Tag: sophie dwyer

2021 SSN signing update: 20/9

IT was a huge weekend of Suncorp Super Netball trades as the first week of player movement ahead of 2022 was completed, with late Friday announcements coupled with Collingwood Magpies confirming its entire 2022 squad to really shake up the trade period.

A couple more clubs bid goodbye to formidable and developing talent, with Tippah Dwan and Rudi Ellis both set to play elsewhere in 2022 after spending time on the Queensland Firebirds bench this season. Dwan opted to leave the Firebirds to gain further court time and a potential starting role, while Ellis had limited time on court this season and was advised that she did not fit into the club’s future plans.

Firebirds head coach Megan Anderson commended Dwan and Ellis for their work ethic and development, thanking both players for their time at the club.

“Tippah is an amazing talent and one of the most genuine and humble players in the league,” Anderson said. “We appreciate her need to gain more opportunities on the court and have no doubt she will continue to impress in 2022. We will miss her and wish her well.”

“Rudi has been an integral part of the purple family, both on and off the court,” Anderson said. “She’s had immense growth over the two seasons with the Firebirds and we know her career will continue to progress in 2022 and beyond.”

Monday brought further changes for the Firebirds, with Tara Hinchliffe choosing to depart the club despite receiving a new offer, amidst rehabbing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the latter stage of the season. Anderson said she was saddened to see Hinchliffe depart the purple army, but wished her the best for her career.

“Tara has been a defining force in our circle for the past four years,” Anderson said. “As an athlete she’s persistent, well known for her quiet determination and competitiveness.

“She’s a genuine and selfless person who gives her all to the club and Firebirds have been lucky to have watched her grow into an amazing athlete.

“We want to thank Tara for all she has given to the club and the purple fans and wish her well as she recovers from her recent knee surgery.”

It was not all sad news for the Firebirds, who re-signed talented duo Lara Dunkley and Kim Jenner to join Kim Ravaillion on their 2022 list.

“I am super excited to be back in purple next season,” Dunkley said. “It felt like yesterday since moving to Queensland … I absolutely love it here and the purple family feels like one of my own.

“I am really proud and honoured to represent the Firebirds and cannot wait to get stuck into pre-season with the girls and work hard to achieve great things at this club.”

Jenner was similarly excited about returning to the club and contributing to the Firebirds’ hunt for finals in 2022.

“This club has a proud history and legacy,” Jenner said. “We have unfinished business, and I am determined to take it to the next level with these girls in 2022.”

Meanwhile, Sunshine Coast Lightning finally made its first announcements, with Australian Diamonds goal shooter Cara Koenen set to pull on the Lightning dress for two more seasons, while Kate Shimmin was confirmed on Monday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Kate this season, she is a real team player and her unique style of play is exciting as a coach, strategically,” coach Kylie Byrne said. “Her enthusiasm is contagious and that has been a really valuable attribute during another season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kate made some huge gains in pre-season last year and the aim is to continue that growth now to enable her to play the consistent 60 minute games for next season.

“We’re glad to have her back on board and I can’t wait to see what she produces in 2022.”

“To see what Cara has achieved in the past two seasons especially has been so pleasing and I have no doubt there is plenty of improvement to come as she adds new dimensions to her game,” Byrne said. “Cara is not afraid of hard work and while there has always been incredible raw talent, it’s that dedication to her craft that has elevated her status to one of the best shooters in the world.

“I’ve really enjoyed watching her discover her voice and take on the responsibility of being a senior member of our team and consistently leading by example.”

Koenen piled on a career best 517 goals in season 2021, starring in goal shooter with her movement and smarts, while also developing her goal attack craft and adding an extra string to her bow in the process.

“Lightning holds such a special place in my heart and I’m glad to continue my time at the Sunshine Coast for the next two seasons,” Koenen said. “I’m really enjoying my netball at the moment and the challenge of drawing some of the best defenders each week.”

In the Adelaide Thunderbirds camp, two players signed on while one bade farewell. Exciting defender Tilly Garrett and versatile midcourter Maisie Nankivell are both set to return to the fray for the next two years, with Thunderbirds High Performance Manager Pitre Bourdon impressed by both players’ work ethic and determination throughout the season.

“Matilda slotted into our defensive end with ease and has formed strong combinations across the court,” Bourdon said. “She is highly respected amongst the playing group and staff and is showing herself to be a natural leader on and off the court.”

“Maisie’s preparation and professional approach has allowed her to develop her game even further this season,” he continued. “She shined in her leadership role this season and is a well-respected member of this side.

“Her ability to play across all three midcourt positions gives us great flexibility and we’re very pleased to have her back in 2022.”

However, Victorian Sam Gooden will part ways with the club after two seasons, with Bourdon thanking the goal attack for her contribution to the squad.

“Sam brought great professionalism and maturity to our side over the past two years and is a well-respected player and person at this club,” Bourdon said. “We thank her for everything she has done for the Thunderbirds and wish her the very best for the future.”

