Tag: Nat Haythornthwaite

2020 SSN: Season preview – NSW Swifts

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 the next in line reigning premiers, New South Wales Swifts.

Coach: Briony Akle
Captain: Maddy Proud
2019 finish: 2nd

2019 was a year to remember for the NSW Swifts, breaking their 10 year premiership drought with a 17 goal victory. Riddled with injuries throughout the season the Swifts showcased their resilience and incredible depth to bring in a host of young, up and coming players that took the competition by storm. Unfortunately captain, Maddy Proud was struck down with a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury early in the season, forcing her to the sideline while Kate Eddy also joined Proud on the sideline for the remainder of 2019 with an ankle injury but that did not seem to faze the Swifts who kicked it up a gear. Resorting to the Australian Netball League, the Swifts uncovered some gems such as Tayla Fraser and Elle Bennetts but really came through with arguably one of the biggest pick-ups of the season in Silver Ferns star Katrina Rore. She walked into the team after the World Cup break and immediately asserted herself into the thick of it, with her three-foot marking and versatility.

2020 expectations/predictions:

Defensively both Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner emerged as true stars with their ball winning ability and excitement something they will be hoping to replicate. Although the Swifts will be without the flexibility of both Rore and Eddy in the defensive circle expect the combination of Turner and Klau to stand up to the pressure. Through the midcourt Paige Hadley well and truly found her feet last season, using her speed and strength to exploit every inch of space while the inclusion of Sophie Craig (nee Halpin) injected some real dynamism. The possible return of Proud also generates plenty of excitement for the Swifts with the midcourt player able to explode out of the blocks with her fancy footwork, speed and strength around circle edge while the class of Nat Haythornthwaite will once again be on show. The England Roses star is a powerhouse in attack able to seamlessly transition from wing attack into goal attack, but it is her undeniable connection with fellow Roses teammate Helen Housby that the Swifts will be hoping continues to cause headaches in 2020. Housby can back herself from range and is a real playmaker in the goal circle, providing silver service to Sam Wallace under the post. The Swifts have arguably one of the strongest line-ups in the competition with all of their bench players able to come on and have a profound impact, none bigger than Sophie Garbin who will be keen to announce herself as a serious competitor in 2020.

Key player:

Reprising her role in the Swifts leadership group and debuting for the Diamonds late last year, Turner has a bright future ahead of her and will be definitely be one to watch in 2020. Growing with confidence as the season progressed, Turner is a clever decision maker and reads the play exceptionally well. The tagging style goal defence has the ability to wear her opponent down and win back a wealth of ball such is her innate hunt for the ball. She is deceptively quick, able to nip around the court while her smarts to double back on the goal shooter when necessary gives her another competitive edge. Her hands over pressure is impressive, getting in the head of her opposition goaler over the shot and making the goaler work for every single inch of space or pass.

Team list:

Sophie Craig
Sophie Garbin
Paige Hadley
Nat Haythornthwaite
Helen Housby
Sarah Klau
Lauren Moore
Maddy Proud
Maddy Turner
Sam Wallace

Memorable Matches: Swifts deny Lightning three-peat for inaugural SSN premiership

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in recent history. Next up is NSW Swifts’ spectacular 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final performance against Sunshine Coast Lightning. Looking to make it three in a row, the Swifts put on a masterclass stopping the Lightning in their tracks and clinching their first premiership in over 10 years.

It was an impressive display from the Swifts, who came into the match as the underdogs despite spending a wealth of the season on top of the ladder. The Lightning had an impressive track record against the Swifts heading into the grand final, but that was all thrown out the window with New South Wales pouncing on every opportunity that came their way to blow the Lightning out of the water.

With youngster Cara Koenen getting the start over Peace Proscovia and Steph Wood struggling for accuracy, the hungry Swifts defensive unit of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner switched it on from the starting whistle, gobbling up a wealth of ball between them. While Karla Pretorius had a similarly strong start, the Swifts were careful and patient with ball in hand and it paid dividends, heading into the second quarter four goals up thanks to the clean movement down court.

