Tag: sharni layton

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

International All-Stars players edition: Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

CONTINUING our theme of All-Star teams, South Africa and London Pulse star goal shooter, Sigi Burger compiled her own dream team. Take a look at her selections and reasoning behind each player.

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My All-Star Team:

Sigi Burger (London Pulse/South Africa)

So when Draft Central asked me to do this, it literally took me a month to get the article to them because up until the morning that I’m writing this, I couldn’t decide who my dream team would be. The netball world is so rich in players with amazing skills, court craft, natural hunting instincts and flair, that I had to think hard and deep about certain positions on court.

However, this is the team I have decided upon.

Irene van Dyk. I decided on Irene as she has been my role model since I could remember. Growing up all I wanted to be was the next Irene. With incredible athleticism, accurate shooting, a body stronger than an ox and ripped like a piece of meat eaten by a hungry dog, Irene carved the shooting position as we know it today. Having played both for South Africa (I went to the same uni!) and New Zealand, to achieve such incredible things and to be a force to be reckoned with, and then to still stay so humble, it’s just incredible. Not to mention I TOTALLY fangirled when she followed me back on Instagram in 2017.

Gretel Bueta. Flair, skills, elevation and speed. Never has a netball player had such a dramatic impact on a game because they play so ‘differently’- from two-metre layups, jump shots, jump passes, athleticism that should NOT be normal! Gretel’s pace is incredible and her playing is un-markable. You simply do not know what she is going to do next and she is still so young, and does it all with a huge smile on her face. Also one of the sweetest people there is.

Madi Browne. with her quick feet, agility, ball handling skills and confidence to feed a shooter, it would definitely be Madi Browne, and for sure would she be able to feed the powerful duo of Gretel and Irene. Her never give up attitude is exactly what any team needs in the attacking side of court. Is there any ball that Madi cannot get into the circle? Her vision for her circle attackers is unrivalled. Her pace through court is so quick that not even being double marked makes a difference.

Laura Langman. Pace, accuracy, power and vision. Feisty, competitive, skills second to none and a complete powerhouse. With the amount of experience and confidence she boasts she would be the perfect person to keep everyone calm on court and with her strength in both attacking and defending I couldn’t think of a better centre to bring the ball through court. She is untouchable.

Ash Brazill. The MOST determined fighter of a player there is. Injuries, non-selection, height issues, etc. – Whatever has been thrown at Ash, she has just thrown it straight back. Her stamina on court is terrifying – SHE JUST DOES NOT STOP RUNNING. When she and Laura Langman play against each other, it’s a dream to watch. An incredible mentor and role model to so many. PLUS she’s always smiling.

Karla Pretorius. For some of you, you might not know how Karla has really blossomed into the exceptional player she is today. For starters, she wasn’t ever selected in any state/county/provincial teams during her school career. This all happened after school, really highlighting that there is no set time for anyone to have to achieve something by a specific time to be successful one day. She is the best goal defence of all time. Being smaller in stature, but that sixth sense and hunting instinct running strongly through her veins. She gets tips and intercepts that no one sees coming, is always just there to pick up a loose ball and has composure through it all. Very well deserved player of the tournament in 2019 Netball World Cup.

Laura Geitz. Simply the best and ruthless with her defending, incredible footwork, athleticism, rebounds that were terrifying in the aggression – you didn’t want to miss when Laura was under the post. She used to lead her players through her passion and love for her team and the game. Was relentless in her hunting for the ball. Every wing and goal attack knew if the ball was not on during the feed, it was game over. Just an exceptional player.

On the bench:

Ameliaranne Ekenasio. No team would be complete without Meels who plays an amazing goal shooter or goal attack and stays focused throughout, keeps calm under pressure and boasts an extremely successful shooting average. Her infectious smile and go-getter personality would also bring a great vibe to the team.

Liz Watson. Liz would make a great part of this team and she could confidently play any midcourt position and absolutely nail it with her aggression, composure in tight situations and incredible ball handling skills and accurate passing, as well as her tenacious go-getter attitude fighting until the final whistle has been blown.

