Tag: Mel Bragg

2020 SSN: Season preview – Collingwood Magpies

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, with Collingwood Magpies up next on the list. 

Coach: Rob Wright
Captain: Geva Mentor and Madi Browne
2019 finish: 4th

The Magpies had a strange 2019 season, racking up seven wins and two draws. The side found plenty of purchase through the middle of the season and had a stellar patch to finish, making the finals thanks to a magnificent win against the Vixens in the last round, before then falling to the Vixens in the first round of finals. Overall, the Magpies were a force to be reckoned with thanks to their ability to pull out unsuspecting wins but also lost a couple of matches with a lack of consistency and connection down the court and a couple of major injuries putting their season in doubt. With Madi Browne ruled out prior to the season beginning and Kelsey Browne bookending with the same injury towards the end of the season, the side was interrupted but their good patches were better than most and proved that they could make just about any combination work if they were on. Shimona Nelson impressed upon her move to Melbourne, while Nat Medhurst was a crucial cog in attack, playing almost a dual role in and around the goal circle thanks to her wealth of experience to hold up the circle at times.

2020 predictions/expectations:

Collingwood have an entirely new-look team in 2020, with three crucial players in Medhurst, April Brandley and Kim Ravaillion ruled out with pregnancy and midcourt star Ash Brazill out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury acquired in February. But while the side has lost a wealth of experience, they have brought in some quality talent to replace them with Jamaican Jodi-Ann Ward joining the defensive fray to bolster ranks with Geva Mentor and Matilda Garrett, while Gabby Sinclair and Mel Bragg return to the team for a second season, with Bragg elevated to be a permanent player in 2020. Molly Jovic and Julia Woolley also join the fray for the first time, with the duo both snatched up to provide another option in attack and Woolley an interesting selection to join the goal circle given her lack of experience in the elite pathways. The team will need to ensure its connections are on point if they are to challenge some of the top teams in 2020, especially given the new two goal Super Shot with some inexperienced players in the midst.

Key player to watch:

Nelson had a breakout season last year, increasing her volume and accuracy across the season and will have to do the same in 2020 given the loss of Medhurst in attack. While Medhurst did a wealth of work to get the ball to Nelson in 2019, plying her trade and helping the young goaler develop her craft, Nelson will be the go-to girl this season  but could really lack that backup goaler stepping up that she relied on to generate ball, meaning the Magpies could be in a lot of trouble if she cannot get easy access to the ball under the post. With an impressive aerial ability and accuracy, plus her ability to put pressure on the scoreboard and she will be a real player to watch this season. Her development was second to none last season but will need to step up once again this year as the experienced player at the post, and will want to continue her development to ensure she brings her strong hands from the get-go to be a consistent threat at the post.

Team list:

Madi Browne
Kelsey Browne
Geva Mentor
Gabby Sinclair
Matilda Garrett
Mel Bragg
Jodi-Ann Ward
Shimona Nelson
Julia Woolley
Molly Jovic
Kelly Altmann

What if… Suncorp Super Netball had extended benches in 2020?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) start date being announced as August 1 the teams are eager to get back out on court and perform. With plenty of preparation time on their hands each team is working on perfecting their connections across the court. However, the Australian Netball League (ANL) season has been cancelled for 2020 because of the financial impact COVID-19 has had on the sport, meaning that if injuries were to occur in SSN teams it could be difficult to find replacements. Committed to playing a full 60 game season, some teams could be in dire straits if they cannot access top-up players. 2019 was filled with a wealth of injuries throughout the season with many people hinting at an increased workload a potential reason for the increased injuries.

But what if the SSN had extended benches for the 2020 season?

An extended bench would allow flexibility for the clubs and more importantly help to look after the welfare of the players. While there is no denying that each team will be constantly hoping to put out their best and strongest team each time they take the court, having more players on the bench will help to alleviate the pressure on some of the starting seven and give them a break. Currently there are three players on the bench but an increased bench load could help the players in terms of management and also allow more netballers to get exposure to the major league.