Sam Wallace proved she was in for a big one from the get-go, and while the Lightning put some solid pressure on the goal shooter defensively, she used her improved aerial ability to post 20 goals by half time and provide a constant threat – aided by Helen Housby who consistently evaded Pretorius to be a handy option inside the circle. With plenty of young talent running around through the Swifts midcourt, many wondered whether the experienced strength of Lightning livewire Laura Langman and speedster Laura Scherian would run them down. But that was not the case with the Swifts midcourt well and truly rising to the occasion, unfazed by the Lightning’s experience and instead doing what they do best, treasuring the ball and using their cautious approach to feed into the goalers. With Paige Hadley, Nat Haythornthwaite and Katrina Rore firing on all cylinders early, the Lightning could not seem to find purchase to steal momentum away, seeing the Swifts lead 31-23 at half time.

With rotations all around, the Lightning seemed to lack consistency especially in the goal circle, and with Hadley holding off an unusually quiet Langman there was not enough drive through the midcourt for the Lightning to pull back the margin. While many expected the Lightning to fire back heading into the second half, the Swifts did not let up and came out firing once more, not allowing the home side to generate any easy passage of play and establish their signature ball movement across the court, that many had gotten to used to seeing. Hadley and Haythornthwaite continued to ply their trade out the front, providing constant ball into the circle and despite the slower quarter the Swifts were still well and truly in control ahead of a massive final quarter. 

The real turn in the game was in the final quarter, seeing the Swifts finally really pull away from the Lightning thanks to the defensive unit putting on a show and Wallace continuing to dominate under the post. Defensively, Klau was having a day out dominating the one-on-one contest, and the usually threatening duo of Pretorius and Phumza Maweni seemed to pale in comparison to the Swifts’ defensive prowess. A phenomenal shared final quarter effort saw Wallace, Housby and Sophie Garbin dominate the scoresheet, combining for 18 goals compared to the Lightning’s 11, with the reigning premiers unable to compare to the Swifts’ hunt across the court. With a final margin of 17 goals, the Swifts had come in hot and could not be matched, winning their first Suncorp Super Netball premiership and proving that trusting in their youth would continue to pay off after a rough season at the top. 

Looking to the stats, Wallace earned a well-deserved Player of the Match award, shooting 40 goals at 91 per cent, followed by Lightning youngster Koenen with 23 at 85 per cent. Housby was consistent as ever with 18 goals, 19 centre pass receives and an intercept, while Proscovia racked up 16 goals in her 31 minutes on court. Swifts’ Haythornthwaite (21 assists, one intercept) and Hadley (20 assists) proved crucial through the midcourt, and while Laangman and Scherian similarly shared the feeding role (16 and 15 respectively) there just was not enough ball that reached their goalers to be a winning side. Defensively, Klau was spectacular with 10 gains (five intercepts, four rebounds and 10 deflections – one to advantage), and was aided well by partner in crime, Turner (two intercepts). Both Pretorius and Maweni put in a solid effort to combine for five intercepts, but it was not enough against the Swifts sharpshooters.

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 12 | 11 | 13 | 11 (47)
NSW SWIFTS 16 | 15 | 15 | 18 (64)

Lightning

GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

BENCH: Jacqui Russell, Peace Proscovia, Annika Lee-Jones
COACH: Noeline Taurua

Swifts

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Katrina Rore
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Sophie Halpin, Tayla Fraser
COACH: Briony Akle

SHOOTING STATS

Lightning

Cara Koenen 23/27
Peace Proscovia 16/18
Steph Wood 8/14

Swifts

Sam Wallace 40/44
Helen Housby 18/22
Sophie Garbin 6/7

Netball fantasy teams: VNSL Roses v. VNSL International All Stars

FOLLOWING the huge success of the thrilling Diamonds vs All Stars Bushfire Relief game in March, it got us thinking about another hypothetical exhibition match, with international Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) players facing up to the top England Roses squad members who are currently plying their trade in the UK.

VNSL Roses:

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)
GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)
WD: Laura Malcolm (Manchester Thunder)
C: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)
WA: Gabby Marshall (Saracens Mavericks)
GA: Ellie Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)
GS: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

BENCH: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath), Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning), Jodie Gibson (Saracens Mavericks)

This Roses fantasy squad has a huge amount of experience and depth across all areas of the court. In the 2020 Netball Nations Cup, we saw the emergence of a new England shooting partnership between Ellie Cardwell and George Fisher – nicknamed “Fishwell”. Whilst Cardwell is usually seen wearing the goal shooter bib, in goal attack she opened up the shooting circle nicely for Fisher and can sink a sweet long bomb herself. This partnership would certainly give any defensive lineup a lot of headaches, especially given Fisher’s clever footwork and shooting accuracy. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis also plays more of the traditional goal attack role with her speed and strong drives and could provide another look for the shooting end. Whilst Drakeford-Lewis is at the beginning of her international career, she would be well supported in this lineup. She is likely to become a key option for England in the future – especially given she can also move into wing attack if needed, much like a versatile Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin.

