Tag: sophie drakeford-lewis

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

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

VNSL Roses:

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

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

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

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

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

VNSL International All Stars:

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

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

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

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

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

Who would win?

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

Compare the Pair: Nat Haythornthwaite and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis

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

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

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

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

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Nat Haythornthwaite
50 caps, 2015-present

Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
2 caps, 2017-present

Do you opt experience or youth of the England Roses in the attacking third?
Nat Haythornthwaite
Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
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Netball fantasy teams: Australia A v. England A

THERE is no denying that both Australia and England have a wealth of talented players coming up through the ranks therefore Draft Central has created two teams filled with players named in each country’s respective development, extended or futures squads and have played less than 15 international caps.

Australia A:

GK: Tara Hinchliffe
GD: Kim Jenner
WD: Amy Parmenter
C: Jess Anstiss
WA: Jemma Mi Mi
GA: Kiera Austin
GS: Cara Koenen

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Tayla Fraser, Matilda Garrett

No player in this Australian team has made their international debut yet, but have been named in the development squad credit to their potential. When it comes to weaponry inside the goal circle it is fair to say Australia has a couple of damaging options. Coached by Noeline Taurua for the past three years, Sunshine Coast Lightning goaler Cara Koenen is a force to be reckoned with thanks to her ability to glide across the court, smooth transitions, versatility and ability to shoot from anywhere. Koenen has quickly become an integral member in the Lightning squad and given she is only 24 still has plenty to offer for future years. Fellow goaler Kiera Austin is another handy inclusion with the GIANTS shooter able to switch between both goal attack and wing attack seamlessly. Although she does not put up a wealth of shots her ball placement and precise movement makes her a constant threat in the goal circle. Defensively Australia has a couple of viable options with Firebirds duo Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner both leading the way. The talented defensive unit have shown that they have class to boot with their hands over pressure, deceptive speed and ability to cause timely turnovers. Throw in their versatility able to seamlessly transition between goal keeper and goal defence with ease and both Hinchliffe and Jenner could build a formidable duo for years to come thanks to their tenacity and team work. Wing defence Amy Parmenter had a flash in the pan season in 2019 well and truly bursting onto the scene with her defensive prowess. Her connection with Jenner and Hinchliffe could hypothetically be the connection of the future down back with her gut running and speed a couple of key components of her game. Parmenter quickly became renowned for her pressure inside the defensive third, shadowing her opponents every move and clogging up space to pick off intercepts. Through the midcourt, defensive minded centre Jess Anstiss is another exciting prospect constantly hunting the ball and working hard to propel it back down into the attacking third. Meanwhile speedy wing attack, Jemma Mi Mi will bring plenty of excitement to the Australia A frontline with her dynamic movement, quick ball movement, fancy footwork and deadeye precision. Mi Mi is the third Firebirds player in the line-up showcasing just how much young up and coming talent they have in the ranks, with Mi Mi able to use her dash to create space in the attacking third and feed into the shooters easily. While there is plenty of class on the court, the bench is littered with a host of talent in the likes of Swifts duo Sophie Garbin and Tayla Fraser. Both showcased their dominance last season with Garbin doing the hard yards in the circle and Fraser highlighting her class with ball in hand. Matilda Garrett rounds out the Australia A team, with the highly touted defender able to use her height and smarts to cause havoc.

 

England A:

GK: Summer Artman
GD: Kate Shimmin
WD: Vicki Oyesola
C: Imogen Allison
WA: Gabby Marshall
GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis
GS: George Fisher

BENCH: Ella Clark, Yasmin Parsons, Halimat Adio

This team is based off England’s extended squad and players named in the Roses Futures programs. The players named have taken the court less than 15 times internationally and have plenty of potential to develop into key cogs for the Roses in years to come.Starting in the goal circle it is hard to go past the efforts of George Fisher. The talented Saracens Mavericks goal shooter has racked up 12 international caps and will be looking to become a regular in the squad. Renowned for her height, strong hands, clever holds and ability to score freely, Fisher has a bright future ahead of her. In goal attack is Sophie Drakeford-Lewis who was also named in the extended Roses development squad. Drakeford-Lewis is only 21 and is an exciting prospect able to glide across the circle and drive into the circle with confidence. While she does not put up a wealth of shots her ability to detect the space and command the ball under the post makes her an exciting prospect for the future. Through the midcourt the likes of youngster Gabby Marshall is another one to keep your eye on given her success at such a young age. Her on court leadership is something to be envious and knows what it takes to win under pressure taking out the Bronze medal in the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup. Her ability to find space in the attacking third and deliver the ball on a platter to goalers sets her apart from fellow midcourters. Team Bath’s Imogen Allison takes out the centre position with the up and coming centre court player named in the Roses Future squad. She is classy with ball in hand but most importantly is renowned for her immense defensive pressure and gut running. Similar to the likes of Serena Guthrie, Allison has a no-nonsense approach constantly throwing her body on the line to win the ball back and propel it down the court. At just 21 Vicki Oyesola has locked down the wing defence position but can move into circle defence such is her skill and netball smarts. Rounding out the defensive end is Kate Shimmin and Summer Artman. Shimmin is no stranger to the big stage with her lean over the shot, aerial ability and impressive timing just a couple of things in her extensive netball repertoire. In three games, so far in the Vitality Superleague for London Pulse the goal defender has mustered up 10 intercepts showcasing just how damaging she can be, with her read of the play and quick footwork to get into position. Artman also provides plenty of excitement with her spatial awareness to mirror her opponents every move and stop any easy entrance into the goal circle. Unlucky not to get the start in the fantasy squad is Ella Clark with the talented goaler making her way back after time out with basketball, Yasmin Parsons through the midcourt and Halimat Adio down back.

