Tag: romelda aiken

2020 SSN: Season preview – Queensland Firebirds

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

Coach: Roselee Jencke
Captain: Gabi Simpson
2019 finish: 8th

It was a disappointing season for the Firebirds last season only mustering up one win for the season. Despite being competitive throughout the season they simply fell off the boil and could not maintain a consistent four quarter performance which ultimately let them down time and time again. They were also struck by injury throughout their campaign with star Jamaican goal shooter, Romelda Aiken sidelined for a lengthy stint paving the way for Spar Proteas goaler Lenize Potgieter to join the ranks while centre Mahalia Cassidy had her season cut short thanks to an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The Firebirds also farewelled a couple of veterans in the purple dress with wing attack Caitlyn Nevins and goal keeper Laura Clemesha both retiring at season end to cap off what was a less than memorable season for the Firebirds.

2020 expectations/predictions:

With Gretel Bueta announcing her pregnancy there is some uncertainty surrounding the attacking end, and it will be extremely difficult for the Firebirds to find someone of the same calibre considering wealth of work she does across the court. Bueta oozes plenty of class, strength and dynamism that is unmatched meaning the attack end will have a gaping hole in 2020 and it will be up to Aiken and Ine-Mari Venter to really steer the ship. Although more comfortable in goal shooter, Venter will have her work cut out for her in goal attack with the South African having to bring the ball down court.  Through the midcourt the highly anticipated return of Cassidy will generate plenty of interest while youngster Macy Gardner will be hoping to make a splash in her first full season at the club. Former Vixens midcourter, Lara Dunkley will also be eager to showcase her dominance through the centre court with her speed, change of direction and pin point precision while livewire Jemma Mi Mi will be hoping to build on her consistency from last season and really drive that attacking third with her impressive speed off the mark and fancy footwork. The leadership of Gabi Simpson is a focal point for the Firebirds with the wing defence able to spark her side into action thanks to her aerial presence, intercepting ability and tenacity. Defensively the Firebirds boast one of the most unpredictable and exciting combinations in Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe. Both still only 22-years-old, the defenders are renowned for their physicality, hunt for the ball and strong connection, something they will be hoping to kick up a gear in 2020 and have a lasting impact.

Key player:

Struggling with injury last season expect Aiken to answer with a bang this season and recapture her dominant form especially considering she will be the main avenue to goal. The 196cm goaler can change the course of a game in an instant given her skill to score with ease. She is a commanding presence under the post while her aerial ability is second to none able to constantly reel in skyscrapers. She stunned many last season, on the odd occasion switching ends and plying her trade as a goal keeper, using her long limbs to defend the shot and get in the head of opposition goalers. Her versatility could once again be called upon for the Firebirds in 2020, but expect Aiken to spend majority of her time parked under the goal post where she does her most damage with her high volume of shots and relative accuracy. Her strength on the rebound is another crucial element in her game play, filling her teammates with confidence that if their shot comes up short she can reclaim possession.

Team list:

Romelda AIken
Gretel Bueta
Mahalia Cassidy
Lara Dunkley
Rudi Ellis
Macy Gardner
Tara Hinchliffe
Kim Jenner
Jemma Mi Mi
Gabi Simpson
Ine-Mari Venter

Opinion: Which teams in the SSN will benefit from the Super Shot?

IN light of the introduction of the Suncorp Super Netball “Super Shot” Draft Central casts an eye over which team will benefit from the new rule and which teams may struggle. The Super Shot allows goalers in the last five minutes of each quarter to earn double the points if they can sink them from beyond the designated 3 metre arc. 

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

The new attacking end will have their work cut out for them this season boasting a very different line-up to last year. Headlined by Lenize Potgieter the Thunderbirds will be relying on the South African shooting sensation to lead the way under the post. The Tbirds could be disadvantaged with the new rule given Potgieter, Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges do most of their damage from close to the post. However the possible return of Sasha Glasgow could provide some relief with the goal shooter confident from range. The Thunderbirds would be wishing that the Super Shot rule was introduced last year with the now retired, long bomb specialist Maria Folau at their disposal. 