Sharni Layton. No team is complete without a Sharni Layton. Sharni is one of those that you know you could put on court and she would give 120 per cent for her entire duration on court, bringing a presence both in her skills and defensive play but as well as her voice and personality. An immediate doom on any other team to face them. She would be the secret weapon and the intimidation factor. Her play was incredible and any goal shooter or goal attack would have their hands full with her playing against them. Plus an amazing personality and positive spirit.

This is my team, and I’d also just like to thank my mate Megan Pugh for helping me make the final decisions on this difficult task. I’m happy with the team I put forward and thank goodness they would never actually play against each other, because good luck to any team trying to face this strong 10.

SIGI BURGER’S ALL STARS

GS: Irene van Dyk
GA: Gretel Bueta (Nee Tippett)
WA: Madi Browne
C: Laura Langman
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Laura Geitz

BENCH: Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Liz Watson, Sharni Layton

Netball fantasy teams: West Coast Fever All-Stars v. Adelaide Thunderbirds All-Stars

THE West Coast Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds have a highly decorated history with both clubs boasting a long line of a-class players since their inception. Draft Central has comprised two All-Star teams filled with past and present players.

West Coast Fever:

GK: Courtney Bruce
GD: Eboni Usoro-Brown
WD: Ash Brazill
C: Shae Brown
WA: Madi Browne
GA: Nat Medhurst
GS: Caitlin Bassett

BENCH: Jhaniele Fowler, Stacey Marinkovich, Ama Agbeze

Although they have not tasted a lot of success throughout their time in both the ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball, the West Coast Fever has been home to a wealth of highly talented netballers both from an Australian and international perspective. When it comes to the goal circle the Fever have been littered with stars none bigger than Australian Diamonds captain, Caitlin Bassett. The towering goal shooter really made a name for herself under the post for the Fever with her strong holds, lanky arms and volume. Her connection with teammate and fellow former Diamond Nat Medhurst was near on unstoppable. Medhurst was the real playmaker inside the attacking third with her impressive balance, vision and ability to think two steps ahead of her opponents. While she did not put up a high amount of goals it was her off the ball work that made her such a damaging player.

Moving into wing attack is Madi Browne. The speedy centre court player oozes strength and excellent ball handling skills to deliver the ball with precision to the goalers. Shae Brown was a key contributor for the Fever, spending almost ten years at the club using her energiser bunny speed to dart around the court and cause havoc. The centre proved that she could run all day and was not afraid to put in the hard yards taking the strong drive to the top of the goal circle. It is no surprise that wing defence come centre Ash Brazill gets the start in the All-Star Fever team given her sheer athleticism, speed off the mark and ability to make something out of nothing. Brazill quickly developed into one of the most influential players with her defensive pressure constantly on show and desperation to attack the ball.

Down in defence is England Roses goal defence Eboni Usoro-Brown who is renowned for her body on body pressure, physicality under the post and ability to pick off intercepts. She is light on her feet and uses her long arms to cause confusion for the feeders looking into the circle. Current captain and Diamonds keeper, Courtney Bruce takes out the goal keeper position thanks to her tenacity and impressive leap. She does not take a backwards step on the court, consistently looking to take on the physical tussle and use her quick footwork to get around the body of her opponents and force tips and turnovers.

Rounding out the team is Jamaican shooting powerhouse Jhaniele Fowler along with former England Roses captain Ama Agbeze, while coach and former midcourter Stacey Marinkovich also earned herself a spot on the All-Star team.

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

GK: Sharni Layton
GD: Mo’onia Gerrard
WD: Renae Ingles
C: Natalie Bode (nee von Bertouch)
WA: Chelsea Pitman
GA: Erin Bell
GS: Maria Folau

BENCH: Carla Borrego, Maddy Proud, Rebecca Bulley

Over the years the Adelaide Thunderbirds have added to their trophy cabinet and experienced their fair share of success. With that success has come some highly talented players filtering through the club such as former Australian goal keeper Sharni Layton. She was one of the most dynamic and physical defenders in the game, renowned for her constant niggle and innate ability to go screaming out for an intercept. Her constant movement, hands over pressure and sheer pressure was a focal point of her game much like her defensive counterpart Mo’onia Gerrard. The goal defence was strong both in the air and at ground level, hustling for every ball that came her way and not giving her opponent an inch. Gerrard used her speed off the mark to force turnovers and apply pressure.