Who would win?

It is a tricky decision given the fact that a couple of players in the England squad have in fact pulled on the Roses dress but are yet to lockdown a permanent position at an international level. However, given the wealth of talent Australia has and exposure majority of players named in the fantasy side have, to the highest level of domestic competition it is feasible to believe that the girls in the green and gold will have the edge. Most players, frequently take the court for their respective Suncorp Super Netball squads meaning they are constantly tested against the highest echelon of players in the world and get time to hone in their craft and while England have a wealth of highly talented players may lack the extra physicality and stamina.

Who would win this clash?
Australia A (Yet to make a debut)
England A (15 caps max)
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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)

Vitality Netball Superleague stats: The story so far

WITH the Vitality Netball Superleague postponed until April 30, only two Round 4 matches went ahead over the weekend and the final three matches suspended until further notice. Manchester Thunder took top spot by default with a win this round, with no other leading sides taking the court. We take a look at some of the key players across the league this season so far.

Veteran Rachel Dunn hit the top of the leaderboard this week with a solid performance against Severn Stars (45 from 47 attempts), overtaking Georgia Rowe for most goals, but with key shooters Mary Cholhok (146 goals from three games), Kim Commane (137 from three) and George Fisher (131 from three) all hot on her tail and down one game at this stage in the season. Sigi Burger remains the most accurate (shooting at 98 per cent) despite not yet playing this round, while Rowe was clinical at the post on Saturday, missing only one shot (47 goals from 48 attempts) and leading her side to victory. While undefeated Manchester Thunder does not have any goalers on the leaderboards for accuracy or volume, the side has a wealth of skill thanks to a rotating circle of Ellie Cardwell (125 goals from 146 attempts at 86 per cent), Joyce Mvula (101 from 116 at 87 per cent) and Kathryn Turner (28 from 38 at 74 per cent) and trust in their players to get the job done, not relying on just the one player to carry the load. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Lynsey Gallagher are up there in the tally in at goal attack, shooting 56 and 55 goals respectively to start the season on a high.

Out in defence, Razia Quashie and Latanya Wilson lead the way in intercepts with 15 and 14 respectively. Neither player took the court this week due to match cancelation but somehow still sit ahead of the likes of Towera Vinkhumbo (13 intercepts), Emma Dovey (12) and Fran Williams (11) who have all played four games apiece. Wilson has only taken the court on two occasions this season thanks to a match suspension, making it all the more impressive that she is up there in the intercept count, with the talented Jamaican laying out her physicality and tenacity on the court. Vinkhumbo remains the most highly penalised in the competition with 58 penalties to her name, though Loreen Ngwira and Williams are close behind with 56 and Williams leading the turnover count at 22. Both Severn Stars and Wasps Netball sit on only one win from four matches, meaning messiness in defence could be a real catalyst for the sides dropping much needed matches so early in the season – but also shows a real opportunity for improvement if they can work on the penalty count while matches are postponed. Leah Middleton and Ngwira should be happy with their respective output in defence with 15 deflections apiece after four rounds, contesting the ball well and Middleton especially not finding a heap of the whistle.

Through the midcourt, the likes of Laura Malcolm, Imogen Allison and Adean Thomas remain crucial and influential for their respective sides, holding up well defensively to turn over the ball and feeding with ease in attack. Jamaican speedster, Thomas has proved a handy cog through the midcourt for Pulse, which had nowhere to go but up after a disappointing inaugural season in 2019 – something the side has certainly done despite not playing yet this round. As for the likes of Malcolm (Manchester Thunder) and Allison (Team Bath), it’s their innate ability to rotate through any position in the centre court that makes them such tough contenders, especially in undefeated teams. While both sides boast great defensive capabilities, they can both go forward when required to put their feeding ability to the test and show off their defensive pressure in attack. Veteran midcourters Jade Clarke, Nat Panagarry and Sasha Corbin may not be able to boast being undefeated thus far, but have kept the wheels turning across the court for their respective sides and are known for their consistency and ability to create something out of nothing to spur their side to victory.

