three games, so far in the Vitality Superleague for London Pulse the goal defender has mustered up 10 intercepts showcasing just how damaging she can be, with her read of the play and quick footwork to get into position. Artman also provides plenty of excitement with her spatial awareness to mirror her opponents every move and stop any easy entrance into the goal circle. Unlucky not to get the start in the fantasy squad is Ella Clark with the talented goaler making her way back after time out with basketball, Yasmin Parsons through the midcourt and Halimat Adio down back.

Who would win?

It is a tricky decision given the fact that a couple of players in the England squad have in fact pulled on the Roses dress but are yet to lockdown a permanent position at an international level. However, given the wealth of talent Australia has and exposure majority of players named in the fantasy side have, to the highest level of domestic competition it is feasible to believe that the girls in the green and gold will have the edge. Most players, frequently take the court for their respective Suncorp Super Netball squads meaning they are constantly tested against the highest echelon of players in the world and get time to hone in their craft and while England have a wealth of highly talented players may lack the extra physicality and stamina.

Who would win this clash?
Australia A (Yet to make a debut)
England A (15 caps max)
Created with QuizMaker

Vitality Netball Superleague stats: The story so far

WITH the Vitality Netball Superleague postponed until April 30, only two Round 4 matches went ahead over the weekend and the final three matches suspended until further notice. Manchester Thunder took top spot by default with a win this round, with no other leading sides taking the court. We take a look at some of the key players across the league this season so far.

Veteran Rachel Dunn hit the top of the leaderboard this week with a solid performance against Severn Stars (45 from 47 attempts), overtaking Georgia Rowe for most goals, but with key shooters Mary Cholhok (146 goals from three games), Kim Commane (137 from three) and George Fisher (131 from three) all hot on her tail and down one game at this stage in the season. Sigi Burger remains the most accurate (shooting at 98 per cent) despite not yet playing this round, while Rowe was clinical at the post on Saturday, missing only one shot (47 goals from 48 attempts) and leading her side to victory. While undefeated Manchester Thunder does not have any goalers on the leaderboards for accuracy or volume, the side has a wealth of skill thanks to a rotating circle of Ellie Cardwell (125 goals from 146 attempts at 86 per cent), Joyce Mvula (101 from 116 at 87 per cent) and Kathryn Turner (28 from 38 at 74 per cent) and trust in their players to get the job done, not relying on just the one player to carry the load. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Lynsey Gallagher are up there in the tally in at goal attack, shooting 56 and 55 goals respectively to start the season on a high.

Out in defence, Razia Quashie and Latanya Wilson lead the way in intercepts with 15 and 14 respectively. Neither player took the court this week due to match cancelation but somehow still sit ahead of the likes of Towera Vinkhumbo (13 intercepts), Emma Dovey (12) and Fran Williams (11) who have all played four games apiece. Wilson has only taken the court on two occasions this season thanks to a match suspension, making it all the more impressive that she is up there in the intercept count, with the talented Jamaican laying out her physicality and tenacity on the court. Vinkhumbo remains the most highly penalised in the competition with 58 penalties to her name, though Loreen Ngwira and Williams are close behind with 56 and Williams leading the turnover count at 22. Both Severn Stars and Wasps Netball sit on only one win from four matches, meaning messiness in defence could be a real catalyst for the sides dropping much needed matches so early in the season – but also shows a real opportunity for improvement if they can work on the penalty count while matches are postponed. Leah Middleton and Ngwira should be happy with their respective output in defence with 15 deflections apiece after four rounds, contesting the ball well and Middleton especially not finding a heap of the whistle.

Through the midcourt, the likes of Laura Malcolm, Imogen Allison and Adean Thomas remain crucial and influential for their respective sides, holding up well defensively to turn over the ball and feeding with ease in attack. Jamaican speedster, Thomas has proved a handy cog through the midcourt for Pulse, which had nowhere to go but up after a disappointing inaugural season in 2019 – something the side has certainly done despite not playing yet this round. As for the likes of Malcolm (Manchester Thunder) and Allison (Team Bath), it’s their innate ability to rotate through any position in the centre court that makes them such tough contenders, especially in undefeated teams. While both sides boast great defensive capabilities, they can both go forward when required to put their feeding ability to the test and show off their defensive pressure in attack. Veteran midcourters Jade Clarke, Nat Panagarry and Sasha Corbin may not be able to boast being undefeated thus far, but have kept the wheels turning across the court for their respective sides and are known for their consistency and ability to create something out of nothing to spur their side to victory.

Vitality Netball Superleague review Round 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.

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 3

WITH big wins to the Saracens Mavericks, Team Bath and the London Pulse in Round 3 it is no surprise that this week’s Draft Central Team of the Week was dominated by these clubs. No player from the Severn Stars or Surrey Storm made the cut this week despite some solid performances across the weekend while one player each from the Wasps and Sirens made their way in after some strong showings.

