Tag: nat medhurst

2020 Suncorp Super Netball: Five Talking points – Round 14

CLOSE games and super shots dominated the final round of the home and away season as the Melbourne Vixens, Sunshine Coast Lightning, West Coast Fever and NSW Swifts all confirmed their top four positions. Some stellar performances from the bottom four teams caught the top four sides off-guard while uncertainty clouds a couple of key netball figures as Round 14 came to a close.

Season high super shot record
The New South Wales derby turned into a super shot shootout as both sides combined for a season high 37 super shots, 23 coming off the hands of the GIANTS, Jo Harten in particular. The England Roses goaler was not afraid to put up the long bomb and it paid off in spades, with the goal shooter single-handedly dragging her side back into the contest in the final term with five straight. A new concept to Suncorp Super Netball in 2020, the super shot well and truly dictated this clash as close range shooters in Sam Wallace and Sophie Garbin looked to score from far out to create a hefty buffer. Wallace was the main beneficiary from the super shot for the Swifts sinking six from nine attempts while Harten recorded an impressive 10 equating to 20 points. Kiera Austin was no slouch either for the GIANTS registering seven for her efforts in what was a long bomb showdown.

Geva Mentor continues to get better with age
In what was a trying season for Collingwood, hit with injuries to Kelsey Browne and subsequent retirements in the form of Nat Medhurst and Madi Browne, one thing stayed the same and that was the dominance of Geva Mentor. The goal keeper led from the back in their clash against Queensland Firebirds with the 36-year-old contesting every single pass and making life hard for the in-form Romelda Aiken. Mentor dictated the flow down back for the Magpies with her long arms and ball tracking skills stopping the free-flowing movement for the girls in purple. The goal keeper finished with four intercepts, eight deflections (two resulting in gains) and two rebounds in what was a stellar performance. Her leadership was paramount to setting the tone for Jodi-Ann Ward, Matilda Garrett and Melissa Bragg with the latter two combining for six gains between them and while they did not get the win proved they have the basis of a damaging defence for 2021.

Where to next for Chelsea Pitman?
Playing her last game in the Adelaide Thunderbirds dress, it is fair to say that Chelsea Pitman still has plenty to give with the wing attack gliding across the court and delivering bullet passes into Lenize Potgieter and Georgie Horjus. The wing attack oozed composure, netball nous and class to settle the Thunderbirds attacking third and provide that 1-2 punch. Her work rate was phenomenal, so much so she finished with player of the match honours thanks to her 17 goal assists and 18 centre pass receives. The England Roses midcourter still has plenty of netball left in her, as shown by her Round 14 performance prompting the question of where she will go next.

Goal shooters dominate
There is no denying that Jhaniele Fowler is arguably in career best form with the West Coast Fever goal shooter tearing sides apart with her incredibly high volume and accuracy to post and Round 14 was no different. Up against compatriot Shamera Sterling, Fowler still found a way to dominate on the scoreboard nailing 54 goals from 58 attempts at 90 per cent. The next closest in terms of volume was Aiken with the Firebirds shooter leading the way under the post with 47 goals from 52 attempts. Shimona Nelson also starred in at goal shooter for the Magpies tallying 42 goals with her only miss coming at the 12 minute mark in the final term, highlighting her incredible accuracy to post. Another goal shooter that starred was Melbourne Vixens’ Mwai Kumwenda. The Malawian impressed with her aerial ability, split on the take and high volume as she contributed 42 goals from 43 attempts to the Vixens’ winning score.

Versatility is key for the top four sides
With plenty of fatigued bodies taking the court, all eight sides showcased the importance of throwing the bibs around in order to find that winning combo. Returning from injury Liz Watson only took the court for a half allowing the likes of Elle McDonald to step onto the court while wing defence Allie Smith got some valuable minutes up the other end. The Lightning also chopped and changed their line-up as Peace Proscovia rotated into goal shooter while Binnian Hunt registered court time albeit out in wing attack. Defensively for the Fever Sunday Aryang, Olivia Lewis, Courtney Bruce and Stacey Francis swapped the bibs around and while they did not get the win proved they have plenty of viable options.  As for in the shooting circle the Fever did not skip a beat changing Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton. NSW Swifts continued their motto of hard and fast changes through the midcourt as Tayla Fraser, Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Sophie Craig and Lauren Moore all spent time in either wing attack, centre or wing defence.

