Tag: sophie garbin

2020 SSN: Season preview – NSW Swifts

AFTER an extended break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season is set to commence on August 1. Draft Central takes a look at each team, with the next in line reigning premiers, New South Wales Swifts.

Coach: Briony Akle
Captain: Maddy Proud
2019 finish: 2nd

2019 was a year to remember for the NSW Swifts, breaking their 10 year premiership drought with a 17 goal victory. Riddled with injuries throughout the season the Swifts showcased their resilience and incredible depth to bring in a host of young, up and coming players that took the competition by storm. Unfortunately captain, Maddy Proud was struck down with a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury early in the season, forcing her to the sideline while Kate Eddy also joined Proud on the sideline for the remainder of 2019 with an ankle injury but that did not seem to faze the Swifts who kicked it up a gear. Resorting to the Australian Netball League, the Swifts uncovered some gems such as Tayla Fraser and Elle Bennetts but really came through with arguably one of the biggest pick-ups of the season in Silver Ferns star Katrina Rore. She walked into the team after the World Cup break and immediately asserted herself into the thick of it, with her three-foot marking and versatility.

2020 expectations/predictions:

Defensively both Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner emerged as true stars with their ball winning ability and excitement something they will be hoping to replicate. Although the Swifts will be without the flexibility of both Rore and Eddy in the defensive circle expect the combination of Turner and Klau to stand up to the pressure. Through the midcourt Paige Hadley well and truly found her feet last season, using her speed and strength to exploit every inch of space while the inclusion of Sophie Craig (nee Halpin) injected some real dynamism. The possible return of Proud also generates plenty of excitement for the Swifts with the midcourt player able to explode out of the blocks with her fancy footwork, speed and strength around circle edge while the class of Nat Haythornthwaite will once again be on show. The England Roses star is a powerhouse in attack able to seamlessly transition from wing attack into goal attack, but it is her undeniable connection with fellow Roses teammate Helen Housby that the Swifts will be hoping continues to cause headaches in 2020. Housby can back herself from range and is a real playmaker in the goal circle, providing silver service to Sam Wallace under the post. The Swifts have arguably one of the strongest line-ups in the competition with all of their bench players able to come on and have a profound impact, none bigger than Sophie Garbin who will be keen to announce herself as a serious competitor in 2020.

Key player:

Reprising her role in the Swifts leadership group and debuting for the Diamonds late last year, Turner has a bright future ahead of her and will be definitely be one to watch in 2020. Growing with confidence as the season progressed, Turner is a clever decision maker and reads the play exceptionally well. The tagging style goal defence has the ability to wear her opponent down and win back a wealth of ball such is her innate hunt for the ball. She is deceptively quick, able to nip around the court while her smarts to double back on the goal shooter when necessary gives her another competitive edge. Her hands over pressure is impressive, getting in the head of her opposition goaler over the shot and making the goaler work for every single inch of space or pass.

Team list:

Sophie Craig
Sophie Garbin
Paige Hadley
Nat Haythornthwaite
Helen Housby
Sarah Klau
Lauren Moore
Maddy Proud
Maddy Turner
Sam Wallace

Memorable Matches: Swifts deny Lightning three-peat for inaugural SSN premiership

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look at memorable matches in recent history. Next up is NSW Swifts’ spectacular 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final performance against Sunshine Coast Lightning. Looking to make it three in a row, the Swifts put on a masterclass stopping the Lightning in their tracks and clinching their first premiership in over 10 years.

It was an impressive display from the Swifts, who came into the match as the underdogs despite spending a wealth of the season on top of the ladder. The Lightning had an impressive track record against the Swifts heading into the grand final, but that was all thrown out the window with New South Wales pouncing on every opportunity that came their way to blow the Lightning out of the water.

With youngster Cara Koenen getting the start over Peace Proscovia and Steph Wood struggling for accuracy, the hungry Swifts defensive unit of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner switched it on from the starting whistle, gobbling up a wealth of ball between them. While Karla Pretorius had a similarly strong start, the Swifts were careful and patient with ball in hand and it paid dividends, heading into the second quarter four goals up thanks to the clean movement down court.