In at wing defence is none other than Renae Ingles. Arguably one of the most profound and impactful wing defences in the competition Ingles was the heart and soul of the Thunderbirds for many years, thanks to her on-court leadership and netball nous. Her go-get it attitude, long reaching arms and innate ability to sense the moment and make something special happen was second to none. Another former captain in Natalie Bode takes out the centre position with the dynamic midcourter able to run all day and ply her trade across the court. Her precision ball placement, strength around the goal circle and impressive vision made her hard to stop when on song. While in wing attack is England Roses and current Thunderbirds co-captain Chelsea Pitman. She is a smooth mover, that boasts plenty of class with ball in hand and a high level of execution.

The goal circle is full of long bomb specialists with yet another former T’birds captain and Australian Diamonds shooter, Erin Bell taking out the goal attack position. Her high release sky-scraper shots, silky movement across the court and cool, calm temperament was a key reason to their success. She was not afraid to back herself from range and showcased her spatial awareness every time she was on court. While she only spent one season with the Thunderbirds, Maria Folau had an undeniable impact in the goal circle with the long bomb specialist well and truly living up to her name. Her effortless shooting action and accuracy to post proved to be the key for the Thunderbirds throughout the 2019 season.

On the bench and unlucky not to get a start is defender Rebecca Bulley, renowned for her tagging style of play, while former basketballer Carla Borrego and fan favourite Maddy Proud both also got the call up.

Who would win?

Although the Adelaide Thunderbirds have won more premierships than the West Coast Fever throughout history, it is hard to go past the quality talent on the list. The Fever probably have the upper hand when it comes to goalers with the likes of Fowler, Medhurst and Bassett all at their disposal. Defensively both teams are stacked but the scales tilt towards the Fever given their extra depth.

Who wins this All-Star battle of the West and South?
West Coast Fever
Adelaide Thunderbirds
Created with Poll Maker

Netball fantasy team: All-Star Vixens v. All-Star Swifts

THERE is no denying that over the years both the Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts have welcomed their fair share of star players and have played in some epic battles to ignite the Sargeant-McKinnis Cup. Therefore, Draft Central has decided to create a fantasy team taking into account players that have been at each respective club for two or more seasons in order to form an all-stars list.

All-Star Melbourne Vixens

GK: Geva Mentor
GD: Bianca Chatfield
WD: Renae Ingles
C: Madi Browne
WA: Liz Watson
GA: Sharelle McMahon
GS: Caitlin Thwaites
BENCH: Mwai Kumwenda, Kate Moloney, Julie Corletto

The Melbourne Vixens have always had a plethora of stars wear the dress since their inception making them one of the biggest powerhouses in Australian netball history. Starting in defence, the influence of Geva Mentor was profound with the English international winning a whopping four best and fairest medals for the club ranging from 2012 to 2017 highlighting just how much of an influence she had down back with her impressive timing, defensive pressure and keen eye for intercepts. Fellow defender Bianca Chatfield was also renowned for her immense pressure over the shot, smothering style of play and ability to create turnovers while wing defence Renae Ingles is in a league of her own. Ingles has simply got better with time, credit to her high level of endurance, speed off the mark and deceptively long arms constantly able to force tips to disrupt any form of attacking flow for the opposition. Prior to joining the black and white in the Suncorp Super Netball, Madi Browne was a key cog in the attack unit for the Vixens with her precise movement, speed and well-weighted passes on full show. Browne is strong around the top of the goal circle able to hustle for position much like fellow teammate in this fantasy side Liz Watson. The wing attack is arguably one of the world’s best when it comes to consistency, vision and most importantly cleanliness hardly ever throwing away balls thanks to her impressive skillset. Talking of impressive skillsets cue Sharelle McMahon, the talented goal attack was a great servant to the Vixens guiding them to a premiership in 2009 with her accuracy to post, smooth movement and reliability on full display. McMahon never failed to disappoint for the Vixens faithful much like goal shooter Cailtin Thwaites who made her much awaited return in 2019 after somewhat of 10 years. Thwaites is consistent under the post, able to use her strength to hold space and most importantly score freely. She is not afraid to back herself from range and uses her quick feet to reposition and go to post. Unlucky not to make the starting seven is Mwai Kumwenda who has been a star for the Vixens since signing with them thanks to her aerial ability along with captain Kate Moloney through the midcourt. When it comes to defence Julie Corletto just missed out given the influence both Mentor and Chatfield at the club.