Heading up to New South Wales, and it was a trio of goalers – across two different teams – that were announced, with NSW Swifts locking in their starting goalers Helen Housby and Sam Wallace for another two years as GIANTS Netball confirmed youngster Sophie Dwyer has re-signed with the club for the same time frame. The young goal attack had a breakout season in 2021, stepping up to an inadvertent starting role following injury to Kiera Austin, and says she is excited to return for another two seasons.

“We are building something really special at this club and I’m grateful and excited to be a part of it. I can’t wait to get back out on court again next year,” Dwyer said. “I learned a lot from the 2021 season, and I can’t wait to continue developing my game over the next couple of years.

“It’s any young netballer’s dream to play at the elite level and to do it with the GIANTS is extra special.”

The GIANTS also confirmed the return of developing goal keeper Tilly McDonell, with the 21-year-old committing for two more seasons.

“I absolutely love this club and truly believe we have something special building here,” McDonell said. “We have this incredible environment which focuses on the development of both our youth and experience where we all push to get the best out of each other every session.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we can’t take that extra step next season and bring home the trophy.”

Swifts two-time premiership coach Briony Akle says she is delighted to see both Housby and Wallace return, with the two a key fixture for the squad’s success and where the club wants to head in the future.

“Sam and Helen have been instrumental to our growth and success since they joined the club, and now have an extra maturity and intelligence to their netball knowledge,” Akle said. “When we’ve needed them to step up in big games they have delivered time and time again, and we are thrilled both will remain in Sydney for the next chapter of this club’s history.

“As well as their telepathy on the court they are very close off it and are more than just team-mates. They are friends who care deeply about each other and that’s the bond we are looking for across this club.

“We might have added a seventh Premiership to the cabinet recently but there is no intention to rest on our laurels and both Helen and Sam are key to where we want to go next.”

The Melbourne Vixens continued their daily signings with Hannah Mundy officially added to the fray for next season. The talented midcourter had a starting role throughout the 2021 season as an injury replacement, and in turn earned her first official SSN contract following an impressive run in wing attack.

“This year was a dream come true, and I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity that the club has given me,” Mundy said.

“I’m really excited to sign on officially, and to learn from and play alongside some of the best netballers in the world.

“Liz (Watson) has been a great mentor for me, particularly this year in her leadership role from the sideline. I’m really looking forward to continuing to learn everything I can off her when she’s out on court.”

2021 SSN signings: Week one

Picture credit: AAP

Where does Sophie Garbin fit in 2022?

WITH the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season free agency period finally underway, it’s time to dive into potential changes around the grounds. Yesterday, Draft Central posed the question of whether Sophie Garbin would leave the NSW Swifts in search for a starting position; with the Swifts announcing yesterday afternoon that the talented goal shooter “has decided to take up a contract elsewhere”. Today, let’s have a look at where Garbin could head for the 2022 season.

READ >>> What player changes could we see amongst SSN clubs?

Firstly, let’s quickly chat about what Garbin offers. The 184cm West Australian talent is an impressive goaler, typically playing in goal shooter and using her excellent footwork to consistently re-offer and find avenues to post. While known for her short range shooting, Garbin is rarely fazed by the contest and is willing to shoot from range if required, with her accuracy knowing no bounds. Garbin has steadily developed her versatility and endurance throughout her four seasons at the Swifts, adding an extra string to her bow to play out in goal attack and have an impact in different ways, often putting the team first to get the win on the board. Her accuracy has continued to grow with further court time while her ability to break games wide open is a testament to her adaptability on the fly and continued work rate. Still only 24-year-old with plenty of development to come, there is no knowing what else Garbin could add to her arsenal with a consistent starting bib in 2022.

Realistically, there is no point Garbin leaving the Swifts if there is not a starting role up for grabs, which puts a couple of sides out of the running – while not yet confirmed, it seems to be general consensus that the likes of Jo Harten or Mwai Kumwenda are unlikely to leave their respective clubs in GIANTS or Melbourne Vixens, although Garbin’s newfound versatility could assist in both front-ends. Ultimately though, the Vixens are in need of a born and bred goal attack while many are expecting at least one of Sophie Dwyer or Kiera Austin to stay with the GIANTS, meaning there is no guarantee Garbin would get the starting spot at either club – unless, of course, one (or both) opts for a fresh start in the goal circle. Like Kumwenda, it is highly unlikely that Queensland Firebirds’ Romelda Aiken will leave the Firebirds for another club after being a permanent fixture for so long, so unless she were to announce her retirement, it is unlikely Garbin would find a home at the Firebirds. With that in mind, Aiken hasn’t quite shown the same influence in 2021 as she used to, and with the side looking to rebuild after a couple of shaky seasons a shake-up in the front-end could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

There are a couple of clubs where Garbin would slot in nicely regardless of the current starters, with the Adelaide Thunderbirds first to come to mind with a chance that Lenize Potgieter does not return for another season with the club. While Potgieter is an undoubtable threat, she is at her most threatening under the post and can sometimes go missing throughout matches. A goal circle combination of Garbin and Georgie Horjus would send pulses sky rocketing with both players’ adaptability, with Garbin able to play both a moving role and a holding role making for an intriguing change-up with the side.