Sam Wallace proved she was in for a big one from the get-go, and while the Lightning put some solid pressure on the goal shooter defensively, she used her improved aerial ability to post 20 goals by half time and provide a constant threat – aided by Helen Housby who consistently evaded Pretorius to be a handy option inside the circle. With plenty of young talent running around through the Swifts midcourt, many wondered whether the experienced strength of Lightning livewire Laura Langman and speedster Laura Scherian would run them down. But that was not the case with the Swifts midcourt well and truly rising to the occasion, unfazed by the Lightning’s experience and instead doing what they do best, treasuring the ball and using their cautious approach to feed into the goalers. With Paige Hadley, Nat Haythornthwaite and Katrina Rore firing on all cylinders early, the Lightning could not seem to find purchase to steal momentum away, seeing the Swifts lead 31-23 at half time.

With rotations all around, the Lightning seemed to lack consistency especially in the goal circle, and with Hadley holding off an unusually quiet Langman there was not enough drive through the midcourt for the Lightning to pull back the margin. While many expected the Lightning to fire back heading into the second half, the Swifts did not let up and came out firing once more, not allowing the home side to generate any easy passage of play and establish their signature ball movement across the court, that many had gotten to used to seeing. Hadley and Haythornthwaite continued to ply their trade out the front, providing constant ball into the circle and despite the slower quarter the Swifts were still well and truly in control ahead of a massive final quarter. 

The real turn in the game was in the final quarter, seeing the Swifts finally really pull away from the Lightning thanks to the defensive unit putting on a show and Wallace continuing to dominate under the post. Defensively, Klau was having a day out dominating the one-on-one contest, and the usually threatening duo of Pretorius and Phumza Maweni seemed to pale in comparison to the Swifts’ defensive prowess. A phenomenal shared final quarter effort saw Wallace, Housby and Sophie Garbin dominate the scoresheet, combining for 18 goals compared to the Lightning’s 11, with the reigning premiers unable to compare to the Swifts’ hunt across the court. With a final margin of 17 goals, the Swifts had come in hot and could not be matched, winning their first Suncorp Super Netball premiership and proving that trusting in their youth would continue to pay off after a rough season at the top. 

Looking to the stats, Wallace earned a well-deserved Player of the Match award, shooting 40 goals at 91 per cent, followed by Lightning youngster Koenen with 23 at 85 per cent. Housby was consistent as ever with 18 goals, 19 centre pass receives and an intercept, while Proscovia racked up 16 goals in her 31 minutes on court. Swifts’ Haythornthwaite (21 assists, one intercept) and Hadley (20 assists) proved crucial through the midcourt, and while Laangman and Scherian similarly shared the feeding role (16 and 15 respectively) there just was not enough ball that reached their goalers to be a winning side. Defensively, Klau was spectacular with 10 gains (five intercepts, four rebounds and 10 deflections – one to advantage), and was aided well by partner in crime, Turner (two intercepts). Both Pretorius and Maweni put in a solid effort to combine for five intercepts, but it was not enough against the Swifts sharpshooters.

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 12 | 11 | 13 | 11 (47)
NSW SWIFTS 16 | 15 | 15 | 18 (64)

Lightning

GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

BENCH: Jacqui Russell, Peace Proscovia, Annika Lee-Jones
COACH: Noeline Taurua

Swifts

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Katrina Rore
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau

BENCH: Sophie Garbin, Sophie Halpin, Tayla Fraser
COACH: Briony Akle

SHOOTING STATS

Lightning

Cara Koenen 23/27
Peace Proscovia 16/18
Steph Wood 8/14

Swifts

Sam Wallace 40/44
Helen Housby 18/22
Sophie Garbin 6/7

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

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

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

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

Collingwood Magpies:

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

GIANTS Netball:

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

Melbourne Vixens:

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

NSW Swifts:

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

Queensland Firebirds:

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

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

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

West Coast Fever:

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

What if … the Constellation Cup is cancelled?