SSN stats wrap: Round 10/11

TWO huge rounds opened September’s Suncorp Super Netball proceedings, with the second draw, a couple of shaky performances by finals contenders and a huge Queensland Firebirds win telling the tale of the week in netball. Instead of combining player stats from the two rounds as we did earlier in the season, we will now take a look at the two different rounds of competitions separately and delve into the top performers based on individual outings. While Nat Medhurst has not played a game in season 2020 after taking leave for her pregnancy, the Magpies goaler retired during the week marking the end of another era. A huge asset to Australian netball, Medhurst’s ability to goal from anywhere, her constant drive to be the best and her perseverance saw an illustrious career pan out over the last 17 years. 

ROUND 10

As usual, it is tough to skate past the incredible effort of Jhaniele Fowler who once again put up a huge amount of goals against the Vixens, shooting 59 from 62 attempts in the draw. Three players hit the 40-mark with Sam Wallace and Romelda Aiken both putting up 43 goals at 90 per cent and 80 per cent respectively, while Lenize Potgieter was unstoppable with 41 goals from 46. When it came to goal attacks, Kiera Austin stood up once more for the GIANTS with 31 goals to her name – including five super shots – while Tippah Dwan impressed in the Firebirds’ win over the Swifts with 26 goals (18 from 22 in regular time plus eight from nine super shots). Alice Teague-Neeld may have had a quiet game at the post but racked up 23 assists and two intercepts, while Liz Watson was held well in the first half against the Fever but still managed to lead all comers on goal assists with 25 to her name.

Emma Cosh was also in the mix for Fever with 19 goal assist in her first full SSN match, finding Fowler with ease at the post. Lara Dunkley also put in a solid performance out in wing attack with 21 assists and three deflections. Maddy McAuliffe has stepped up this season and was relentless against the GIANTS coming away with two intercepts against Jamie-Lee Price who managed five gains, while Maisie Nankivell and Mel Bragg cancelled each other out with a couple of intercepts apiece and Vixens debutant Allie Smith put herself out there with two intercepts in her half on court. When it came to circle defenders, Courtney Bruce seems to be completely over the back niggle that kept her out of matches early in the season with six deflections (four gains), while Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni were huge in the Lightning’s win over GIANTS, combining for 13 gains. Shamera Sterling came up with six gains of her own following up from an ankle injury, aided by a huge effort from Layla Guscoth (two intercepts).

ROUND 11

While both Fowler and Aiken were up there for goals scored once more in the second round of the week (55 and 45 goals respectively), Mwai Kumwenda put up a huge 48 goals from 51 attempts (one super shot) in the Vixens’ win over the Swifts, in a round that saw just about every other team share the load at the post. Youngsters Georgie Horjus and Dwan held up well once more (17 from 21 and 15 from 21, respectively), while Caitlin Bassett shone with 19 goals from 20 attempts and continued the trend of the GIANTS winning when she is on the court. In attack, Watson overcame an early ankle roll to still topscore the goal assists tally with 26 this round, closely followed by Verity Charles (23), Cosh and Nankivell (both 22). 

When it came to defensive efforts this round, it was not just the defenders who had all the fun in a solid week for midcourt defence as 12 midcourters registered at least one intercept to their name – Dwan was the outlier with three intercepts out in goal attack. Sam Poolman and Geva Mentor cancelled each other out in a tight battle between the GIANTS and Magpies with seven gains (four intercepts) apiece while Bruce tallied the highest amount of gains for the week with 11 (four intercepts, six deflections, one rebound). The Firebirds defensive unit of Gabi SimpsonTara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner was consistent as ever, combining for seven intercepts while Vixens’ Kadie-Ann Dehaney racked up four of her own in the absence of Emily Mannix. Stacey Francis was a tough opponent in goal defence, registering eight pickups such was her hunt for the loose ball, while Caitlin Thwaites racked up six pickups in her first full match in goal attack, relishing the extra space to take charge of the ball.