In the midcourt, a balance of experience and youth creates this formidable unit. Youngster Gabby Marshall has great vision at wing attack and can keep any wing defence busy so they don’t go looking for trouble. Marshall is backed up by the veteran Jade Clarke who can keep a cool head in the middle and dictate play with ease. Tenacious tagger Laura Malcolm completes this midcourt lineup. Though she spent some time away from the England setup, her recent performances in the red dress have been outstanding. Nat Panagarry proved herself capable at the Netball World Cup 2019, showing that she is a confident team-player and can have an impact when needed. She has a good read of the game and her infectious energy can really lift a team.

The defensive end is where this team gets exciting. Whilst you have the reliable and gutsy Fran Williams out the front causing havoc, you also have one of the most threatening defenders coming up the England ranks in Razia Quashie at the back. Whilst Quashie is not the tallest defender in the game, she clearly has the athletic ability and pure strength to be a game-changer. With this defensive end, the difficulty may be the partnerships. As we saw in the Bushfire Relief game, putting two defending superstars out on court together doesn’t always mean they gel easily. I would love to see this combination out on court for England more as Quashie and Williams have such complementary styles of play. Given time together they could become a lethal partnership. Jodie Gibson is another versatile and experienced defender, providing a sparky and reliable option at the back should the defensive end need to change tactics.

VNSL International All Stars:

GK: Zanele Vimbela (Sirens, SA)
GD: Latanya Wilson (Dragons, JAM)
WD: Nia Jones (Stars, WAL)
C: Caroline O’Hanlon (Thunder, NI)
WA: Liana Leota (Stars, NZ)
GA: Alexia Baker (Wasps, AUS)
GS: Sigi Burger (Pulse, SA)

BENCH: Kim Commane (Bath, AUS), Adean Thomas (Pulse, JAM), Jo Trip (Mavericks, NZ)

This International All Stars side is undoubtedly stacked with talent. At the shooting end, it’s hard to ignore the threat of Sigi Burger under the post, given her 98% shooting average after three rounds of the 2020 VNSL Season. New to the VNSL, Alexia Baker is no stranger to high-quality netball, having been a Queensland Firebirds training partner. She knows how to feed a holding shooter like Burger and can also provide a solid option to goal. Kim Commane had an outstanding start to the 2020 season, ending up in the top five goal scorers, and she provides another different style of play to keep the defenders guessing. While this shooting end has very few international caps between them, these players have demonstrated their skills domestically and wouldn’t shy away from an opportunity on a bigger stage.

Liana Leota is a typical wing attack, extremely crafty and with a wealth of tools in her arsenal to feed the goal circle effectively. In the centre position, Caroline O’Hanlon is so impressive, not only due to her insane fitness but also her defensive pressure and a cool head. Leota and O’Hanlon combined effectively to secure Manchester Thunder’s Grand Final win last season, and could easily replicate this successful chemistry. Supported by Nia Jones in wing defence, the position where she is arguably her strongest, this midcourt unit would have no issues with transition play and swift goal conversion. Adean Thomas has also demonstrated her flair and skill, both at the VNSL and for Jamaica. Thomas is unpredictable, exciting and would be a great impact player in this lineup.

In the defensive circle, Latanya Wilson has been compared to a young Shamera Sterling and this glowing comparison is not undue. Wilson has fantastic aerial ability and was sitting on 14 intercepts when the VNSL was cancelled. This was just one behind the leader in Quashie, and Wilson racked up this impressive tally despite the fact she was suspended for one game due to dangerous play. Whilst discipline is an area to improve on, her surprising gameplay and rangy limbs would be a valuable asset in goal defence for the All Stars. Teaming up with Wilson is South African, Zanele Vimbela. Vimbela has proven her worth internationally and is surely next in line to the goal keeper bib for South Africa after Phumza Maweni. She is a fearless defender who attacks the ball and provides consistent pressure to unnerve the opposition feeders. Able to cover both positions effectively is Mavericks stalwart Jo Trip. Her height and experience mean she can make a difference in close games and would be a valuable addition to the All Stars.

