Tag: maddy proud

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 2

A HUGE second round of Suncorp Super Netball is set to take place over the weekend, with plenty of quality match-ups across all four games. With Round 3 following just two days later, expect a heap of rotations on court for all eight teams in a bid to rest players and ensure plenty of young guns take the court once more.

GIANTS Netball v. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Saturday, 8 August

The opening game of Round 2 is an enticing matchup between two sides that were beaten last week but ultimately were both in their contests for majority of their respective matches. Interestingly, while the Thunderbirds ended up losing by a hefty margin they still beat the GIANTS’ final score by a goal meaning this match could be a real close one given the shooting prowess of both sides. 

For the GIANTS, consistency is key with the side standing up under pressure for patches last round and relying too much on the super shot to stay ahead of the Swifts. That being said, they have one of the most prolific long range goalers in the world in Jo Harten, so that will likely be their sticking place once more and inevitably a huge target for the Thunderbirds defence. However, the T’birds do not currently have a set goal defence who would really be able to match up against Harten for a significant period of time given the goaler’s endurance and height, meaning goal keeper Shamera Sterling will be under a heap of pressure trying to close off avenues to post for Caitlin Bassett and using her rangy arms to deflect circle ball where possible. At the other end, Lenize Potgieter is the staple out the front and consistent as can be, with an ability to evade defence and tally goals with ease and accuracy. With Kristiana Manu’a potentially out of the side this round after a calf niggle on Sunday, expect Sam Poolman to sit back on Potgieter and the potential of both Tilly McDonell and April Brandley to make an appearance out the front. 

The midcourt battle is set to be a tough one, with both teams boasting a mix of experience and youth. An interesting battle is set to see Chelsea Pitman and Amy Parmenter go head to head, while Hannah Petty should get the start against Jamie-Lee Price but Maisie Nankivell had a solid outing last round so could add an extra defensive element to the play. With firepower in different areas of the court and plenty of players who stand up best under pressure, expect a tough and fairly even contest this time around between two teams hungry for a win.

 

Queensland Firebirds v. Melbourne Vixens
Saturday, 8 August

A huge match-up between the Firebirds and Vixens is next up on the weekend, with neither side putting out their best performance last round though the Vixens got a win on the board where the Firebirds could not compete for the full four quarters. That being said, the Firebirds’ opening half last round was stellar, proving they can certainly match it with the best, and the Vixens cannot afford to not let the Firebirds start the same way this round. 

Vixens co-captains Liz Watson and Kate Moloney are the key cogs through the middle of the court and with two physical matchups in Gabi Simpson and Mahalia Cassidy to look forward to, expect both sides to start with a bang and get the early upper hand. Simpson had a huge match last round but faded out in the second half, and is well-matched with Watson which could see the pair go toe-to-toe and limit the easy access into the goal circle. Moloney’s ability to transition between attack and defence is seamless while Cassidy’s hunt and hunger for the ball was made evident last round on her return from injury. Defensively, the combination between Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe grows with every match and as two of the most outstanding young defenders in the country expect the duo to apply a heap of pressure on the Vixens’ goaling trio in Mwai Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip, with the goalers rendered inaccurate – by their standards – last round. 

Turning to the Firebirds goal circle, Romelda Aiken is a huge target at the post and based off last round’s starting seven the Vixens could force a Jamaican stand-off in the circle with Kadie-Ann Dehaney lining up against her compatriot. Lara Dunkley and Kate Eddy will be a huge match-up, with the duo both able to apply a heap of pressure, while Jo Weston will likely get the start on youngster Tippah Dwan who will look to replicate her debut performance, though the versatility in the new-look Vixens defence could see some major changes between wing and goal defence, with Weston and Eddy both able to ply their trade with ease in either position. The Vixens’ endurance game could be both the winning or losing point in this one, and if the Firebirds get far enough ahead early they could have a real chance of getting on top to limit the Vixens’ ability to work their way back.

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Collingwood Magpies
Sunday, 9 August

Another interesting match-up, with a very new-look Collingwood outfit taking on the highly experience and consistent Sunshine Coast Lightning. While the Magpies did not get the win last week, they came out with a fire in the belly and were with the Vixens for majority of the match, and now know what to look for in the Lightning firepower. The Lightning had a shoddy start last round but ended up coming away with the biggest win of the round, meaning the Magpies will need to put out a full four quarter effort to ensure the Lightning do not get away from them this round.

Looking to match-ups, Steph Wood and Jodi-Ann Ward will likely be the one to watch, with both players putting on a show last round with their respective work rate and ability to lift where required. Wood’s long bomb accuracy will be the kicker, and if Ward can limit her opportunities to go to post the Magpies have a real chance here with the experience of Geva Mentor holding up in goal keeper ready for the rebound. At the other end of the court, expect a new-look circle from the Magpies with Shimona Nelson expected back at the post this week with her ability to leap for the loose ball and put up shots with ease. A flurry of Magpies goalers had an impact lat round with Emma Ryde, Gabby Sinclair and Nyah Allen all plying their trade to post though their youth gave the Vixens an opening out the front, so the Magpies attack will need to ensure they do not rely on just Nelson at the post this round.

Defensively, the Lightning have one of the most influential defensive units in Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius, with the duo critical if they are to go two wins on the trot. Through the midcourt, the battle between Madi Browne and Laura Langman will be huge with both players workhorses through the centre while Kelsey Browne will hope to continue working back to full court time with her feeding ability second to none and Laura Scherian a hugely consistent name out the front for the Lightning. 

 

NSW Swifts v.  West Coast Fever
Sunday, 9 August

The final match of the round will see the reigning premiers take on a fast finishing Fever outfit, with the Fever of 2020 thus far looking a lot like their 2018 side. The Swifts reintroduced Maddy Proud last round but missed Maddy Turner down back, and still managed to get a win on the board proving they are well and truly able to put up a fight against this Fever unit despite missing a critical defensive link. The only match between two winning teams from last round, a win here is crucial.

Lauren Moore burst out of the gates last round with her explosiveness and ability to impact the contest, meaning the goal defence could be crucial locking down Alice Teague-Neeld, whose all-round performance out the front last round put her in the spotlight. Sarah Klau will get the tough job on Jhaniele Fowler, while up the other end Courtney Bruce and Sam Wallace will go head to head in an intriguing battle given the duo are both very adaptable players. Helen Housby had a quiet match last round and fellow England Rose Stacey Francis will hope to take advantage of that with her niggling defence style. The injection of Sunday Aryang into the circle worked wonders last round so could take the court once more, while Jess Anstiss also had a strong outing last round so will be on the case against the rotating duo of Proud and Nat Haythornthwaite in wing attack. 

