Tag: noeline taurua

ANZ Premiership: Round 3 – Mystics maintain their winning streak in third round clash

IN a fairly predictable result for both teams, the Mystics remained unbeaten in Season 2020 while the Steel are still on the hunt for their first win of the year. Steel came in carrying the weight of a string of difficult losses and never quite managed to shake off that burden. In contrast, the Mystics, with their young and fiery shooting line-up, produced a full-court performance led by experienced defensive duo captain Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick, setting themselves up nicely for some tough tests coming up.

The Mystics were brimming with confidence at the start of the game and despite being without Bailey Mes they have proven their worth in the competition so far and earned a decent reputation. The tall timber of Grace Nweke is such an asset for them, and she came into the game fresh after shooting 41 from 45 last week. Tayla Earle was up against the experienced World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders, who has over one hundred more national league appearances than the youngster.

The Steel got off to a shaky start and it seemed that Jennifer O’Connell lacked confidence in the shooting circle, which had a ripple effect on the team. A couple of early turnovers gave the Mystics the edge, and the defensive pressure from Karaka and Fitzpatrick set the tone for the game. Kalifa McCollin played excellently in the goal attack position but needed O’Connell to create a stronger target in order to build flow and connections in the attack end. In contrast, the Mystics were fearless in attack, with Peta Toeava’s rapid speed and vision into Nweke giving them the upper hand early.

A couple of turnovers later, the Steel were still struggling to find each other and the Mystics used this to their advantage with their rock-solid defence scooping up plenty of ball. Steel managed to gather momentum towards the second half of the quarter and capitalised on a couple of Mystics errors to go on a five goal run. This comeback showed they had really warmed into the game and they started finding space and options in the middle channel. Mystics let go of a healthy lead allowing the Steel to creep back in with the quarter ending at 13-12 to the Northern side.

In the second quarter, Georgia Heffernan replaced McCollin – a bizarre change considering McCollin had been running the show in the Steel attack end. Fitzpatrick took advantage of a couple of sloppy feeds, and the Mystics went on a run, taking the score out to 17-14. Then the momentum swung, and with O’Connell growing in confidence at the post the Steel somehow managed to get back level, partly due to fantastic hustle from wing defence Kate Heffernan.

For the Mystics, Asher Grapes was having trouble finding a good shooting position and was not able to draw the defenders away from Nweke. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita realised Grapes was hesitant to go to post and started to double back on Nweke. This prompted coach Helene Wilson, assisted by Dame Noeline Taurua for this game, to swap in Saviour Tui to provide a different look for the attack end. This had an immediate impact and combined with two timely intercepts from Karaka, gave the Mystics a well-needed lift. There was a turning point in the game, taking the Mystics into half time with a four goal lead.

Steel went into the locker room with just one intercept to the Mystic’s six and were only shooting at 74 per cent. The Mystics were putting on a full-court defensive display, and Emily Burgess was doing an excellent job at keeping Gina Crampton away from good feeding position. Consistency was lacking in places for both teams, and the Steel, in particular, appeared to lose focus at points during the first half.

With McCollin back on at goal attack, the third quarter started well for the Steel, but their rebounding let them down and the Mystics extended to a six-goal lead. Bringing on the youngster Tui was doing wonders for the Mystics attack, and Selby-Rickit was being kept unusually quiet. Tui made a huge difference, as there were now two threatening options in the goal circle for the Steel defenders to choose between. Something was still not quite clicking in the Steel attack end and two held balls on O’Connell’s shot meant the Mystics pulled ahead. The Steel looked a little frustrated and were almost trying too hard. They lacked the composure and the leadership of the Mystics side and this began to show in the scoreline, with the Steel trailing 29–37 at the end of the third quarter.

The Steel came out all guns blazing for the final quarter, with an urgency and intensity that gave fans a sliver of hope they were making a comeback. Through sheer force of will, they pulled it back to within three with eight minutes remaining. This heaped pressure on the young Mystics shooters, but they managed to dig deep and ride the wave, making use of the well-trodden route over the top to Nweke. Unfortunately towards the second half of the quarter the play started to lose fluidity and became scrappy. Mystics were rushing it, possibly already thinking ahead to their next match. The final score of 46 – 42 was a testament to the Steel’s hard work in the final quarter, and they were fortunate to come away with a bonus point. Overall the Steel showed patches of promise but were inconsistent and struggled to make it click. The Mystics gave a standout defensive performance and have found confidence in the young shooting duo of Nweke and Tui.

The Mystics managed to secure 10 rebounds to the Steel’s five, a surprising stat considering they both had the same number of attempts at the post. Low shooting percentage (76 per cent), as well as a high penalty count (51), tells the tale of the game for the Steel. While the Mystics managed the win, they still gave away 19 turnovers, something they will certainly want to improve before their next game.