Courtside Comments: Round 1 – Maisie Nankivell
Courtside Comments: Round 2 – Tippah Dwan
Courtside Comments: Round 5 – Georgie Horjus
Courtside Comments: Round 9 – Alice Teague-Neeld
Courtside Comments: Round 11 – Mel Bragg

Draft Central Courtside Comments: Round 8 – Gabby Sinclair

EACH week the Draft Central team will focus on one Suncorp Super Netball player across the round and take a look at their individual highlights, key moments and improvements across their match. Our Round 8 focus is Collingwood Magpies’ Gabby Sinclair, with the goaler stepping up to the starting seven this season after Nat Medhurst stepped away with pregnancy, and seeing the goal attack improve game on game as her confidence grows.

In her second season at the Magpies, Sinclair has had to lead the way and take control in attack, and while still working up to her best form, has shown in spurts this season what she is capable of on court. For a goaler on the shorter side, Sinclair makes up for it with her turn of speed and ability to hit the scoreboard from range. Her effort over the past few rounds is testament to that with some really impressive moments, but like most of the Magpies unit, she does tend to go missing in patches, mostly down to her inexperience and inability to build up that court time. This round was no different, with Sinclair starring in the first half before gradually slowing down, shooting eight of her 10 goals in the first two quarters but consistently finding Shimona Nelson at the post to rack up 15 goal assists. Three of her goals were super shots and while she finished on a 62.5 per cent accuracy and six general play turnovers, she did not give up throughout the contest racking up a timely gain.

Here’s what we had to say:

By: Sophie Taylor, Draft Central Senior Editor

In a must win game for the Magpies, Sinclair had a pretty good start where her movement out the front was paying dividends time and time again. Her ability to sight Nelson under the post was huge even in the beginning and while she did not put a heap of goals on the board to start it was her continued effort that allowed the Magpies to maintain their lead in the first quarter. Her high shot allowed her to put some great goals over defenders arms, and while her lower release sometimes looked like it would allow defenders’ arms to get in the way, her vision to pass off under pressure served well for the Magpies. When it came to the super shot, Sinclair’s speed and relative accuracy from range (three from five) was a huge boost with her confidence paying off when it counted. Despite a few costly errors which allowed the GIANTS to get a real look in defensively, her ability to hit the drive with ease and zip around the circle to set up play for the Magpies was critical. The GIANTS defence well and truly beat the Magpies, and while Sinclair was run ragged by her opposition she never truly let up and continued to ply her trade.

By: Taylah Melki, Draft Central Managing Editor

Sinclair started the game with plenty of intensity taking the hard drive along the baseline and seeming to have the ball on a string in the attacking third. Her playmaking skills were on show throughout the first half, highlighting her spatial awareness with her crafty passes and connection with Nelson in the goal circle. The goal attack was prepared to shoot from range, backing herself from around the perimeter edge and was a key cog for the Magpies throughout both the centre and attacking third. She was strong at the centre pass, linking up with Molly Jovic and continuously presenting to receive the ball and bring it down court. She showcased her impressive speed to give and go under the post but faded in and out of the game thanks to the defensive pressure applied by the GIANTS. Sinclair had a good passage of play through the midcourt getting her hands to ball to force a turnover showcasing her defensive pressure and read of the play. Stood up when under pressure and most importantly converted on the super shot to keep the Pies within striking distance early but much like the rest of her team had a much quieter second half.

By: Lucy Pollock, Draft Central UK Writer

A slightly quiet second half for Sinclair against the GIANTS, but she was still doing the job for her side when needed. She was under heavy pressure from the GIANTS defence and still managed to make an impact from range for the Magpies. Her timing and quick footwork make her a threat when her side is in full flow, and in the opening quarter, she was very effective in setting up the plays in the attacking end. She has made a name for herself with the long bomb this season, and her unassuming presence keeps the defenders guessing. In the second quarter, she forced Kristiana Manu’a to the bench as she was working the attack end with skill and pinpoint accuracy. Sinclair continued her good form in the second quarter, but started to fade throughout the second half as the GIANTS took control of the game. She has the perfect combination of goal attack attributes – nippy, crafty and accurate – meaning when she is firing she can lift the whole team.