Collingwood Magpies:

Relying heavily on Shimona Nelson under the post the Magpies may have a difficult 2020 season given the close range in which the goal shooter does her damage. Nelson came along in leaps and bounds in season 2019 and will be looking to elevate her game once again this season and will more than likely be the spearhead for the Magpies attack end. Newbie Julia Woolley has proven at Victoria Netball League (VNL) level that she can shoot from anywhere and could be a key prospect for the Magpies when it comes to the Super Shot. Although more comfortable on the mid-range shot, Woolley can shoot from the perimeter while Gabby Sinclair is also another possibility to wreak havoc in the final five minutes of the quarter. 

GIANTS Netball:

It will be a good combination of long bomb and close range shooting with the two GIANTS goalers possessing very different styles. Although both renowned for their holding style of play, England Roses goaler Jo Harten is accustomed to the long bomb, able to rock back on the shot and score. Able to shoot from both under the post and perimeter it will be up to Harten to deliver from further out in the final five minutes of the quarter to try and give the GIANTS that competitive edge. While Caitlin Bassett is dominant under the post, able to put up a wealth of shots she does not venture far out from her comfort zone meaning the Super Shot scoring will lie heavily on Harten and potentially youngster Kiera Austin. Although Austin does not get a wealth of court time in the goal circle she has proven that she can come on and have an impact with her ability to back herself from mid-range. 

Melbourne Vixens:

Renowned for their long bomb shooting thanks to the likes of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip the Melbourne Vixens are in good stead with the introduction of the Super Shot. Both goalers have continuously proven that they can shoot from just about anywhere in the circle with their composure and skill on constant display. Thwaites while strong under the post is equally as damaging from close to the perimeter and while Philip is more commonly known for her baseline drives and mid-range shots she is not afraid to back herself from range, making the Vixens a real threat in 2020. Although Malawian goal shooter, Mwai Kumwenda is not known for her long range shooting she can rely on the likes of Thwaites and Philip to steer the ship from distance and can focus on delivering from under the post.  

NSW Swifts:

Another team in a strong position with the new rule is the Swifts with England Roses goal attack Helen Housby a commanding presence close to circle edge. Although more comfortable with her mid-range shooting, Housby can sink them from distance and deliver, potentially making her the go to girl in the latter half of the quarters. Sophie Garbin is another option that can shoot from further out and while it is not her go to shot, her ability to stand up and deliver could make her an interesting prospect for the Swifts in the dying minutes of the quarter. Trinidad and Tobago goal shooter Sam Wallace is renowned for her skill and strength directly under the post but may have to look at broadening her range to suit the SSN rule change. 

Queensland Firebirds:

There is no denying that the Firebirds game plan centres around Romelda Aiken and Gretel Bueta who are both recognised for their close range shooting. Aiken is arguably one of the most formidable goal shooters in the competition with her aerial presence, long splits and high volume of shots. The only downside being the majority of her goals come from directly under the post, placing a wealth of pressure on the Firebirds attack unit to generate more scoring opportunities. Coming from a basketball background Bueta is used to shooting from distance but on the netball court the dynamic goaler opts to edge closer to the post. Although she has proven over time that she can convert from further out many are used to Bueta doing the most damage from a metre or so under the post. The inclusion of Ine-Mari Venter may provide that element of long range shooting that could benefit the Firebirds when it comes to converting on the Super Shot. 