With so many international netballers already gracing the courts of the Suncorp Super Netball, extended benches could allow for more to join to further strengthen the competition and develop players. With the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) not running due to COVID-19 some clubs could be tempted to look beyond the borders and pick up international stars to join their squad to fill their needs whether it be in defence, midcourt or in attack. There is no shortage of options and all-star prospects with the likes of English Roses Rachel Dunn, Jade Clarke, Fran Williams and a host of others all hopeful possibilities if SSN extended their bench. Although the ANZ Premiership season is running, by the time SSN begins it will be towards the tail end of the competition and could see players join the Australian league much like Katrina Rore and Kayla Cullen did last year.

With ANL also not running it could be a great time to increase the bench to encourage the continued development of the young up and coming prospects in Australian netball. Each club in the SSN has an affiliation to an ANL team meaning they could draw potential players from the lower league into the SSN and give them exposure to the more fast paced, dynamic and world renowned netball competition. After spending a fair bit of time playing in the ANL Cara Koenen, blossomed into a commanding goaler with her silky movement and calm temperament for the Sunshine Coast Lightning. Similarly, Mel Bragg got the call up to the Magpies line-up this year along with the likes of Tayla Fraser to the Swifts, proving that further exposure to SSN pressure works wonders for developing players.

Top 15 SSN training partners: #4 Brooke Allan

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is taking a look at the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) plate in 2020. Inside the top five and in at number four is Collingwood defender Brooke Allan. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration 2019 form, individual potential and future development.

The 21-year-old defender is still coming into the prime of her netball career but has already shown that she has the potential to become a permanent figure in the Magpies outfit. Having spent time with the successful Geelong Cougars in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) and Victorian Fury in the Australian Netball League (ANL), Allan has displayed her class and defensive tenacity. Her ability move between goal keeper and goal defence is a testament to her on-court netball nous and endurance.

In her short career, the skilled goal keeper has been recognised for her netballing prowess with selection in the Under 19 Australian team while also taking home the grand final MVP in 2017 for her impressive efforts with Victorian Fury. After switching to the Tasmanian Magpies in 2018, Allan tasted further success helping guide her side to their first ANL premiership. With so many accolades already to her name, Allan will be hoping to extend to her trophy cabinet and take the leap to the next level and become a more commanding figure in the goal circle. Her pressure over the shot and physicality in the goal circle are just a couple of key components of her game style.

While she is yet to make her debut at Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) level, Allan displayed her elite capabilities in New Zealand taking part in the Super Club tournament where Collingwood came out victorious. Her strength under the post to keep the shooters at bay and put doubt in their mind is impressive. She consistently displays her ability to hold her own against challenging shooters with her quick footwork and ability to cleanly get around the body. Allan is deceptively light on her feet given her height and stature and makes full use of her long limbs to cause disruptions to the oppositions attacking flow. The Magpies defender is not afraid to back herself in the contest and is strong in the air, able to compete and force a turnover with her impressive timing and positioning.

Still honing her craft, Allan has exposure to one of the worlds most renowned goal keepers in Geva Mentor. The England Roses star oozes class, composure and sheer brilliance, always able to make something out of nothing such is her netball mind and skill. Throw in new recruit and Jamaican representative Jodi-Ann Ward and Allan has plenty of talent to model her craft off. With fellow youngsters Mel Bragg and Matilda Garrett also amongst the Collingwood defensive line-up, expect Allan to draw plenty of confidence from their rise up the ranks, hard work and on-court impact. Further exposure to the highest level of professionalism and netball talent will only help the young defender to perfect her role and become a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
#12 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS Netball)
#11 Chelsea Blackman (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#10 Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)
#7 Jacqui Newton (Melbourne Vixens)
#6 Allie Smith (Melbourne Vixens)
#5 Elle Bennetts (GIANTS Netball)
#4 Brooke Allan (Magpies Netball)

Collingwood and Lightning set to face off in practice match

COLLINGWOOD Magpies and the Sunshine Coast Lightning are set to face off in Hobart on Friday night, with both sides preparing for yet another big year of Suncorp Super Netball. It will be the Magpies’ first outing in 2020 since winning the Super Club tournament over in New Zealand, while the Sunshine Coast will be hoping to get on the winners list after going down to the Fever last week in a practice match.