The second club to come to mind is the Collingwood Magpies, with Garbin potentially needing to settle for a goal attack start, but the potential to work with the likes of Shimona Nelsonalso unlikely to leave her current club given her connection with current coach Nicole Richardson – too good to pass up. While Gabby Sinclair has proved capable of that starting role at the Magpies, Garbin could offer a little bit extra pizzazz in the front-end, and add that extra layer for the Magpies. While the Magpies had a much better season in 2021, thy still were not really perceived as a threat with the attack just needing something extra to finish the job.

Jhaniele Fowler – and a host of other Jamaican talents – has recently left the country to participate in the upcoming Margaret Beckford Sunshine Series with many wondering whether the towering goal shooter would make a return to the West Coast Fever. As a West Australian born and raised, Garbin would fill that hole seamlessly at the Fever if Fowler did not make a return, but again, this all hinges on whether Fowler is a confirmed signing for the Fever. The same goes for the Sunshine Coast Lightning, but again, it is unlikely the club will bid farewell to either of its Australian Diamonds in Cara Koenen or Steph Wood. With no guarantee of a starting role, it would be difficult to lure Garbin away from her connections at the Swifts.

Where do you think Sophie Garbin will head in 2021? Join our Netball Draft Central group to discuss.


Picture credit: AAP Image/James Ross

What player changes could we see amongst SSN clubs?

WITH the 2021 free agency period officially open for business today, we pose the question of what kind of players each of the eight Suncorp Super Netball clubs need ahead of season 2022.

The Vixens are the easiest club to spot the hole in, with the goal attack position the clear area to switch up over the off-season. The Vixens confirmed yesterday that Kaylia Stanton would not be staying on with the club, which opens up a starting position for one of a number of viable options. The most likely choice looking at season 2021 would be Tippah Dwan, with the talented goal attack seeing very little court time throughout the year following the return of Gretel Bueta, and the type of player who would slot in nicely alongside Mwai Kumwenda. The Vixens and Firebirds could effectively do a straight swap between them with the Firebirds realistically needing a goal keeper for the upcoming season given the lateness of Tara Hinchliffe‘s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury this season, with Kadie-Ann Dehaney one who could benefit from further court time and could head north to achieve that.

With Sam Poolman‘s retirement announced yesterday and Kristiana Manu’a heading across the ditch to the ANZ Premiership, the GIANTS are also in need of a defender to fill the gap. While April Brandley has been in career-best form of late and Tilly McDonell has proved capable of holding strong in goal keeper, the club will certainly be looking for at least one more head to help lead the charge down back. Dehaney could be a viable option here, unless the GIANTS put their trust in McDonell and bring up a developing talent from the pathway to fill their last defensive position. The other big question for the GIANTS will be whether Kiera Austin will be right to play from Round 1 next season, because that will dictate whether they retain both Austin and Sophie Dwyer, or allow one to look elsewhere for a starting spot with the Vixens the clear option there.

Something needs to change in the Adelaide Thunderbirds lineup with no Suncorp Super Netball finals berths as yet, with the midcourt most likely to change given their strong options across the court. Maisie Nankivell did a solid job out in wing attack for much of the season, but given her defensive nous and the likes of Hannah Mundy potentially up for grabs, it would be smart for the Thunderbirds to push Nankivell into centre and put time into Mundy out the front, with a potential combination between Mundy and Georgie Horjus too good to pass up.

With an improved structure in 2021 and a head coach players seem to love, it does not look like the Collingwood Magpies will experience wholesale changes ahead of the 2022 season, with the Sunshine Coast Lightning looking to be in a similar position. For the Magpies, the initial thought is further bolstering their attack, with the likes of Kalifa McCollin rarely used this season for various reasons and a potential to jump ship. The Trinidad and Tobago international could hop over to the Lightning as an extra prong to the Cara Koenen and Steph Wood goal circle following the departure of Peace Proscovia and Binnian Hunt, while the Magpies may choose to elevate Nyah Allen in McCollin’s place. Phumza Maweni‘s departure from the club was somewhat expected, potentially heading back home to South Africa after a couple years away from family, with Ash Unie most likely to plug that hole on return from injury.

When looking at the likes of NSW Swifts and West Coast Fever, neither team needs anyone per se, but it is safe to say a couple of the players may be hoping to jump ship for more court time this season which means they may need to top up their current list accordingly. Sophie Garbin and Lauren Moore could be two Swifts premiership players looking to step up to starting roles, while Fever’s Olivia Lewis may be looking for a fresh start after sitting behind Courtney Bruce for a number of years. Rumours continue to put doubt upon the return of English internationals Nat Haythornthwaite (Swifts) and Stacey Francis-Bayman (Fever), with both more than capable of owning a starting spot if they stay.