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

After a breakout season last year Cara Koenen will be hoping to go even bigger this season to really leave a mark on the competition. While she is most comfortable under the post and does most of her scoring from there, the Sunshine Coast local can shoot from mid-range, making her a viable option when it comes to the two point shot. However, the Lightning are well placed having the likes of Australian Diamonds goaler Steph Wood who is able to carry the load when it comes to shooting from further out. Wood is no slouch in the goal circle, able to shoot from just about anywhere and use her turn of speed to receive the ball and goal. Rounding out the shooting options for the Lightning is Ugandan goaler Peace Proscovia, while typically known for her holding role under the post, she might have to get on the move more in 2020 to create additional scoring chances.

West Coast Fever:

With Jhaniele Fowler the go-to-girl, West Coast might have to shake-up their game plan for the 2020 season in order to benefit from the Super Shot. The towering goal shooter is prominent under the post able to shoot quickly, accurately and at a high volume. But with most of Fever’s goals coming from within a metre or so of the ring, the Fever might have to look to Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton more often to capitalise on the two point shot. Stanton can shoot from further out  while Teague-Neeld hardly puts up a shot instead proving to be a playmaker in the attacking third with her quick hands and vision into the circle. While accuracy can be an issue for both Stanton and Teague-Neeld at times the new rule could cause a few headaches for the Fever in 2020 with the team in green potentially forced to stray from their usual game play of turn and deliver to Fowler under the post.

Memorable Matches: Firebirds defeat Swifts in 2015 ANZ Championship Grand Final

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is the Queensland Firebirds’ come-from-behind victory over the NSW Swifts in the 2015 ANZ Championship Grand Final.

It was the culmination of a massive ANZ Championship season which set the Queensland Firebirds and NSW Swifts against one another, and the Swifts never looked like losing – before the Firebirds stunned in the final minutes of the match. It was a slow start for both teams and while the Swifts had the early lead, the Firebirds did not back down, contesting every single ball. With star players across the court it was all about momentum and the Swifts were swimming in it early, with Caitlin Thwaites and Sharni Layton impressing at both ends and connections all down the midcourt.

The feisty matchup saw neither team leave any stone unturned, with Laura Geitz and Kim Green seeing more of each other than a goal keeper and wing attack typically would. Meanwhile, quality defensive pressure from Julie Corletto and Layton saw the Swifts duo dominate much of the play, with Firebirds goalers Gretel Bueta and Romelda Aiken stopped in their tracks and unwilling to make risky moves. The Swifts had the accuracy going for them on court, with Thwaites and Susan Pettitt firing on all cylinders, unfazed by the persistent defensive pressure from the likes of Geitz and partner in crime, Clare McMeniman who continually pushed the shooters to attempt risky shots – though those shots continued to pay off. It was the Firebirds’ penalty count which saw them struggle for much of the match, almost doubling the Swifts’ at half time and finishing with a higher contact penalty count alone (66 and 16 obstructions) than the Swifts did overall (50 and 10).

While Swifts continued to prove too strong across the court, the Firebirds started to regain some control bit by bit, working their way into the match and continuing to pressure the Swifts and fight for a chance to win the second half. A quality third term from Geitz was part of the reason why the Firebirds were able to steal back momentum, holding Thwaites to just 12 goals in the second half – five in the third – while Aiken stepped up to ply her trade, shooting 28 in the second half to well and truly take the game by storm. While Geitz racked up the stats in the second half, the Swifts slowed down. Despite still holding the lead, it was clear the hosts were on their way back and were not about to lie down.

With the premiership in sight, Queensland unleashed at the right moment and with 30 seconds left on the clock levelled the scores, with the next centre pass going their way making for a tense countdown. The Firebirds played keepings off to finish, patiently chipping the ball around before Bueta went to post to deny a last second chance for the Swifts – with her only goal for the quarter seeing the Firebirds hit the front for the first time. With 14 seconds left on the clock, only a massive save would stop the Swifts from scoring, so Geitz did just that – taking a game saving intercept and passing the ball off, seeing the Firebirds defeat the Swifts 57-56 and sending the purple army into hysterics.