Vitality Netball Superleague preview: Round 4 – Bath and Pulse face off for top spot

ROUND 4 of the Vitality Netball Superleague will see an unprecedented top-of-the-table clash on Monday night to finish off the round, with Team Bath and London Pulse facing off for top spot. On the other end of the spectrum, eighth ranked 2019 finalists Wasps Netball will take on ninth-placed Severn Stars in the opening match of the round in what will be a real test for Stars and a real make-or-break game for Wasps.

Severn Stars  v. Wasps Netball
Worcester Arena

In a massive start to Round 4, Wasps will look to redeem themselves from a slow start to the season, with the side sitting in eighth on only one win and two losses for the season already after only conceding the four losses overall in 2019. While the opening rounds don’t necessarily speak for the season, the Wasps will want to take advantage of taking on a side lower than them and use this opportunity to work their way up the ladder. Stars are in the unprecedented position of being only one behind Wasps on the ladder but will know not to come into this match too cocky or expectant, with the Wasps known for their cleanliness and consistency in defence. Interestingly, both sides have come up against two of the same sides at this early stage, with both teams going down to Manchester Thunder, Wasps by seven goals and Stars by nine, making for an intriguing battle if Stars can stay close. The real difference however is the sides’ different reactions to taking on the Mavericks, with Stars going down twice with big margins compared to Wasps’ four goal victory. Rachel Dunn has been the key player for Wasps this season with all attention turned toward the veteran goal shooter with accuracy and precision. Meanwhile, Iona Christian in wing attack has been a handy addition to the side, slotting in smoothly with Jade Clarke and Dunn. Stars’ Towera Vinkhumbo may not be the cleanest player but has certainly had an impact in defence, working well with Ella Powell-Davies while the likes of Ama Agbeze can enter the contest when required and have an immediate impact. In goals, Georgia Rowe has been the main target for Stars with the experience of Liana Leota in wing attack able to provide pinpoint feeds into the circle. 

Surrey Storm v. Manchester Thunder
Surrey Sports Park

Manchester Thunder will look to go four from four with a win in this match, with the potential of moving to the top of the ladder if results on Monday go their way, making this a big match for the reigning premiers. Surrey Storm on the other hand have had a shaky start to the season with only the one win on the board back in Round 1, and that was only by the one goal over Celtic Dragons. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska and Katy Hughes will be in for a tough one against the attacking combination of Joyce Mvula, Kathryn Turner and Ellie Cardwell, with the trio creating a massive threat for Thunder. The three shooters have combined seamlessly across the opening rounds, sharing the load in goals and all offering different options which is what makes them such a difficult opposition. In goals for Storm are Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin who have had a fairly solid start to the season, and while Hankin’s accuracy has left something to be desired, Bailey’s height has proven useful with her rebounding ability. The midcourt battle is set to be an interesting one with Mikki Austin at Storm’s helm, leading from the front with her agility and footwork, taking on the likes of Amy Carter and Caroline O’Hanlon, with both players able to have an impact through the midcourt. Defensively, the consistency of Emma Dovey and Rebekah Airey will be tough for Storm to break through, especially with the likes of Loreen Ngwira also in the mix and able to switch up the circle monumentally. Meanwhile, the calm but consistent effort of Laura Malcolm in wing defence is sure to keep the pressure on.

Loughborough Lightning v. Saracens Mavericks
Sir David Wallace Arena 

The match between Lightning and Mavericks is set to be a real interesting one, with both sides impressive in their own right though Lightning – just like last season – have struggled to put their skill and pressure out on the court at this early stage of the season. While the Mavericks sit in the top four on two wins from three matches, Lightning sit in seventh on only one win but having lost to ladder-leaders Team Bath and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder, making this a relatively even contest. Meanwhile, Mavericks have played Surrey Storm twice in as many weeks meaning they haven’t had a real opportunity to prove themselves thus far thanks to match scheduling. Mavericks’ Razia Quashie will have the tough task of taking on Lightning goal shooter Mary Cholhok, who is as imposing as they get with her height and strength making her a key cog for Lightning’s defence. Quashie is just as impressive with her aerial ability making her an exciting player to watch, able to create intercepts out of nothing and lead from the back. The midcourt battle will be a real interesting one with the sides relatively well matched through the centre, though the real test for Lightning will be stopping the likes of Georgia Lees who has a tried and true combination with George Fisher and Kadeen Corbin in goals, with the duo continuing to be a threat. Lightning will rely on leadership from Nat Panagarry through the midcourt, while Lightning’s constant defensive rotation could come in handy against a side like Mavericks which relies on poking holes in defensive units, though could also go the opposite way entirely if Mavericks can take advantage early.