The Steel will have to pick themselves up again for their second game of the weekend against the Stars, while the Mystics will look forward to an exciting test against the Pulse on Monday.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> MYSTICS TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

NORTHERN MYSTICS 13 | 11 | 13 | 9 (46)
SOUTHERN STEEL 12 | 8 | 9 | 13 (42)

STARTING SEVENS:

MYSTICS:

GS: Grace Nweke
GA: Asher Grapes
WA: Peta Toeava
C: Tayla Earle
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Phoenix Karaka
GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick

STEEL:

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

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. 

ANZ Premiership: Round 2 – Tactix topple Steel in the Southern Derby

AS the rest of the netball world looked on in envy, the ANZ Premiership once again displayed why their domestic league has produced some of the best talent on the planet. Much like the first game back after the break, the matchup between Mainland Tactix and Southern Steel lived up to the hype. It was a smothering defensive display from the Tactix and they certainly laid out their intentions for the season ahead thanks to a 43-36 triumph. 

Going into the game there were a few key matchups to note. Firstly, the tussle between World Cup Champion Shannon Saunders and zippy youngster Kimiora Poi. These two never gave each other an inch, both of them having a point to prove being at opposite ends of their netball career. Another hotly anticipated contest was the Selby-Rickit sisters, facing off against each other on opposing teams for the first time since 2015. Another Silver Fern with a reputation to uphold was the formidable Jane Watson, and she did just that against Trinidadian import, Kalifa McCollin. Watson has to be by far one of the most infuriating defenders in the game to play against, up there with Karla Pretorious, stealing balls for fun and disrupting play left, right and centre. She plays formidably at goal defence, that extra third giving her even more opportunities to cause chaos.

From the moment the toy car delivered the ball and Steel took the first centre pass, the pressure was on. Watson managed a steal after just one minute of play, and the battle between the Selby-Rickit sisters playing at goal attack and goal defense was very willing. The Tactix managed to exploit the height of their goaling duo in Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Ellie Bird, with Selby-Rickit shooting long bombs and oozing confidence from the outset. During the first quarter the Tactix had the opportunity to mount a sizeable lead but the Steel showed their grit and weren’t going down without a fight. Both teams opened the game by playing with real freedom and being totally fearless to let the ball go. After the first quarter the Tactix had their noses in front, leading the Steel by 12 goals to 11.

Southern Steel came out of the blocks with a fire in the belly for the second quarter, with McCollin’s cut and drives carving up the attack end and creating endless options – she actually ended up shooting more goals than Jennifer O’Connell in the first half. They started to really find flow in attack and ended up winning the quarter by one goal. Tactix showed great hustle, and were always first to a loose ball, backing this up with amazing vision into the circle, sometimes even from way back in the centre third. Watson’s “Mr Tickle” arms were causing a real mess for the Steel midcourt, and she combined with Temalisi Fakahokotau to form a ferocious defensive partnership. The sides ended the first half all tied up at 20 goals apiece, with both teams demonstrating real ease and flow in their play. 

Poi and Saunders kept each other busy in the midcourt, with Saunders’ ability to transition swiftly from attack to defense providing a good test for Poi’s speed and agility. Poi appeared determined to keep the ball alive at any cost and displayed some incredible acrobatics to do so. She looked like she was having an absolute day out and relishing the chance to match up against the experienced Saunders.

Te Paea Selby-Rickit silenced any potential critics about her shooting accuracy, remaining on 100 per cent at half-time and only missing two shots in the whole game, despite often shooting from range. With Noeline Taurua as assistant coach, the Tactix probably never really felt they were going to lose. Erikana Pedersen came on at wing attack after half-time and spurred on the Tactix to a deadly championship quarter. While both teams were heavily penalised, the Tactix managed to gain momentum in the third quarter, limiting the Steel to just seven goals. 

Wholesale changes in the fourth quarter for Steel gave them a chance to claw the score back, but the Tactix had their tails up after smashing the third quarter and the Steel ran out of time to make a comeback. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit moved back to goal keeper for the Steel with Abbey Erwood coming on in goal defence. At the other end, McCollin went into goal shooter and Georgia Heffernan slotted into goal attack, meaning there were two pairs of netball sisters on court during the final 12. For the Tactix, Bird’s shooting percentage started to dip, most likely due to the style of the physical Te Huinga Selby-Rickit. A held ball on the centre pass for the Steel added insult to injury and allowed the Tactix to pull away further. Unforced errors started to creep in for both teams, possibly due to fatigue setting in – something we may see a little more of with teams playing two games per weekend. There were also several attacking contacts from both goal shooters and Bird in particular got frustrated by the Steel defenders and ended up with two attacking contacts in a row. 