While not the most accurate of the day, sinking the winning goal was enough for Bueta, who shot 10 from 17 to provide a quality support for Aiken (47 from 51). It was a shared effort for the Swifts goalers however, with both Thwaites (30 from 34) and Pettitt (26 from 28m, 35 centre pass receives) providing scoreboard pressure and proving influential in attack. Bueta’s wealth of work to get the ball to Aiken was second to none, leading the assists with 20 from 32 feeds and 33 centre pass receives, while Swifts midcourter Green came in second with 17 from 38 and doing a lot more second phase work alongside Pettitt. It was a battle of the goal keepers, with both Geitz and Layton finding a wealth of turnover ball, though Geitz was the big performer with six intercepts (eight gains). Layton was not far behind with three intercepts (four gains but seven deflections) and shared the defensive stats with Corletto (two intercepts, three gains).

QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 11 | 14 | 16 | 16 (57)
NSW SWIFTS 14 | 16 | 15 | 11 (56)

Queensland Firebirds

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Caitlyn Nevins
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Clare McMeniman
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Bec Bulley, Verity Charles, Laura Clemesha, Beryl Friday, Amy Wild
COACH: Roselee Jencke

NSW Swifts

GS: Caitlin Thwaites
GA: Susan Pettitt
WA: Kim Green
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Abbey McCulloch
GD: Julie Corletto
GK: Sharni Layton

BENCH: Jade Clarke, Erin Hoare, Taylah Davies, Micaela Wilson, Steph Wood
COACH: Rob Wright

SHOOTING STATS

FIREBIRDS

Romelda Aiken 47/51
Gretel Bueta 10/17

SWIFTS

Caitlin Thwaites 30/34
Susan Pettitt 26/28

Who could lead SSN stats in 2020?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memorable Matches: Sunshine Girls defeat Silver Ferns – 2018 Comm Games

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in world netball history. Next up is Jamaica’s bronze medal win over New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, after missing out on the gold medal match by the slimmest of margins. 

It was a period of rebuilding for New Zealand, and this loss almost felt like the tail on the end of years of frustration for the nation, which had never failed to make a final before, let alone miss out on a medal overall. But for Jamaica, this was the culmination of years of edging closer to the title, and while it was the nation’s third bronze medal it was the first Commonwealth Games win against the Ferns, proving the Sunshine Girls could push any team to its limit on their day.

The two sides battled mercilessly throughout, with neither really able to snatch onto momentum for the full match. There was arguably a scoring end with majority of both teams’ scoreboard impact hitting in alternating quarters, with Jamaica dominating the first and third, drawing out a strong lead on both occasions, while New Zealand fought back during the second and fourth quarters to no avail. With quality shooting targets up opposing ends with the likes of Maria Folau, Jhaniele Fowler and Romelda Aiken finding plenty of the ball, the Jamaicans were a fraction cleaner. Khadijah Williams (20 assists from 31 feeds) zipped around as she does best, with the wing attack using her quick footwork to out-position the likes of Sam Winders and Claire Kersten and open up space for both Shanice Beckford (15 goals, 16 assists) and Adean Thomas. While Ferns goal keeper Temalisi Fakahokotau was more than up for the challenge lining up on Fowler and Aiken respectively, it was her penalty count that got the Ferns in trouble, racking up 24 penalties (18 contacts) in her 49 minutes on court. Katrina Rore’s respective cleanliness could not make up the numbers, with the usually tenacious defender failing to have her usual impact.