Who would win?

The International All Stars have a tremendous amount of talent and a really diverse range of playing styles. However, the Roses consistency and familiarity with each other would most likely mean they would take the win. The battle would be lost and won in the midcourt, as the two sides are fairly evenly matched at both ends – with the Roses’ shooting circle slightly superior to the All Stars’. This would be a great spectacle of VNSL talent, but it’s likely the Roses would be able to edge out the All Stars.

What if… the international players were not allowed to return to SSN?

WITH the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) hopeful to return in the coming months, star players from across the globe are slowly making their way back to Australia and their respective teams ahead of the impending season. The Adelaide Thunderbirds will welcome back three of their stars with Lenize Potgieter and Shadine van der Merwe returning from South Africa while Layla Guscoth is set to make the journey from England. Phumza Maweni will re-join the Sunshine Coast Lighting while Nat Haythornthwaite will make her way back to the New South Wales Swifts. Each player, plays an integral role for their respective side often forming the crux of the squad, providing that element of experience and class across the court.

But what if they were not allowed to re-enter the competition? How would that effect each club and the overall competition?

The Adelaide Thunderbirds would have been hit the hardest if Potgieter, van der Merwe and Guscoth were all not able to re-join the squad with each of them expected to earn a starting spot. While Guscoth missed the second half of last season due to an Achilles injury the talented defender will be eager to get back out on court and prove her worth. The lanky goal defence oozes class, understanding and a sense of calmness down back able to call the shots and apply pressure over the shot. With Maria Folau retiring last year and Sasha Glasgow out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the goal shooter position all but falls to Potgieter. The South African is a sure shot under the post able to find space with ease and most importantly convert with ease. She is quick and unconventional on the shot and puts up a high volume of goals making her the go-to for any team. The final piece of the puzzle is van der Merwe with the versatile defender able to seamlessly transition from wing defence to goal defence when needed. Her defensive pressure, quick footwork and tagging style of defence makes her another key cog for the Thunderbirds. While Adelaide have a wealth of options without these international stars they could have been facing a very difficult year unable to generate scoring power and defensive pressure.

Maweni’s combination with South African and Lightning teammate Karla Pretorius is simply unstoppable when on song. The two work seamlessly together able to rotate through the defensive circle with ease and use their three-foot marking to create doubt in the goalers mind. The Spar Proteas goal keeper is light on her feet able to read the play and go out hunting for the intercept something that the Lightning would be missing from their line-up which is renowned for stimulating turnover ball. Without Maweni the Lightning would be lacking that extra layer of class and connection with Pretorius given the two work like clockwork.

Although the NSW Swifts have a wealth of depth on the bench with the likes of Tayla Fraser, Paige Hadley, Sophie Craig and the inevitable return of captain Maddy Proud the absence of Haythornthwaite would be sorely missed. The England Roses wing attack sees the game in a way no one else can delivering pin point passes into the likes of Sam Wallace and Helen Housby. She is nimble on her feet able to dart around the attacking third and hold strong on the circle edge while her ability to switch into goal attack adds another string to her bow. If Haythornthwaite was not able to return to the Swifts they would lose that versatility and composing presence in the attacking third.

Fantasy teams: Australia/Jamaica v. New Zealand/England

WITH a wealth of netball talent across the world Draft Central has created two teams based on the current top four nations according to the International Netball Federation rankings. The first team comprises of first and fourth – Australia and Jamaica – while the second team is made up of players from New Zealand and England. The line-ups include injured players that have recently featured in their respective country’s team.

Australia & Jamaica (Diamond Girls)

GK: Shamera Sterling
GD: Jo Weston
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Liz Watson
WA: Kelsey Browne
GA: Gretel Bueta
GS: Jhaniele Fowler

BENCH: Caitlin Bassett, Adean Thomas, Courtney Bruce

The Diamond Girls are bookended by Jamaicans given their height and dominance in those respective positions. The defensive end is set to cause fireworks with the likes of Shamera Sterling taking out the goal keeper position. The exciting Jamaican goal keeper is renowned for her intercepting ability, impressive aerial skills and classy footwork to get up to the high balls and propel it back down the court. Australian Diamond, Jo Weston is set to pull on the goal defence position given her ability to shut down opposition goalers with her tagging style of defence and skill to block vision and space in the defensive third.