Tactix were ferocious, however both teams showed amazing vision, athleticism and slick play proving they are no worse for the break. As the Tactix started to relax in the final period, the Steel managed to notch up five in a row in what looked like the beginning of a comeback. However it was too little too late after their disappointing third quarter. After drawing the first half, the second half was 23-16 to the Tactix, meaning the final score was 43-36. The Tactix side were able to get early depth on the centre pass and have multiple options to ball, with Bird on a strong hold in the circle and Selby-Rickit setting up the attack end with ease. Both teams ended up fairly even across the board when it comes to penalties and turnovers, but the Tactix were able to pick up seven intercepts to the Steel’s two, and the large majority of rebounds to boot. 

The Tactix will have to maintain their enthusiasm and tenacity when they come up against the Stars on Monday, and the Steel can have another chance to notch up their first win of the season against the Mystics next weekend.

>>> FULL MATCH STATISTICS

>>> TACTIX TEAM PAGE

>>> STEEL TEAM PAGE

STARTING SEVENS:

MAINLAND TACTIX

GS: Ellie Bird
GA: Te Paea Selby-Rickit
WA: Samon Nathan
C: Kimiora Poi
WD: Charlotte Elley
GD: Jane Watson
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

SOUTHERN STEEL

GS: Jennifer O’Connell
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita

Netball fantasy teams: Commentators v. Coaches

WHILE now renowned for their presence off court whether it be behind a microphone or boundary side these commentators and coaches were once known for their on-court prowess. Both sides consist of former players from across the globe now turned media personalities or coaches whether it be assistant or head.  To be eligible to make either team they must have held a position in either role in the past two years.

Commentators:

GK: Liz Ellis
GD: Laura Geitz
WD: Bianca Chatfield
C: Anna Stanley
WA: Tamsin Greenway
GA: Sharelle McMahon
GS: Cath Cox

BENCH: Anne Sargeant, Adine Wilson, Ama Agbeze

There is no shortage of talent behind the mic with each and every player in the squad showcasing their class and talent at both an international and domestic level. Starting in goal keeper is none other than fan favourite and Australian Diamonds royalty Liz Ellis. The talented defender was an easy pick given her influence on court, long arms, ability to clog up space and come out for a screaming intercept when needed. Much like her defensive counterpart, Laura Geitz was another sure starter even though she was pushed out to goal defence to accommodate for Ellis. The former Diamonds goal keeper turned commentator was an excitement machine down back, generating plenty of turnover ball and using her impressive timing to perfection. Moving out to wing defence is Melbourne Vixens great and fellow Diamond defender Bianca Chatfield. Although typically known for her presence in circle defence, Chatfield is no stranger to the wing position with her height and long arm span doing a wealth of damage to block her opponents vision into the circle. New Zealand commentator and former Silver Ferns representative Anna Stanley takes out the centre position with the highly skilled midcourter possessing class and speed to boot. Her experience and nous on the court was unquestionable able to thread the needle with her passes and good vision while wing attack and former England Roses star Tamsin Greenway oozes plenty of game changing attributes. Arguably one of the headline duos in the team is the goal circle pairing of Sharelle McMahon and Catherine Cox. The two Australian Diamonds dynamites lit up the court with their explosiveness and deadeye accuracy. McMahon is a smooth mover, renowned for using her light and quick footwork to glide across the court while Cox can play both the holding and moving shooter with great ease. one thing that is fair to say is they hardly missed with the two making the most of their opportunities inside the goal circle and most importantly were not afraid to back themselves from range. Unlucky not to get the start was Anne Sargeant while the likes of midcourter Adine Wilson also just missed out despite pulling the bib on 79 times for the Ferns. Rounding out the team is former England Roses captain and defender Ama Agbeze with the lanky goal keeper known for her hunt for the ball, quick movement and ability to create something out of nothing.

 

Coaches:

GK: Roselee Jencke
GD: Claire McMenimen
WD: Simone McKinnis
C: Temepara Bailey
WA: Noeline Taurua
GA: Vicki Wilson
GS: Irene Van Dyk 

BENCH: Norma Plummer, Tracey Neville, Nicole Richardson

This squad is filled with some of the most recognised and highly established netball coaches at either an assistant or head coach position in the world. They range from international and domestic leagues but most importantly were silky smooth on the court. Firebirds head coach and former Diamonds defensive coach, Roselee Jencke is a star in her own right. She represented the Diamonds 43 times and was a real commanding presence down back with her hands over pressure and quick footwork to get around the body and force turnovers. After playing under Jencke at the Firebirds the now Diamonds specialist coach Clare McMeniman is set to pull on the goal defence bib. With class, defensive pressure and three-foot marking a couple of her key attributes it would be hard to go past the skilful defender. Although she was not the flashiest player it was her ability to shut down opponents with her tagging style of defence and skill to drop back into space and cherry pick passes and propel the ball back down the court with ease. Successful Vixens coach, Simone McKinnis has a firm grasp on the wing defence position thanks to her dynamic movement while veteran and now coach with the Northern Stars Temepara Bailey was a sure start in centre. Bailey is one of the most durable players able to run all day and all night, using her change of direction to full effect and delivering the ball with ease into the circle. Arguably one of the most praised coaches in netball history, Noeline Taurua pulls on the wing attack bib with the classy netballer in a league of her own when it comes to awareness and tactics. Taurua was clever with ball in hand able to see the play with ease and create space to allow attacking forays to unfold. Vicki Wilson was a key cog for the Diamonds with her precise shooting, impressive ball movement, clever footwork and versatility to switch between goal attack and goal shooter. After spending time with the Central Pulse last year, superstar goal shooter Irene Van Dyk was an easy call up. Van Dyk is one of the most accurate shooters the world has ever seen and was never fazed by the physicality of the contest. Her strong holds, incredible ability to stand and deliver from right underneath the ring and silky footwork put her in a league of her own while her high volume of shots made her the complete package. On the bench is none other than the great Norma Plummer, along with the retired Tracey Neville while Collingwood Magpies assistant coach Nicole Richardson completes the team.