It was inaccuracy that plagued the Ferns throughout, unable to be their typical cool, calm and collected selves under the post thanks to the phenomenal defensive effort from the Sunshine girls. While Jamaica’s shooting was not at 100 per cent either, the side was far cleaner with the ball in the attack and more careful with the shot where New Zealand wasted attempts from further out than they wanted. Young gun Shamera Sterling was well up to the task in defence for the Sunshine Girls, and was still really an unknown quantity, able to cherry pick the ball with ease and slow down the Ferns’ speedy frontline. Despite Sterling’s dominance, Folau still managed to rack up 34 goals but ultimately was unable to hold up the attack end on her own as both Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio failed to make a real threatening impact on the match, both sitting in the 60s for goal accuracy. Grace Kara was electric around the circle, and while she only assisted 24 goals from her 40 feeds into the circle, she provided a consistent effort on the edge to keep Jodi-Ann Ward busy and cause some confusion for defenders. Meanwhile Vangelee Williams started out in wing defence but rotated back to goal defence after the first, adding another element to the defensive circle and certainly a more robust defender at the post. Williams and Sterling combined for 14 gains between them and while five of those were rebounds, it was their positioning and constant pressure that allowed the duo to find that front space to find the loose ball.

While the Ferns sported a high class team, their experience was outweighed by Jamaica’s tried and true connections down the court, firing on all cylinders and using their flair to rack up the deflections and intercepts. While both teams had highly talented defensive attributes, Jamaica collected more gains (21 versus 17) and 13 more deflections than the Ferns. While not all the deflections resulted in gains, every time the Sunshine Girls got hands to ball they put more doubt in the Ferns’ minds, not looking back as they dominated defensively. With two highly strung teams pushing to prove something, all signs of cleanliness went out the window. Both teams racked up over 70 penalties apiece, something almost unheard of especially on the international stage, combining for a whopping 147 penalties throughout.

NEW ZEALAND 11 | 16 | 12 | 16 (55)
JAMAICA 15 | 14 | 17 | 14 (60)

New Zealand

GS: Bailey Mes
GA: Maria Folau
WA: Grace Kara
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Sam Winders
GD: Katrina Rore
GK: Temalisi Fakahokotau

BENCH: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Kelly Jury, Claire Kersten, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
COACH: Janine Southby

Jamaica

GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Shanice Beckford
WA: Khadijah Williams
C: Adean Thomas
WD: Vangelee Williams
GD: Stacian Facey
GK: Shamera Sterling

BENCH: Romelda Aiken, Nicole Dixon, Rebekah Robinson, Paula Thompson, Jodi-Ann Ward
COACH: Sasher Henry

SHOOTING STATS

NEW ZEALAND

Maria Folau 34/44
Bailey Mes 12/20
Ameliaranne Ekenasio 9/13

JAMAICA

Romelda Aiken 24/31
Jhaniele Fowler 21/22
Shanice Beckford 15/18

Fantasy teams: New Zealand A v. Jamaica

NEW Zealand have steadily developed the next tier of players over the past couple of years with coach Noeline Taurua taking a clear look to the future of the Silver Ferns as shown with the New Zealand A team. Pitted up against a developing yet strong Jamaican team the battle sees a variety of up and coming stars as well as some experienced and well-versed international players.

New Zealand A:

GK: Sulu Fitzpatrick
GD: Kayla Cullen
WD: Sam Winders
C: Kimiora Poi
WA: Whitney Souness
GA: Tiana Metuarau
GS: Maia Wilson

BENCH: Ellie Bird, Maddy Gordon, Temalisi Fakahokotau

Starting in defence is Pulse premiership player and electrifying goal keeper Sulu Fitzpatrick. The defender is quick on her feet, can leap into action in a heartbeat given her impressive hops and is extremely dynamic both in the air and at ground level. Accompanying her is former Silver Fern and lanky defender Kayla Cullen who oozes nothing but class. She can ply her trade in goal defence, goal keeper or wing defence such is her netball understanding, versatility, strong movement and read of the play making life hard for opposition attackers.