By: Jarrad Gardner, Centre Pass Podcast host

Taking on the role of starting at goal attack for the Magpies was always going to be a tough gig, but Sinclair has stepped up to the challenge in 2020. She has provided strong support for Nelson in the goal circle and used the Super Shot to her advantage, shooting them at around 60per cent accuracy. Against the Giants in round eight she offered a solid link between the midcourt and Nelson, having the most goal assists of any Magpie for the match. Up against a physical defender in Manu’a she didn’t back down, getting to her preferred spots inside the circle to put up shots. She faded out as the game went on and the Giants had all the momentum but another impressive showing from Sinclair.

By: Kate Cornish, Draft Central volunteer writer

Standing at only 176cm, Collingwood Magpies’ Sinclair has to use her natural netball smarts on court to ensure that she is effective in that crucial goal attack position. Starting against GIANT Manu’a in Round 8 and with the huge lean of Sam Poolman over almost every shot, Sinclair needed to pull every trick out of her play book for the Magpies; and for the first quarter Sinclair was one of the top performers for her team. Her fast hands and drives across the top of the circle drew the attention of the GIANTS and gave feeders Jovic and Kelsey Browne beautiful access to goal shooter, Nelson, who was attacking the ball strongly. Sinclair took control of the Magpies attacking end, and with well-timed leads to the ball and precision feeds into Nelson, the Magpies were on track for an upset against the under-performing GIANTS. However, after a blistering first quarter that they won by eight goals, the wheels well and truly fell off within the first few minutes of the second quarter and the Magpies were blown out of the water by a dominant opposition that really only played 45 minutes. Shooting at just over 60 per cent for the match and having seven turnovers against her name in Round 8 are statistics that Sinclair will need to quickly brush off so that she can continue to be the playmaker that the Magpies desperately need in their attacking end.

Courtside Comments: Round 4 – Molly Jovic

Melbourne Vixens experience proves too strong for Collingwood

THERE has been a lot of player change over since the last time the Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies met in the 2019 semi-final, but unfortunately the result did not change for the Pies with the Vixens reigning supreme by 11 goals (63-52). With no Kim Ravaillion, April Brandley, Ash Brazill or Nat Medhurst the experience of Vixens shone true in the final term despite being well matched for the first three quarters.

It was a very even start for both teams, going goal for goal in the opening couple of minutes and feeling each other out. With Shimona Nelson unavailable it was up to Emma Ryde to lead the way for the Pies inside the goal circle with the towering goaler holding strong and proving to be the go-to girl under the post for the Magpies. She made full use of her height taking strong rebounds while goal attack Gabby Sinclair stepped up to the plate, shooting from range and taking the hard drive into the circle to draw the attention of Jo Weston and create a two goal lead. The return of Madi and Kelsey Browne paid dividends for the Pies in attack with the duo combining exceptionally well and putting on the afterburners to deliver into the circle.

Strong defensive pressure from the Vixens paid off creating a turnover and capitalising to level scores at six goals apiece. Despite the Magpies holding early momentum the Vixens fought their way back into the contest thanks to the pressure of Weston and Kadie-Ann Dehaney to create another turnover down in the Magpies attack. Up the other end the unexpected combination of Mwai Kumwenda and Caitlin Thwaites out in goal attack worked exceptionally well together keeping Geva Mentor’s head on a swivel. Thwaites sunk the first super shot for the Vixens prompting them to go on a run and open up a four goal lead. Tegan Philip had a shaky start to the game missing her first three shots and plunging the Vixens into an inaccurate end to the term but still holding a two goal lead.

Looking for more potency in their attack the Vixens reverted to their traditional shooting combination of Thwaites in at goal shooter and Philip out in goal attack with the duo looking more comfortable to post. Liz Watson continued to dominate with her impressive feeds and skill to hit the circle edge. For the Pies the youthful midcourt provided plenty of excitement with Molly Jovic displaying her strength around circle edge while co-captain Madi Browne showcased her extraordinary vision into the circle and clever touch.

Both sides tried to gain some form of continuity as Mentor displayed her class and experience with her pressure over the shot while Vixens newcomer Kate Eddy proved anything you can do I can do better, gobbling up a well-read intercept and sending the ball screaming down the court. The end-to-end play from the Vixens stunned the Magpies defence with their ability to treasure possession and punish them pushing out to a three goal lead. Undisciplined errors for the Pies continued to gift the Vixens chances to score as Kate Moloney led the way through the centre with her calming nature and turn of speed.