Picture credit: Glenn Hunt/Getty Images

What if: The ANC does not go ahead

AS mid-September approaches, so do the initially planned dates for the 2021 Australian Netball Championships (ANC) – the maiden event replacing the former Australian Netball League (ANL), which played weekly in tandem with the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). But as have many competitions over the last 18 months, with ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in place the competition was downgraded to be played within a decentralised and hub-based model instead. With next Monday set to be the first day of the original competition and no confirmation of replacement dates or locations, we pose the hypothetical question of ‘what if the 2021 Australian Netball Championships do not go ahead’?

There is no doubt the last year and a half has been difficult for many talented netballers, with feeder competitions effectively put on the backburner and development pathways all but cut off by ongoing restrictions. While some competitions got off the ground, majority of the statewide competitions have dealt with consistent breaks in between matches, and in some cases overall season cancellations with no end in sight.

Of the major effects that the absence of ANC could have, the most obvious is that it would mean yet another year without an elite pathway and its resulting opportunities. One of the major benefits of the ANL was that it was a weekly competition, giving SSN bench players and training partners a chance to develop court skills and combinations and, in return, give the developing players an opportunity to step up to the challenge. With the ANL no longer in session, many talented pathways athletes would be relying on the elite coaching environment within ANC clubs and the opportunity to play the best of the best – realistically, the best of the future. This loss in consistent court time also inhibits players from developing their craft and combinations over the course of multiple games.

Another huge negative of the competition potentially not going ahead is that for each year the top elite pathway is not in session, more developing talent goes unidentified. Diamonds are made under pressure, and sometimes it is that pressure of top level competitions and training partner potential that allows the pathways players to shine. With so much talent on offer in state pathways going head-to-head each week where possible, the ANC would be a fresh opportunity to prove oneself against fresh legs, fresh threats, and adjust accordingly within a short timeframe.

Many players also want that chance to prove themselves capable of transitioning seamlessly to the next level, with a key example of this the development of Sophie Dwyer. Dwyer was a key cog in the 2019 ANL season, winning player of the match in the grand final despite not playing in the winning side, and then stepped up to the challenge of SSN in 2021 with little issue. Current players Lara DunkleyTayla Fraser, Lauren Moore, Allie Smith, Elle  McDonaldJacqui Newton and Rudi Ellis are others who played in that match before receiving full time contracts for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Realistically, with the competition being played as a decentralised competition this season, there is still a chance of some states and territories playing out a version of the championships next week, but with no word yet from clubs or governing bodies, burgeoning talent may have to wait another year.


Picture credit: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Compare the Pair: Maddie Hay and Maddy Gordon

AS the off-season officially rolls around, Draft Central returns to its Compare the Pair series introduced during 2020, delving into, and analysing, two fan favourites from different competitions. First up we compare and contrast midcourt talents, GIANTS Netball’s Maddie Hay and Central Pulse’s Maddy Gordon. It is hard to split the two players, with many more similarities between the two players than differences, including their rapid rise in the wing attack role and their unassuming nature prior to stepping into the position.

Hay had an incredible season with the GIANTS in 2021, with her development coming thick and fast over the last few seasons as she stepped into the wing attack bib. While initially plodding along and playing the role required of her, this season Hay stepped up and made the role her own as she became a huge offensive threat credit to her excellent connection with Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer. Hay’s ability to use her quick footwork to drive into space and lose her defender was critical, while her defensive nous to switch roles and block the transition back up court saw her defensive capability come to light. A tried and tested ball-winner, Hay was able to also spot the open space to drive into and create that second phase play, becoming one of the most reliable wing attacks in the competition in the process.

While Hay played out of position this season, it was a different story for Gordon who returned to her preferred wing defence position in 2021 despite showcasing her capacity to take on the offensive role last season. Something that sets Gordon apart is her speed and excellent endurance. Factor in her zippy footwork and ability to traverse the court quickly, and Gordon is a huge asset to her side, offering her threatening closing speed in both an attacking and defending context. Able to adjust to her opposition and role at the drop of a hat, Gordon’s read of the play is her greatest asset especially when paired with her versatility, allowing her to anticipate where the ball will be placed and react accordingly. The wing is lightning quick and a non-stop speedster, forging excellent combinations with both the front and back-ends to create a threatening option at both ends.

When it comes to comparing and contrasting Hay and Gordon, it is important to note first the versatility of both players, and second the similarity in the way they came about the respective roles. While both came through the pathways as wing defenders first, both have spent significant time in wing attack throughout their differing and current career paths, and have proved to be significant threats in any position they take the court in given their ability to rotate through all three midcourt positions. Both Hay and Gordon bring an element of defensive pressure to the wing attack role while also injecting their own take on the position, with neither necessarily playing that conventional feeder role but more so a combination of the attacking centre workload, holding strong with just the two thirds to focus on. While they each took some time to warm up to the position, since figuring out how they slot into their respective front-ends they have both become integral playmakers in attack with that extra defensive pressure in their back pocket. With their respective excellent workrates clearly on show on court, both Hay and Gordon have been rewarded with top level selection, with Gordon selected for the 2020-21 New Zealand Silver Ferns squad following her breakout 2020 ANZ Premiership campaign, while Hay earned a call up to the Australian development squad this year.