The midcourt is littered with nimble and speedy players that are renowned for their ability to dart around the court and cause havoc. Wing defence, Sam Winders knows what it takes to play at the highest level having stepped out on court for the Ferns multiple times. Her defensive pressure, three-foot marking and ability to shadow attackers makes her a daunting prospect for many as she is constantly on the lookout for her next intercept or tip. Energiser bunny, Kimiora Poi gets the nod at centre with the 168cm nippy midcourter able to exploit every tiny bit of space and use her speed to burn off opponents. Her quick hands into the circle also allows her to catch defenders off guard and deliver pin point passes into the shooters. Partner in crime, Whitney Souness takes out the wing attack position. Although she plays a similar role to Poi given their speed and dynamic movement, her strength around the circle edge and general ball placement to feed into the circle makes her a promising prospect for New Zealand netball.

Looking into the goal circle there is no shortage of talent headlined by the likes of Northern Stars goaler in the ANZ Premiership, Maia Wilson. The 22-year-old has come along in leaps and bounds with her strong holds, and clever footwork, while her impressive rebounding ability, high volume of shorts and accuracy to post are just a couple of key components in her game play. Out in goal attack is Tiana Metuarau who much like her other teammates has developed at a rate of knots with her impressive timing along the baseline and skill with ball in hand. Metuarau has speed to burn, is confident in the attacking third and is not afraid to take the game on.

Rounding out the squad is physical and ball winning defender Temalisi Fakahokotau, speedster Maddy Gordon and holding goaler Ellie Bird.

Jamaica:

GK: Shamera Sterling
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
WD: Vangelee Williams
C: Adean Thomas
WA: Nicole Dixon
GA: Shanice Beckford
GS: Jhaniele Fowler

BENCH: Romelda Aiken, Khadijah Williams, Kadie-Ann Dehaney

There is no denying that the Sunshine Girls are bookended with top tier talent, able to turn a game on its head in a matter of seconds. Down in defence, Shamera Sterling leads the way with the long-limbed defender able to get a hand in everything that comes her way. Her ability to read the play, take a screaming intercept and constantly reject the ball from entering the goal circle is second to none. Out in goal defence, Jodi-Ann Ward plays a less flashy role than her defensive counterpart but still has an undeniable influence with her quick footwork, strong hands over pressure and court coverage to force timely turnovers. Ward is also very versatile able to move into wing defence and goal keeper when needed, giving her that competitive edge.

The midcourt is quite dynamic with all three players possessing plenty of speed to run opponents off their feet. The defensive minded Vangelee Williams is constantly on the hunt for an intercept with the wing defence able to read the play effortlessly and drop into the holes across the court. She is strong around circle edge to create tips and block easy access into the attacking third. Moving into centre is Adean Thomas with the 173cm midcourter able to take the ball at full speed and stop on a dime credit to her control and balance. Thomas is an exciting player to watch, able to light up the court with her playmaking style, dynamic footwork and vision into the circle. Similarly, Nicole Dixon plays with plenty of attacking flair able to find her fair share of space around the circle edge and deliver the ball into the goalers. She is quick off the mark and hardly ever stands still, always looking to work the angles and be an option in the attacking third.

Goal attack Shanice Beckford has speed and skill to boot, able to get under the feet of opposition defenders and command the ball despite her small stature. She is not afraid to back herself under or away from the post and is a real playmaker for Jamaica. Standing tall in goal shooter is Jhaniele Fowler with the 198cm goaler a commanding presence under the post. Her strength in the air is almost unmatchable, constantly reeling down any high balls, and using her body to ward off any oncoming defenders. She is hardly ever fazed by the defensive pressure and puts up a high volume of goals at an even higher accuracy.

On the bench is fellow towering goaler Romelda Aiken, along with dynamic midcourter Khadijah Williams and the ever-reliable Kadie-Ann Dehaney.

Who would win?

Boasting a slightly stronger midcourt group the New Zealand A team have the upper hand in the middle third with the likes of Winders, Poi and Souness all strong options. While Jamaica ooze nothing but class in both the goal keeper and goal shooter positions thanks to Sterling and Fowler it comes down to whether or not the Sunshine Girls can get on top of Wilson and Fitzpatrick to really romp it home something they definitely have the capability to do. With speed to boot and an uncanny intercepting ability Jamaica have a clear upper hand when it comes to not only connections across the court but so too scoring prowess.