The Magpies will be missing the defensive prowess of Ash Brazill with the dual code athlete unable to make the trip due to her AFL Women’s commitments on Friday night, instead allowing the likes of Sharni Lambden to step up to the plate. It will be a great opportunity for the side to try out new combinations with a 10-player squad filled with new players set to make the trip down south. Replacement player for Nat Medhurst, Victorian Netball League (VNL) premiership star Julia Woolley, will be hoping to make an immediate impact on the court with her strong drives and ability to go to post. Woolley will be a real surprise packet for the Lightning given she has not played at Australian Netball League (ANL) or Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) level before. The clash will provide an opportunity through the midcourt for the likes of Kelsie Rainbow and Molly Jovic to formulate strong connections with the likes of Shimona Nelson with the duo looking to use their dash and clean hands to exploit the Lightning’s weaknesses. Having already played with the Magpies, Mel Bragg will be aiming to impose herself with her defensive style while recruit Jodi-Ann Ward will be hoping to use her long arms to force turnovers. Despite playing in the Bushfire Relief game for the All-Stars, co-captain Geva Mentor will pull on the goal keeper bib for the Pies. Renowned for her quick feet and ability to cause confusion in the circle Mentor will need to be on her A-game and lead from the front being the most experienced player in the Collingwood line-up.

With a loss fresh in their mind, the Lightning will be hoping to rectify their issues and claim an early win over the Magpies. They have a plethora of options in the goal circle with Cara Koenen and Peace Proscovia proving to be a damaging duo. In the absence of Steph Wood, Koenen has found herself out of position in goal attack but has not looked uncomfortable using her silky movement and strong drives to full effect. Ugandan shooter, Proscovia is strong under the ring with her accuracy to post and strong holds the key aspects of her game play. Jacqui Russell even showed her hand in goals floating through goal attack highlighting her versatility. With the Bushfire Relief game on Sunday, both Laura Langman and Karla Pretorius may have limited minutes on the court but will be hoping to have an impact with their ball-winning ability. Langman will be hoping to exploit Collingwood’s young and inexperienced midcourt with her gut running, speed and impressive ball placement across the court, while Pretorius is no slouch given her dynamic movement and go-go gadget arms. In her second SSN season, Phumza Maweni will be hoping to build on her form and cement her connections with young up and coming players in the side despite it not changing a whole heap over the off season. Speedster, Laura Scherian will be looking to take the reins in wing attack once again with up the other end expect the combination of Ash Unie and Maddy McAuliffe to be trialled.

It will be a tight battle between both sides but given the Lightning have a relatively unchanged side from last year and are filled with experience expect them to get over the top of Collingwood.

Suncorp Team Girls Cup back for 2020

THE pre-season Suncorp Team Girls Cup will return in 2020 with Sydney set to play host for the three-day tournament spanning from the March 27-29. All eight teams will participate in the event in hope to iron out any on-court issues and work on connections across the court ahead of their official start to the season in May.

The newly refurbished Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney will host the round robin event with the top team from each pool set to face off in the grand final on the last day of action. The Arena will be the new home for both the New South Wales Swifts and Giants in 2020 so a couple of early wins could create a real fortress for them.

Last year brought plenty of excitement with a wealth of world class talent on display throughout the tournament, giving fans a precursor to what to expect in 2019 and with new players entering the league in 2020 expect a similar spectacle. The official schedule will be released late in the week detailing which pool teams are in and the order of games.

The Collingwood Magpies will be looking to defend their inaugural title after knocking off cross-town rivals in the grand final last year. But will also being hoping to come through the pre-season tournament unscathed after losing co-captain Madi Browne to an ACL injury in the same tournament last year.