While the Fever play a very physical game, the Swifts for the most part play a clean and ball-treasuring game, using their consistent hands over pressure to limit vision and space down the court, and evading defence with a constantly moving circle. The Fever rely a lot on Fowler, so will need to ensure Teague-Neeld steps up once more if they are to get a win and draw attention away from the tall timber.

SSN Momentum Shifts: Round 1

THE exciting return of Suncorp Super Netball over the weekend saw some phenomenal matchups across all four games and some highly talented players take the court. The condensed fixture and introduction of rolling subs this year has seen plenty of young names already jump on the court and have a huge impact despite their lack of experience. We take a look at each game and note which players shifted the gears and switched up the momentum.

Queensland Firebirds (48) defeated by Sunshine Coast Lightning (66)

In a match-up between a new-look young side and the highly experienced Lightning, there was plenty of talent out on the court. The Firebirds fielded a relatively young midcourt, with Tippah Dwan one of the major talking points out the front in goal attack. Finishing with 11 goals (three super shots) at 67 per cent on her first outing, the goal attack stood up in attack with her smooth movement and confidence, while Mahalia Cassidy did not skip a beat on her return from injury, going toe-to-toe with Laura Langman for much of the game. For the Lightning it was Steph Wood who stepped up to the plate, sinking 10 super shots to go with her four short range attempts and turning the tide of the game in the process. A huge last quarter was what saw the Firebirds’ demise, with Phumza Maweni racking up three gains in that quarter alone and limiting the Firebirds to just six goals to finish.

Adelaide Thunderbirds (62) defeated by West Coast Fever (74)

In a high scoring affair both the Thunderbirds and Fever blooded some youngsters, proving the amount of talent the two states having coming up through their pathways. While the Thunderbirds only won the one quarter, Lenize Potgieter was strong as ever at the post with Sam Gooden and Georgie Horjus having an impact off the bench, with Gooden racking up nine super shots and Horjus showcasing her speed on the drive. Maisie Nankivell was stellar through the midcourt with 12 assists and two intercepts though caught a lot of attention from the umpires. For the Fever, the real surprise packet was Alice Teague-Neeld with the goal attack stepping up to the plate and earning player of the match accolades for her effort out the front with four of her 10 goals super shots. Jhaniele Fowler showcased her long bomb ability with two super shots to contribute to her hefty 52-goal tally, while young gun Sunday Aryang provided a handy connection defensively with plenty of speed allowing her to collect two gains. 

GIANTS Netball (61) defeated by NSW Swifts (63)

The tightest match of the round saw the GIANTS come dastardly close to victory against the reigning premiers, with the Swifts holding on as the seconds counted down. Lauren Moore was the big difference in this one, with the 22-year-old winning player of the match for her non-stop running and ability to impact the contest with five intercepts to her name. Sam Wallace has not skipped a beat over the off-season sinking six super shots, while the consistent rotation between returning captain Maddy Proud and speedster Nat Haythornthwaite kept the GIANTS defenders guessing on the feed. For the GIANTS, Amy Parmenter was a workhorse with seven intercepts while Kiera Austin showcased her versatility rotating between wing and goal attack and youngster Sophie Dwyer took the court for just five minutes but sunk two super shots to close the margin.

Melbourne Vixens (63) defeated Collingwood Magpies (52)

With so many new players in the Magpies lineup this season it was just experience and trusted connections that got the Vixens over the line in a tight tussle. Madi and Kelsey Browne made phenomenal returns from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, with their ability to spot Emma Ryde at the post what kept the side in it for the majority of the match. Jodi-Ann Ward had a solid start in her Super Netball debut, topping the Magpies’ intercept tally with two and injecting plenty of physicality to the defensive circle and at the centre pass. The Vixens’ major switch was Kate Eddy’s rotation from wing defence into goal defence, which saw Jo Weston apply her height around the circle edge and ultimately changed the game in the final quarter as the Vixens were finally able to take some control. 

Swifts swoop on GIANTS in Proud’s return

THE NSW Swifts had the perfect win to start their 2019 premiership defence, beating GIANTS Netball in a two-goal 63-61 nail-biter after trailing for much of the match. While the GIANTS had all the early momentum and well and truly took advantage of the two-goal super shot, the Swifts were cleaner and chipped back the margin throughout the remainder of the quarters to come away with the tight victory.

The Swifts were straight into it, forcing a held ball from the GIANTS to turn over the centre pass although a huge amount of crowding saw the GIANTS do the same to get one back and keep a step ahead. With Maddy Turner ruled out through injury Lauren Moore got her first start, while Maddy Proud made her long awaited return from injury and started well out in wing attack. 

With clashing colours and plenty of intensity on and off the ball early, the GIANTS had the early ascendency with Kristiana Manu’a holding Helen Housby away from the contest and forcing the long ball in to Sam Wallace, while the attack for the GIANTS circle work proved influential with plenty of accuracy and the long preseason paying off. The Swifts’ defensive pressure down the court was immense, seeing a heap of turnover ball on the transition to GIANTS attack. The GIANTS circle work was impressive early with Caitin Bassett and Jo Harten highly accurate to post and finding plenty of avenues into the circle courtesy of Kiera Austin, who slotted into wing attack nicely. 

Nat Haythornthwaite was injected midway through the term to give Proud a break and provided an immediate impact on the drive, finding the circle with ease. As expected, the final five minutes of the quarter saw Austin head to goal attack and Harten to goal shooter, while the Swifts kept up despite taking more short range attempts, whittling down the margin. The Swifts attack may have been more congested but with clever movement they took the front, with the GIANTS drawing even once more to be 17-all at quarter time. 

 An interesting start to the second quarter saw a heap of turnovers, with neither team really able to find a heap of purchase despite accuracy out the front. The low scoring affair saw an even contest with plenty of physicality and no player unwilling to go for the loose ball. The long ball into the goal circle seemed crucial, with both teams clogging up the goal third to limit access to circle edge and the easy feed into the circle. 

Moore’s work rate was immense, with the young defender not letting up despite her impressive opposition while Manu’a was just as willing to put in the hard work to generate loose ball. Harten’s long bomb accuracy saw the GIANTS head into half up time up by five goals but the Swifts were still well and truly in the contest, with only Harten’s long shot really keeping the side in the lead and a few crucial passes flying over the goal line straight past Bassett on the lead. 