Who would win?

Although there is plenty of class across both sides the defence end of the commentators’ squad is stacked with a host of game changers. Both Ellis and Geitz are renowned for their impressive feats in big grand finals or gold medal matches making them a tough challenge even for the likes of the ever-impressive Van Dyk. Throw in the tried and tested combination of McMahon and Cox in the goal circle and the commentators side has the slight upper hand given their strong connections across the court and explosiveness.

Who wins in this hypothetical battle?
Commentators
Coaches
Created with Quiz Maker

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown – #13/#12

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 25 players under 25-years-old across the netball world. The countdown continues with Australian young guns Cara Koenen and Kate Eddy. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

In at number 13 is fast improver Cara Koenen, with the young goal shooter flourishing under Noeline Taurua’s coaching in 2019 and proving she is a real player to watch in the future. While she sat behind Australian Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett in prior Suncorp Super Netball seasons and shared the stage with Peace Proscovia at Sunshine Coast Lightning in 2019, she took it upon herself to prove she deserved the starting spot. Her willingness to improve and ability to take on constructive feedback has worked wonders for her confidence slotting into the starting seven for Lightning. Koenen’s clean hands and ability to change up her play style depending on the situation is credit to her vision, read of the play and quick footwork, with the young goaler always thinking a few passes ahead. Her accuracy and volume improved last season along with her making her a real prospect and threat at the post despite her youth.

Number 12 sees newly anointed Melbourne Vixen, Kate Eddy join the fray. The ex-NSW Swift found her form over the past few seasons but has returned to her home state for the 2020 season, eager to slot into a consistent position in the starting lineup and with the handy versatility of being able to rotate through wing defence, goal defence and goal keeper when required. Eddy’s ability to make clean and well-timed intercept is a credit to her read of the play while her transition into defence and hands over pressure ensure she is always there to make her opposition think about their next move. Her explosive speed and tenacity is showcased in any of her choice positions, deflecting the ball and gathering it well wherever she plays. The home-grown Victorian is sure to slot right in to the Vixens lineup, while her versatility makes her a key inclusion for a side that doesn’t tend to switch up positions all that often. While she has not yet had a formal chance on the international stage – apart from being vice captain of the Australian Netball World Youth Cup team in 2017 – Eddy is a real contender for the future of Australian netball.
_

Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)
21. Razia Quashie (England)
20. Sophie Garbin (Australia)
19. Imogen Allison (England)
18. Kelly Jury (New Zealand)
17. Tara Hinchliffe (Australia)
16. Aliyah Dunn (New Zealand)
15. Whitney Souness (New Zealand)
14. Amy Parmenter (Australia)
13. Cara Koenen (Australia)
12. Kate Eddy (Australia)

Netball Draft Central: Thank you

IT has been an action packed first year of Netball Draft Central filled with plenty of excitement and growth. The team here at Draft Central have worked exceptionally hard throughout the year to produce high quality content and cover a range of leagues across the world.

The 2019 netball calendar was full to the brim with the Netball World Cup the highlight of the year. The Silver Ferns broke their World Cup drought clenching victory over world number one Australia, while in the Suncorp Super Netball the Sunshine Coast Lightning looked to make history with a three-peat but fell short against a quality New South Wales Swift team.

We attended the Suncorp Super Netball, Australian Netball League (ANL) and M-League Premier Mixed and Men’s grand finals while we also covered the Victorian Netball League (VNL) throughout the year. We proved that we are not afraid to discuss all things netball related even diving into the intricacies of umpiring and look forward to consistently growing our name, repertoire and coverage with further coverage of the aforementioned league. In 2020 Netball Draft Central is aiming to cover the Queensland Sapphire Series in an endeavour to diversify our content and broaden our horizons.

Our coverage was not just restricted to Australia though, with the team covering the premier leagues in New Zealand and England such as the ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Super League (VNSL) respectively. Looking ahead to 2020 we are hoping to expand our international coverage and provide more in-depth wraps, reviews and articles along with a host more features.