Celtic Dragons v. Strathclyde Sirens
Sports Wales National Centre

The Dragons come into this match sitting at the bottom of the ladder, with a one week suspension to key pickup Latanya Wilson making for a rough start to the season. While the Sirens have only got the one win on the board for the season, it is more about their lack of four quarter effort that sees them losing so far rather than an inability to win, as displayed by an impressive effort over Surrey Storm last round. While the Dragons have only gotten close to a win in the one match so far this season, they went without a goalkeeper for part of their Round 2 encounter with Team Bath and then missed Wilson’s pressure and presence on Monday against Pulse – the current top two sides. Dragons’ Amy Clinton and Rebekah Robinson did a solid job sharing the load last round but were in short supply of ball into circle, meaning the likes of Shona O’Dwyer and Sophie Morgan will want to be right on circle edge this round against a much more even competitor in Sirens. Defensively, Wilson will want to heed the warnings she’s had in past rounds to ensure she doesn’t leave her side in the lurch again this round, while Dee Bolakoro and Abigail Tyrrell will also want to maintain constant pressure in the circle. Sirens’ Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher impressed at the post last week with their cleanliness and ability to find the ball in the goal circle, with the circle work from Nicola McCleery and Gia Abernethy critical for the side in attack. Natalie Bright and Zanele Vimbela have created a formidable defensive unit, with Emily Nicholl a handy inclusion from the bench if need be. 

Team Bath v. London Pulse
Team Bath Arena

Wrapping up the round is one of the more exciting matches to start the season, with both Team Bath and London Pulse undefeated thus far in 2020. While Pulse had an unsuccessful start to their Superleague campaign, only getting two wins on the board in their inaugural 2019 season, the side has already surpassed last years form with three wins on the board and will look to run down an impressive Team Bath this round. While Bath made it to finals last season they had a somewhat rocky season, finding some solid form in patches but ultimately unable to push all the way. This season however they have proven considerably more consistent, winning by an average of 15 goals across the first three rounds of the season. While Pulse also remains undefeated, they only got over the line by a two and one-point margin in Rounds 1 and 2, making for an interesting battle. Pulse will be in for an interesting time against the dominant defensive pressure of Bath, with the likes of Imogen Allison, Khanyisa Chawane, Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman working flawlessly through defence to apply pressure and deny easy ball into the circle. Up the other end, the combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has improved tenfold since the 2019 season, making the side a real force to be reckoned with. Bath’s real problem will be limiting the impact of star Pulse shooter Sigi Burger, whose offensive pressure and height under the post makes her a critical name in the lineup. Burger’s movement for her height is impressive, making it easy for the likes of Michelle Drayne, Adean Thomas and Ashleigh Dekker to feed into the circle and run the ball down while defensively the likes of Lindsay Keable, Halimat Adio and Funmi Fadoju have put in some impressive efforts this season so far.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 3 – Pulse among three sides undefeated

ALL five home sides won in Round 3 of the Vitality Netball Superleague, with Team Bath, Manchester Thunder and London Pulse continuing to reign supreme, sitting undefeated after three rounds. Interestingly, outside the top four the leaderboard is still relatively even, with rankings five through eight on only the one win, while two sides sit at the bottom of the table with no wins thus far.

Strathclyde Sirens (61) defeated Surrey Storm (53)

Sirens got their first win on the board for the season with a stellar performance against Surrey Storm, proving they do have the ability to surprise teams and be a real contender in 2020. It was a great first half effort that kept them on the ball with Bethan Goodwin (41 goals) and Lynsey Gallagher (20 goals) impressive from the get-go, applying offensive pressure to ensure the ball stayed up the attack end and only missed four goals apiece in an all-round terrific effort. Captain, Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell worked in tandem with clever movement through the midcourt keeping their respective opposition in Yasmin Parsons and Mikki Austin relatively quiet. Sirens defenders, Zanele Vimbela and Natalie Bright did a solid job shutting down Storm shooters Karyn Bailey and Sophie Hankin, with Hankin shooting at less than 70 per cent accuracy making it tough for the side to work their way back into the contest. Bailey was on form with 37 goals from 39 attempts but it was not enough against a hungry Sirens outfit.

Team Bath (63) defeated Wasps Netball (51)

Team Bath dominated in the second half against the Wasps in Round 3 to continue their phenomenal 2020 form, remaining undefeated at the top of the ladder. Wasps came out with a point to prove early, with stalwart midcourter Jade Clarke leading from the front while Rachel Dunn and Iona Christian proved a solid combination working well in attack, with Dunn interestingly carrying the shooting load with 46 goals from 47 attempts, in comparison to what is typically a shared effort with Katie Harris. Harris put in the hard yards in goal attack but to no avail, unable to work herself into the game thanks to the defensive effort of Bath’s Tash Pavelin and Summer Artman, who completely dominated defensively in the second half and only let in 19 goals after half time. It was a second half blitz from Bath that got their nose in front to win the match, shooting 36 goals in the second half to run away with the 12 goal win. The combination of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis continues to improve with Commane shouldering the load with 45 from 49 shots while Drakeford-Lewis impressed with 18 from 19 attempts. New midcourter Khanyisa Chawane continues to prove her place in the side, slotting in nicely with Rachel Shaw, Imogen Allison and Fionnuala Toner through the midcourt to create an exciting centre-court unit.