THE Constellation Cup has become a permanent fixture in the international netball calendar with Australia and New Zealand putting themselves to the test and often trying out new combinations to discover some type of competitive edge. With dates for Constellation Cup confirmed for mid October international netball is in sight, giving fans plenty to be excited about. It will be the first time that Australia and New Zealand have gone head to head since last year where the Diamonds restored their winning ways claiming their seventh Constellation Cup. In that time both countries have seen some key players retire with the likes of Maria Folau for the Ferns and Caitlin Thwaites for Australia both hanging up the dress, leaving some big holes in the respective squads. While the thought of international netball looms it is all dependent on the spread and safety precautions which must be taken given the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

So what if the Constellation Cup was cancelled? 

With Australia in the middle of somewhat of a rebuild after two heartbreaking one goal losses in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2019 Netball World Cup, a lack of international netball could have a severe impact on the development of their next generation players. With Thwaites, retiring the opportunity for a new goaler is in the mix with a host of young talent such as Cara Koenen and Sophie Garbin both putting their hand up as viable options last year with their accuracy to post and clever movement. The midcourt could also have a different look for the Diamonds with Ash Brazill unlikely to pull on the green and gold due to a devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury at the start of the year leaving a chance for the likes of Kate Moloney or Gabi Simpson. Similarly the same goes for New Zealand with the Ferns on the search for Folau’s replacement whether it be shooting prodigy Grace Nweke, Maia Wilson or Aliyah Dunn. The Ferns could also be without Bailey Mes who was ruled out of the ANZ Premiership season with a patella injury, creating another possibility for a young player to take the court. With key players missing from both sides respectively the Constellation Cup would be an ideal platform for both teams to test out new combinations and allow up and comers to join the ranks. However if both nations are unable to get on court in an international setting the next time they step out on court could be in the Nations Cup when they will be faced with the likes of England, Jamaica or South Africa. 

The ramifications do not stop there though, with Australia still on the hunt for a coach with Lisa Alexander no longer in charge of the Diamonds. With no coach at the helm the Diamonds future is still relatively up in the air, something they will be hoping to get on top of in the coming months and test out at the Constellation Cup. The tournament will provide the Diamonds with a chance to test out new combinations, coaching styles and ultimately act as a trial run for the upcoming Nations Cup. 

If cancelled due to travel restrictions it also throws up the possibility of not seeing some household netball names take the court again. Both teams have a couple of players heading towards the latter stage of their career in particular New Zealand with the likes of Laura Langman and Katrina Rore. While in no means are we hoping for them to retire from international netball given their undeniable explosiveness, skill and sheer presence, retirement is inevitable in every netballers career. Langman is 34 while Rore hit the 33 mark this year and if international netball comes to a halt in 2020 there is a slight chance netball fans may have already seen the back of them. 

Travel is a key part of the Constellation Cup with games played both in Australia and New Zealand, however if restrictions remain in place the competition will not be able to go ahead and subsequently have a huge impact on the world of international netball.

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)
Created with QuizMaker

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown – #21/#20

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. Next in line at number 21 and 20 respectively is a pair of 22-year-olds coming into the prime of their netball years in Razia Quashie and Sophie Garbin albeit playing up opposite ends of the court in defence and attack respectively.  With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Razia Quashie has really come into her own this season, finding her form thanks to her physical nature and general ability to read the play. At just 22-years-old the goal keeper has made a name for herself at Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) level along with making her debut for the England Roses, a feat she will be hoping to build on as the year continues. While she is yet to lockdown a permanent position in the Roses outfit given the plethora of talent, her ability to have an impact on the court is second to none and plays a good cameo role when needed. She is a real leader down back for the Mavericks in the VNSL with her strength in the air consistently on display notching up an impressive 15 intercepts so far this season. Her combination with the likes of Jo Trip and Jodie Gibson has shaped the style of defender she is, allowing her to freely go out hunting for intercepts and backing herself in the contest despite being costly at times when it comes to penalties.