Picture credit: Brendon Thorne/AAP

This week in netball – SSN season completed as Ferns announce new captain

THE biggest day on the national netball calendar has been won and done, with a huge Suncorp Super Netball grand final sparking plenty of excitement during lockdowns, while ANZ Premiership signings were completed and club Most Valuable Players were awarded.

The 2021 Suncorp Super Netball premier was decided on Saturday afternoon, as the NSW Swifts burst out of the blocks to defy GIANTS Netball the crown and, in turn, earn their second SSN premiership trophy in three years. The Swifts controlled proceedings from the get-go through the accurate hands of Sam Wallace, and retained control despite the GIANTS’ late surge credit to Maddy Turner‘s smothering defensive workrate as the Swifts claimed the title with a 63-59 victory. Turner was awarded player of the match for her impressive effort negating Sophie Dwyer‘s every effort, while it was announced later that Maddy Proud played the full 60 minutes with a broken rib suffered in the preliminary final two weeks ago.

“They were another level from the first whistle,” GIANTS captain Jo Harten said post-match. “We gave absolutely everything to claw back the deficit but it was one of those games where you never felt like you were on top.”

The England international led her side fearlessly, but the GIANTS were outplayed by the Swifts’ wealth of options and threatening substitutes to use every player at their disposal to command control.

“We had a lot of intent but they were pretty clinical… With so many threats available in a grand final it can be near impossible to decide where to focus your defence.”

Harten was named the GIANTS’ Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for her excellent season, with Wallace, Jodi-Ann Ward (Collingwood Magpies) and Kate Moloney (Melbourne Vixens) all also awarded their club’s top honour. The Vixens also confirmed that head coach Simone McKinnis has signed on for another four years with the 2020 premiers, extending her current contract to the end of 2025.

“I’m really excited to have signed with the Vixens for another four years, and look forward to what we can do in this next stage of the club,” McKinnis said. “This year has tested us a club, and I have no doubt we’ll use this to build something really special, and I’m looking forward to seeing what that looks like.”

“The Vixens family is something I’m proud to be a part of, and I can’t imagine continuing my life in netball anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, Australian Diamonds stalwart Caitlin Bassett has been ruled out of upcoming international tests against New Zealand Silver Ferns and England Roses with ongoing knee complaints suffered during the March Constellation Cup series and ANZ Premiership preseason with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.

“This season was particularly challenging as these injuries inhibited my ability to jump, hold and move like I normally would,” Bassett said in the Netball Australia press release. “I am disappointed not to be available for the upcoming Origin Australian Diamonds test matches, but this is what’s going to be best for my knees and I will turn my focus to the recovery and rehabilitation.”

Bassett confirmed she will undergo surgery in her home state of Western Australia on social media, sparking interest about whether she is a chance to return to the West Coast Fever following recovery – the club she started her career at back in 2005 and spent 11 years with before becoming a Sunshine Coast Lightning foundation player in 2017.

Heading across the ditch, and with maternity leave and injury keeping 2020-21 Silver Ferns co-captains Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Jane Watson from participating in the upcoming test matches against England and Australia, midcourter Gina Crampton has been named captain of the new-look New Zealand squad, with Sulu Fitzpatrick named vice-captain.

While many expected the captaincy to be an interim role until Ekenasio and Watson are fit to return, New Zealand Silver Ferns head coach Dame Noeline Taurua made it clear that Crampton and Fitzpatrick were chosen despite the loss of the two figures, and not in spite of it. Ekenasio and Watson will remain in the leadership group despite sitting out of upcoming tests.

“Gina and Sulu will take full ownership and accountability in their roles but will have that support from both Ameliaranne and Jane who are still part of the leadership group and very much involved with the operations of the team.”

“She’s (Crampton) also not afraid to drive others as to what is expected and she upholds to the Silver Fern standards and values. Gina is a meticulous planner and her attention to detail is outstanding.”

Crampton currently has 47 caps to her name following her debut in 2016 against the Australian Diamonds. She will be the 28th player to captain the side, explaining that it is a “huge honour” to be chosen to lead the Ferns.

“Remembering all the great things that are happening with the Silver Ferns at the moment, it was actually easy to call Noels back a few days later and take up the huge honour,” Crampton said.

“I feel so confident in everything that Noels does that I know we will always be steered in the right direction, while Sulu has shown recently with the Mystics just how great of a leader she is. Sulu is a massive voice in our team and I think we complement each other well.”

The last of the ANZ Premiership signings have been confirmed, with first the announcement of Katrina Rore heading to the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, before that confirmation was followed by two Suncorp Super Netball delistings as the Central Pulse completed their list with GIANTS defender Kristiana Manu’a and Sunshine Coast Lightning attacker Binnian Hunt.

Picture credit: AAP / Jono Searle

2021 SSN: Season review – GIANTS Netball

THE 2021 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has come to a close with the focus now on the off-season and next year. Draft Central takes a look at each teams respective season with the next team under the microscope minor premiers and runner-up GIANTS Netball.