The third quarter saw the GIANTS start well but the combination between Sarah Klau and Moore improved as the match went on, which was well and truly showcased with the side evening the ledger even with the GIANTS taking full control of the super shot. The duo did a heap of work to propel the ball back up the court, though Amy Parmenter continued to star through the middle third with her anticipation and cleanliness generating turnover ball. Both teams were willing to test each other, forcing turnovers and creating plenty of intensity around the ball with so much youth plying their trade defensively. 

A couple of errors kept the goal margin at five, with the Swifts edging closer at times but unable to completely take control. Austin’s versatility was crucial, with the young talent plying her trade with ease and telly having an impact in both positions. But whatever Austin did Moore was in the mix, while April Brandley made her GIANTS debut rotating into goal defence and Jamie-Lee Price continued to assert her physicality on the contest in centre. The five minute mark saw the Swifts take the front, leading by three goals with just the last quarter to go.

The second half was all in the way of the Swifts, with the reigning premiers finding plenty of turnover ball prior to the super shot period which paid dividends once the quarters were into the final stages. While GIANTS were quick to take advantage once more when the super shot came was into effect, narrowing the margin, the Swifts were patient with ball in hand. With just over two minutes on the clock the GIANTS came within a couple goals but the Swifts’ work rate paid off, winning 63-61 in a hard fought battle and chipping the ball around in the dying moments to deny a win for the GIANTS.

Moore was announced player of the match with her five intercepts, three deflections proving she is more than capable of slotting into the Swifts lineup regularly, while Klau was consistent as ever with seven deflections (three resulting in a gain) and two intercepts down back. Haythornthwaite led the assists stat for the Swifts with 14 from 24 feeds while Proud was not far behind with 12 upon return, while Wallace topped the tally with 33 goals from 40 attempts including six super shots.

For the GIANTS, Parmenter was a star and did not skip a beat over the off-season, racking up a whopping seven intercepts to go with her seven deflections, and while the deflections did not result in gains her effort was instrumental denying ball to the Swifts. Bassett and Harten shared the shooting load with 22 and 21 goals respectively, though nine of Hartens shots counted for double points. Price racked up the assists with 16 and a gain, while defensively Sam Poolman starred early with three gains.

>>> GIANTS TEAM PAGE

>>> SWIFTS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

GIANTS NETBALL 17 | 16 | 13 | 15 (61)
NSW SWIFTS 17 | 11 | 21 | 14 (63)

STARTING SEVEN

GIANTS Netball:

GS: Caitlin Bassett
GA: Jo Harten
WA: Kiera Austin
C: Jamie-Lee Price
WD: Amy Parmenter
GD: Kristiana Manu’a
GK: Sam Poolman

NSW Swifts :

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Maddy Proud
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Sophie Craig
GD: Lauren Moore
GK: Sarah Klau

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in just a couple of days, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. Coming in at number one on the countdown is the highly anticipated grand final rematch between Sunshine Coast Lightning and NSW Swifts.

The NSW Swifts came out with a real fire in the belly in the grand final making light work of what was a dominant Lightning side, romping home a 17 goal win. Since then there have only been a couple of changes for both sides with Lightning coach Noeline Taurua departing and replacement player Katrina Rore no longer with the Swifts for the 2020 season making for an exciting battle when the two teams take the court this season.

After being riddled with injury throughout 2019 the NSW Swifts are set to welcome back captain Maddy Proud with the wing attack returning from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Proud is reliable through the midcourt able to slice through opposition defences with her impeccable timing and quick footwork to dart around her opponents and deliver the ball on a silver platter into the circle. Her return to the side will further bolster an already stacked midcourt with Natalie Haythornthwaite, Paige Hadley and Sophie Craig all dominant forces in their own right.

The Swifts controlled the grand final from start to finish and will be hoping to inflict more pain in their potential rematch and prove that it was not a one off given the strong record the Lightning have over them. Prior to the grand final Sunshine Coast had an impressive track record against the Swifts with the likes of Laura Langman leading the charge through the centre third stopping the Swifts in their tracks with her drive, quick hands and immense defensive pressure.

Swifts goalers Helen Housby, Sam Wallace and Sophie Garbin all got on top of their Lightning counterparts in the 2019 grand final with the trio displaying their accuracy to post and adaptability to rotate through the circle and have a profound influence. But the Lightning will be keen to make amends and definitely have star power to ensure a tight contest with Karla Pretorius leading the charge down back with her tenacity and read of the play to constantly inject herself into the action. Pretorius alongside Phumza Maweni are a commanding force in defence with the two working in tandem to force turnovers and create opportunities to push forward in attack. Down on their usual output in the grand final the duo will be keen to rectify their performance and come out raring to go, whenever it may be.

With a strong rivalry brewing between the two teams and no shortage of fire power for either side, the clash between the 2019 grand finalists will surely live up to the hype. There is no doubt that the Lightning will be eager to exact revenge on the Swifts and reclaim their status as the team to beat for 2020 given their two-time premiership status.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in just a couple of days, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. One of the most interesting adaptations this season is the addition of rolling subs, with a few teams that could benefit more than others in different parts of the court.

Starting with last season’s premiers, the NSW Swifts have plenty of talent on their bench that proved they could impact where required last season. Over the past few seasons the development of Sophie Garbin has been impressive with the youngster finding patches of court time last season and a huge benefit of her improvement could see her jump on as an impact player where required to assist Helen Housby and Sam Wallace. Through the midcourt, the Swifts have some high quality names in the mix with Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite all dominant attackers and Proud returning from injury, as well as some stellar youngsters on the bench who can ply their trade when required. In defence the side is a little less versatile than past seasons so is unlikely to see as much change as past seasons, though expect to see the likes of Lauren Moore ply her trade to rest Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner.

Sunshine Coast Lightning are almost in a completely different position to the Swifts in that they rarely made use of their bench in past seasons, bar to rotate Steph Wood, Cara Koenen and Peace Proscovia last season. Given Wood is the most confident on the long bomb, expect the pocket rocket to be the main offender in the last five minutes of the quarter while Koenen can push out to goal attack when required to assist Proscovia at the post, though we are still yet to see who will take the starting spot alongside Wood. What we could see from the Lightning is a different kind of rolling rotation through the midcourt, with potential of Laura Langman and Laura Scherian shuffling for a different approach to the centre position or to rest given the condensed fixture will see double the games in a short amount of time.