We were lucky enough to interview fan favourite and cross-coder Ash Brazill, along with young guns Tara Hinchliffe and Jess Anstiss. We also managed to secure an interview with Silver Ferns and Lightning coach Noeline Taurua while Ameliaranne Ekenasio provided plenty of insight into her life both on the netball court and off-court. We also took our podcast to another level in 2019 and will be aiming to go even bigger and better next year.

In our first year, we also created two magazines one specified for the Netball World Cup and the other dedicated to SSSN. Both were filled with a wealth of content detailing player profiles, positions and team previews. Each magazine had player features retelling their journey to the top with the likes of injured Malawi and Melbourne Vixens shooter Mwai Kumwenda featuring in the World Cup magazine.

Top 5 international games of 2019

THIS year marked 12 months filled with international tournaments ranging from the Constellation Cup, Quad Series and most importantly the World Cup.

#1 Australia (51) defeated by New Zealand (52) – World Cup Final

The World Cup gold medal match lived up to the hype with traditional arch rivals going head to head in a one-goal thriller. In the end, it was the Silver Ferns that prevailed in the tight battle after going down earlier in the tournament. The Ferns showed nothing but class, composure and skill to withstand the Diamonds pressure and apply their own scoreboard pressure. Led by the retiring, Casey Kopua the Ferns seemed to have the upper hand with their slick ball movement and zoned style of defence to pick off passes and restrict Australia’s flow in attack. Laura Langman and Maria Folau were other key pillars throughout the high intensity game while goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio displayed her skillset. Unfortunately, the Diamonds struggled for consistency with the goal circle changing with Caitlin Bassett, Gretel Tippett and Steph Wood all spending time under the post. It was a heart in mouth game with reputation and national pride all at stake but led by coach Noeline Taurua the Ferns had utter control and never really looked like dropping the game.

#2 Zimbabwe (79) defeated Sri Lanka (49) – World Cup

In their first World Cup appearance, Zimbabwe well and truly announced themselves on the international stage taking it to Sri Lanka with a convincing performance. The Gems did not muck around putting the after burners on in the first quarter to establish a commanding lead and did not let up steadily building on their margin. The outing helped to put talented goaler Joice Takaidza on the map with Takaidza going on a scoring rampage with 59 goals from 62 attempts at 95 per cent. Another star player that emerged from the clash was goal defence Felisitus Kwangwa who showed her defensive prowess and ability to read the play racking up eight gains and seven intercepts. Zimbabwe’s strong performance was just one of many for the rest of the World cup.

#3 England (52) defeated Australia (49) – Northern Quad Series

Despite Australia securing the Quad Series for another year the Roses came out on top in a class match between the two sides. In recent times, there has been plenty of history with England pipping Australia at the post in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018 and once again taking out the win against a strong Diamonds side. The game was filled with intensity, physicality and determination with neither side letting up on the pressure. Roses goal shooter Rachel Dunn was a star under the post showcasing her cool, calm and collected nature to pile on 13 goals in a row while Helen Housby and Jo Harten also played an important role. The lead chopped and changed throughout with both sides trying to find the right combo that could out manoeuvre the other the likes of Caitlin Thwaites, Kelsey Browne and April Brandley all doing the job on the court. The win sparked plenty of joy for the Roses who claimed an impressive win on home soil and set the tone for the rest of the international netball calendar.

#4 England (45) defeated by South Africa (48) – Northern Quad Series

The SPAR Proteas came to play in the Quad Series edging out England and claiming a narrow three-goal victory over the home side. South Africa proved that they have a wealth of talent and can mix it with the best in the world coming up against the likes of talented goal keeper Geva Mentor and owning the circle with their strong holds and accuracy to post. Despite a slow start to the game the SPAR Proteas really built into the game hitting their straps in both the second and third quarter to all but cement the win. It is fair to say South Africa were led by goal defence Karla Pretorius who once again showcased her experience and class to win the ball and transition it down the court. Pretorius paired well with Phumza Maweni to limit the influence of Dunn, Housby and Harten while the match-up between Bongi Msomi and Serena Guthrie brought plenty of intrigue. But all in all, this game was a real coming of age match for South Africa after years of being around the mark but never able to pull it off.

#5 Jamaica (52) defeated by South Africa (55) – World Cup

South Africa got off to a flyer in their pool match against Jamaica clearly asserting themselves and making it hard for the Sunshine Girls to catch up for the remainder of the game. It was close game for the majority with Jamaica clawing back the margin in the second half with a 17 goal third quarter but it was not enough to stop the juggernaut that was South Africa. Lenize Potgieter stood tall once again under the post using her signature quick release shot to full affect nailing 36 goals from 39 attempts while partner in crime Maryka Holtzhausen also played her role with 19 goals. Defensively South Africa had all the answers as well with Pretorius, Maweni and Khanyisa Chawane putting in the hard yards. It was a relatively disappointing outing for the Sunshine Girls who struggled to find their mojo and despite many tipping them to win simply could not generate the same scoring and defensive intent as their opponents. However, it was not through a lack of trying with Jhaniele Fowler leading the way with her commanding height and sheer accuracy only missing one of her 39 attempts. Youngster Shamera Sterling also plied her trade while Vangelee Williams also made her presence felt down back for Jamaica but it was not enough.

