Tag: tara hinchliffe

Vixens flex their muscles against the Firebirds in Round 2 blitz

IN a game the Queensland Firebirds would probably rather forget, Melbourne Vixens showed their dominance across all areas of the court, and bench, coming away with a massive 78-50 win. Despite their fantastic opening quarter against the Lightning last weekend, the Firebirds were not able to string together a consistent performance against the classy Victorian side. The Vixens put on a clinic – and if they produce a game of this quality every match will be a premiership contender this season.

The first few minutes of the opening quarter were fairly even, as both teams sized up their opposition and started to find their way into the game. Jemma Mi Mi took the court for the first time in 2020 after missing last round with a calf complaint and was joined by debutant and goal keeper Rudi Ellis. The matchup between Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson and powerhouse wing attack Liz Watson provided plenty of excitement with the two engaging in a fantastic tussle from the outset. It felt like the Firebirds attack end were trying to find their feet, and the combination between youngster Tippah Dwan and Romelda Aiken is showing signs of promise. In the Vixens attack end, the combinations and experience made for a formidable front line who got into a rhythm as the quarter progressed and started to make their intentions known for the match. Caitlin Thwaites showcased her versatility playing out in goal attack and not skipping a beat with her clever feeds into the circle and drive to post. 

Vixens showed great patience in all areas of the court, and the experience of their Diamond-stacked side really came into play. Despite this, the Firebirds mounted defensive pressure through the midcourt, led by Simpson who, as always, was getting herself in everything. The inexperience of the Firebirds lineup became clear as a few silly errors through the midcourt crept into their game, and were punished by the bullet feeding and vision of Watson at the other end. Ellis was making her mark in her first SSN game, showing off her impressive leap and rangy limbs by picking up two rebounds on the trot. Vixens managed to take control towards the end of the first term as they cleared space easily and balanced the court, maintaining composure and staying in control on transition play, ending the quarter with 16 goals to the Firebirds’ 13. 

The Vixens gathered momentum after the break and as their confidence grew, so did the scoreline. Tegan Philip came on for Thwaites and was zipping around the goal circle leaving Kim Jenner for dust. It was clear that all seven Vixens on the court were doing their job, with Watson, in particular, putting on an outstanding show. Firebirds were letting the Vixens derail them slightly, and their passing accuracy was starting to falter under the defensive pressure of the Vixens. The youth and inexperience of the Firebirds was being exposed by the fluency and timing of Mwai Kumwenda and Phillip, and Firebirds were forced into taking a time out to try and stem the flow of the Melbourne side.

The defensive trio of Emily Mannix, Jo Weston and Kate Eddy starred, running rings around the Firebirds attack end as the Vixens extended their lead to 10 goals. Unfortunately, for the Firebirds, as the Vixens went from strength to strength, the Queensland team looked disordered and on top of each other. Their only saving grace was the tried and tested route over the top to Aiken, which allowed them some access to post through the wall of green dresses. In the final five minutes of the quarter, things got even worse for the Firebirds, who could not find their accuracy from the two-goal range. The Vixens shooters were slotting them from everywhere making the most of the super shot as the game really started to slip out of the Firebirds control. Even with Watson taking a rest on the bench, the Vixens were still way too good, winning the quarter by 21-8 and taking a huge 16-goal lead into the half-time break.

This really set the tone for the remainder of the match, as the Vixens really put the foot down. Mi Mi came into the centre position with Mahalia Cassidy out at wing attack, and the Firebirds shuffled the pack almost constantly in the third quarter to try and find the right combination. Their small errors were costing them, and in contrast, the Vixens were doing the little things well and enjoying the chance to play with freedom. They were both rapid and careful with possession, maintaining their structures in both attack and defence. In an unusual move, Simpson came into goal defence in hope to nullify the Philip with her tagging style and aerial presence. The change however left the Firebirds without their experienced leader in the midcourt with the youngsters unable to penetrate through the Vixens defensive pressure as the Melbourne based team pushed out to a 25-goal lead. 