Ladder: 2nd
Win-loss: 9-5
Percentage: 107.03%

It was a year of so close but yet so far for the GIANTS who came away with second spot due to a disappointing grand final performance. After claiming the minor premiership and taking the hard way to the grand final the GIANTS showcased their star power and depth but fell agonisingly short at the final hurdle. Handed a huge blow at the start of the season with the loss of Kiera Austin, they impressed with their ability to adapt and flourish under pressure with plenty of big time players stepping up to the plate. The GIANTS played an exciting brand of netball, not afraid to take the game by the scruff of the neck and rely on their physical attributes to gain the upper hand in tough and gruelling encounters. 

What worked well?

There were a number of overwhelming factors for the GIANTS that got them both the minor premiership and to the grand final – one being their defensive depth. The GIANTS were not afraid to ring in the changes down back with Matilda McDonell providing a bit of spice and energy to the defensive unit when injected into the game. But the consistency and ever growing combination between April Brandley and Sam Poolman was at the forefront of the GIANTS success with the pair able to rotate strike in defence and go out hunting. Brandley looked reinvigorated throughout the season, contesting hard for every pass and shutting down space with her new found closing speed, while Poolman upped the ante down back. Kristiana Manu’a was another player that offered a point of difference down back often coming on as an impact player to shift the defensive dynamic. The other key positive for the GIANTS was the consistency and solidarity through the midcourt with the likes of Jamie-Lee Price, Amy Parmenter and Maddie Hay all elevating their game to the next level this season. The trio showcased their connectivity and cohesiveness to manoeuvre the ball down the court and utilise their turn of speed to blister away and create attacking forays. Hay in particular had a standout season, often shouldering the load around circle edge to feed the ball into the shooters and control the tempo of the game as Parmenter dazzled with her athleticism around circle edge to regain possession for the GIANTS.

What went wrong?

The reliability on the super shot cost the GIANTS at times with the side often trying to inch their way back into the contest with long bombs, rather than opting to work the ball to post to guarantee an easy goal. The super shot proved to be a double-edged sword because when it worked it was amazing as the GIANTS cut down large deficits within the blink of an eye but the downfall more often than not was the fact inaccuracy crept into the game and ultimately handed possession back to the opposition. While both Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer impressed from range when they were on song, if they were off or under mountain loads of pressure it was hard to fire on all cylinders.

Most valuable player:

Captain and English international Harten was undoubtedly the most influential player out of court for the GIANTS. She was a real barometer inside the attacking third, often shaking up her game play depending on her opposition credit to her wisdom and experience. Harten impressed with her seamless transition between goal shooter and goal attack with her movement front and centre along with her strength. Harten continued to star with her balance and fancy footwork enabling her to secure prime real estate along the goal line. She was a reliable figure in attack and while her accuracy dipped at times, she still managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over thanks to her work rate and competitive nature. 

Most improved player:

This was arguably the toughest decision to make with two prominent up and coming players at the GIANTS disposal. But in her first season it is hard to go past Dwyer who adapted to the SSN level like a duck to water. Her impressive timing, composure and smarts to play the ball around was second to none. Throw that in with her combination between Harten and the pair formed a formidable duo. At just 19 years old Dwyer grew with confidence each and every time she stepped out on court with her attacking nous enabling her to have an impact both in the scoreboard and out the front. Dwyer showcased her willingness to go from long range, or use her footwork to sneak closer to the post making her an incredibly dynamic threat. 

Photo credit: AAP

Swifts defeat GIANTS for second SSN trophy

THE NSW Swifts have claimed their second Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) premiership trophy in three years, defying GIANTS Netball a title with a massive 63-59 victory.

It was pressure, pressure, pressure from the get-go between the two teams with the Swifts firing on all cylinders early in a replica of their semi final two weeks ago. The five zip start was critical for the Swifts as they forced errors and capitalised with ease, with hesitancy and nerves plaguing the GIANTS in the opening five minutes. Sam Wallace had Sam Poolman’s number early, finding space with ease while at the other end 150-gamer Jo Harten really wanted the ball, trying to will her side into action off her own hand. There was no love lost between Harten and Sarah Klau, as the GIANTS worked hard to reduce that early deficit and stifling defence from the GIANTS stopping the second phase of movement in the Swifts attack. Despite a slow start youngster Sophie Dwyer worked her way into the game nicely, working hard to evade Maddy Turner.

Soon enough, the GIANTS had whittled down the margin to just one goal, finding their rhythm defensively to win ball back. A super shot from Dwyer saw the GIANTS take their first lead of the game as Swifts coach Briony Akle responded immediately with a tactical timeout. The Swifts patient approach saw them put two goals straight back on to take the lead once more with plenty of physicality from both sides. Despite not putting significant pressure on the scoreboard, Helen Housby was hard to stop early with her evasive movement drawing the defenders and opening up the back space for Wallace. Back-to-back super shots from the opposition goal shooters proved neither side would back down as the Swifts led 17-15 at the first break. 