Collingwood debutant Jodi-Ann Ward plied her trade out in goal defence winning back a wealth of ball however the Pies focused too much on the high ball into Ryde allowing Emily Mannix to be a real nuisance under the post and get hands to ball, upsetting Ryde’s cleanliness and consistently attacking her hands to force the ball dribble out of court. The rolling subs continued to shake up the game for both sides with Nyah Allen entering her first match and hitting her stride with the first super shot. Increased intensity from the Pies saw them draw level heading into the break.

The third term followed suit with Kumwenda restoring the lead for the Vixens and finding their rhythm in attack. The midcourt connection from Eddy and Moloney was on song early with the duo applying a wealth of pressure at the transverse line to clog Collingwood’s centre pass. Ward was not afraid to take the game on, throwing her body at every contest and creating a battle in the air while fellow goal defence Weston displayed her tagging style of play to cover Sinclair’s every move and make life difficult for the Magpies in attack.

It continued to be goal for goal throughout the third term with neither side willing to give an inch. Three-foot marking seemed to be the flavour of the term with each and every player applying strong hands over pressure to block their opponents’ vision. Kelsey Browne upped the ante with her dynamic footwork and speed of release working well into Ryde but Dehaney remained a threat with the Vixens goal keeper riding her every step of the way.

Holding a two goal lead the Melbourne Vixens threw the magnets around with Eddy switching into goal defence and Weston donning the wing defence bib to nullify the influence of Kelsey Browne out the front. The constant rotations in the goal circle paid dividends for the Vixens with Collingwood unable to settle defensively but the Pies refused to go away drawing level once again five minutes into the final term. Both Matilda Garrett and Mel Bragg worked gallantly but simply could not shut down Philip and Watson respectively. In the end it was the experience of the Vixens that came through as their tried and tested connections enabled them to wear down the Collingwood unit and capitalise on their chances.

The shooter rotations worked wonders for the Vixens with Thwaites nailing 11 goals from 11 attempts at 100 per cent while from two point range she managed two goals from three attempts. The efforts of Philip did not go unnoticed with the goal attack sinking 16 goals as well as three goals from the two point range. Kumwenda played an instrumental role with a team high five goals from 10 attempts on the super shot. For the Pies Ryde was the go to girl with 34 goals at 90 per cent while Sinclair posted an overall 10 goals for the game. Madi Browne had the ball on a string in her return from injury with 13 goal assists while Vixens wing attack Watson also starred with a whopping 28 goal assists. Defensively Eddy burst out of the blocks with five gains and four intercepts.

>>> VIXENS TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGPIES TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

MELBOURNE VIXENS 15 | 14 | 16 | 18 (63)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 13 | 16 | 14 | 9 (52)

STARTING SEVEN

Vixens

GS: Mwai Kumwenda
GA: Caitlin Thwaites
WA: Liz Watson
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Kate Eddy
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Kadie-Ann Dehaney

Magpies

GS: Emma Ryde
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Madi Browne
WD: Melissa Bragg
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor

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 – #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

2020 SSN: Season preview – West Coast Fever

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 West Coast Fever finishing off our preseason previews.

Coach: Stacey Marinkovich
Captain: Courtney Bruce
2019 finish: 6th

2019 was a disappointing year for the Fever, coming off a stellar 2018 season but ultimately falling flat last year with missed connections and opportunities to blame for their sixth-place finish. The Fever racked up three draws for the season and while Jhaniele Fowler held down the fort well at the post, the missing link in attack was the loss of Nat Medhurst with the goal attack renowned for her impressive feeds and ability to go to post. With patches of injury seeing Courtney Bruce on the sideline, the side could not quite fill that hole and lacked a lot of consistency. That being said, injury gave opportunities for the Fever’s bench depth to have time on court, further developing the likes of Shannon Eagland and Olivia Lewis who certainly benefited from the time and aided the team’s growth by season end.

2020 predictions/expectations:

There is really nowhere to go but up for the Fever after a less than successful 2019 campaign, making for a fresh start and plenty of opportunity to go one better than last year. While extended time off could be seen as a pressure point, the Fever could really benefit from the extended preseason, working through connections. One of the teams that could really benefit off the two goal super shot with Fowler under the post and coming so close to a couple of extra wins last season, the Fever will hope to shake off the disappointing 2019 season and start fresh this season. Despite a quieter season last year, explosive young midcourter Jess Anstiss will hope to explode out of the block while Stacey Francis returns from a recent stint with the England Roses, meaning the defence will look to have more impact off the ball rather than relying for the most part on Bruce and Francis’ physicality. With Bruce back in peak form, the attack will be hoping to tighten up with the likes of Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld needing to have a bit more impact during their time on court to really be that successful team from 2018 once more.