With the score blown out to 57-32, the Vixens continued to utilise their bench players, including Jacqui Newton in at goal defence. The Vixens had only had nine turnovers in three quarters of netball, proving just how clinical and well-drilled they were throughout the game. Tayla Honey was particularly impressive, demonstrating smart footwork and accurate feeding ability. For the Firebirds, no third was really clicking for them in terms of connections, even with the typical combination of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe down back and Simpson back in wing defence. Both teams made good use of the rolling subs rule throughout the fourth quarter, testing out combinations and connections. Towards the end of the game, Ine-Mari Venter slotted an impressive three super shots in a row, which although too late for this game, gives her valuable experience for future rounds. Thwaites sunk a final devastating super shot after the buzzer, meaning the Vixens pushed the score out to 78-50. 

The Vixens will be glad their starting seven earned themselves a rest on the bench, especially when they come up against Lightning in a few days time. They proved their premiership potential and kept the Firebirds to their equal lowest score of all time. With shooters making 90 per cent in normal play, and slotting 13 from 19 super shots, the Vixens were unstoppable. They also managed to rack up seven intercepts to the Firebirds one. The Firebirds lacked experience compared to the Vixens but will be hoping to bounce back with a win against the Magpies in Round 3.

>>> FIREBIRDS TEAM PAGE

>>> VIXENS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

Queensland Firebirds 13 | 8 | 11 | 18 (50)
Melbourne Vixens 16 | 22 | 19 | 21 (78)

STARTING SEVEN:

Queensland Firebirds:

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Tippah Dwan
WA: Jemma Mi Mi
C: Mahalia Cassidy
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Rudi Ellis

Melbourne Vixens:

GS: Mwai Kumwenda
GA: Caitlin Thwaites
WA: Liz Watson
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Kate Eddy
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Emily Mannix

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 2

A HUGE second round of Suncorp Super Netball is set to take place over the weekend, with plenty of quality match-ups across all four games. With Round 3 following just two days later, expect a heap of rotations on court for all eight teams in a bid to rest players and ensure plenty of young guns take the court once more.

GIANTS Netball v. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Saturday, 8 August

The opening game of Round 2 is an enticing matchup between two sides that were beaten last week but ultimately were both in their contests for majority of their respective matches. Interestingly, while the Thunderbirds ended up losing by a hefty margin they still beat the GIANTS’ final score by a goal meaning this match could be a real close one given the shooting prowess of both sides. 

For the GIANTS, consistency is key with the side standing up under pressure for patches last round and relying too much on the super shot to stay ahead of the Swifts. That being said, they have one of the most prolific long range goalers in the world in Jo Harten, so that will likely be their sticking place once more and inevitably a huge target for the Thunderbirds defence. However, the T’birds do not currently have a set goal defence who would really be able to match up against Harten for a significant period of time given the goaler’s endurance and height, meaning goal keeper Shamera Sterling will be under a heap of pressure trying to close off avenues to post for Caitlin Bassett and using her rangy arms to deflect circle ball where possible. At the other end, Lenize Potgieter is the staple out the front and consistent as can be, with an ability to evade defence and tally goals with ease and accuracy. With Kristiana Manu’a potentially out of the side this round after a calf niggle on Sunday, expect Sam Poolman to sit back on Potgieter and the potential of both Tilly McDonell and April Brandley to make an appearance out the front. 

The midcourt battle is set to be a tough one, with both teams boasting a mix of experience and youth. An interesting battle is set to see Chelsea Pitman and Amy Parmenter go head to head, while Hannah Petty should get the start against Jamie-Lee Price but Maisie Nankivell had a solid outing last round so could add an extra defensive element to the play. With firepower in different areas of the court and plenty of players who stand up best under pressure, expect a tough and fairly even contest this time around between two teams hungry for a win.