April Brandley was out hunting early in the second, winning back ball off the first Swifts centre pass before a missed communication between Jamie-Lee Price and Harten saw the Swifts take the GIANTS centre in return. A miss from Housby put Wallace under pressure as she reeled in a huge off-balance rebound, and dangerous and scrappy passes were happening at both ends as the pressure continued to mount. Sophie Garbin took the court in goal attack in an interesting move for the Swifts front-end, while Amy Parmenter worked her way into the game and Poolman got away with blue murder under the post. Both sides utilised their rolling subs as Housby returned to the fray alongside fellow England Rose Nat Haythornthwaite while Kristiana Manu’a replaced Brandley in the GIANTS back-end. The Swifts still had a marginal lead, holding on by three as they retained control throughout another tight super shot period, firing back with a super shot each time the GIANTS put one on the board and led by four (32-28) at the main break. 

The GIANTS opened the second half in style with two quick goals before the Swifts got it back on their terms. Tilly McDonell made passes into Wallace slightly harder with her long arms and looming presence, but the Trinidad and Tobago goal shooter fired on all cylinders and continued to wreak havoc under the post. The lack of impact from Dwyer was palpable as Turner returned to the court after a brief stint on the sidelines at the back end of the first half, while it was the lack of movement in the GIANTS attack that proved to be the kicker as the Swifts continued to control proceedings. A couple of near misses from McDonell proved she was well and truly there to play while Price mirrored Maddy Proud’s every move to deny the Swifts easy passes around circle edge.

Fresh legs continued to take the court for the Swifts with Haythornthwaite returning in wing attack, injecting a bit more speed as the Swifts edged out to an eight-goal margin. Back-to-back goals from the GIANTS – including another super shot from Harten – reduced the margin as Poolman returned to the goal keeper position, but it was once again an ‘anything you can do I can do better’ scenario as the Swifts fired straight back with a super shot of their own. Inaccuracy shook both sides on the super shot with the Swifts the first to recover composure and go back to the single shots, holding a nine-goal lead at the final change. 

A huge final term saw both sides out hunting early, as Parmenter and Fraser both had a go for the loose ball. Wallace continued to rule the roost against Poolman as the GIANTS midcourt pressure ramped up and the Swifts were forced to revert back to their patient approach down court. Despite taking back control at times, the penalties were piling up in the GIANTS backend as Wallace and Housby combined seamlessly to pile on the pressure as they controlled proceedings with a 10-goal bugger. A GIANTS super shot off the hand of Harten did a world of good as the final five minutes opened up but a lack of rebounding efforts saw opportunities left undone. Another super shot saw the Swifts call a tactical timeout with the margin reduced to six goals, before holding on to claim a massive four-goal 63-59 victory. 

Wallace fired on all cylinders with 51 goals from 55 attempts, while Housby assisted to post with seven goals and Garbin put up one during her short stint on court. Proud finished with 23 assists to lead all comers, while Fraser, Turner and Klau worked in overdrive down back to wreak havoc with the two circle defenders combining for eight gains (three intercepts). The GIANTS had no shortage of hunt in them with 10 pickups to the Swifts’ two, but just could not convert as Harten finished with 34 goals from 43 attempts (six from 14 super shots) and Dwyer put up 16 from 22 (three from eight super shots). Hay registered 18 goal assists with Price not far behind on 16, while Parmenter and Poolman finished with three gains apiece.

NSW SWIFTS | 17 | 15 | 17 | 14 (63)
GIANTS NETBALL | 15 | 13 | 12 | 19 (59)



GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Paige Hadley
C: Maddy Proud
WD: Tayla Fraser
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau


GS: Jo Harten
GA: Sophie Dwyer
WA: Maddie Hay
C: Jamie-Lee Price
WD: Amy Parmenter
GD: April Brandley
GK: Sam Poolman


Picture credit: Suncorp Super Netball

2021 SSN Head to head: Grand final

IT all comes down to this, with the grand final match set to be decided between NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball. The latter secured the minor premiership while the Swifts secured the first spot in the big dance. With key match-ups across the court Draft Central casts an eye inside the circle with Sarah Klau and Jo Harten set to battle it out.

NSW Swifts vs. GIANTS Netball
Sarah Klau (GK) vs. Jo Harten (GS)

A couple of internationals are set to go head to head with both players integral cogs in their respective teams with their composure and smarts enabling them to have profound impacts on the outcome of games.

There is no denying that Harten is quite literally the spiritual leader out on court with her passion and enthusiasm often spurring her side on. her ability to stand up at the big moments and deliver is second to none while her overall smarts makes her incredibly hard to stop. Boasting a wealth of experience both at an international level and at a Suncorp Super Netball level, the goal shooter has a big bag of tricks that she can choose from when out on court. Harten has proven throughout her career that she can shake things up with the drop of a hat. Able to play both a holding goal shooter or a moving one, Harten is a versatile option in attack and can keep the defenders on their toes with her clever holds and drives along the baseline. The England international is a real team player able to bring her partner-in-crime in 19-year-old Sophie Dwyer into the game with their ever-growing shooter to shooter connection blossoming each and every game. Harten is capable of pulling off the unthinkable with her fancy footwork along the baseline, impeccable timing and balance to keep the ball in play. not only is her connection with Dwyer strong, but so too the midcourters in both Maddie Hay and Jamie-Lee Price. Harten is more than willing to back herself from range, happy to take the super shot while she also possesses the smarts to edge herself closer to the post. her accuracy is also another focal point of her game and while she is known to get a bit hot under the collar, uses that passion to make things happen in attack.