All-Star NSW Swifts

GK: Sharni Layton
GD: Mo’onia Gerrard
WD: Abbey McColloch
C: Kim Green
WA: Paige Hadley
GA: Susan Pettitt
GS: Catherine Cox
BENCH: Sam Wallace, Maddy Proud, Sonia Mkoloma,

Another powerhouse of netball in Australia is the NSW Swifts who have found their straps in recent seasons winning the premiership last year but have boasted impressive line-ups previously with the likes of Sharni Layton leading the way down back. Although she made the move in 2017 to the Magpies, Layton played a wealth of her career in the red and white where she made a name for herself with her physical style of play and ability to relentlessly hunt the ball. Throw in the likes of Mo’onia Gerrard and the Swifts had one of the toughest defence units given their physical pressure and tenacity. Gerrard was not afraid to put her body on the line throwing herself into every contest that came her way and using her quick feet to get around the body of her opponents. Through the midcourt, former captain Abbey McColloch was solid, consistently able to do the little things well and build pressure with her tagging style of defence. Centre come wing attack, Kim Green was renowned for her ability to do the unthinkable and thread the needle with her impossible passes. Green was in a league of her own and was a key contributor the Swifts early success with her high endurance, speed and workhorse mentality before switching to the GIANTS in 2017. Fellow midcourter Paige Hadley has developed into one of the clubs strongest leaders with her hard work, ability to hustle around the goal circle and versatility to switch between attack and defence with ease. Moving into the goal circle the Swifts boast one of the most stacked line-ups with veteran Susan Pettitt consistently showcasing her ability to glide across the court and hit the scoreboard. Her impressive netball IQ and ability to score from anywhere made her a handful but it is hard to go past the likes of Diamonds star and Swifts favourite Catherine Cox. The goal shooter could turn a game on its head with her accuracy and volume, not afraid to demand the ball under the post with her strong holds and fancy footwork. With so many players to choose from, current Swift Sam Wallace and Maddy Proud were unlucky to not make the starting seven while veteran Sonia Mkoloma just missed out.

Who would win?

It is near on impossible to decide who would win but given the Vixens star power both in the goal circle and defensively, one could argue that the scales would tilt in favour of the Vixens. Having the likes of Thwaites, McMahon under the post puts them in good stead to put up a hefty total while the defensive pressure through the midcourt coming from the likes of Ingles and Chatfield would be hard to quell. However, the Swifts are not without their own star power in the likes of Cox and Layton.

Which All-Star team would win?
All-Star Vixens
All-Star Swifts
Created with Quiz Maker

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown – #23/#22

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 at number 23, with English shooter and recent Roses addition Sophie Drakeford-Lewis along with up and coming Australian defender Matilda Garrett in at 22. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Recently named in the Roses squad in the series against South Africa, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has plenty of promise and will be hoping to continue her development. Although she has only played two international caps the goal attack has plenty of upside at 21-years-old that will excite the England fans. The up and coming shooter is a smooth mover, able to effortlessly glide across the court and while she does not put up a wealth of shots makes her presence known on the scoreboard when need be. She is cool, calm and collected under pressure and has played a good support role to the likes of Kim Commane at Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) level for Team Bath. Her high netball IQ and natural instincts are what makes her such an exciting prospect. She has plied her trade at the development levels with the Roses taking part in the Youth World Cup where she won bronze highlighting just how much class and skill she has.