 

Queensland Firebirds v. Melbourne Vixens
Saturday, 8 August

A huge match-up between the Firebirds and Vixens is next up on the weekend, with neither side putting out their best performance last round though the Vixens got a win on the board where the Firebirds could not compete for the full four quarters. That being said, the Firebirds’ opening half last round was stellar, proving they can certainly match it with the best, and the Vixens cannot afford to not let the Firebirds start the same way this round. 

Vixens co-captains Liz Watson and Kate Moloney are the key cogs through the middle of the court and with two physical matchups in Gabi Simpson and Mahalia Cassidy to look forward to, expect both sides to start with a bang and get the early upper hand. Simpson had a huge match last round but faded out in the second half, and is well-matched with Watson which could see the pair go toe-to-toe and limit the easy access into the goal circle. Moloney’s ability to transition between attack and defence is seamless while Cassidy’s hunt and hunger for the ball was made evident last round on her return from injury. Defensively, the combination between Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe grows with every match and as two of the most outstanding young defenders in the country expect the duo to apply a heap of pressure on the Vixens’ goaling trio in Mwai Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip, with the goalers rendered inaccurate – by their standards – last round. 

Turning to the Firebirds goal circle, Romelda Aiken is a huge target at the post and based off last round’s starting seven the Vixens could force a Jamaican stand-off in the circle with Kadie-Ann Dehaney lining up against her compatriot. Lara Dunkley and Kate Eddy will be a huge match-up, with the duo both able to apply a heap of pressure, while Jo Weston will likely get the start on youngster Tippah Dwan who will look to replicate her debut performance, though the versatility in the new-look Vixens defence could see some major changes between wing and goal defence, with Weston and Eddy both able to ply their trade with ease in either position. The Vixens’ endurance game could be both the winning or losing point in this one, and if the Firebirds get far enough ahead early they could have a real chance of getting on top to limit the Vixens’ ability to work their way back.

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Collingwood Magpies
Sunday, 9 August

Another interesting match-up, with a very new-look Collingwood outfit taking on the highly experience and consistent Sunshine Coast Lightning. While the Magpies did not get the win last week, they came out with a fire in the belly and were with the Vixens for majority of the match, and now know what to look for in the Lightning firepower. The Lightning had a shoddy start last round but ended up coming away with the biggest win of the round, meaning the Magpies will need to put out a full four quarter effort to ensure the Lightning do not get away from them this round.

Looking to match-ups, Steph Wood and Jodi-Ann Ward will likely be the one to watch, with both players putting on a show last round with their respective work rate and ability to lift where required. Wood’s long bomb accuracy will be the kicker, and if Ward can limit her opportunities to go to post the Magpies have a real chance here with the experience of Geva Mentor holding up in goal keeper ready for the rebound. At the other end of the court, expect a new-look circle from the Magpies with Shimona Nelson expected back at the post this week with her ability to leap for the loose ball and put up shots with ease. A flurry of Magpies goalers had an impact lat round with Emma Ryde, Gabby Sinclair and Nyah Allen all plying their trade to post though their youth gave the Vixens an opening out the front, so the Magpies attack will need to ensure they do not rely on just Nelson at the post this round.

Defensively, the Lightning have one of the most influential defensive units in Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius, with the duo critical if they are to go two wins on the trot. Through the midcourt, the battle between Madi Browne and Laura Langman will be huge with both players workhorses through the centre while Kelsey Browne will hope to continue working back to full court time with her feeding ability second to none and Laura Scherian a hugely consistent name out the front for the Lightning. 

 

NSW Swifts v.  West Coast Fever
Sunday, 9 August

The final match of the round will see the reigning premiers take on a fast finishing Fever outfit, with the Fever of 2020 thus far looking a lot like their 2018 side. The Swifts reintroduced Maddy Proud last round but missed Maddy Turner down back, and still managed to get a win on the board proving they are well and truly able to put up a fight against this Fever unit despite missing a critical defensive link. The only match between two winning teams from last round, a win here is crucial.