The Team Girls Cup last year saw the likes of Cara Koenen and Sophie Garbin stand up under pressure while the likes of Mel Bragg and Gabby Sinclair both put their name on the map in Collingwood’s win. This is a great opportunity for training partners and young up and coming players to prove themselves on the big stage. It also gave an insight into team styles whether it be more defensive or attacking while allowing players to wade through strategies.

New Zealand Super Club: Semi-finals preview

WITH bragging rights on the line in the semi-finals of the New Zealand Super Club, expect all four teams to come out with a real fire in the belly and intensity. The Magpies are the only international invitee to make the cut after not dropping a game throughout the tournament while the Pulse, Magic and Mystics all represent the ANZ Premiership.

Collingwood Magpies v. Central Pulse

After going through the tournament undefeated the Magpies are set to face off against reigning ANZ Premiership champions, Central Pulse in the first semi-final of the day. Both sides have a plethora of players who can spark their side into action making for a high intensity battle. Collingwood have dominated their previous matches and will be looking to replicate that form against the Pulse who have shown that they can be beaten if not on from the first whistle.

The main battle will be in the goal circle with the Pulse boasting a highly experienced and classy defence unit that can quite literally shut down any attacking forays from the Magpies. Jamaican goal shooter Shimona Nelson has aerial skills to boot but her hands when under pressure can be a bit shaky and with the likes of Katrina Rore, Kelly Jury although she is yet to take the court, Elle Temu and Karin Burger will have to be on the ball early. Burger and Rore have worked well together throughout the Super Club showcasing their defensive talent, ability to read the play and cover each other’s opponent with ease making it a challenging task for the Magpies. But they are not without some star power of the own in the likes of Nat Medhurst renowned for her ability to run the attack end thanks to her vision and understanding.

Collingwood should have the upper hand through the midcourt with the likes of Ash Brazill controlling the court with her speed and sheer athleticism. Gabby Sinclair also showed her versatility to switch out to wing attack and have an impact feeding the ball into Nelson and Medhurst while youngsters Ella Bayliss and Maggie Lind have stood up when called upon using their quick change of direction to penetrate the circle edge. The Pulse are littered with youth through the midcourt in the likes of Maddy Gordon, Renee Savai’inaea and Paris Lokotui and while they have plenty of talent may struggle to match it with the Magpies. Claire Kersten however, will be a key cog for the Pulse and will have to carry a heavy workload to feed the ball into the shooters.

In the goal circle the Pulse have a wealth of talent with tall timber Aliyah Dunn a commanding presence under the post and able to hold strong. She can get on the move when needed and pairs well with the likes of goal attack, Ameliaranne Ekenasio who is renowned for her strong baseline drives, accuracy and sweeping action across the top of the circle. Tiana Metuarau is another handy option in the circle for Pulse able to come on and have an impact with her timing and skill. But Collingwood have showed they have a wealth of defensive stars with Geva Mentor able to read the play and pick off incoming passes while Matilda Garrett has taken her game to the next level with Mel Bragg showcasing her class switching between wing defence and circle defence.

 

Northern Mystics v. Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic

Despite both sides not featuring in the ANZ Premiership finals, some off-season recruits and change ups has seen them put out strong performances and finish second in their respective pools. The battle between the Mystics and Magic will be an interesting one with both sides not willing to give an inch, however the key difference will be the shooting circle.

The Magic have fiddled with their starting shooting combination with the likes of Georgia Marshall and Abigail Latu-Meafou rotating through the circle while Kelsey McPhee often held down the fort and led the way with her strong movement, accuracy to post and positioning. With a mix of youth and experience the Mystics defenders in Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka will have their work cut out for them. Fitzpatrick can contest the ball in the air thanks to her leap and athleticism while Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson are renowned for their smothering pressure.