Coming in at 22 is Collingwood Magpies defender, Matilda Garrett. She has had an up and down Suncorp Super Netball career so far, struggling to find her feet last year after suffering a calf injury in the early stages but has shown plenty of potential. She is an exciting prospect that has a bright future ahead of her, given her ability to read the play, get hands to ball and create turnovers. Her lean over the shot is one to be envious of, able to upset goalers with her hands over pressure and has had some high quality role models throughout her career playing with the likes of Geva Mentor, April Brandley and Sharni Layton all of which have represented their respective countries at the highest levels. Having played for Australia in the World Youth Cup in 2017, Garrett is not afraid of the big stage able to stand up under pressure and perform something she will have to do this season given the Pies list.  2020 will be a big year for Garrett with the highly touted defender looking to ramp it up a gear and have a profound impact down back with her quick feet and skill to shut down players.

Top 25 so far:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)

Top 5 Australian goal keepers from the 90s to now

THROUGHOUT Diamonds history there has been a host of star players in the goal keeper position. Since entering a new decade we decided to rank the top five goal keepers since 1990 to now. This is an opinion-based article based on the perceptions of the individual writer and how they rank against other defenders.

#1 Liz Ellis

There is no denying that the former Australian captain and star goal keeper is one in a million and is renowned for her extreme defensive pressure. She could turn a game on its head with her read of the play, go-go gadget arms and strong leadership on court. Although she was not renowned for her flashy gameplay Ellis was able to wear her opponents down, proving to be a stalwart in defence. She used her lean over the shot to put doubt in goalers’ minds and used her quick feet to get around the body of opponents and cause confusion to force turnovers. Ellis has one of the most decorated international careers in Australian netball history, winning an impressive three World Championships (1995, 1999, 2007) and two Commonwealth gold medals highlighting her defensive prowess. While she shone on the international stage, Ellis was no slouch in the domestic league winning four premierships with the Swifts.

#2 Laura Geitz

Former Australian Diamonds and Queensland Firebirds captain Laura Geitz paved the way for future goal keepers with her skill and class. Geitz could sense a moment and capitalise no matter what thanks to her dynamic play and ability to read the flow of the game. she could pull off the unthinkable in the blink of an eye using her long reach to cause turnovers or take a big intercept. Her footwork was exceptional, able to cleanly work her way around the body of the goalers and cause confusion to pick off errant passes. Her on-court leadership was second to none, often providing a steadying head down back to help reset play and push forward. She was versatile able to body up against opponents or turn to a more zoned defence to run through and pick off passes making her exciting to watch. Throughout her career Geitz racked up two Commonwealth Games silver medals and one gold medal along with World Cup golds. Her dominance was also felt at a domestic level winning three ANZ Premierships with the Firebirds.

#3 Sharni Layton

Arguably one of the toughest and most physical competitors on the netball court thanks to her never say die attitude and commitment to the contest. Layton was no slouch down in the goal circle, using every inch of her experience to dictate the space and cause turnovers.  Although she was costly at times when it came to penalties you could always count on the talented goal keeper to pull something out of the bag. Her physical nature often rubbed players up the wrong and allowed her to capitalise and pick off passes to inflict pain on the opposition. She was an energiser bunny on the court, running rampant in the defensive goal circle and using her leap to get hands to ball. Layton made her mark both on the international stage along with domestically despite jumping around a bit. She was a part of the gold winning side in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won gold in 2015 at the World Cup.

#4 Bianca Chatfield

The Melbourne-born defender was a staple hold down back for Australia using her commanding height and quick feet to consistently pose a threat. Chatfield holds the title of the youngest player to debut for Australia playing her first game at 18 and not looking back since. She was damaging with her long reach, physical nature and ability to prevent the ball from entering the goal circle. She was one of the most durable and versatile players able to switch out to goal defence when needed thanks to her experience and netball understanding. Chatfield played in both the 2007 World Cup winning squad and 2014 Commonwealth Games to cap off her an already impressive career. She was one of the most consistent players at the domestic level racking up a whopping 244 games and won four ANZ Premierships.