Heading to the Melbourne Vixens and it is much the same story to the Lightning, with rotations expected in the goal circle but significant and trusted connections formed down the rest of the court. With a number of goalers who are able to sink the long bomb, expect the Vixens to adapt their rolling subs based on the game at hand, with the trio of Mwai Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip all able to ply their trade from anywhere in the circle. While the Vixens have been known to not make a huge amount of changes in past seasons, the addition of Kate Eddy this season could open up different defensive combinations, though the tried and tested duo of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston has rarely faltered with little rotations expected unless injury strikes.

Heading to a new look Collingwood Magpies side and it is safe to say that the Magpies will see plenty of rotations, especially with the return of Madi and Kelsey Browne from injury. With the dynamic sisters able to impact in any position through the midcourt and potentially set to be rested in patches to work up to full match fitness with no recent practice matches behind them, expect a couple of the Magpies’ young guns in Mel Bragg and Molly Jovic to take full control of their opportunities to get valuable court time. The goaling unit will be crucial for the Pies, with Shimona Nelson and Gabby Sinclair all but expected to play full games at this point with Julia Woolley returning to her Victorian Netball League side. This puts training partners Emma Ryde and Nyah Allen in good stead to make their Magpies debut but also puts a question mark over their heads with Allen having no prior SSN experience and Ryde a goal shooter like Nelson. Defensively, expect Jodi-Ann Ward and Matilda Garrett to be the major switch-ups in goal defence, with Ward also able to ply her trade in wing defence and Geva Mentor holding strong in goal keeper. 

Sitting just out of the top four last season, this GIANTS unit is looking very similar and is sure to benefit off the rolling subs with Kiera Austin a fantastic long shot to rotate into goal attack with fellow long bomb specialist Jo Harten at the post during the five minute two goal super shot period. Austin will likely fill the wing attack hole left by Kim Green at the end of last season for much of the rest of the quarters, with Caitlin Bassett important at the post and plenty of time for the goaling unit to meld better than they did in season 2019. After some fiddling last season Jamie-Lee Price secured the centre position with Amy Parmenter holding ground at wing defence little midcourt changes are expected except in the instance of the final five minutes, with Maddie Hay a potential to come off the bench where required. Defensively, Kristiana Manu’a and Sam Poolman are expected to hold down defence with assistance from Matilda McDonell.

After a disappointing season last year, West Coast Fever has nowhere to go but up and will likely see the most rolling sub movement through their goal circle in much the same way as they did in 2019. With Jhaniele Fowler as consistent and reliable as they come at the post, much of the movement will likely come from Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld, though Stanton’s goal shooter experience could prove crucial given she and Teague-Neeld are certainly more confident and used to the long bomb than Fowler. While it would be a huge change not having Fowler at the post, perhaps the switch-up is what the Fever need up forward when the two goal super shot comes into play. When it comes to  the midcourt and defence the Fever were forced to blood up a couple less experienced names last season that saw some impressive development, giving plenty of confidence to rotate where required. While Courtney Bruce is unlikely to rotate from goal keeper, Stacey Francis had a couple of runs out in wing defence last season while Jess Anstiss is a versatile midcourter meaning there could be plenty of movement in this Fever side.

A much-improved 2019 season saw the Thunderbirds suffer injuries aplenty and a bottom two finish while the off-season saw a flurry of changes. The retirement of long bomb specialist Maria Folau will hurt the Thunderbirds with the super shot coming into effect so shortly after her time with the side, and while the T’birds still have some stellar goalers, the likes of Lenize Potgieter and Sasha Glasgow are not the most adaptable, playing out most of their time in goal shooter. Still potentially in recovery from her 2019 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture, Glasgow will likely be rested early in the part of the season leaving much of that attacking rotation to Charlee Hodges and Sam Gooden out the front with Hodges expected to get the start. With a highly versatile back-end, expect Kate Shimmin, Layla Guscoth and Shamera Sterling to really utilise the rolling sub with each defender able to add something different to the circle, while Shadine Van Der Merwe can also be a handy option down back.

Like the Magpies, expect the Firebirds to really take advantage of the rolling subs in 2020 with a couple of young, inexperienced names and plenty of upcoming talent in the mix. With a couple of young defenders holding down the circle expect to see some rotation between Kim Jenner, Tara Hinchliffe and Rudi Ellis, while the experience and consistency of Gabi Simpson will hold up well in wing defence and highly unlikely to change from her regular post. The attacking midcourt will be down to Jemma Mi Mi and the hopeful return of Mahalia Cassidy, although young guns Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley are both capable of rotating in where required especially if Cassidy is still a while off returning from ACL recovery. The real question for the Firebirds is what will happen in attack, with Romelda Aiken the obvious go-to girl at the post but no official replacement for Gretel Bueta as of yet. The rolling subs rule will allow the Firebirds to really feel out connections, with South African import Ine-Mari Venter the only viable option for the time being as the sole additional goaler on the list, though training partner Tippah Dwan is a solid option on the bench after being a quality option in preseason last year prior to injury.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

 

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 1

DESPITE a last minute fixture change the highly anticipated return of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) is set to kick off this weekend with cross town derbies the main flavour of the round. With COVID-19 restrictions in place for many of the states, teams have made the last minute dash to the Sunshine State meaning all four games will be played at Nissan Arena.

Queensland Firebirds v. Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday, 1 August

Grand finalists Sunshine Coast Lightning will be eager to get the wood over their state side rivals and prove that they will once again be the team to beat in 2020. Despite losing the grand final last year the Lightning have had little to no turnover in the off-season with the major change coming in the coaches box with Kylee Byrne taking charge. For the Firebirds they have been dealt a huge blow with Gretel Bueta announcing her pregnancy and subsequently out for the season.

With options aplenty in the goal circle for the Lightning expect the two time premiers to rotate their options to find their best combination. Entering her second SSN season Ugandan shooter Peace Proscovia will be hoping to bring her intensity and accuracy to post to become a real force to be reckoned with in the circle. Bursting onto the scene last year, Cara Koenen is another option in at goal shooter for the Lightning able to go to post from range and showcase her clever movement. But it is her versatility that could cause headaches for the Firebirds defensive unit able to switch out to goal attack when needed. The ever-reliable Steph Wood is crafty with ball in hand and not afraid to put up the long bomb and while she did not finish the way she would have liked last year will be keen to make amends in 2020. Although still young, the combination of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe will have to be on song from the opening minute of the match if they are to shut down the Lightning attack. Jenner and Hinchliffe are both renowned for their ball winning ways but can often rack up the penalties, which is something they will have to monitor in this clash to limit the amount of free opportunities to go to post. The injection of Rudi Ellis could provide a point of difference and some extra height to nullify either Proscovia or Koenen at the post.