Players that got away: Kate Shimmin

THERE are a number of netballers in the world that have or could have pulled on the international dress for more than one country throughout the career. With netball on hold due to the outbreak of COVID-19 Draft Central has decided to take a look at those players and their international careers and what could have been. The next in line is Australian defender turned England Roses representative Kate Shimmin.

Although she never exclusively played for the Diamonds, there is no denying that Shimmin is one of the most electrifying defenders to grace the court with her impressive aerial abilities. After spending years training with the Diamonds squad and representing Australia in the 2014 and 2016 Fast5 series’, the talented defender decided to switch teams and countries in hope for more opportunities on the big stage. Shimmin also donned the green and gold dress at Under 21 level showcasing her skill and dominance but never quite managed to crack into the Diamonds team given the amount of star power.

Standing at 185cm she is not the tallest defender to pull on the goal keeper or goal defence bib but she well and truly makes up for it in the air, using her leap to bounce into the air and snatch the ball. She is never out of the contest, constantly throwing her body on the line to reel in an intercept and is hungry for turnover ball. She is a versatile defender that can also move into wing defence when needed and is quick on her feet. The long armed defender is able to cause doubt over the shot and deflect crucial ball to provide her team with a wealth of opportunities. She can switch her defensive mindset to a more attacking one in a heartbeat, and often provides that backup option on the transverse line. Her game play has gone to another level alongside the likes of excitement machine Shamera Sterling and Shadine van der Merwe at the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Now playing for the England Roses, Shimmin has proven that she has the class and skill to perform at an international level matching up against the likes of Silver Ferns shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Te Paea Selby-Rickit. Having only played in five international games so far, the future is bright for Shimmin with the 28-year-old defender looking to cement her spot in the squad on a permanent basis. Playing alongside Geva Mentor, Stacey Francis and the experience of Jade Clarke out in wing defence, Shimmin has plenty of knowledgeable netballers to aid in furthering her craft. She is deceptively quick off the mark and can adapt her play accordingly depending on what the team needs. She can inject that element of surprise and physicality to keep the attackers on their toes and never settles in defence constantly on the look out for the next move.

Faced with the likes of towering Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler and Romelda Aiken in the SSN along with Australian captain Caitlin Bassett and power house Gretel Bueta, Shimmin has become accustomed to the tall timbers and the importance of quick footwork to get under the skin of her opponents. With talent to boot, it is fair to say that Australia well and truly missed out on the services of Shimmin when it comes to wearing the Diamonds dress, however the Roses will be extremely happy to have acquired the defender.

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.

Top 20 players over 30: #14 Romelda Aiken

THERE are a host of international players across the world that much like fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Coming in at number 14 on the countdown is none other than Jamaican shooting powerhouse and veteran of the Queensland Firebirds Romelda Aiken.

Aiken is entering her twelfth season with the Queensland Firebirds with the 31-year-old shooter simply improving as time goes by. Her ability to read the play and command the ball under the post is second to none. The Jamaican goal shooter is arguably one of the most prominent goalers in the Suncorp Super Netball with her impressive aerial ability and strength. Although she can be shaky on the shot, Aiken is almost unstoppable on the offensive rebound, gobbling up anything that falls short with her long arms and clever positioning.

Standing at 196cm Aiken is hard to beat in the air, able to take the ball at full stretch. Given her height, her balance is highly impressive, able to tiptoe along the baseline and reel in any passes that many players would not be able to control. She is quite agile and nimble able to move her feet with ease and position strongly under the post. She is not often outmuscled by her opponents and has a dash of speed to dart into the circle and demand the ball.