Lauren Moore burst out of the gates last round with her explosiveness and ability to impact the contest, meaning the goal defence could be crucial locking down Alice Teague-Neeld, whose all-round performance out the front last round put her in the spotlight. Sarah Klau will get the tough job on Jhaniele Fowler, while up the other end Courtney Bruce and Sam Wallace will go head to head in an intriguing battle given the duo are both very adaptable players. Helen Housby had a quiet match last round and fellow England Rose Stacey Francis will hope to take advantage of that with her niggling defence style. The injection of Sunday Aryang into the circle worked wonders last round so could take the court once more, while Jess Anstiss also had a strong outing last round so will be on the case against the rotating duo of Proud and Nat Haythornthwaite in wing attack. 

While the Fever play a very physical game, the Swifts for the most part play a clean and ball-treasuring game, using their consistent hands over pressure to limit vision and space down the court, and evading defence with a constantly moving circle. The Fever rely a lot on Fowler, so will need to ensure Teague-Neeld steps up once more if they are to get a win and draw attention away from the tall timber.

Kim Jenner keen to put Firebirds back on top in 2020

UNSURE if the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season was going to go ahead, Round 1 kicked off with a bang with Queensland Firebirds defender Kim Jenner proving the extended off-season had worked wonders. She asserted herself from the get go racking up intercepts and deflections aplenty against grand finalists Sunshine Coast Lightning.

“Yeah it was very exciting to get out there and play some netball again. It was great waking up on game day and having game day nerves and the excitement that came with it as well. It was awesome to be able to play in front of our purple family as well, it’s been a long time but we always love doing that,” Jenner said.

While it may be a new season the same pre-game routines come into play for Jenner with the somewhat superstitious defender not willing to stray away from her usual match day preparations.

“I probably have a bit of like a routine. I go to bed early the night before. I have pasta the night before and I always straighten my hair. So that’s probably one of my main superstitions, I have quite curly hair. So I always make sure I’ve got straight hair I just feel a lot more fierce and ready to go,” she said.

Entering her fourth season Jenner is no longer the new kid on the block but instead a seasoned campaigner despite only being 22. Oozing tenacity and excitement the young defender has a bright future ahead of her and has become a staple hold in the purple uniform over the past season.

“I’ve got a little bit more experience under my belt. So being able to go out there and know what it’s like and know what level you need to play at to be successful,” Jenner said. “So I guess, just continuing to build that confidence and continuing to build on the exposure and experience out there.”

Still developing her craft, Jenner’s main focus for the 2020 season is centred on creating a strong defensive unit that can win ball back and provide her attackers with a chance to score in hope to win more games than 2019.

“I guess just building that connection with the other defenders and being more consistent in playing to the end and playing to the last whistle and making sure that we’re still winning ball. We’re still doing our job all the way up to that last whistle,” she said.

Playing with the experienced Gabi Simpson in at wing defence and beside fellow youngster Tara Hinchliffe, the Firebirds are building a strong core of defenders that possess a wealth of ball winning skills with the captain well and truly leading the way.

“Gabi is such an incredible leader out there. So I’m very lucky and privileged to be able to play alongside her she’s amazing at being able to lift everyone around her and really push forward. She’s a very smart player and I’m very lucky to be learning from her,” she said.

Inside the defensive goal circle Jenner’s partnership with Hinchliffe is a clear focal point with the two making their way up through the ranks together and proving to the competition that they are no easy beats with their physicality and hunt for the loose ball.

“Yeah, it’s really exciting that me and Tara have been playing together for so long and we’re building on that connection. I guess, just each game our experience increases our time together increases as well. So we’re great at working through it together,” Jenner said.

“I guess we love it, as defenders our job is to make it hectic and to win the ball down back,” she said. “So whenever we’re, I guess, we’re feeling a bit low inside, connecting as a unit and having some time really pumped us up and when someone wins ball that really, really motivates the whole team a lot.”