#5 Courtney Bruce

Bruce could be seen as a mix of both Layton and Geitz in her game play using her physicality and timing to disrupt the flow of opposition shooters. The Western Australian goal keeper has gone from strength to strength and despite suffering recent injuries has been crucial to the Diamonds in the past couple of years. She can read the play with ease and take important intercepts when needed making her a key player for the green and gold. Her acceleration is impressive, able to cover the court with ease while her footwork in the circle is solid able to manoeuvre around the body and cause confusion for the feeders. Bruce still has plenty of time left in her career and while she has tasted some success will be looking to build on her trophy room, having made it to the grand final with the Fever but falling short and collecting two silver medals from the past World Cup and Commonwealth Games.

Recruits flood to VNL as 2020 fixture released

ROUND 1 of the 2020 Victorian Netball League (VNL) is set to commence at the end of March with an additional seven venues added to the already extensive list. The season will run for 18 rounds and sees some marquee players sign with clubs in the hope to boost their standings on the VNL ladder.

Melbourne Grammar, La Trobe University Bundoora, Banyule Stadium, MSCA, Mullum Mullum Stadium along with Wendouree and Traralgon Stadium are all set to play host to the VNL in 2020. The grand final rematch will take place in Round 5 while there will be games on the weekend from Round 1-12 throughout next year to make it more accessible for fans. The finals will follow their usual three week system and commence on August 5, with the grand final on August 19 next year.

Collingwood training partner Sharni Lambden along with Vic Fury premiership winner Sacha McDonald will line-up for Casey after making the switch from their respective sides. McDonald will join her brothers in the blue and red for 2020 while one of the biggest coups of the 2020 season will be the recruitment of Australian Diamonds great Sharni Layton. The highly talented goal keeper is set to play for the Peninsula Waves and will be a great addition to the side who struggled throughout 2019 only mustering up four wins. Layton will offer her immense defensive pressure and experience to an already developing side.

Vitality Super Netball League player, Rhea Dixon will also join Layton at the Peninsula Waves in 2020 making for an exciting up coming year. After taking a year off Rebecca Colwell is set to make her way back onto the court for the North-East Blaze in Division One with the goaler renowned for her proficiency and accuracy to post taking out the Hot Shot award in 2017 and 2018.

In addition to the VNL fixture there will be a pre-season tournament on February 23 to give teams a chance to iron out any issues prior to the official start of the season. The Casey Demons and Peninsula Waves will do battle with Boroondarra Express and Hawks Netball rounding out the double header at the State Netball and Hockey Centre for Round 1.

You can find the full VNL fixture here.

Who replaces Brandley at the Magpies?

WITH April Brandley announcing her pregnancy and subsequent time off netball who will the Magpies look for to replace her? Brandley has been a great contributor to the club working hard in defence and absorbing the pressure throughout her tenure. She has provided stability in the defensive end throughout Collingwood’s short history with Sharni Layton retiring and Geva Mentor only joining this year. But with the goal defence position up for grabs the Magpies will have to assess their options with Matilda Garrett already committed to the club we look at other possible options ahead of the trade period.

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Karla Pretorius: Sunshine Coast Lightning

The Lightning goal defence is no stranger to the big stage dominating both on the international and national stage. The dynamic defender is out of contract at the end of season and if Collingwood want to bolster their defensive stocks should look to the lanky goal defence who oozes class and composure with ball in hand. Pretorius has played with both Mentor and Kelsey Browne throughout their time at Sunshine Coast making her a viable option given the connections and understandings. The South African international offers plenty of skill, pressure and an uncanny ability to make something out of nothing. Her defensive pressure is undeniable, smothering her opponents every move while providing a strong drive through the midcourt to surge the ball forward. She can quite easily turn a game on its head and knows what it takes to work her way back into the match. With the Magpies prized as a premiership favourite filled with plenty of stars gaining Pretorius would be a huge coup for the club and could help push them one step closer to a grand final.