Her game play has only gotten better over the years with her connection with Gretel Bueta simply too hot to handle for many defenders. Aiken’s ability to dish off perfectly timed flick passes in the circle or vision to sight Bueta in the attacking third makes them such a dynamic duo. At 31, Aiken has added a couple more strings to her bow, proving that she can get on the move and draw the defender out of the circle to allow Bueta to take the drive into the circle. Her general netball understanding and movement is what makes her such a damaging prospect for opposition teams.

Although Aiken is renowned for her shooting prowess, the Sunshine Girl has showed her hand as a defender, using her lanky arms to apply pressure over the shot and cause doubt in the feeders’ minds. While still learning the goal keeper position, her ability to switch it up is a testament to the type of a-class player she is, able to be thrown into any position and simply perform. Her netball nous to get ball-side of her opponent and use the outside arm to cause a deflection showcases just how intuitive she is as a player and will only get better with further exposure.

There is no denying that Aiken’s aerial presence is what makes her such a focal point of both the Jamaican international team and Firebirds and while she is heading towards the tail end of her career, Aiken has proven that she can still mix it with the best given her high level of endurance and ball handling skills.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)
#18 Ama Agbeze (Severn Stars/England)
#17 Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning/South Africa)
#16 Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball/England)
#15 Chelsea Pitman (Adelaide Thunderbirds/England)

#14 Romelda Aiken (Queensland Firebirds/Jamaica)

What if… Aiken was not sidelined during the 2019 SSN season?

THE 2019 season was challenging for the Queensland Firebirds only registering one win and two draws for the year. Wins proved to be hard to come by and with multiple injuries popping up throughout their campaign the Firebirds struggled to get their momentum going. Unfortunately, Mahalia Cassidy went down early in the season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and was ruled out for the rest of the year, while goal shooter Romelda Aiken wrestled with an ongoing bone stress injury in her tibia that saw her sidelined for a chunk of time. Although the Firebirds recruited the services of South African shooting sensation Lenize Potgieter, and Abigail Latu-Meafou got some court time in at goal shooter, it took a while for the attacking end to click and gel as a cohesive unit.

So what if Aiken was not sidelined with injury? Would the Firebirds have won more games?

There is no denying that the Firebirds look like a more complete team with the Jamaican goal shooter standing under the post. While her accuracy can be a bit hit and miss at times it is her commanding presence that works wonders for the team. Aiken has proven on more than one occasion that she is strong on the take and does not get easily outmuscled by her opponents. She is agile and her long wingspan allows her to reel in passes many would see trickly over the base line. Throw in her impressive aerial ability and high volume of shots and Aiken is one of the most key players for the Firebirds.

Her connection with livewire and Australian Diamonds goal attack Gretel Bueta is also something special to behold. The duo is one of the most unconventional, unpredictable and exciting combinations to take the court. Aiken complements, Bueta’s style of play allowing her plenty of space in the circle while their shooter to shooter interplay is top notch. Aiken can sight Bueta both on the hold or on the move and has quick hands to release the ball something she has developed rapidly over the past couple of seasons.

Aiken’s ability to shake up her game play and get on the move also highlights just how much of an influential player she is, able to sense when the team needs something different to feed into. Her strong connection with the now retired Caitlyn Nevins also paid dividends with the crafty wing attack able to seamlessly deliver ball into Aiken while the speed and dynamism of Jemma Mi Mi also played into the hands of Aiken given her quick positioning under the post.

But her absence from the Firebirds starting line-up was evident with the midcourters having to work in overdrive to find Potgieter and Bueta in the circle. While both are dominant shooters, the feeders had to change up their approach given that Potgieter lacked the height and wingspan of Aiken. The Firebirds were not without their chances going down in Round 5 to the Adelaide Thunderbirds by three goals while succumbing to their second draw of the season in Round 6 but if the Jamaican was available for it could have been enough to get Queensland over the line and add a couple more wins to their tally.