Saracens Mavericks (61) defeated Severn Stars (45)

Saracens Mavericks went two from two with their second victory over Severn Stars in as many weeks, though the Stars certainly did their homework, limiting the home side’s shots on goal for a slightly better outcome than their Round 1 outing. Towera Vinkhumbo, Ella Powell-Davies and Ama Agbeze well and truly had their work cut out for them in defence, and a caution to Vinkhumbo did little to help the matter with George Fisher (42 from 43) and Kadeen Corbin (17 from 18) on form with speed, timing and communication alike, while stellar feeds from Georgia Lees and Sasha Corbin on circle edge kept the Stars defenders on their toes. Razia Quashie and Jo Trip put their defensive prowess on show combining for nine intercepts and propelling the ball back up the court, forcing Stars shooters Georgia Rowe (29 goals), Paige Reed (14 goals) and Lucy Herdman (two goals) to work hard to find purchase in the goal circle. 

Manchester Thunder (67) defeated Loughborough Lightning (64)

Manchester Thunder timed their run to overtake Loughborough Lightning to perfection coming back from a 12 goal deficit at times to run out with a three goal victory. They shot the lights out in the second half with a 39 goal to 28 display after the main break credit to their offensive pressure. Player of the match Laura Malcolm did what she does best, finding plenty of the ball through the midcourt and rotating through to wing attack late, using her tenacity to find loose ball and feed to a range of options at the post. While Kathryn Turner did not put many goals on the board, her work off the body to open up space in the circle was second to none, allowing Joyce Mvula to dominate to post, shooting 37 goals while Eleanor Cardwell was also prolific with 24 goals from 28 attempts. For Lightning, Mary Cholhok was impressive as ever and especially unstoppable early, with her height making her a massive and imposing threat under the post. Midcourt defender Jas Odeogberin showed off her game smarts moving into the goal circle late to impart some of her phenomenal pressure on Mvula and Cardwell. This loss sees Lightning in a similar position to last season with only the one win across opening rounds, but with a finals berth last year the side is sure to lift in the coming weeks to replicate their 2019 form. Meanwhile, Manchester will want to continue this undefeated run and maintain third spot on the ladder.

London Pulse (69) defeated Celtic Dragons (38)

The lone Monday night match was shaping up to be a close one before the announcement that key Dragons defender Latanya Wilson would not take the court after being sent off for rough conduct in Round 2. Pulse well and truly took advantage of the goal keeper missing out, with Sigi Burger dominating at the post and proving her value to the side. Both sides were quick to the punch, unable to be split early with neither side really dominating in the first quarter, before Pulse extended a five goal lead by half time to set up a solid second half. Dee Bolakoro and Paige Kindred put in the hard yards early but had a tough battle after half time, with Pulse pulling ahead thanks to a 40 goal to 15 second half, well and truly leaving the visitors behind and proving their first few wins were not just flukes. Halimat Adio was on fire for Pulse, winning back a wealth of ball and teaming up well with Lindsay Keable to force long bombs from the Dragons, while midcourter Adean Thomas was key through the centre, providing pressure and opening up space. Burger showed all her class at the post, with impeccable timing and ability to find the ball  highlighting what makes her such a key pickup for the Pulse side. 

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 2

WITH a big win to Team Bath, they were one of two teams who had multiple players in dominated this round’s Draft Central Team of the Week with the Loughborough Lightning also recording two players. The Celtic Dragons and Strathclyde Sirens did not have any players make the team, while the Saracens Mavericks and Surrey Storm got some recognition despite their respective losses.

GK: Razia Quashie (Saracens Mavericks)

Quashie starred for the Mavericks with the strong defender using her physical presence to throw her opposition off their game. Despite losing the match Quashie held her own back with her constant awareness and netball smarts. Quashie showcased her strength in the air and ability to read the play gathering four intercepts and two deflections credit to her quick movement.

GD: Fran Williams (Wasps Netball)

The Wasps defender made her presence well and truly felt down back with her hard work and ability to read the play and have an impact. Williams proved once again that she is not afraid to back herself in a contest and use her defensive prowess to disrupt the attacking flow of opposition teams. The goal defence used her quick feet and ability to confuse the space to pick up four intercepts and two rebounds thanks to her strong positioning under the ring. She put up a real wall in the defensive third repelling any forward forays with her impressive timing and netball smarts.

WD: Funmi Fadoju (London Pulse)

She had a standout performance for the Pulse using her defensive skills to block the wing attacks every move. Fadoju showcased her ability to win the ball collecting an impressive four intercepts and one deflection thanks to her read of the play and cleanliness to stay in play and propel the ball back down the court. Her work through the midcourt was also solid using her skill to keep the ball going forward and give her side as many chances as possible to score.

C: Mikki Austin (Surrey Storm)

The coach/captain of the Storm had a ripping game in Round 2 with the gut running centre plying her trade across the court. Although her side fell just short, her efforts through the midcourt were impressive consistently using her change of direction and speed to hit the circle edge. Austin displayed not only her attacking tendencies but so too her defensive attributes racking up one intercept and two deflections.