Boasting a stacked midcourt with the likes of Silver Ferns veteran Laura Langman and Diamonds representative Laura Scherian the Lightning will be hoping to exploit the young Firebirds midcourt of Jemma Mi Mi, Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley. Bueta’s absence will leave a w=hole both through the midcourt and in the goal circle meaning it will be up to Romelda Aiken to lead the charge under the post and do the heavy lifting. Defensively the Lightning have one of the strongest combinations with Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius constantly on the hunt for any loose ball and able to apply a wealth of pressure both on the shot and through transition. With Ine Mari Venter or Tippah Dwan likely to take the goal attack position expect the Lightning to double down on Aiken at the post and freeze up any easy avenue to post.

Given Sunshine Coast’s strong connections down the court and their never say die attitude they should have the upper hand against the Firebirds.

Adelaide Thunderbirds v. West Coast Fever
Saturday, 1 August

Both sides had an up and down season last year and will be hoping to put their foot down in Round 1. When they met in the concurrent round last year it was the Adelaide Thunderbirds that got the job done ended their 23 game losing streak. It was a feat they will be hoping to repeat this season against a relatively unchanged West Coast Fever line-up.

There is no denying that Jhaniele Fowler is the go-to girl for the Fever. Standing at 196cm the goal shooter is the Fever’s get out of jail free card, able to bomb it long into her and she will deliver on the scoreboard. She is prolific to post and oozes nothing but class, composure and balance to reel in errant passes. The battle in the air will be exciting to watch with Shamera Sterling a real menace for the Thunderbirds given her long limbs and impressive leap. Still solidifying their starting goal attack, both Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton will have to up the ante if they are to draw attention off Fowler at the post. Both goalers have the ability to go for the long bomb and are clever with ball in hand to create space but at times lack confidence, something the Thunderbirds will be hoping to exploit. The return of Layla Guscoth will bolster the Thunderbirds line-up with the experienced defender able to tag players out of a game with her shadowing style of play while Kate Shimmin is another viable option inside of the defensive circle to provide that spark and athleticism.

With Fowler up one end the other bookend for the Fever is captain and Australian Diamonds goal keeper Courtney Bruce. She is a hardnosed defender, constantly on the lookout for an intercept and uses her quick feet to will herself to the ball. Her lean over the shot is impressive while her physicality alongside Stacey Francisconstant niggle can offset opposition goalers. In her first official outing as a Thunderbird, South African Lenize Potgieter will have her work cut out for her but is no stranger to the big stage often letting her quickfire shot and accuracy to post do the talking. While it may take a couple of minutes for her to settle into the match expect Potgieter to control the flow in attack and be the main avenue to goal with Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges to play more of a supporting role. Neither Gooden or Hodges played at SSN level last year meaning the T’birds frontend will have a very fresh look this season with experienced heads in Potgieter and Chelsea Pitman to lead the way.

It will be an intense battle with both teams vying to kickstart their season in style and showcase their development. A settled line-up could give the Fever a slight edge however the T’birds have a couple of game changers across the court.

GIANTS Netball v. NSW Swifts
Sunday, 2 August

Fresh off a premiership the NSW Swifts will be hoping to make it back-to-back grand final wins and it all starts here with a clash against their state rivals. The Swifts stunned many last season with their remarkable season and will be hoping to build on that momentum this season. After narrowly missing the finals last season the GIANTS will have a real fire in the belly and another preseason together could give them that edge they have been looking for.

Both sides boast a relatively young and developing midcourt making for an intriguing battle through the centre third. The loss of Kim Green could be huge for the GIANTS but Kiera Austin is shaping up to be the favourite to replace the veteran with her impressive ball placement, speed across the court and vision into the circle while centre Jamie-Lee Price will be looking to elevate her game even further. Although more accustomed to the wing defence position, Price showed last year that she has the endurance and skillset to flick the switch and deliver in attack, something the GIANTS will be hoping to see more of this season. No longer the new kid on the block, Amy Parmenter will be keen to back up her stellar 2019 season and prove it was not a one off with her speed off the mark, tenacity and silky footwork set to match up on Swifts wing attack Natalie Haythornthwaite or returning captain Maddy Proud. Coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) Proud offers experience and excitement in attack with her fancy footwork and hustle for prime spot on circle edge while Paige Hadley is dynamic in centre able to light up the court with her speed and read of the play.

Defensively the combination of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner will have their hands full with Caitlin Bassett and Jo Harten at the post. Klau and Turner found their rhythm last season with their defensive prowess, ability to set up a wall down back and cleanliness to attack each and every play. But Bassett and Harten are no easy beats, oozing nothing but netball smarts and experience to work the ball around the court and get into damaging positions. Harten is not afraid to go for the long bomb which could prove a problem with the introduction of the super shot while Bassett’s accuracy wavered at times last season, something she will be hoping to address.

If Sam Wallace and Helen Housby can get on top of Sam Poolman and Kristiana Manu’a it will go a long way in setting the tone for the Swifts and ultimately claiming the win.

Melbourne Vixens v. Collingwood Magpies
Sunday, 2 August

The last time these two sides met the Melbourne Vixens got the last laugh, dominating the Pies in the semi-final from start to finish. But since then the Magpies have had a complete overhaul with four of their starting seven all not taking the court this season while the Vixens have maintained a stable list with Kate Eddy the only person to join the fray, replacing Renae Ingles. Having played no practice matches due to the COVID-19 restrictions both sides could come out a bit rusty but that will not stop either team from fighting tooth and nail to secure the first derby win.

The weight of putting up a competitive total ultimately falls onto the young shoulders of Shimona Nelson with the Collingwood goaler a dominant force under the post with her strong holds, aerial skill and height. With no Nat Medhurst out the front to deliver into her or put up shots it will be up Gabby Sinclair to fill the hole left and showcase her netball nous to dish off pin point passes and go to post. The added bonus and potential return of Madi or Kelsey Browne for Round 1 will also have a huge influence on the Magpies shooting unit with the duo able to release the ball with confidence and ease credit to their impressive vision, variety of passes and ball placement. But the Vixens have a tight defence with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston a threatening combination with their suffocating pressure, three foot marking and physicality to force turnovers aplenty.