It has been an unprecedented start to the season for all involved with the competition relocating to Queensland due to border restrictions. Meanwhile, the 2020 season is also playing host to a number of rule changes, none bigger than the introduction of the super shot and forcing teams to not only alter their attacking approach but so too their defensive methods.

“I guess it does throw a new spanner in the works and I guess we approach the game the same for the first 10 minutes of each quarter. But it does make you have to reconsider how you go about defending in those last five minutes, depending on what shooters are on, where they want to shoot from. So I guess you’re used to pushing your shooters as far away from the post as possible and now they want to be out there. So yeah, I guess it just switches your thinking.

Starring in the first three quarters and fading out in the fourth term against the Lightning, the Firebirds are faced with the Melbourne Vixens in Round 2 who are no easy feat given their strong connections and stellar shooting line-up. Boasting the likes of Caitlin Thwaites, Tegan Philip and Mwai Kumwenda under the post Jenner looks forward to the challenge of testing her skill against some of the world’s best goalers.

“Yeah, they are a very experienced shooting end. They shoot very well, in their Round 1 game as well. So it’s a great opportunity for us to go out there and play on some of the best, I guess, making sure we’re doing our role on our players as well, whatever that might be,” she said.

2020 SSN/ANZ: Stats wrap – Rounds 1/8

A NEW look stats wrap is in effect this week, with both the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and ANZ Premiership taking the court on the weekend. While the ANZ Premiership is heading into its final rounds with some big performers stepping up towards the end of the season, the SSN had Round 1 over the weekend making for some interesting stats across the two rounds. It is important to take into consideration that the two leagues currently have different rules and matchplay times, with differing stats evident. 

ATTACK 

The introduction of the super shot added a new element to the SSN stage in the opening round, with Steph Wood (10 super shots), Jo Harten (nine) and Sam Gooden (nine) shouldering the super shot load for their respective teams, with Harten the most accurate of the trio missing just four attempts across the board to finish with an overall 86 per cent accuracy. Looking to tall timbers at the post, Jhaniele Fowler was hard to stop with 52 goals from 55 attempts (including two super shots) while Lenize Potgieter and Cara Koenen shot 35 goals apiece. In her new Collingwood colours Emma Ryde  impressed (34 from 38) and Sam Wallace (33 from 40) once again proved to be a solid target. Alice Teague-Neeld proved the nay-sayers she could have an impact with 10 goals at 67 per cent (including four super shots at 100 per cent accuracy) and plying her trade out the front with 19 goal assists and a gain to her name.

Heading across the ditch to the ANZ Premiership, there were a couple huge performers across the five matches, with repeat offenders in Maia Wilson (74 goals from 80 attempts) and Ellie Bird (63 from 72) adding to their goaling tallies off the back of two games apiece, while Grace Nweke racked up 38 goals from 44 attempts in her sole match for the round. The likes of Central Pulse duo Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Aliyah Dunn once again shared the load with 21 and 20 goals respectively in their first loss for the season, while there is no discounting the work ethic of Te Paea Selby-Rickit with the goal attack combining for 31 goals across her two games as well as her work out the front to finish with 25 goal assists.

MIDCOURT

The opening round of Super Netball saw Liz Watson not skip a beat over the off-season, racking up 28 goal assists from 49 feeds, while Chelsea Pitman picked up 26 centre pass receives credit to her take-off speed and first phase play. Both Watson and Charles also racked up a gain apiece, while Magpies midcourters Madi Browne (12 assists, one intercept) and Molly Jovic (two intercepts from 21 minutes of play) both impressed in their first matches, albeit Browne’s first on return from injury and Jovic on her overall debut. In wing defence there were a couple high performers, with young guns Kate Eddy (four intercepts, two pickups, three penalties) and Amy Parmenter (six intercepts, seven deflections (none to advantage), five turnovers) both plying their trade well in wing defence while Maisie Nankivell stepped up through the Thunderbirds midcourt with 12 goal assists and two intercepts though 14 penalties. Mahalia Cassidy also impressed on her return from injury with 17 assists from 35 feeds and two gains to her name.