WA: Hannah Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

The Lightning wing attack was in hot form throughout the game using her strong hands and speed to slice her way through court and deliver well weighted passes into the likes of Cholhok and Clark. She showed her hand in defence as well collecting a couple of intercepts and deflections credit to her ability to read the flow and desire to win the ball back for her side. Williams was precise with ball in hand, hitting the circle edge hard to provide good feeds into the shooters.

GA: Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (Team Bath)

The talented goal attack had a strong performance in her sides win credit to her smooth movement across the court and ability to hit the scoreboard. At only 21 years old Drakeford-Lewis was composed out on court working well with teammate Kim Commane in the circle to open up the space and create easy scoring opportunities. The Team Bath representative slotted 25 goals from 28 attempts at 89 per cent highlighting her accuracy and volume.

GS: Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning)

In arguably a best on performance for the Lightning Cholhok led from the front with the highly skilled goal shooter using her athleticism to full effect. She is an exciting player given her explosiveness and ability to hold space in the circle paired with her strength on the take. Her quick footwork and ability to reign in loose passes made her hard to stop with the Lightning reaping the rewards of her accuracy to post with 46 goals from 48 attempts.

BENCH: Georgia Rowe (Severn Stars), Emma Dovey (Manchester Thunder), Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

Despite being up against some high quality opposition Georgia Rowe made the most of her opportunities with her accuracy to post on full display. Rowe held her own in the circle with her strong holds and high volume with 43 goals from 45 attempts at an impressive 96 per cent. After a solid defensive effort in her sides win Emma Dovey just missed out on a starting spot but made her way onto the bench. Dovey used her three-foot marking and defensive smarts to clog up space, ultimately picking up three intercepts and a couple of deflections. Through the midcourt Imogen Allison was instrumental with her defensive pressure a key attribute of her game. Allison is renowned for her ability to wreak havoc in the defensive and middle third thanks to her read of the play, speed and quick hands often forcing turnovers and this performance was no different with a couple of intercepts and deflections.

Vitality Netball Superleague review: Round 2 – Team Bath continues hot start to season

THE second round of Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) brought plenty of controversy and close encounters with sides battling hard to claim early ascendancy. New recruits continued to make waves in their new colours while the tried and tested combinations of years gone by also proved to be the difference in narrow wins.

Severn Stars (56) defeated by Manchester Thunder (65)

The Thunder made it two from two to open the season downing the Severn Stars in convincing fashion. It was an even first term with only one goal separating the sides at quarter time before the Thunder started to hit their straps in the second to extend their lead. But a strong third quarter from the Stars kept them alive scoring 17 goals to reduce the margin and keep them in touch heading into the final quarter. However, the Thunder were not about to lie down piling on the pain in the final quarter with an impressing 19 goals to run out with a strong nine goal lead. Accuracy proved no issue for either side with a combined 14 shots missed while Manchester proved to be stronger under the post offensively with 11 rebounds.

It was a shooting showdown, with Stars goal shooter Georgia Rowe leading from the front with an impressive 43 goals from 45 attempts at 96 per cent. Rowe was strong under the post holding her space and using her hands to reign in passes that came her way. Up the other end, Joyce Mvula owned the circle with the Thunder goaler going about her business with 22 goals and Eleanor Cardwell doing even more damaging finishing with 32 goals to her name. Cardwell rotated between shooter and goal attack highlighting her endurance and skill under the post while Kathryn Turner also plied her trade in the goal circle with 11 goals. Through the midcourt Amy Carter and Ashleigh Neal combined well to feed the Thunder shooters while both Liana Leota and Bethan Dyke for the Severn Stars worked tirelessly in attack to hit the circle edge and provide good ball use to the shooters. Defensively Ama Agbeze stood tall with her experience on full display with Towera Vinkhumbo and Ella Powell-Davies also having an impact down back but not able to effectively shut down the Thunder offence.

Loughborough Lightning (59) defeated Strathclyde Sirens (53)

After a poor start to their first home game of the season the Lightning clawed their way back into the game and overran the Sirens who seemed to have all the answers in the opening term. Loughborough only managed a mere seven goals in the first 15 minutes of the game thanks to the Sirens overwhelming pressure and ability to combat everything that the Lightning threw at them. But that quickly changed with Loughborough bursting out of the blocks in the second with 18 goals and returning the favour to their opposition limiting them to nine goals of their own. With momentum behind them the Lightning continued on that trajectory applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure with consecutive quarters of 17 goals apiece while the Sirens failed to recapture the same intensity they had in the first term gifting the Lightning a hard-fought win. To a certain extent the Sirens will be ruing their inaccuracy with 12 shots going astray while both sides will be pleased it was a relatively low penalty game with 45 and 35 apiece despite Samantha May receiving a warning due to her 14 penalties.