Up the other end the Melbourne Vixens also have a three pronged attack with Mwai Kumwenda officially returning from her ACL injury in 2018 and joining tried and tested duo of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip. The three can all rotate seamlessly through the circle and, most importantly, quickly adapt to whatever scenario they are placed into. Thwaites and Philip are a concerning prospect for the Magpies when it comes to the super shot with the two reliable from range while Kumwenda is an excitement machine thanks to her leap and aerial presence. It will be up to Collingwood co-captain Geva Mentor to stand up in defence and win ball back for her side while both Matilda Garrett and Jodi-Ann Ward offer that element of unpredictability.

With Collingwood boasting a new look team expect the Vixens to exploit their developing connections with their quick ball movement and accuracy to post to catch them off guard and secure a win.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in less than a week, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. Number three on the countdown is the imminent return of some critical players and who have really benefited from the extended time off.

With anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries happening left, right and centre in 2019, the 2020 season will see a lot of players heading towards an eventual return and some who hope to take the court from Round 1 and make their mark from the get-go. Among those in the mix of of an early return are a couple of crucial midcourters, with both Madi Browne and Maddy Proud likely to hit the court as soon as possible given the extended break due to the COVID-19 crisis. While Browne and Proud were injured a couple months apart, both have suggested a Round 1 return which will surely boost their respective teams’ potential this season. 

Also expected back from ACL recovery this season but with no confirmation date on their return are Mahalia Cassidy, Kelsey Browne and Sasha Glasgow, with Cassidy expected to return prior to the latter two given her early-season injury. That being said, Cassidy and Glasgow are somewhat unaccounted for with little confirmation about their return apart from being on the playing lists, while there have been plenty of positives around Kelsey Browne’s recovery. The last player expected to return to the court is England international Beth Cobden, with the Adelaide Thunderbirds midcourter going down early in the season but no longer featured on the Thunderbirds’ playing list and leaving a question mark over her head. While it is all fun and games for the aforementioned six, star midcourter Ash Brazill is unlikely to return this season, only having ruptured her ACL in February. While seemingly on the road to an excellent recovery, it would take a miracle for the Magpies midcourter to make her return this season, though if there was anyone with the drive to do so it would certainly be Brazill.

Also returning in 2020 are a couple of Achilles injury sufferers, with Layla Guscoth and Tayla Honey both back at full fitness after respective injuries that kept them off the court. While Honey was struck down prior to last season beginning, fans saw plenty of star power from Guscoth before the England defender went down, with her return set to bring plenty of spark to the Thunderbirds’ backline. Tippah Dwan was another ruled out for the season prior to the 2019 season beginning, with the young goaler unfortunate to miss out, while Kate Eddy sat out for the end of last season and was unfortunate to miss out on playing in the Swifts grand final win. Lauren Moore may not have taken the court for the Swifts last season but was a huge loss off the bench, with the talented defender injured in the 2019 Australian Netball League (ANL) grand final but hoping to have an impact as a rolling sub in 2020. Tall timber Emma Ryde may just be a training partner with the Magpies this season but will hope to find some of the action, holding up well when required with the Thunderbirds last season before an untimely knee hyperextension ruled her out for the rest of the season.

Looking to players who may not have hit their full potential in 2019, there are a couple who returned from injury during last season and will hope to go one better this season and have more influence on the court. Mwai Kumwenda made her long awaited return just in time for a Melbourne Vixens finals berth, slotting in nicely to the goal circle but only playing in patches to reduce the risk of further injury. Fully recovered from her 2018 ACL rupture now and with no need to manage her load, expect the goal shooter to be fighting fit and ready to have a huge impact in attack. Romelda Aiken is another tall timber who had an interrupted season so will hope to have a greater impact this season, especially holding up a much less experienced attack-line, while two more critical players who look to be good to go are Courtney Bruce and Caitlin Bassett, with the Australian Diamonds bookends struggling with injury throughout patches of last season. While Bruce was out of action with an untimely elbow injury for a couple of rounds last season and did not quite have the same impact upon her return, Bassett had a niggling preseason injury that limited her accuracy to post early last year. Factoring in that Bassett was expected to also miss at least a few of the early rounds this season thanks to a Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) rupture back in March, the extended break from sport will surely see her back in action from the starting whistle of Round 1 this week. 

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in less than a week, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. Number four on the countdown is how a number of crucial list changes could impact ladder positions and really change up this season compared to 2019.

Note: All ladder predictions are an average position based on Draft Central’s combined writer suggestions. 

Adelaide Thunderbirds

With Maria Folau retiring at the end of 2019 the Adelaide Thunderbirds are in an interesting position, with some quality players through the middle and back end of the court but a somewhat inexperienced front-end. While Lenize Potgieter has taken up a starting position in goal shooter, the side will surely miss their long bomb sharpshooter, with the goal attack position now down to the likes of Charlee Hodges and Sam Gooden though neither of the duo took the court at Super Netball level in 2019. With Beth Cobden also removed from the mix with injury last year and no Australian Netball League (ANL) development pathway in 2020 to work back to full fitness, the side will rely a lot on its young players. Defensively, the return of Layla Guscoth will be a massive step in the right direction for the Thunderbirds, with the Draft Central team expecting the T’birds to sit a fraction higher on the ladder position than they did in 2019. 

Draft Central prediction: 5th
2019 finish: 7th

 

Collingwood Magpies

Like the Thunderbirds the Collingwood Magpies saw a flurry of changes following the 2019 season, though many were forced changes such as Ash Brazill doing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) back in February. Alongside Brazill, the Magpies will also go ahead without Nat Medhurst, Kim Ravaillion and April Brandley this season with the trio sitting out of the 2020 season due to pregnancy and ultimately leaving holes across all three thirds of the court. That being said, some handy pickups such as Jamaican import Jodi-Ann Ward and elevated midcourters Mel Bragg and Molly Jovic will help to bolster the Magpies’ stocks and the return of both Madi and Kelsey Browne from injury will do wonders for the side. That being said, the new and mostly untried connections of the team sees Draft Central pit the 2020 Magpies lower on the ladder than last year mainly due to the loss of valuable experience across all three thirds.