Through the midcourt it is Diamonds top heavy with dynamo Liz Watson taking out the centre position. Although she is more commonly seen in wing attack, Watson has proven that she has the endurance and skill to have an influence across all thirds and use her speed and precision passing to deliver into the goalers with ease. Speedster, Kelsey Browne takes out the wing attack position credit to her dynamic footwork to dance around the circle edge and exploit every inch of space. Her impressive vision and skill to vary her passes into the shooters makes her hard to stop when on song. Coming in at wing defence is Ash Brazill, with the Australian Diamond able to move into centre as well when needed. There is no denying that she is one of the most athletic midcourters in netball history with her aerial ability and speed off the mark.

In the shooting circle, it is a combination of twin towers with excitement machine, the unpredictable Gretel Bueta getting the nod at goal attack. She is simply unstoppable both in the air and at ground level able to gobble up everything that comes her way while her increased accuracy makes her even more of a threat. Bueta consistently uses her athleticism and strength to out-position defenders under the post and shoot truly. Jamaican shooting machine, Jhaniele Fowler takes out the goal shooter position thanks to her continued dominance, height, strong holds and high volume. Her ability to use her body and feet to ward off defenders is second to none.

Unlucky not to get the start is Australian captain, Caitlin Bassett who was just pipped at the post by Fowler while the likes of Adean Thomas through the midcourt and defender Courtney Bruce also just missed out.

New Zealand & England (Silver Roses)

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Katrina Rore
WD: Karin Burger
C: Laura Langman
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
GA: Ameliaranne Ekenasio
GS: Jo Harten

BENCH: Helen Housby, Serena Guthrie, Jane Watson

There is no shortage of star power across the court for the Silver Roses with key players across each third of the court. Each player oozes class, experience and an innate winning ability. Starting down back is arguably one of the most experienced defenders and goal keepers in the world, Geva Mentor. The England Roses defender is in a league of her own, able to read the play and swat the ball away with her well-timed leaps and pressure over the shot. Moving out into goal defence is versatile New Zealand defender Katrina Rore renowned for her aerial presence and intercepting ability. She is light on her feet able to spring into action at any time and also possesses that attacking element to transition the ball from one end of the court to the other.

The defensive minded Karin Burger is another sure start for the Silver Roses with her impressive wingspan and quick change of direction. Burger proved to be a key cog for New Zealand able to direct traffic down back and can seamlessly switch into circle defence when needed such is her netball IQ. Her balance around circle edge ensures she remains a constant threat to force turnovers while in centre it is hard to go past the services of Laura Langman. The veteran Silver Fern is simply unstoppable able to run all day and everyday using her ball movement to open up the attacking end and deliver pin-point passes. Although she is more defensively minded able to apply pressure on the ball carrier and pick off intercepts her ability to switch into attack makes a never-ending threat. In at wing attack is England Roses midcourter and part-time shooter Nat Haythornthwaite. Although more commonly seen delivering the ball to the goalers with her clever placement around circle edge, quick footwork and hard drive to circle edge Haythornthwaite can slide into goal attack when needed.

The goal circle oozes nothing but class, shooting prowess and versatility with both able to switch between positions. Ameliaranne Ekenasio takes out the goal attack position with her smooth movement constantly on display while her ability to slot them from anywhere makes her an ominous threat for opposition teams. She is cool, calm and collected under the post and is not afraid to re-position to get into a more commanding spot while her ball handling skills is second to none. Much like her fellow goaler, Jo Harten can stand up and deliver long bomb after long bomb. Her ability to shake up her game style from a holding to a moving shooter keeps defenders on their toes.

Rounding out the squad is England Roses goaler Helen Housby along with teammate and defensive midcourter Serena Guthrie while Silver Ferns defender Jane Watson is the final piece of the puzzle.

Who would win?

Given the versatility of the Silver Roses it is fair to say that they have the upper hand over the Diamond Girls with each of their players able to move into another position with ease. The Silver Roses ooze dominance from the defensive unit right through the midcourt to the goalers, able to exploit the Diamond Girls especially through the midcourt.