The Lightning were led by Ugandan shooter Mary Cholhok with the goal shooter cool, calm and composed under the post only missing two goals and sinking an impressive 46 proving to be the go-to girl in her sides win. Cholhok was strong in the circle with Ella Clark playing a strong support role with 13 goals to keep the Lightning in the fight. Vicki Oyesola proved to the difference down in defence with her ability to read the play and take important intercepts or disrupt the attacking flow with her well-timed deflections. Up against Oyesola Bethan Goodwin and Lynsey Gallagher showcased their strength and connection with clever shooter to shooter interplay. Goodwin was the dominant shooter with 31 goals from 38 attempts while Gallagher made an important 15 goal contribution while the seven goal cameo appearance from Niamh McCall was not enough to get them over the line. Zanele Vimbela continued her hot form in the defensive third with the defender racking up three intercepts pairing with Natalie Bright with ease. Gia Abernethy and Claire Maxwell were strong through the midcourt for the Sirens but wing Hannah Williams proved too much to handle with her clever touch around the circle edge.

Celtic Dragons (52) defeated by Team Bath (71)

The clash between the Dragons and Team Bath was filled with plenty of intensity and ferocity with Jamaican recruit Latanya Wilson order off the court after an ill-disciplined performance on the court. Down a player in the final term the Dragons found it hard to keep up with Team Bath who took it all in their stride and put on a show in the last quarter scoring a whopping 23 goals to 12 to run out with another strong win. It was an even start to the game with both sides sitting at 13 goals apiece before Bath got some separation in the second with a 19-goal term, a lead they were not willing to surrender despite their opponent’s best efforts. In the rebounding department, the ball seemed to fall Bath’s way credit to their positioning under the post winning both the offensive rebounds 12 to six and defensive nine to two.

After a stellar performance in her debut match Wilson tried to recreate her impressive form but struggled to stay away from the whistle. Her clumsiness and inability to play to the umpire’s call caused havoc, initially forced to the bench before re-entering the game and giving away a late penalty that was the final straw for the defender who found herself sent off for the remainder of the game leaving her side in the lurch. Abigail Tyrrel was a Trojan in defence working tirelessly to cover the slack left by Wilson but it was no match for the highly skilled shooting unit of Kim Commane and Sophie Drakeford-Lewis.  The load was relatively evenly split with Commane nailing 37 goals and Drakeford-Lewis posting 25 goals while newcomer Betsy Creak showed her hot hand with nine goals at 100 per cent. Co-captain Summer Artman was solid in goal keeper along with Imogen Allison and Tash Pavelin out the front. For the Dragons, the shooting combination of Amy Clinton and Brittany Coleman proved to be strong with Clinton nailing 31 goals and Coleman slotting 15 but it was not enough to worry the scoreboard. Shona O’Dwyer was a key cog in wing attack with her ability to feed the ball into the goalers.

Surrey Storm (50) defeated London Pulse (51)

It turned out to be a close contest between the Storm and Pulse with the latter prevailing thanks to their ability to ride the storm and hold strong under pressure. The Pulse well and truly blew the Storm out of the water with a staggering 19 to six goals opening term proving just how much power they have under the post. But the Storm were not about to be embarrassed fighting back hard in the second quarter giving the Pulse a taste of their own medicine with 18 goals of their own and keeping the Pulse to nine. With the margin at four goals at half time Surrey continued their hot form in the third quarter to take a slender one goal lead heading into the final change but failed to maintain that intensity falling agonisingly short. Storm had their fair share of chances missing 18 goals while the Pulse only missed seven shots. In terms of other key statistics neither side could be split with penalties 56-53 and intercepts seven to nine.

Sigi Burger has made herself at home in the new pink dress having an immediate impact under the post with her commanding height, good movement, holding ability and most importantly accuracy to post with 32 goals from 34 attempts at 94 per cent. She was ably assisted by goal attack Chiara Semple with 12 goals while wing attack Adean Thomas highlighted her ability to find space and thread the needle in the attacking third with her quick release. Wing defence Funmi Fadoju put up a strong performance for the Pulse doing her role to disrupt the attacking flow with four intercepts while goal keeper Halimat Adio plied her trade confusing the space and picking up three intercepts. Storm’s Lorraine Kowalewska proved that anything you can do I can do too with two intercepts combining well with fellow defender Katy Hughes. In the shooting circle, Karryn Bailey proved to have a hot hand with 35 goals while Sophie Hankin chipped in with 14 goals of her own.

Wasps Netball (57) defeated Saracens Mavericks (53)

In the final match of Round 2 the Wasps got on the winners list for the first time in 2020 after going down last week to reigning premiers, Manchester Thunder. Jade Clarke got things underway with the first centre pass of the game and that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with the Wasps claiming an early lead in the first quarter and building on that as the game went on. A strong second quarter performance from the home side helped to set up the win with the Mavericks unable to get their noses in front despite reducing the margin after half time. It was an even performance under the post with each side only missing nine goals apiece while the rebounding column was won by the Wasps both in offence and defence.