Key player to watch:

This is Stanton’s season to really prove herself at Super Netball level, with the goal shooter turn attack forced to hone her craft as one of two goal attacks to aid Fowler in attack. While Teague-Neeld plays more of a feeding role in the circle, Stanton is a tried and tested long bomb specialist when she has her eye in, with her height allowing her to play both a holding role if need be or use her quick feet to create a moving circle. Although she is not the most consistent player, she has not yet necessarily had a chance to prove herself across a full four quarters, making the 26-year-old goaler somewhat of an unknown quantity heading into a fresh season and with potential to really assert herself with the two goal super shot.

Team list:

Jess Anstiss
Courtney Bruce
Verity Charles
Ingrid Colyer
Shannon Eagland
Jhaniele Fowler
Stacey Francis
Olivia Lewis
Kaylia Stanton
Alice Teague-Neeld

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

Is Australian netball moving too far from the regular game?

WITH the introduction of the two goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) for season 2020, we delve into the rule changes in the SSN in recent seasons. While some rules have less impact than others, there is plenty to unpack when it comes to why fans and players alike are so frustrated with the changes to netball in Australia.

Starting with ultimately the most controversial and unpopular rule to-date, the two goal Super Shot. Its introduction has thrown a huge spanner in the works for clubs, coaches, players and fans alike six weeks out of from the beginning of the season. Already a contentious announcement, players were blindsided by the rule change, not consulted prior to the announcement on Tuesday and leaving many up in arms and confused by the decision to go ahead with the major rule change. 

With fan engagement one of the most important factors in Super Netball’s success, the league’s deliberate decision to go ahead with the rule change regardless of the unpopularity as shown in an earlier survey conducted by SSN itself, has alienated many fans and could see many turn away from the competition because of it. With a lot of netball fans real traditionalists in the way the game is played, a massive change like this will leave a lot of fans wondering whether they will continue to financially support a league that continues to move further and further away from the typical netball game.

In a media release issued by the Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) on Wednesday, ANPA President and former Diamonds representative Nat Medhurst said that the lack of communication from the Suncorp Super Netball is not good enough, while New Zealand Silver Ferns coach, Noeline Taurua also disagreed with the significant change in rules.

“For a decision of this significance to be made and announced without any engagement with the players, just six weeks out from the start of the season, is extremely disappointing and disrespectful,” Medhurst said.

“The players believe this initiative has been handled poorly, not for the first time, and it cannot happen again. We have written to the SSN Commission to seek their formal assurance on that.”

Another decision made ahead of the season’s start is the introduction of rolling substitutions, though the difference here is that the announcement was made far in advance and off the back of testing in the Australian Netball League (ANL) in 2019. A huge change to the way the sport is played, rolling subs could be a massive game-changer in the Super Netball given it will be an entirely new aspect to the sport that many have not yet seen in action and may not be entirely happy about. With so much changing at once, there is potential for the 2020 version of Suncorp Super Netball to look like an entirely different sport – which then brings us to the next rule change over the past seasons, the tactical timeout rule.

An adaptation over recent years that many have noticed impacts away from the Super Netball competition, the tactical timeout rule allows teams to call two tactical timeouts per quarter, typically adding up to eight timeouts with coach guidance per match. But on the international stage those same rules do not apply, meaning players do not have the same access to coaches and changes to game plans, limiting communication between players to those within the same areas of the court. 

While this example is not as significant as something like the Super Shot, questions can be asked of how the lack of tactical timeouts on the international stage actually benefits teams other than Australia, with the entire Diamonds cohort unused to going full steam for the full quarter without that extra guidance. This is not to call the professionalism or skill of the players into question because realistically these are talented athletes who can buckle down to get the job done, but instead bring up an aspect of how it can have a negative impact on the game, especially when having to swap and change between competitions with different rules.