Kristiana Manu’a: GIANTS Netball

The goal defence has had a stand out season for the GIANTS this year but is out of contract and may be looking for a new home. She has really come into her own relishing the court time and standing up to the occasion more than once throughout the year. Though she is not the tallest defender her aerial ability is highly impressive, able to read the high ball and contest them while her tagging style of defence can nullify her opponent. Her speed is a huge asset of her game able to make up space effortlessly. She could be a great acquisition for the Magpies who will be looking for someone to replace Brandley. Manu’a is not afraid of the contest throwing herself into every situation and working hard to win the ball one on one. With the guidance of Mentor down back the combination between the two could cause real headaches given their ball winning ability and defensive intent.

Layla Guscoth: Adelaide Thunderbirds

Despite the England Roses international injuring her achilles at the World Cup, she could still play a role next year for a Suncorp Super Netball club and given her connection with Collingwood goal keeper Mentor could find herself at the Magpies. The uncontracted co-captain did not have the impact she would have wanted, forced to the sidelines in the latter part of the season but has plenty to offer with her experience and defensive pressure. She knows how to win and already has an imposing connection with Mentor making it a logical move if she was to jump ship. The Adelaide Thunderbirds goal defence is strong around the contest and reads the play well while her teamwork with Mentor could be what the Magpies are looking for ahead of season 2020. With injury to consider the Magpies might search for someone else but Guscoth has plenty of class around the court making her a real possibility next year.

SSN Midseason review: Collingwood Magpies

AFTER a dominant pre-season there was plenty of hype around the new-look Magpies who seemed to have a real spring in their step. But without co-captain Madi Robinson Collingwood have struggled to find that same rhythm and connection in attack.

Ladder: 4th
Win-loss: 4-1-4
Percentage: 99.8%
Bonus points: 16

Overview:

The Magpies have had one of the most inconsistent seasons to date unable to string together good performances and struggling to win away from home. But they have proved that when they are on song they can blow teams out of their water with their clever ball placement and movement across the court. Collingwood has won four games this season edging themselves into the top four but have been on the receiving end of some big losses with the NSW Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning running over the top of them. The Magpies were well and truly exposed by the Swifts and Lightning unable to keep up with the speed and stop the precise ball movement across the court allowing easy avenues to goal. But they flexed their muscles against cross town rivals Melbourne Vixens to claim their first win against them in history showing that they have what it takes to mix it with the best but suffer from inconsistency.

Surprises:

With veteran goal keeper Sharni Layton retiring at the end of last season, England Roses goal keeper Geva Mentor made the switch from the Lightning to the Pies and proved to be a key cog for the black and white. Her ability to read the play and inspire her teammates to follow suit is second to none while her defensive pressure creates plenty of opportunities for turnover ball. Her hands over pressure, cleanliness and vision enables her to stay in play and create doubt in the feeders mind to cause havoc in opposition attack ends.

Improvements:

The Magpies have all the ingredients to be a dominant force if they hit their straps but inconsistency has plagued them right across the court. With five new players their connections down the court are struggling and when challenged by top teams the Magpies are simply unable to stand up under the pressure. They have proven that their best is exceptional while their worst is dismal recording their lowest score in Suncorp Super Netball history. Errant passes, mistimed leads and communication errors in the attacking third have wreaked havoc for the Magpies and must be addressed if they are to make finals.

Expectations:

If Collingwood can solidify their connections and do the little things right they could be a chance to contest for a spot in the finals.

GIANTS struggle against record-breaking Vixens side

THE Melbourne Vixens staked their claim as finals contenders against the GIANTS with a convincing nine-goal win. The lead chopped and changed in the opening term before the Vixens put the foot down and took full control of the game to push out to a whopping 15-goal margin. But the GIANTS fought back in the final term to put some respectability back onto the scoreboard.