Sitting at 20 in our rankings is Sophie Garbin. The NSW Swifts representative a key cog in their premiership tilt. Garbin stood up when the likes of Helen Housby went down with her leg injury, shouldering the load in her non-preferred position of goal attack. Her effort is unquestionable always putting in 100 per cent and using her strong movement to have an impact in the goal circle. Although she is not the fastest player on court her impressive vision and netball understanding sets her apart from fellow goalers coming up through the ranks. Garbin’s ability to change up her game style from a holding shooter to a moving one is also important with the youngster steadily learning when to pull the trigger. In terms of accuracy Garbin is not afraid to back herself from range while her split allows her to claim to pivotal space in the circle. Her connection with the likes of Nat Haythornthwaite and Sam Wallace will only strengthen her game and take it to the next level something she will be hoping to do if she is to make her way into the Diamonds squad after being named in the Australia A team.

Top 25 so far:

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

Swifts knock over Magic in Trans-Tasman pre-season battle

THE New South Wales (NSW) Swifts picked up where they left off last year in the Suncorp Super Netball, with a strong win against cross-ditch rivals Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 54-66. It was relatively even for majority of the game before the Swifts ran away with it in the final term.

It was a hot start from the Swifts, bursting out of the blocks and quickly opening up a four goal to zip lead before the Magic found their feet. Their connections down the court were strong smoothly transitioning from attack to defence with ease and using a variety of speed to run the court. NSW opened up a seven goal lead midway through the quarter but the Magic drew it back to five at quarter time credit to their increased pressure. Roses captain, Nat Haythornthwaite was on fire in the opening 15 minutes showcasing her impressive balance on the circle edge and dynamic movement time and time again. Goal keeper, Sarah Klau continued her brilliant form strong on the rebound, and applying good aerial pressure picking off intercepts. Sam Wallace brought out the party tricks in the dying minutes of the quarter nailing a goal falling out of court and off balance. While the Swifts were hitting their straps, the Magic seemed to struggle in the goal circle with Abigail Latu-Meafou and Kelsey McPhee unable to find their range.

The Magic wrestled back the momentum in the opening stages of the quarter applying a heap of defensive pressure to deny any easy access into the goal circle and causing congestion in the attacking third. After a shaky start, McPhee built into the game with her strong hands on the take and ability to use her feet to open up space in the goal circle. The connection between Latu-Meafou and McPhee also started to develop with the two linking up in the goal circle and drawing the defender to leave the other open under the post. Up the other end, Georgia Tong lifted her work load in defence to cause confusion in the Swifts goal circle while new recruit Holly Fowler plied her trade in wing defence with her hands over pressure. Despite the increased pressure, Wallace remained the dominant shooter slotting them from everywhere in the circle. The contest between centres Paige Hadley and Sam Winders was one to watch with both players going toe-to-toe throughout the term to create attacking forays for their respective sides. Hadley was quick on her feet often receiving the ball on the fly and dishing off carefully crafted passes to deliver into Wallace and Helen Housby to gradually extend their lead 29-34.

With the lead in their favour the Swifts rung in the changes across the court after half time with Tayla Fraser coming on in centre and not skipping a beat. The speedster zipped around the court weaving in and out to re-offer on the circle edge. Housby moved to the bench making way for Sophie Garbin with the goal attack using her strength to full effect while the defensive end also had a shakeup with Sophie Craig (nee Halpin) moving into goal defence and Olivia Coleman donning the goal keeper bib. But the Swifts were not the only ones to tinker with the line-up with Erena Mikaere injected into the game. Mikaere used her body-on-body style of defence to full effect while also tracking the ball well swatting away a pass entering the circle credit to her three-foot marking and wingspan. Through the midcourt Ariana Cable-Dixon upped the ante using her change of direction and quick hands to deliver balls into the shooters. Overall it was a more even quarter with both sides going goal for goal for the majority but transition lacked fluidity for both sides.

After a strong third quarter performance, the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic fell away in the fourth simply unable to match the Swifts depth on the bench and high level of endurance. NSW well and truly kicked it up a gear going on a scoring spree with Garbin and Housby pairing well in the goal circle to link up and create strong shooter-to shooter interplay. Garbin let loose with a couple of well-timed baseline drives while the entire Swifts line-up grew in confidence releasing long bombs into the goal circle unfazed by the Magic’s defence. The Magic emptied out their bench with Australian Georgia Marshall making her way onto the court in goal attack while Silver Ferns speedster Whitney Souness also got some court time using her drives to the top of the circle to open up space but it was a little too late unable to peg the margin back.