England Roses and Wasps goaler Rachel Dunn led from the front letting her consistency and silky movement do all the talking while he volume was another key aspect of her game with 33 goals. Australian youngster Alexia Baker made her debut, pairing nicely with the experience of Dunn in the circle and showcasing just how much class she has with 11 goals from 13 attempts. Katie Harris also put in the hard yards in the circle with an important 13 goals to get the Wasps over the line. Jo Trip and Razia Quashie had their work cut out for them against high quality opposition with Quashie displaying her defensive prowess with four intercepts and two rebounds. Sasha Corbin was her usual solid self through the midcourt finding space and using her experience to weave her way through the traffic to deliver well weighted passes into sister Kadeen Corbin and George Fisher. Fisher was strong to post with a game-high 38 goals such is her dominance and skill while Kadeen managed 15 goals. But both were put under the pump thanks to Wasps’ defenders Fran Williams and Hannah Knights with the two collecting six rebounds and five intercepts between them.

VNSL Team of the Week: Round 1

WITH Round 1 of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) done and dusted Manchester Thunder, Saracens Mavericks and Team Bath dominated Draft Central’s Team of the Week credit to a couple of strong performances over the weekend. Loughborough Lightning, London Pulse and Surrey Storm were the only sides not to feature a player in this weeks team.

GK: Latanya Wilson (Celtic Dragons)

In her debut game the Jamaican showed just what she is made of, winning player of the match honours thanks to her defensive prowess and hunt for the ball. Wilson used her long reach to cause all sorts of trouble in the defensive third picking up a whopping 10 intercepts and collecting four deflections. The goal keeper did not look out of sorts instead rising to the occasion and using her deceptive speed and clever footwork to move around the body of her opponent in the circle and confuse the space.

GD: Loreen Ngwira (Manchester Thunder)

The talented defender put up a strong wall in defence propelling anything that came her way back down the court while also displaying her attacking nous through transition. Ngwira used her physicality to win the ball collecting an impressive four intercepts thanks to her vision and quick footwork to cover the court with ease. Although she drew plenty of attention from the umpire with 22 penalties and an eventual caution she made up for it with her good timing and defensive pressure constantly forcing turnovers. Ngwira racked up seven deflections such is her read of the play and netball smarts.

WD: Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball)

Despite the loss, the wing defence worked tirelessly for the Wasps trying to stop any easy passage to goal and using her experience to out manoeuvre her opponent. Her drive through the midcourt and sheer netball understanding is hard to combat able to consistently re-offer. Although she is not the tallest or fastest Clarke knows exactly where to go on the court blocking any attacking forays and getting hands to ball with a timely deflection. Her ability to stay in play was also another key element of her game play only recording six penalties showcasing her cleanliness and high netball IQ.

C: Imogen Allison (Team Bath)

In her new role though the midcourt Allison stepped up to the plate with the defensive minded centre showcasing her pressure creating a wealth of turnovers. Allison picked up two intercepts and three deflections highlighting her ability to get back and help out while also using her speed and good vision to deliver well weighted passes into the circle. The centre was a key cog through the midcourt providing link-up play and working hard to transition the ball down the court.

WA: Liana Leota (Severn Stars)

The experienced wing attack continued her merry way using her experience and speed to feed into the likes Georgia Rowe and Paige Reed. Leota backed herself across the court with her dynamic movement and change of speed a key component of her game play. Her attacking style of play and general netball understanding was on full display weaving her way through the attacking third and hitting the circle edge with pace and precision.

GA: Eleanor Cardwell (Manchester Thunder)

It is hard to go past the impressive performance of the Thunder goal attack who owned the position from the get go with her well-timed drives and strong hands on the take. She opened up space both in the circle and attacking third while her positioning under the post allowed her to collect valuable rebounds. Her accuracy and volume was high with Cardwell nailing 40 goals to keep her side well and truly in front throughout the contest.

GS: Kim Commane (Team Bath)

In her first game as captain, Commane did not disappoint with the highly skilled goaler able to sink them from anywhere in the circle nailing 55 goals. Her strong movement and ability to hold space in the circle gave her easy access to the post combining well with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis out the front. Commane was cool, calm and collected using her experience to create space in the circle while her clever footwork enabled her to demand the front space.

BENCH: Zanele Vimbela (Strathclyde Sirens), Sasha Corbin (Saracens Mavericks), George Fisher (Saracens Mavericks)

With impressive performances throughout Round 1 Vimbela, Corbin and Fisher were all unlucky to not get the start but made big enough impacts to earn a spot on the bench. In her first game for the Sirens, Vimbela jumped straight into the thick of things picking up an impressive six intercepts and three deflections credit to her defensive prowess and aerial ability to consistently get hands to ball. Through the midcourt Sasha Corbin was in fine form linking up with her sister in the circle and using her quick hands and footwork to secure circle edge and feed into the likes of Fisher. The Saracens goal shooter proved to be a dominant force in the goal circle with her commanding height, long reach and ability to reign in errant passes. Her accuracy and volume was also high converting an impressive 54 goals and four rebounds.