Klau has hit her straps at the right time of the year for the Swifts with the goal keeper a real menace down back. Despite her height she has deceptive speed and can cover the court in a blink of an eye and most importantly is not afraid to go out hunting to cause doubt in the opposition minds. The goal keeper is relatively clean and does not give away a wealth of penalties which in turn allows her to build momentum and create turnovers with her constant niggle and tussle for space inside the goal circle. Klau has a great reach over the shot often imposing herself to force held balls and regain possession for the Swifts. She is never out of the contest and works in overdrive to combine with Maddy Turner to create a moving circle and opportunities to change the course of the game. The goal keeper usually adopts a more on the body style of defence but has proven she is more than capable of taking away the space and lulling the opposition into a fake sense of security to produce turnover ball. Klau connects well with Maddy Proud, Lauren Moore and Paige Hadley through the midcourt to transition the ball out of defence such is her netball IQ.

The battle between Harten and Klau is going to be an entertaining one to say the least. With their own standout attributes it will be up to which player is able to play their own game and maintain that cool, calm and collected temperament. If Harten is able to dictate the space inside attack and use her footwork to keep Klau at bay then the Swifts could find themselves in hot water, given the momentum she provides the entire GIANTS outfit. But if Klau blankets Harten and her movement then the Swifts will be able to propel themselves out of defence and into attack.

Photo credit: SSN

2021 SSN preview: Grand final

PREMIERSHIP glory and state bragging rights are up for grabs when NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball take on each other in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) big dance. It has been a gruelling season for both teams who have endured copious lockdowns and quarantine periods and it all comes to a head on Saturday when the two sides lock horns.

NSW Swifts vs. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, August 28 @2:30pm

Having only met two weeks ago, it is fair to say both teams knowing exactly what each other are bringing to the table making for an intriguing battle. The Swifts pipped the GIANTS at the post by a mere goal in the semi-final and with an extra week off will be hoping to capitalise on their fresh legs. Conversely the GIANTS pulled off an almighty win against the Fever and will go into the game with a head full of steam.

The Swifts know what it takes to win premierships, claiming victory in 2019 and managed to do that without the services of captain and spiritual leader Maddy Proud who will be well and truly spurring them on when she takes the court this game. Proud is a real barometer for the Swifts with her two-way running and ability to link defence and attack. But she will have her work cut out for her up against Jamie-Lee Price who flexed her muscles last round with her crafty court play, high level of endurance and overall smarts.

The GIANTS midcourt of Price, Maddie Hay and Amy Parmenter well and truly had the upper hand against the Fever and will need to continue that trajectory if they are to unsettle a silky Swifts outfit that have a plethora of options. Hay is an unsung hero in attack for the GIANTS with her innate timing, vision and variety on the pass a couple of key attributes meaning either Tayla Fraser or Lauren Moore will have to put in the hard yards early to nullify her. The Swifts have no shortage of options in attack with Proud able to swing into wing attack while both Paige Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite bring their own arsenal of tricks.

Looking inside the circle for the Swifts and it is hard to deny the influence Sam Wallace has under the post. The Trinidad and Tobago goaler is an aerial threat and can add to the scoreboard with great accuracy and volume. She often sets the tone in attack with Helen Housby feeding off her teammates energy. Housby will need to have a big game for the Swifts if they are any chance to secure the premiership with the England international both a playmaker and a viable scoring option. The Swifts also have a trump card in Sophie Garbin who has proven time and time again that she has the capacity to tear games apart at the seams and really impose herself with her strong holds.

But the GIANTS defenders are no easy beats, with Sam Poolman playing arguably her best game to date and eager to keep that defensive intensity rolling. Poolman’s connection with April Brandley has developed at a rate of knots with the pair able to cause chaos down in defence with their hunt and tenacity enabling them to create turnover ball. Throw in youngster Matilda McDonell and Kristiana Manu’a and the GIANTS have a number of options that are able to cause a stir in defence and win ball back if needed.

Taking a look up the other end of the court and the GIANTS have settled into a dynamic rhythm with Sophie Dwyer and Jo Harten. An unknown quantity heading into the season Dwyer has quickly become a household name with the goal attack plying her trade from just about anywhere in the circle – especially when it comes to the super shot period. In fact the GIANTS as a whole are more than willing to back themselves from range with Harten renowned for her long range shooting. It will be up to the Swifts defenders in Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner to nullify their influence with the pair able to apply strong hands over pressure and go out hunting for any cross court ball. Klau will be hoping to tap into her physical side to upset Harten and push her onto the backfoot to give the Swifts the upper hand.

With key match-ups across the court and vastly different game plans with the Swifts renowned for their clinical and traditional style of netball as opposed to the GIANTS hard and fast style it will all come down to which team is able to settle first.