Suncorp Team Girls Cup back for 2020

THE pre-season Suncorp Team Girls Cup will return in 2020 with Sydney set to play host for the three-day tournament spanning from the March 27-29. All eight teams will participate in the event in hope to iron out any on-court issues and work on connections across the court ahead of their official start to the season in May.

The newly refurbished Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney will host the round robin event with the top team from each pool set to face off in the grand final on the last day of action. The Arena will be the new home for both the New South Wales Swifts and Giants in 2020 so a couple of early wins could create a real fortress for them.

Last year brought plenty of excitement with a wealth of world class talent on display throughout the tournament, giving fans a precursor to what to expect in 2019 and with new players entering the league in 2020 expect a similar spectacle. The official schedule will be released late in the week detailing which pool teams are in and the order of games.

The Collingwood Magpies will be looking to defend their inaugural title after knocking off cross-town rivals in the grand final last year. But will also being hoping to come through the pre-season tournament unscathed after losing co-captain Madi Browne to an ACL injury in the same tournament last year.

The Team Girls Cup last year saw the likes of Cara Koenen and Sophie Garbin stand up under pressure while the likes of Mel Bragg and Gabby Sinclair both put their name on the map in Collingwood’s win. This is a great opportunity for training partners and young up and coming players to prove themselves on the big stage. It also gave an insight into team styles whether it be more defensive or attacking while allowing players to wade through strategies.

Netball Australia Award Predictions

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

Liz Ellis Diamond: Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will replace Thwaites?

IN the wake of Caitlin Thwaites international retirement, we assess some potential options to fill her shoes in the Diamonds squad. We consider their impact at Suncorp Super Netball level and their scope for further development.

Cara Koenen (Sunshine Coast Lightning)

The goal shooter well and truly burst onto the scene in the latter stage of 2019 with her hard work, strong movement and commanding presence a key feature of her game play. She imposed herself on the game allowing her timing and accuracy to post to do all the talking time and time again. Koenen proved that height would not inhibit her movement able to manoeuvre around the court and use her footwork to secure prime positioning under the post. She finished the season with 283 goals from 315 attempts at 90 per cent, along with 22 rebounds. Koenen has spent time with Australian Diamonds captain, Caitlin Bassett and Steph Wood in the circle with all three previously playing at the Sunshine Coast Lightning together making for a potential reunion if Koenen was to get the call up to the Diamonds.

Kiera Austin (GIANTS Netball)

Despite not having a wealth of court time throughout 2019, Austin made sure that she had an impact when she did make her way on court, whether it be in wing attack or shooting. She displayed her netball smarts able to work the ball down the court with ease and expose her oppositions weakness and deliver well weighted passes into the goal circle. Her movement is silky while her accuracy to post is solid when given the chance slotting 40 goals from 51 attempts along with 69 goal assists. Having played with Bassett in season 2019 she clearly has an understanding of how the goal shooter works and is able to adapt her game to suit her style making her a promising prospect for future international commitments.

Sophie Garbin (NSW Swifts)

The goal shooter plays a similar role to that of the retiring Thwaites, able to hold strong and get on the move when needed. Her versatility has developed throughout the year able to switch from goal shooter to goal attack while still putting up her fair share of shots. She is a strong presence under the post able to use her feet to get to the ball and position cleverly. She only missed 19 shots from her time on court in 2019 with 98 goals from 117 attempts highlighting her ability to have an influence on the court along with her consistency.

Tegan Philip (Melbourne Vixens)

Despite playing with the Diamonds in the recent Constellation Cup, Philip could find herself with a more regular role next international season. She offers plenty of speed and crafty off the body work to open up space and while she typically plays goal attack can slot into the goal shooter role if someone like Gretel Tippett is out the front. Her accuracy is solid and can provide an option inside the goal circle with her strong drives and front position. Given her experience with the likes of Bassett and Tippett she could quite easily be the one, coach Lisa Alexander turns to in 2020 to fulfil the shooting role.