International All-Stars players edition: George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks/England Roses)

CONTINUING our theme of All-Star teams, England Roses and Saracens Mavericks shooting dynamo, George Fisher compiled her own dream team. Take a look at her selections and reasoning behind each player.

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My All-Star Team:

George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks/England Roses)

When I was first asked to put together my All-Star team by Netball Draft Central, I was really excited at the prospect of completing this. However when I actually started to pick my team, I realised just how hard it was with the calibre of players past, present and coming through. I could have picked at least four for every position.

So this is what I ended up with, and I would so love to see this team perform for real!

I had to start with the legendary Irene Van Dyk. This decision pretty much speaks for itself, being one of the most capped international players of all time, with her flair, athleticism and by God the way she takes a ball, not to mention her accuracy at shot and her cool and calm attitude, I just couldn’t start with anyone else.

So joining Van Dyk in the D is none other than Jo Harten. Most people see her as a goal shooter but I really enjoy watching her out on court. She has so much flair and passion and the will to win. She is always someone you want on your side and paired with Van Dyk in the D, there will not be any loose balls that don’t end up in their hands, with trick passes, amazing catching and shot accuracy, this would be my dream shooting team.

So up next is wing attack. I really struggled with this position with the likes of Tamsin Greenway, Liz Watson, Nat Haythornthwaite, Bongiwe Msomi and Chelsea Pitman in the mix, but I’ve finally gone for Liana Leota, someone who I personally have thoroughly enjoyed watching over the past few years in the Vitality Superleague. Her court craft, game knowledge, leadership paired with her decision-making ability to land on edge of the D and deliver killer balls to the shooters make her my wing attack. And all this while being the mother to five children, what a total inspiration to all sportswomen!

We come to the centre and for me it’s always a toss-up between Serena Guthrie or Laura Langman to who will have which bib, centre or wing defence? I’ve put Langman as my centre as she is a total powerhouse. Strong, quick, able to bring the ball up court, feed the D with ease and bringing an air of calm to the whole team.

No team is complete without a Serena Guthrie – what a legend and not just for her on court ability. She would be in my wing defence bib for her never ending energy and grit on court to turn that ball over in any way possible. Watching her pick off balls, not just off the circle edge but all through court, with an athleticism that is unmatched is just incredible.

Now leading onto my goal defence, Casey Kopua. Her agility through the court at her height is phenomenal, matched with her ability to read the game and pull off interceptions is a game changer. Not only is she a danger out on court but her ability to sight turnovers in the D will put doubt into any feeder’s mind.

And goal keeper – again lots in the mix but came down to a choice of two, Laura Geitz or Geva Mentor to complete my team. For me it has to be Geva Mentor, strong, powerful, calm and a crucial interception maker. With her long reach and her elevation she puts doubt into the shooters’ mind and is a demon at taking those rebounds and paired with Kopua – what a total dream team.

So who’s on my bench! I’ve gone for a younger bench with players that have already made a massive mark on the international scene and I think are becoming total legends of our game. I’ve selected Maia Wilson as I thought she was outstanding at the Nations Cup and is really starting to hold down the front end for the Ferns. And up at the other end we have Shamera Sterling with her rangy frame and complete natural ability to play netball, she puts doubt in the feeders by confusing space so well and more often than not will come out with the ball. I also loved seeing her out at goal defence so two options in one. That leads me onto my final player Nat Haythornthwaite, not only does she have the fastest feet I have ever seen and a never give up attitude, she has the ability to nail the wing attack position but also step into the goal attack role seamlessly. Plus she is one of the nicest people I have ever met and helped me to grow into my shooting role at Wasps Superleague when I was just 17.

So that’s my All Star team! As I said before, it has been so hard to pick just the one player for each position due to the phenomenal past and present players that have influenced our game. 

Do you know what, I really love our sport. 

GEORGE FISHER’S ALL STARS

GS: Irene Van Dyk
GA: Jo Harten
WA: Liana Leota
C: Laura Langman
WD: Serena Guthrie
GD: Casey Kopua
GK: Geva Mentor

BENCH: Maia Wilson, Nat Haythornthwaite, Shamera Sterling

Top 15 SSN training partners: #5 Elle Bennetts

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball plate in 2020. Heading up the Top 5 is dual NSW athlete Elle Bennetts, who plays for NSW Swifts in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and switches both code and team to GWS GIANTS in the AFL Women’s during the netball off-season.