Through the midcourt Whitney Souness, Ariana Cable-Dixon and Sam Sinclair have all combined to be a formidable force and move the ball through each third. Souness has not skipped a beat since switching to the Magic and will be aiming to keep that form up throughout the semi-final while Sinclair has showed her versatility to move between wing defence and centre. Emma Iversen, Tayla Earle and Elisapeta Toeava have also been key for the Mystics delivering carefully crafted passes into the circle.

Goal shooter, Grace Nweke has continued to be a revelation for the Mystics using her height, strength and general netball awareness to punish opponents. She can outmuscle most opponents while her positioning under the post is strong. Despite Nweke doing a bulk of scoring the likes of Bailey Mes and Saviour Tui do a wealth of work out the front and can hit the scoreboard.  The Magic lost Jury over the off-season however have not looked out of place relying on their young guns to carry the load. Holly Fowler has been a valuable pick up pairing well with the likes of Jenna O’Sullivan and Georgia Tong. But this could be one area in which the Mystics could exploit given their lack of experience.

Points to take from the #TeamGirls Cup

THERE was plenty to take away from the weekend’s pre-season competition with many of the teams unveiling a new look, while others did not live up to the hype.

Magpies finally living up to the ‘dream team’

Coming off an underwhelming season the Magpies took out the inaugural #TeamGirls Cup on the weekend. Collingwood were impressive throughout the tournament with just the one loss under new head coach Rob Wright who was not afraid to toy around with player positions.

Collingwood recruit Geva Mentor led from defence with her quick feet and pressure over the ball, creating plenty of problems for the other teams. Kelsey Browne starred in wing attack pairing well with her sister Madi Robinson to move the ball into the goal circle with ease.

Young gun Gabrielle Sinclair made her mark while she was on court, confident under the ring alongside fellow shooter, Shimona Nelson. Fan favourite Nat Medhurst also hit the court in the black and white putting up shots and feeding well into fellow recruit, Nelson who benefitted from Medhurst’s experience. Sinclair shot at 84 per cent, Medhurst 69 per cent and Nelson who did most of the shooting for Collingwood shot at 93 per cent making them a formidable trio under the post.

Dual code athlete Ash Brazill was as strong as ever in wing defence on Friday night before she returned to Melbourne for her AFLW commitments. Kim Ravaillion played well defensively as did training partner Mel Bragg who took the opportunity to shine.

Vixens are a force to be reckoned with

Like their Victorian rivals, the Melbourne Vixens flourished throughout the preseason tournament, only falling to the Magpies in the final match of the series.

Caitlin Thwaites, Ine-Mari Venter and Tegan Philip‘s accurate shooting of 90 per cent, 84 per cent and 93 per cent respectively was backed by a stacked midcourt of Diamonds superstars including Kate Moloney, Liz Watson and former Diamond Renae Ingles.

Thwaites in particular seemed to settle in well with her old side despite wearing the goal attack bib for some of the tournament. Thwaites in goal attack was an unexpected move that proved a success for the Vixens with defenders not familiar playing on her in goal attack.

Training partner, Lara Dunkley provided fresh movement to the mid-court when she was given the opportunity, slotting into the Vixens side with ease.

Lightning are still strong

They may have lost three big names in Bassett, Mentor and Browne during the offseason, however, the Sunshine Coast Lightning did not seem to suffer much without them.

Peace Proscovia dominated in the goal circle, shooting at 95 per cent for the tournament while shooter Cara Koenen looked right at home alongside Proscovia and Steph Wood.

Lightning struck in the mid-court with the speedy and experienced Laura Langman returning to the side.

Overall, the Lightning performed well, however they will be looking to tighten up their connections heading into the new season.

Giants are on the rise

The Giants played fairly well throughout the course of the weekend led by the experience of Jo Harten, Kim Green and Sam Poolman. However, it was some of their younger players who stood out.

21-year-old, Amy Parmenter came out firing from the first match making the centre position her own with smart play both offensively and defensively throughout the weekend.