Netball Australia Award Predictions

WITH the Australian netball awards season quickly approaching we cast an eye over a host of potential players that could win the prestigious awards ranging from international level to the Australian Netball League (ANL). This article is purely based on opinion and how we perceive each player’s season to have panned out.

Liz Ellis Diamond: Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds)

It is hard to think of another player that has had as great an impact as Gretel Tippett has in the past year, with the talented goal attack taking her game to a whole new level in 2019. The typically explosive shooter owned the court both at international and domestic level, a clear testament to her sheer power, netball nous and dominance no matter her opponent. She broke records, becoming the first Australian to shoot 100 consecutive goals and putting an end to any doubters who questioned her accuracy, along with upping the volume of shots she attempted. Tippett was simply unstoppable when given the time and space and showed she can apply defensive pressure thanks to her three-foot marking and read of the play.

Wing attack and 2018 Liz Ellis Diamond winner Liz Watson also put her best foot forward for the coveted award, thanks to another year full of consistency, clever plays and dynamic movement proving to be a key cog through the midcourt. Her endurance was unquestionable running hard and creating attacking forays to surge her side ahead, but her season failed to have the same individual impact as Tippett.

Australian International Player of the Year: Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds)

With Tippett expected to take out the Liz Ellis Diamond award expect the Firebirds shooter to make it two from two and take home the International Player of the Year award, credit to a stellar season in the green and gold. She was often the point of difference in tight matches, using her physicality and commanding height to full advantage to get under the skin of opponents and capitalise on her opportunities. Tippett did not disappoint in the Constellation Cup, only missing three goals from her 85 attempts at an impressive 96 per cent, highlighting her accuracy to post and class while her performance at the World Cup was unrivalled by any other Diamond. She showcased her versatility moving into goal shooter to become a holding goaler and key target under the post.

Despite missing a couple of games with injury, goal keeper Courtney Bruce was a dominant threat in the defensive goal circle thanks to her immense pressure and ball tracking ability making her a potential winner. Caitlin Thwaites is another player up there for many, and although she did not get a wealth of court time the retiring goal shooter served as a smokey with the fan favourite making an impact each time she took the court with her long range shooting and versatile game style.

Suncorp Super Netball Player of the Year: Karla Pretorius (Sunshine Coast Lightning)

After another big year of Suncorp Super Netball it is hard to narrow down a winner but it is equally as hard to go past Karla Pretorius with the talented goal defence reminding everyone why she is so dominant and exciting to watch. She was a key reason behind the Lightning’s success spurring them into another grand final tilt, albeit falling short. Pretorius lights the court up with her go-go gadget arms, closing speed and ability to pick pocket players making her Draft Central’s number one choice.

Also up there is fellow international and Lightning returnee, Laura Langman. On return, Langman proved to be a key cog through the midcourt and had some impressive games where she well and truly won games off her own back. In her first season of SSN Jamaican recruit Shamera Sterling could also give Pretorius a run for her money with the Adelaide Thunderbirds goal keeper highlighting her class to pick off passes with her lanky arms and impressive leap. Hot on her tail is the likes of Ash Brazill who lifted another gear in 2019 for the Magpies using her electric pace, aerial ability and defensive pressure to remain a threat across the court. Meanwhile NSW Swifts goal shooter Sam Wallace also put her hand up as a potential winner thanks to her cool, calm and collected nature under the post paired with her aerial ability, something which helped the NSW Swifts to their inaugural Super Netball premiership.

Joyce Brown Coach of the Year: Briony Akle (NSW Swifts)

It is no mean feat coaching your side to victory after failing to make the top four the year before, and NSW Swifts coach, Briony Akle well and truly showed it can be done. Akle proved that the mix between international star power and belief in youth was key to success with the likes of ANL players Elle Bennetts, Sophie Halpin and Tayla Fraser all playing a crucial role in their premiership. Despite being hit with a host of injuries with Helen Housby sidelined after World Cup, Maddy Proud relegated to the bench after tearing her ACL and Kate Eddy out with a season ending ankle injury the talented coach pulled it all together only in her second year as head coach.

Grand final opposition coach Noeline Taurua also posed a good candidate taking her side to their third consecutive grand final while the ever-reliable Simone McKinnis could have also been selected but in the end it was hard to deny Akle given her successful 2019 campaign.