A talented midcourt speedster, Bennetts was a shoe-in for this list thanks to her ability to come on and impact the game no matter her opposition. One of the older training partners on the list, 30-year-old Bennetts made her Super Netball debut in 2019 and collected another few domestic caps along the way thanks to injuries in the Swifts camp. With cleanliness and good anticipation of both the ball and player, Bennetts is a player who can create as much play as she blocks, able to be a versatile midcourter rotating through wing attack and centre. Bennetts came up through the Victorian pathway, spending six years with the Victorian Fury before heading north to play AFL Women’s, joining the NSW Waratahs’ camp along the way, continuing her time in the Australian Netball League, albeit in a different state.

With an ability to hit circle edge, Bennetts is a threatening attacker with clean hands and balance, while her wingspan allows her to reach for crucial ball and bolster the Swifts midcourt. With plenty of endurance and quick feet to evade opposition, Bennetts is a clean player with plenty of experience and will look to step up from her 2019 form, able to propel the ball down the court and find options in and around the circle to influence the game. Working with the likes of captain Maddy Proud, Diamond Paige Hadley and England Rose, Nat Haythornthwaite, Bennetts has plenty of talented names to learn from as well as recently elevated Sophie Craig, who provides a handy option to work with given she was in the same position last year.

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)

What if … Katrina Rore did not join the Swifts?

THE 2019 season of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) was a drought breaking and historic year for the New South Wales Swifts winning their inaugural SSN premiership but it was not without their fair share of challenges.

The Swifts were dealt plenty of injury blows throughout the season with England Roses wing attack and part time shooter Natalie Haythornthwaite sidelined for a large portion of the season, fellow Roses representative Helen Housby forced to the bench with a leg injury and Kate Eddy dealt a season ending ankle injury. But the biggest blow of them all was that to inspirational leader and captain Maddy Proud with the dynamo centre rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) midway through the season.

Bruised and battered the Swifts reverted to their up and coming stocks with the likes of Tayla Fraser and Elle Bennetts taking to the court to bolster their line-up. Former Silver Ferns, defender Kayla Cullen also made a brief appearance in the blue, red and white but was just a temporary replacement. While they offered fresh legs and a new perspective on the game the biggest coup of them all was the acquisition of Katrina Rore. Fresh off a premiership with the Central Pulse in the ANZ Premiership, Rore added that extra touch of class around the court while also boasting versatility to move between circle defence and wing defence.

What if Rore did not join the NSW Swifts? Would they have won the premiership?

Although the Swifts were littered with stars, Rore’s influence down in defence was unquestionable with the steady head and experience defender a commanding presence. Her ability to read the play, stand up in the big moments and do the unthinkable is what made her such an influential presence throughout her time in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). Rore’s long arms, deceptive speed and high netball IQ played a pivotal role in shutting down opposition attacks.

While she spent the majority of her time out in wing defence, a position she has quickly made her own, her seamless transition into circle defence was something the Swifts made the most out of. Her presence in the goal circle with her lean over the shot, body-on-body physicality and quick feet to manoeuvre around the body created doubt in feeders minds. She was quickly able to adapt to the game play of fellow defenders Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau while the likes of Sophie Craig also had important cameos. Rore has an uncanny tact to go out and hunt the ball, using her impressive timing, long limbs and cleanliness to stop the ball from entering the attacking third with ease while also using her attacking mindset to propel the ball back down the court.

Rore had a game changing impact on the Swifts defensive line-up offering that calming sense down back when things got frantic and pulling out the unthinkable to keep her side afloat. Her experience and netball nous helped to guide the Swifts to victory even when she had a quiet day out on the court. While New South Wales had a solid team with a host of stars in their own right it is fair to say that she was the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle that got them over the line.

Would NSW Swifts have still won the 2019 SSN title without Katrina Rore?
Yes
No
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Compare the Pair: Nat Haythornthwaite and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis

THE next instalment in the Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two fan favourites from across the netball world, with the next showcasing England Roses, Nat Haythornthwaite and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.