One of the only decisions that has not significantly changed Australian netball is the introduction of bonus points per quarter won during a match. Where the aforementioned rules can arguably change games for the worse and have a negative impact on Australia’s performance at an international level, this is one of the changes that can actually boost the Diamonds’ chances of success. 

After two seasons with bonus points, many players are now well and truly used to kicking their game up to the next gear to ensure they win that bonus point and climb up the ladder or deny their opposition a chance at full points per round. But this change arguably does not have a bad impact on the nation’s potential internationally which is what makes it one of those rules that does not fundamentally change the game, instead just a point of difference for the competition compared to other domestic leagues.

Where rules such as the bonus points for winning quarters could actually be a booster to Australia’s chances internationally, huge changes like Super Shots and rolling subs could seriously hurt Australia on the world stage. While Super Netball players are professional enough to not need to rely on double goals or constant substitutions to win games, the further that Australia’s domestic netball moves away from the traditional game so do the Diamonds, having to constantly readjust to different rules.

For such a major adaptation to the game to be made with little to no communication to clubs, players and coaches – less than two hours notice of the announcement, in fact – is a real slap in the face with just six weeks left before the season starts. Factor in the need to now add a new element to team strategies that have already had to adapt to the rolling subs rule, and teams have very little time to prepare for a competition that will look very different to past Super Netball seasons. 

Who will improve the most in 2020?

WITH Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) set to commence on August 1, we take a look at a couple of teams that might rise up the ladder this season after struggling in 2019. The delayed start to the season has gifted some clubs with valuable time when it comes to potentially regaining injured stars and working on connections with new recruits.

Queensland Firebirds:

Unfortunately, last year was not the Firebirds’ year, struggling to win games and play their normal game flamboyant game style, but hopefully 2020 will be a different story. With the likes of dynamic midcourter Lara Dunkley joining the ranks and Spar Proteas goaler Ine-Mari Venter also in the fold, Queensland have more versatility in the squad, giving them more options when things don’t go to plan on court. The Firebirds have a core group of a-list players such as captain Gabi Simpson in wing defence while powerhouse shooting duo Romelda Aiken and Gretel Bueta headline the attacking third. But it is the combinations around them that many can expect to flourish this season with the likes of defensive partners Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe. The young defenders have come along in leaps and bounds already and entering their third season together, could be what sees them win more games. They are strong in the air and apply a wealth of defensive pressure both over the shot and in the third itself, often out hunting for ball. If they can maintain a high level of intensity throughout the matches and stimulate some drive out of defence it will go a long way in pushing the Firebirds to further success this season.

West Coast Fever:

After the highs of 2018, the Fever’s 2019 campaign was a little disappointing, unable to replicate that same intensity and strangle-hold over other teams in the competition. The loss of Nat Medhurst was substantial but with the likes of Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld in the mix for a second season, the Fever will be hoping to find a spark. While Stanton is known more for her goal shooter tendencies her ability to rotate into goal attack was solid, but at times lacked that play-making ability. On the other hand, Teague-Neeld struggled to find consistency in her game play and put up shots ultimately putting pressure on the Fever frontend. While there is no denying that Jhaniele Fowler is the go-to-girl, West Coast will be hoping to have ironed out their attacking issues and come back stronger than ever this season. With extra time to work on their connections in the goal circle the varying styles could be beneficial to the Fever and give them that edge to recapture their dominance.

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

After showing some promise early last season the Thunderbirds were hit with injuries that slightly derailed their season, but will be looking to build on their foundations in 2020. Experienced Roses defender, Layla Guscoth missed the second half of the season but given the extended break could make a comeback this season and have an impact. Her experience down back, pressure over the shot and tagging style of play will pay dividends and add that extra layer of class to the T’birds defensive unit. Her connection with Shamera Sterling, Kate Shimmin and Shadine van der Merwe could cause headaches for opposition attackers. While shooting sensation, Sasha Glasgow sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury late last season, the recruitment of Lenize Potgieter will hopefully fill that hole. The South African goaler is accurate to post, quick on her feet and can hold her own in the goal circle but if Glasgow was to return she could offer another option under the post whether it be goal attack or goal shooter. With more time to develop their connections both in defence and through the midcourt the Thunderbirds will be hoping to use that defensive pressure to bring the ball down court and create attacking forays.