Suncorp Super Netball Young Star: Cara Koenen (Sunshine Coast Lightning)

It was a break out season for the 24-year old shooter who well and truly announced herself on the domestic stage, mixing it with some of the world’s best and most talented defenders. Koenen emerged midway through the season as a key player for the Lightning with her height, strong holds and deceptively silky movement a key feature of her game making her a front runner for this year’s Young Star award.

Koenen was no easy pick with the likes of Queensland defensive duo Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe also in contention for the Young Star award given their impressive season, but both suffered injuries forcing them to the sidelines for weeks at a time. Another potential was Sophie Garbin who held her own in her non-preferred position of goal attack in the absence of teammate Housby, using her accuracy to post and strong movement to pose a threat. But none seemed to have the same impact as Koenen who at times was a barometer for the Sunshine Coast with her accuracy, volume and general netball nous.

Is umpire inconsistency causing headaches at international level?

UMPIRING standards in netball have been brought to the forefront of media contention over the last few weeks, not for the first time in 2019 – and with the standard of the sport itself growing every year, it is clear why.

With so much questioned regarding fairness in sports these days, whether it be from media outlets, fans or players themselves it only seems appropriate that those officiating the sport deal with much of the slack. What many seem to forget is that where human officiation is necessary, human error can occur. And what we are starting to see in netball is that when this error occurs, many are beginning to openly question the ability and bias of an umpire towards the match in question.

With the use of a Victorian-based umpiring Facebook group, Twitter and the website SurveyMonkey, throughout October I conducted an online survey entitled ‘International Umpire Standards’, enquiring into the anonymous opinions of predominantly Australian umpires on the quality of umpiring standards over the past year and specifically focusing on the standards of Australia’s premier netball competition, Suncorp Super Netball, the 2019 Netball World Cup and the 2019 Constellation Cup between Australia and New Zealand.

The intention of this survey was to find out the current general consensus of umpires across a range of badges from around the state and open dialogue surrounding umpiring standards. Additionally, I wanted to find out their opinions regarding these competitions and how the umpiring standards compared, as well as how these applicants think the quality of umpiring can improve. Furthermore, it looked into the pros and cons of hypothetical rule changes that could improve accuracy, namely the most contentious suggestions being thrown around across the media – the addition of an extra umpire, the adaptation of umpiring zones on court and umpire review panels.

In Australia there is a clear and concise structure for umpiring accreditation, with letter grades or ‘badges’ used to differentiate levels. The lowest badge is ‘C’, with umpires needing to reach a certain understanding of the rules and practical application to progress further to ‘B’, ‘A’ and All Australian (AA). Following AA is the highest on-court umpiring accomplishment, the International Umpires Award (IUA).

At the time of writing there were 89 applicants, with a majority being ‘C’ and ‘B’ badged umpires combining for almost 75 per cent of results. ‘A’ badge sat at five applicants and ‘AA’ at one, while 16 were unbadged and one applicant chose to opt out of specifying.

Adding an extra umpire seems to be both the most suggested and scrutinised of the proposed rule changes, with a whopping 64 per cent of those surveyed disagreeing with the suggestion of an additional umpire on/around a netball court.

For many, it seems the size of the court itself only warrants two umpires, while others stated that there is enough inconsistency between two umpires that adding a third would not help the case. A number of applicants suggested that a third umpire would blur the boundaries of umpire zones further, negatively impacting the match and not adding any value to the calls already being made.

However, almost 60 per cent of applicants agreed with the question ‘do you think there is a way umpiring can be improved to be more accurate?’, with better training and pathway standards at grassroots one of the most common suggestions, while many suggest that further professionalism of umpires is required to achieve higher standards.

One of the more noticeable results on the survey regarded the quality of officiation in the Netball World Cup and Constellation Cup – both competitions where countries were unable to have umpires on court from their respective nations. While this is not a major issue for many countries, it does seem to play a significant role in how matches between higher ranking nations play out.

The Netball World Cup and Constellation Cup this year have been some of the more heavily criticised competitions in recent memory. The World Cup saw umpires from across the globe cover matches across two weeks of competition, unable to umpire their home nation in the process and ultimately seeing countries like Australia, New Zealand and England suffer for it with penalty counts well above the norm for their level. Similarly, lower-ranked nations found themselves struggling under the pressure of higher level umpires than they were used to, especially when attempting to match top sides, collecting warnings and cautions left, right and centre, unable to compete. For the Netball World Cup portion of the survey the results varied, with over 50 per cent stating the quality of umpiring met expectations, though many commented that matches umpired by lower ranked nations were of a lower quality than those from leading countries.

The key finding of the survey results saw over 55 per cent of applicants elect ‘below expectations’ for the Constellation Cup, which saw four test matches played between Australia and New Zealand across a period of three weeks. With Australian and New Zealand umpires unable to take the court for fear of bias, the four matches saw what many perceived as questionable calls and interpretations of rules, while others complained of ‘over-umpiring’. There were many questions about the interpretation of rules and overall standard of play left after calls were made so frequently during the Constellation Cup, with Silver Ferns coach, Noeline Taurua speaking out about the umpiring quality when the Ferns collected 66 penalties in the final match after picking up an average of 42 across the first three matches.