Two highly versatile players, Haythornthwaite and Drakeford-Lewis don’t entirely match up – with Haythornthwaite predominantly a wing attack and Drakeford-Lewis typically a goal attack – but both can rotate into the other’s position with ease to create an extra option in and around the circle. With speed and netball nous driving down the court, the pair can both have a big impact on circle edge and have an ability to apply pressure on the scoreboard, throwing an extra spanner in the works for their opposition. The pair were both in the Roses squad for the three-match test series against South Africa in late 2019 and again for the Vitality Netball Nations Cup in January, with Haythornthwaite heading the team.

Haythornthwaite’s eye for the ball and ability to find open space is testament to her work off the body, using her quick feet to evade her opposition and create chaos through attack. Her clean hands and ability to land on circle edge make her a crucial option in attack for the NSW Swifts in the Suncorp Super Netball, working in tandem with fellow England international Helen Housby and crafting a solid partnership in and around the circle. Haythornthwaite does not find herself inside the circle all that often for the Swifts but is a solid option at the post if need be, able to control the ball well and slot in seamlessly. Her ability to get out at the centre is credit to her speed off the mark, quickly gaining ground and propelling the ball down the court.

21-year-old Drakeford-Lewis is still a relatively unknown quantity on the international stage with just the two caps under her belt, but has crafted an impressive pairing at the post with Australian Kim Commane at Team Bath over the past season. She sat at a shooting accuracy of 87 per cent for the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague season, winning the VNSL Young Player of the Season Award for her effort. With clean hands, quick footwork and an uncanny ability to evade her defender, Drakeford-Lewis continues to ply her trade in the goal circle with accuracy and volume alike. She is not afraid to shoot from distance or play more of a feeder role, able to provide that versatility that the Roses tend to have in the side. Drakeford-Lewis is one of 25 young players we put in our International Young Guns countdown, coming in at number 23.

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Nat Haythornthwaite
50 caps, 2015-present

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
2 caps, 2017-present

Do you opt experience or youth of the England Roses in the attacking third?
Nat Haythornthwaite
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
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Top 10 players we’d like to see in the SSN: #6 – George Fisher

THE Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) is already home to a number of international stars making it one of the strongest netball competitions in the world. However, we as the Draft Central team are creating a list of top 10 players we would like to see join the competition. Taking out number six on the countdown is Saracens Mavericks goal shooter George Fisher.

With a plethora of English shooters already in the league such as Jo Harten, Helen Housby and the interchangeable Nat Haythornthwaite the inclusion of fan favourite and up and coming youngster Fisher would bring plenty of excitement to the SSN. Fisher is a tall and dominant prospect under the post able to constantly command the ball thanks to her strong holds, clever footwork in the goal circle and general netball understanding. While she is not the most physical shooter her ability to withstand the body contact and consistently shift her body to create angles and receive the ball makes her a force to be reckoned with. It is fair to say that the 21-year-old still has plenty of development left in her and exposure to some of the worlds best defenders in Courtney Bruce, Geva Mentor and Karla Pretorius could help her lift her game to the next level. Her strength above her head to reel the ball in and bring strong hands to the contest adds further praise to her game style while her vision to sight fellow teammates in more attacking positions is another element of her play.

As shown through her time in the Vitality Netball Superleague, Fisher can stand up under the pressure able to be the main source of scoring, often putting up a wealth of shots and absorbing the pressure from defenders. Across the three games played before the season was brought to a halt, Fisher managed a whopping 131 goals at an average of 43 goals a game. While her volume is quite high so too was her accuracy sitting at 92 per cent highlighting just how much of a damaging prospect she is under the post and her ability to create clear space for the ball to be delivered into. Further testament to her high netball nous is her ability to get up for the rebound and position cleverly under the post to gobble up anything that falls short collecting seven offensive rebounds.

Fisher has not only had an impact at VNSL level but so too internationally despite it only being 12 caps. Playing in an even higher paced environment such as the SSN could further help to establish that extra layer of class to Fisher and give her that competitive edge to take her game to the next level.

Top 10 players we’d like to see in the SSN:

#10 Joice Takaidza (Zimbabwe)
#9 Zanele Vimbela (South Africa)
#8 Joyce Mvula (Malawi)
#7 Razia Quashie (England)
#6 George Fisher (England)