Draft Central prediction: 6th
2019 finish: 4th

 

GIANTS Netball

The GIANTS are in an interesting position for the 2020 season, suffering very little changes to their 2019 list. The loss of Kim Green to retirement could be the real kicker this year, with the champion wing attack a crucial cog through the GIANTS midcourt over the past few years and leaving a gaping hole in attack. While Kiera Austin is a tried and true candidate to slot in there if need be, the young goal attack could be crucial during the last five minutes of each quarter in goal attack for super shot attempts, meaning the wing attack position could be left to inexperienced youngster Maddie Hay. The GIANTS could be a huge threat if they iron out midcourt issues early, with the Draft Central team seeing the side go one better than last season with potential for a finals berth.

Draft Central prediction: 4th
2019 finish: 5th

 

Melbourne Vixens

Melbourne Vixens are in much the same position as the GIANTS this season but with the added bonus of a solid 2019 season behind them. With just the one major change at the end of 2019 with club legend Renae Ingles retiring, the Vixens snatched up Kate Eddy who will provide an almost like-for-like replacement, with connections already forged from coming through the Victorian pathways over the years. Eddy’s versatility to ply her trade as a circle defender could also be a huge addition to the side which has been up there in finals consideration but not yet been able to break through those top teams. It looks like the Vixens will hope to blood up some young talent with Tayla Honey returning to the side after injury kept her away from the court in 2019, and despite the new inclusions expect the Vixens to be right up there for finals contention this year. 

Draft Central prediction: 1st
2019 finish: 3rd

 

NSW Swifts

NSW Swifts had a huge 2019 and while they lost Eddy, the return of captain Maddy Proud is sure to pay dividends with the speedster providing another quality midcourter to an already stacked team. The Swifts proved they had the confidence in their bench last season and came out of it with a premiership making this season crucial for the side to prove last year was not just a fluke with plenty of young names amongst the group. Lauren Moore returns to the group after injury last season and is an adaptable defender to assist down back, while the elevation of midcourter Sophie Craig after her 2019 form saw her have an impact on the bench despite not starting the season with a contract will see the Swifts right up there once more. With a top two finish last year, expect the Swifts to back up there again this season.

Draft Central prediction: 2nd
2019 finish: 2nd

 

Queensland Firebirds

Queensland Firebirds had a struggle to the finish last season and surely would have been looking to go one better this season if it wasn’t for the sudden loss of Gretel Bueta to pregnancy. The departure of Bueta for the season leaves a huge hole, with the tall timber one of the greatest goalers of the competition and a key cog in attack for the Firebirds with her accuracy, commitment and flair. A trio of past Vixens headline the major changes, and while a replacement goal attack is yet to be announced, the addition of Ine-Mari Venter could see her have an impact in the goal circle. That being said, the South African product is a goal shooter by trade making for a difficult position for the Firebirds with a goal attack bib handy. The addition of Lara Dunkley could inject some speed through the midcourt with her tried and tested connection with Venter a handy bonus, while Rudi Ellis joins the Firebirds defence though her inexperience at SSN level could leave something to be desired. Unless they have a miracle up their sleeve, 2020 looks like it could be another rebuild year for the ailing Firebirds with the Draft Central team seeing the side struggle to put wins on the board again this season.

Draft Central prediction: 8th
2019 finish: 8th

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning

Sunshine Coast Lightning have been consistently up there throughout the Suncorp Super Netball over the years so expect the side to continue its winning form with its consistent names proving time and time again that age is just a number. With zero major changes compared to last season after a tumultuous 2018/19 changeover, the Lightning will be one of the closest-knit teams out there this season and as always, will be one to watch out for with a number of players who can change a game with a snap of their fingers. The only change the Lightning have coming into the season is their new coach in Kylee Byrne, who replaced Noeline Taurua at the end of 2019. A high calibre team like the Lightning should not suffer too much from the switch, with the Draft Central team placing the Lightning a fraction lower purely because it is an older team which could suffer from wear and tear as the condensed season goes on.

Draft Central prediction: 3rd
2019 finish: 1st

 

West Coast Fever

With a disappointing 2019 campaign behind them after a huge 2018 that saw them make the grand final, the West Coast Fever are in a position to prove they have what it takes in the competition. But as one of the most predictable sides in the Super Netball they will have a tough job switching up play to get more wins on the board this season, with the Fever following in the Lightning’s footsteps and not making any changes for the 2020 season. While this is a bonus for the side, able to forge some stronger connections, the individual effort to post has hurt the Fever over the past year making for a make-or-break season for its attack unit if they cannot produce strong scoreboard pressure in the goal attack position.

Draft Central prediction: 7th
2019 finish: 6th

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

Who could lead SSN stats in 2020?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball set to return in just over a month there is plenty of hype surrounding the season and which team will assert themselves on the competition. Last year the Lightning and Swifts seemed to dominate most areas when it came to statistics, but that did not stop Adelaide Thunderbirds recruit Shamera Sterling from leaving her mark claiming prime position in a couple of crucial stats while West Coast Fever goaler Jhaniele Fowler was also well represented in terms of statistical dominance. Draft Central poses some hypotheticals for the 2020 season, taking into account 2019 form, potential development over the off-season and enforced COVID-19 break.

Defensive rebounds:
Talented goal keeper, Sterling dominated rebounds last year notching up a whopping 35 for the season. Collingwood and England Roses goal keeper Geva Mentor was not far behind with 33, something she will be hoping to build on this season given the young and inexperienced defensive unit behind her heading into 2020. Premiership player Sarah Klau proved to be a force to be reckoned with under the post with her strong positioning and rebounding ability amassing the fourth most with 28 for the season. With Diamonds experience under her belt Klau could be an even bigger threat in the 2020 SSN season. While Emily Mannix did not feature within the top 10 for rebounds last year expect the Melbourne Vixens defender to be around the mark this season, with the defender showcasing a renewed hunger towards the end of last season. 

Goal assists:
It is no surprise that Melbourne Vixens and Australian Diamonds vice-captain Liz Watson took out the number one spot when it comes to goal assists with the wing attack simply unstoppable on circle edge with her pinpoint passes. Watson was quick, precise and accurate, feeding into the circle with a whopping 430 goal assists, 139 more than the next closest in teammate Kate Moloney. The Vixens centre was a key contributor throughout the season and will be around the mark once again in season 2020. The highly anticipated return of Madi Browne could see the speedy midcourter leap into the top five when it comes to goal assists as she will have to lead the attacking end for the Magpies given the wealth of personnel changes. Another possibility to join the top five is Swifts captain Maddy Proud who will hopefully make her return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the early stages of the season. Renowned for her speed, dynamic movement and quick hands she could have a real impact in the Swifts attacking end. 