For comparison, 31 per cent of umpires said that Suncorp Super Netball exceeded expectations, while a further 64 per cent stated that it met their expectations, suggesting that the high quality and consistency of Australian umpires is something that has come to be expected and relished in netball.

Like any sport, consistency across accreditation can differ depending on the association, local standard and umpire supervision. However, with premier netball competitions in Australia such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and its statewide feeder competitions, umpires are given as much an opportunity as players to progress their skills thanks to the match standard and umpire supervision across the country. While badging is one of the key ways to maintain relative consistency across the country and indeed the world, many other countries do not necessarily have the same standards in place, though the same final outcome is awarded – IUA – for jumping the final hurdle.

Australia, New Zealand, and to an extent England, currently lead the sport in umpiring and umpire development, with all three countries having high quality officiators due to the equally high quality of players and teams taking the court. What seems to be the most contested issue at this time is that, similar to how graded umpires can differ from association to association, umpires of the same international accreditation can differ thanks to their country of origin and standard of competition. Therefore meaning countries with a high standard of domestic competition such as those aforementioned tend to have higher quality umpires than a number of other netball-competing countries.

While every game or indeed, umpire, may have its faults, the umpires from these leading countries tend to form the highest standard thanks to the quality of netball they have available to officiate week in and week out. However with this standard comes a different issue, with lower-ranked countries and their equally badged counterparts not always able to keep up with the quality many spectators and players have come to expect.

The main problems that seem to pop up during international competitions are a) the standards of international umpires, and b) the perceived bias of national/domestic umpires, disallowing them from umpiring their own country – and therefore robbing the country’s representative teams from reaping the rewards of the best umpires available.

At the end of the day, umpires are on the court to ensure a safe and fair game is played for all involved, and not intended to change a game’s outcomes with their decision making – or as we have come to see in netball, often lack thereof.

While this commentary – and indeed the survey conducted – offers plenty of questions and suggestions to improve the quality of umpiring, something begs the question; is it possible for umpiring to be improved to be at a standard spectators, players and umpires alike can agree on? When does match fairness become a question of an umpire’s ability rather than simple human error? Only time will tell.

Finally, in the wise words of one of my own umpire supervisors, ‘just let them play!’

2019 SSN season team review: Sunshine Coast Lightning

THE Sunshine Coast Lightning almost made history in 2019, making it to their third consecutive grand final but falling at the last hurdle. They farewelled coaching mastermind Noeline Taurua while the future of Laura Langman is still unknown.

Position: 1st
Percentage: 112.65%
Win-loss: 12-2

2019 Overview:

The Lightning were dealt a relatively big blow over the off season with star goaler and Diamonds captain, Caitlin Bassett departing the club along with Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne. But that did not seem to faze the Lightning who established themselves as fierce competitors once more, welcoming Phumza Maweni, Peace Proscovia and the returning Langman. All three players had a profound impact with Langman providing her telltale drive and dynamic movement across the court, accompanied by her experience and match winning ability. Maweni posed a dominant threat in the defensive circle, pairing well with fellow international Karla Pretorius to send any ball that came their way back up the court and picking off a host of intercepts. The wing defence bib rotated between Maddy McAuliffe and Jacqui Russell with the pair providing good coverage and hands over pressure. Through the midcourt, speedster Laura Scherian came into her own, relishing the reduced space that allowed her to perfect her feeds into the circle and build her connection with Proscovia. The Ugandan shooter displayed her strength, holding well and bodying up to take the ball on the baseline while Steph Wood continued on her merry way with her quick hands, netball nous and footwork on full display.

Shining light:

Cara Koenen elevated to a whole new level throughout the latter half of the season, absorbing every bit of pressure and commanding the ball time and time again. she continuously showcased her explosiveness with both her speed and strength while her versatility was crucial for the Lightning’s finals assault. The 23-year-old shooter made the goal shooter bib her own, working with Wood and Proscovia with ease and displaying her silky footwork to drive along the baseline or sweep across the top of the circle. Her ability to read the play, get up high and have a presence whenever the ball came her way enabled her to stay in the game and cause plenty of havoc. As she grew with confidence, the goal shooter backed herself from range proving accuracy and volume was no issue.

Predictions 2020:

With a couple of years under Silver Ferns coach and extraordinaire Noeline Taurua, newly appointed coach Kylee Byrne has plenty to offer when she takes the reins in 2020. Byrne has seen first-hand what it takes to match it with the best in the business and definitely has the clientele to replicate a similar outcome once again next year. She oozes experience and knowledge having been in the coaching game for the past 10 years, making her a key figure for the side going forward if they are to continue to succeed.