Emily Mannix broke the record for the most intercepts surpassing the likes of netball great Sharni Layton, amassing an impressive nine intercepts for the game. The Vixens goal keeper was in hot form right from the get go imposing herself on the contest and using her clever footwork to get around the body of GIANTS shooter and Australian captain Caitlin Bassett. In the first term alone Mannix whipped up four intercepts and four gains, nullifying the influence of Bassett to post pushing her up high and contesting every ball that came her way. With Bassett covered in the circle, goal attack Jo Harten was forced to do a wealth of work both in and out of the circle but it was not enough to keep up with the Vixens who transitioned down the court with ease. Both Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip put on a masterclass in the goal circle not missing a shot and picking holes in the opposition defence to find good space under the post and capitalise on turnover ball. Philip shouldered the load nailing 11 straight with Thwaites coming up through the middle of the circle to provide the goal attack with ample space to drive along the baseline and score. Defensively the GIANTS struggled with Sam Poolman and Kristiana Manu’a unable to reduce the influence of Thwaites and Philip to post conceding 19 goals.

With the GIANTS goal circle struggling to connect and the attacking third lacking a spark, Julie Fitzgerald made a surprise change by benching Bassett and bringing on young gun Kiera Austin. The change up saw Harten move into goal shooter and Austin into goal attack giving the Vixens defenders something different to think about. The 21-year-old shooter made her presence felt on the scoreboard finding the net with ease, slotting six from seven at 86 per cent but her lack of court time showed with three turnovers in the second quarter alone due to miscommunications. Up the other end, wing defence Amy Parmenter injected herself into the game using her speed and timing to get hands to ball, picking up two intercepts and two gains but her efforts were overshadowed by the attacking prowess of Liz Watson. Watson showcased her sheer class around the goal circle with impressive feeds and perfectly weighted passes while also highlighting her defensive abilities with one intercept and one gain to go with her 10 centre pass receives. The Vixens continued to hit their straps with their slick ball movement down the court, dynamic leads and vision to pierce through the defence and provide easy avenue to goal picking up their second bonus point of the game.

Down by 12 goals at half time the Vixens looked hungry and continued to contest hard for every ball and put doubt in the feeders mind, hunting the cross court ball and using their footwork to get to the ball cleanly. Kate Moloney upped the intensity across the court hitting the circle edge hard and using her defensive attributes to pick up an intercept and a gain in the third term. Meanwhile her direct opponent Jamie-Lee Price worked tirelessly through the midcourt but was unable to penetrate the circle edge with the same ease. The GIANTS centre also drew plenty of attention from the umpire conceding five contact penalties gifting the Vixens back their fair share of ball. Midway through the term the GIANTS cut it down to 10 goals before making yet another change under the post with Bassett re-entering the game and pushing Harten to the bench. It took a while for the GIANTS attack end to adjust allowing the Vixens to capitalise on errant passes extending their lead back out to 14 goals at three quarter time.

Fitzgerald reverted to her starting goal circle with Bassett in shooter and Harten in goal attack while Austin stayed out there but moved into wing attack. Veteran, Kim Green made her way to the bench after a relatively quiet night for her, struggling to find space and coughing up a lot of turnover ball credit to the work of Renae Ingles who shut down her space and leads. With the connection between the two goalers on song a late flurry from the GIANTS saw them get back within nine goals and claim their only bonus point for the game. But in the end the Vixens were too strong with Mannix leading the way in defence, forcing constant changes and working well in tandem with Jo Weston to confuse the space while Thwaites top scored with 40 goal from 42 attempts at 95 per cent.

STARTING LINE-UPS:

GIANTS Netball:

GS | Caitlin Bassett
GA | Jo Harten
WA | Kim Green
C | Jamie-Lee Price
WD | Amy Parmenter
GD | Kristiana Manu’a
GK | Sam Poolman

Melbourne Vixens:

GS | Caitlin Thwaites
GA | Tegan Philip
WA | Liz Watson
C | Kate Moloney
WD | Renae Ingles
GD | Jo Weston
GK | Emily Mannix