Centre pass receives:
Pocket rocket Laura Scherian took out the number one spot when it came to centre pass receives in season 2019, with the nippy wing attack able to burst out over the transverse line and get the ball moving. Her speed off the mark and fancy footwork was one of a couple reasons why the Lightning were so successful with Scherian amassing 428 passes while Watson was not far behind with 375. Often flying under the radar when it comes to her work at the transverse line Gretel Bueta was a prominent threat with 325 receives. Her load may lift even further in 2020 with the retirement of Caitlyn Nevins so expect her to enforce herself in the midcourt. Depending on what position Paige Hadley plays she could be another player that appears within the top 10 while Browne is another possibility.

Goals:
Jamaican powerhouse and West Coast Fever go-to girl Jhaniele Fowler was simply unstoppable under the ring last year and will be hoping to replicate that form again this season. Standing at 198cm the goal shooter is a commanding presence and wowed many with her ability to perform week in week out racking up 709 goals. Fresh off a premiership expect Sam Wallace to pick up where she left off last season with the Swifts goal shooter able to slot them from everywhere no matter the pressure. With a potential increased load in the 2020 season due to pregnancies in the Collingwood camp, Shimona Nelson will have to push herself even further. Slotting 637 goals for the season, Nelson’s numbers could rapidly rise as she becomes an even bigger target for the Pies given the inexperienced attack. While Romelda Aiken did not make it into the top five last year, likely due to missing games for injury, the Firebirds goaler is renowned for her ability to score quickly and at a high volume so expect big things from her this season, while increased court time from Cara Koenen could also see the Sunshine Coast product sneak into the top five. 

Deflections:
Sterling took out the top deflections position with an impressive 120 for the year, a clear testament to her read of the play and ability to impact the contest. She was involved in just about everything and with another pre-season under her belt and more accustomed to the high intensity pace of the game will be raring to go heading into the 2020 season. Klau was another one who impressed last year and will be eager to keep the good times rolling if they are any chance to win back-to-back premierships. Surprisingly, powerhouse defender Karla Pretorius did not feature within the top five when it comes to deflections so expect the tenacious South African to be in the mix while Thunderbirds returnee Layla Guscoth is also renowned for her ability to create tips and turnovers. The development of Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner could see the duo feature within the top five this season while GIANTS wing defence Amy Parmenter is also a threat with her lightning quick pace and slickness on court.

Intercepts:
Although she did not feature in the deflections, Pretorius shone when it came to the intercept category with 69 for the season, one more than Sterling. Pretorius was a game changer for the Lightning, able to spring into action and take a huge intercept with her cleanliness and read of the play. After falling short in the grand final expect that fire in the belly to be evident and for Pretorius to once again be amongst the top echelon of players. Mannix was a prominent threat last year with her history breaking 10 intercepts in one game and ability to read the play. Collingwood newcomer Jodi-Ann Ward has proven on the international stage that she knows how to win ball back with her quick footwork and long reaching arms, while Magpies teammate, Mentor could also be in the top five once again given her strength in the air and skill to float into space and pick off passes. After a quieter 2019 season, West Coast Fever captain Courtney Bruce will be chomping at the bit, looking to assert herself and collect more deflections to rise up the leaderboard. 

What if … the 2019 season was not riddled by ACL injuries?

2019 PROVED to be the year of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries with a staggering amount of players succumbing to the injury and bringing their season to an abrupt end. With players forced to the sidelines, clubs had to find injury replacements and look to various other leagues such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and ANZ Premiership to find someone to fill the void of their injured stars. Four out of the eight teams in Suncorp Super Netball got through the season unscathed when it comes to ACL related injuries.

But what if there were not as many ACL injuries? Would the Suncorp Super Netball ladder have looked different?

The Adelaide Thunderbirds were hit pretty hard with English international Beth Cobden struck down early in the season. With a relatively inexperienced line-up and new connections forming across the court it was hard to replace the high calibre player who oozed composure and versatility. Ruled out for the remainder of the season, the Thunderbirds missed her ability to stand up under pressure and think her way through the tricky passages of play. But unfortunately, the injuries did not stop there with youngster and shooting sensation Sasha Glasgow going down in Round 13 with an ACL injury of her own. Prior to that, the 21-year-old showcased her dominance under the post with her strong holds, accuracy to post and rangy shooting abilities. These two key injuries ultimately had an adverse effect on the Thunderbirds’ ability to compete consistently and at the highest level possible.

Despite making it to the finals, 2019 was a season of what ifs for the Magpies and one littered with injuries. Co-captain Madi Browne ruptured her ACL in the pre-season Team Girls Cup and failed to take the court throughout the season and it is fair to say that her presence was well and truly missed out on her court. Her slick ball movement, spatial awareness and dynamism makes her hard to stop when on song. Towards the tail end of the season sister, Kelsey Browne also fell victim to the ACL curse, ruling her out for the remainder of the season and putting a dampener on their finals hopes. It was clear that the connection both Browne sisters had with their goalers and fellow midcourters was lacking despite recruiting the services of Kimiora Poi to help fill the void.

Overall, it was a difficult season for the Firebirds, only winning a handful of games throughout the year and also riddled with injuries. In Round 5 Mahalia Cassidy’s season was cut short with the talented midcourter suffering her second ACL injury. Her speed and endurance was missed across the court with the fancy footed centre court player able to exploit any bit of space and deliver the ball into the goalers. Cassidy’s absence had an impact on the Firebirds’ drive through the middle and reliability with the centre known for her consistent and strong defence.

While the NSW Swifts went on to win the coveted 2019 SSN premiership it was without their inspirational captain Maddy Proud who did her ACL midway through the year. Proud was arguably in career best form with the midcourter consistently showcasing her strength around the circle edge and quick hands. The Swifts showed plenty of grit and determination throughout the season but with recruits like Kayla Cullen and Katrina Rore both plying their trade for the club it put them in good stead to come out on top. The versatility through the midcourt added an extra element of class to the already strong and well-connected Swifts outfit.

If the Thunderbirds were given a clear run at the competition free from injury they could have potentially registered more wins, while Collingwood could have gone further into the finals series given their midcourt depth and versatility. While the Firebirds struggled to generate wins, the option to bring Cassidy on could have given them that extra element of unpredictability to their starting line-up. Although the Swifts reaped in the rewards it would have been interesting to see how they competed with the likes of Proud amongst the mix for a whole season.