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

The Roses and Mavericks goal keeper has kicked it up a gear in season 2020 with the talented defender backing herself down back and causing all sorts of headaches for her opposition attacking ends. Quashie had her work cut out for her in the goal circle using her quick footwork to dance her way around the defensive circle and pick off passes. The goal keeper showcased her ability to read the play with four intercepts and while she was highly penalised with 16 for the game it was her ability to win ball back that evened it out.

GD: Jo Trip (Saracens Mavericks)

Joining her partner in crime, Trip impressed for the Mavericks with her defensive pressure and ball winning abilities. The goal defence starred throughout the match keeping, goal attack Paige Reed to 14 goals highlighting just how much work she was putting in over the shot and to stop her from receiving the ball. Trip followed Reed across the court with her three-foot marking on full display and most importantly stayed in play for a majority of the time only racking up 10 penalties. Her ability to win ball back and propel it down the court was a key feature of her game recording five intercepts while her strength under the post to bring down rebounds was also solid collecting three for the game.

WD: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

Allison has taken her game to a whole other level this year upping the defensive pressure and taking on a mountain load of work through the midcourt to disrupt opposition attack units. The wing defence plied her trade throughout the match working hard to win the ball back or block her opponents every move with her shadowing style of play to clog up space. Credit to her cleanliness and high netball IQ, Allison managed to stay away from the whistle not registering a single penalty while also picking up two intercepts highlighting just how impressive she is.

C: Khanyisa Chawane (Team Bath)

Chawane led the charge through the midcourt for Team Bath sensing the space and driving into to it to create attacking forays. Chawane has not skipped a beat since stepping into the side with her speed and strength a couple of key attributes of her game play. Renowned for her defensive pressure the midcourt player picked up an important intercept and was clean with ball in hand not creating many turnovers.

WA: Adean Thomas (London Pulse)

The Jamaican midcourter and new recruit brought plenty of excitement to the court with her impressive speed and aerial ability constantly getting a hand in anything that came her way. While more tailored to the attacking role she showcased her defensive side with a couple of timely deflections in the midcourt to force the opposition to reset and look for ways around her pressure. Her dynamic footwork to receive the ball and then effortlessly dish off to teammates impressed throughout the game constantly backing her high release passes and good vision. She was not afraid to feed the ball well and truly away from the circle edge such was her confidence in the pass and strength to hit targets inside the circle.

GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)

The goal attack once again played a pivotal role in Manchester’s narrow win over the weekend. Cardwell showed her ability to hit the scoreboard with an impressive 24 goals from 28 attempts at 86 per cent credit to her read of the space and ability to score freely. She is a key cog in the attacking third with her strong drives and height consistently able to have an impact, particularly in the circle. Cardwell is a real play maker sensing the moment and able to stand up even displaying her defensive attributes with two intercepts throughout the game.

GS: Rachel Dunn (Wasps Netball)

Although her side did not manage the win, Dunn was a lone hand in the goal circle for the Wasps only missing one goal from her 47 attempts for the match. It was a flawless performance by the experienced goal shooter who stood tall under the post using her quick hands and clever body positioning to reel the ball in and shoot truly. When she is on, Dunn is hard to stop and that was shown in her clash on the weekend consistently buttering up and backing herself from range time and time again.

BENCH: Sigi Burger (London Pulse), Caroline O’Hanlon (Manchester Thunder), Zanele Vimbela (Strathclyde Sirens),

There were a couple of strong performances throughout the round with Vimbela, Burger and O’Hanlon unlucky not to make the starting seven. It is hard to deny that Burger has gone from strength to strength and this performance echoed those thoughts with the towering goal shooter finding good space under the ring and used her height to command the ball. She was the main scoring option for the Pulse credit to her high volume and accuracy to post along with her ability to move around the circle and use her feet to edge closer to the post. Up the other end, Vimbela also made her way onto the bench after a solid performance for the Sirens with her long arms and reach doing the damage with two intercepts and six deflections along with a rebound. Through the midcourt O’Hanlon was up to her usual tricks with her dynamic movement and vision on song once again. Her two way running was another feature of her game.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 3 – Pulse among three sides undefeated

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

Strathclyde Sirens (61) defeated Surrey Storm (53)

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

Team Bath (63) defeated Wasps Netball (51)

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

Saracens Mavericks (61) defeated Severn Stars (45)

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

Manchester Thunder (67) defeated Loughborough Lightning (64)

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

London Pulse (69) defeated Celtic Dragons (38)

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

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

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

Strathclyde Sirens v. Surrey Storm
Emirates Arena

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

Team Bath v. Wasps Netball
Team Bath Arena

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

Saracens Mavericks v. Severn Stars
Hertfordshire Sports Village

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

Manchester Thunder v. Loughborough Lightning
Belle Vue

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

London Pulse v. Celtic Dragons
Copper Box Arena

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