Kiera Austin‘s connection with Harten in the goal circle was electric as the young player confidently put up goal after goal and moved quickly to lead defenders astray. Head coach Julie Fitzgerald is going to have plenty of options in the shooting circle during the season with Caitlin Bassett still to come into the side.

Although the Giants lost to the Lightning in their final match there are a lot of positives for them to take out of the #TeamGirls Cup.

Swifts calm and collected

The New South Wales Swifts took to the #TeamGirls Cup without their captain Maddy Proud but that did not seem to phase them as they continued to push sides to their limits.

Paige Hadley led for the Swifts, placing her feeds carefully into the safe hands of Sam Wallace who shot at 90 per cent and Sophie Garbin 79 per cent. Alongside Garbin and Wallace, versatile wing attack Natalie Haythornwaite also flexed her shooting muscle.

Defensively, Sarah Klau and Kate Eddy both did well, looking solid down back rotating well through the circle.

The young Swifts side was impressive throughout the tournament and managed to stay cool when scores were close. They put out a four-quarter performance in most matches and they will be wanting to keep that up heading into the new season.

Firebirds not firing on all cylinders

The Queensland Firebirds were up and down throughout the tournament, proving they still have areas across the court to improve on if they want to challenge sides in 2019.

True to form Gretel Tippett and Romelda Aiken paired well in the shooting circle, however at times failed to capitalise on their scoring opportunities.

Head coach Roselee Jencke also gave shooter Tippah Dwan some time out on court showcasing her dynamic footwork around her opponents and finding space in the goal circle often.

Defensively, the loss of Laura Geitz down back was evident for the Firebirds as young defenders Kim Jenner, Laura Clemesha and Tara Hinchliffe continued to figure out their combinations. Despite the loss of Geitz, each defender held their own and were able to create turnovers throughout the weekend.

Fever in trouble?

The West Coast Fever looked like a completely different team to the side that dominated the Super Netball league in 2018.

Missing star shooter, Jhaniele Fowler for most of the weekend, the Fever struggled to get the ball into the net. Kaylia Stanton did the majority of the work in the circle for the Fever shooting at 74 per cent. Accuracy and volume seemed to plague the Fever with Stanton lacking back-up in the goal circle.

Alongside Stanton was new Fever recruit, Alice Teague-Neeld. Teague-Neeld did well to free up space in the circle for Stanton, but she lacked the confidence to back herself and shoot. Training partner Emma Cosh did well when she was given the opportunity on court, scoring quickly after she came on.

Overall, the Fever seemed to be the team that struggled the most in comparison to where they were at last season. With still a few weeks to go until the season and Fowler coming back into the side at full capacity it would be wrong to write them off just yet based on one weekend.

Thunderbirds not to be underestimated

One of the most exciting things to take away from the #TeamGirls Cup is the spark that the Thunderbirds seem to have finally found.

After failing to win a match last season the new look Adelaide Thunderbirds, under new head coach Tania Obst, came out firing and seriously challenged their opponents.

The defensive trio of Shamera Sterling, Layla Guscoth and Kate Shimmin were dangerous with Sterling finishing the weekend with the most intercepts of any player racking up 17.

In attack Sasha Glasgow, Cody Lange and training partner Nyah Allen seemed confident. The Thunderbirds will be significantly boosted when experienced shooter Maria Folau joins the side after missing the #TeamGirls Cup due to commitments with the Auckland Cup.

After losing the experience of Chelsea Pitman on day one to a calf injury, Hannah Petty and Kelly Altmann impressed through the midcourt with their clever drives and attack on the ball.

Despite not winning a game during the #TeamGirls Cup, the Thunderbirds put out their best performance on day three against the West Coast Fever with the match ending in a draw, giving South Australian fans plenty to look forward to in the coming season.

Overall the #TeamGirls Cup provided a glimpse into the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball season. Though the matches were significantly shorter and some teams were missing players, the standard of netball was high. All teams will take plenty of positives out of the weekend but will also be able to identify areas that need more work before the season begins at the end of April.