Heading to the ANZ Premiership midcourt, the stand-out this round – and our Round 8 ANZ Premiership Player of the Week – was Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic’s Whitney Souness, with the speedster racking up 16 assists in her first match before finishing with 19 in her second, also picking up an intercept in each of her outings. Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle were consistent as ever in their winning outing against the Pulse, sharing the load on circle edge with 19 and 17 assists respectively, also picking up a gain apiece. Meanwhile, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan racked up a round-high 26 assists in her second outing of the round from 35 feeds though was kept quiet in her first match with just 12 assists, an effort matched for the most part by Erikana Pedersen who was explosive in her first outing (23 assists, one gain) but shared the load better in the second with Selby-Rickit. Meanwhile, Kate Heffernan and Sam Winders both racked up four intercepts apiece across their respective matches.

DEFENCE

Lauren Moore and Parmenter led the intercept tally for the round, with the two young guns stepping up with six intercepts apiece. Phumza Maweni put on an impressive final quarter performance to trip up the Firebirds attack and finish with six deflections and three intercepts, while veteran Geva Mentor proved she is still more than capable of pulling out impressive performances with nine deflections, closely followed by Sarah Klau (eight deflections and three rebounds) and Kim Jenner (seven and three). Jenner and partner in crime Tara Hinchliffe will want to clean up their act in the coming rounds, racking up a whopping 35 penalties between them to be first and second in the least preferred statline after Round 1.

On the ANZ Premiership stage, Temalisi Fakahokotau was consistent as ever down back with Jane Watson in their first outing combining for 11 gains (14 across two matches), while Georgia Tong stepped up with nine gains (six intercepts) in her first outing but was overshadowed in her second with just the three gains – still a solid effort. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit showcased her ball winning ability again this round with three and four gains, while Kate Burley continued to impress for the Stars with six gains (four intercepts) and two gains across her two matches, consistently matching up on court to have an impact despite the prowess of her opposition.

Australian pathways talent prove their place in SSN

THE return of Suncorp Super Netball saw some fresh faces take the court thanks to the introduction of the rolling subs and extended benches. The rule change has allowed clubs to give their training partners some valuable court time to develop their craft and have a profound impact. We take a look at a couple of Round 1 newcomers to the league as well as some familiar but yet still developing prospects for each team.

Adelaide Thunderbirds

Boasting a new look line-up for season 2020 it was the young guns that took the competition by storm, none bigger than 18-year-old goaler Georgie Horjus. The Kangaroo Island product wowed with her composure to sink six goals from nine attempts. With speed to burn she carved up the attacking third while fellow youngster Maisie Nankivell took her game to the next level with her physicality at the contest. Her seamless transition from wing defence to centre provided that spark through the midcourt for the Thunderbirds racking up 12 goal assists and three gains in what was an impressive performance. New to the Thunderbirds line-up but not new to the SSN, Sam Gooden displayed her long bomb shooting registering nine super shots. Charlee Hodges returned to the fold after spending last year with the Northern Stars while Tayla Williams also debuted showcasing the Thunderbirds’ willingness to throw the bibs around and look to the bench.

Collingwood Magpies

It is fair to say that the Magpies are a shell of the team they used to be with a host of key players not in the squad this year. But that change paved the way for some young up and coming players to gain some valuable SSN minutes with Molly Jovic enjoying the court time. The speedy wing attack slotted into the mix seamlessly with her speed, 1-2 punch to hit circle edge and vision into the circle. Youngster Nyah Allen also had an influence with two super shots to her name despite only racking up a couple of minutes on court. But it was the work rate of Melissa Bragg that was prominent for the Pies with the wing defence working in overdrive to combat the experience and star power of Liz Watson. Jamaican defender Jodi-Ann Ward debuted for the Pies and asserted her dominance on the court while fellow goal defence Matilda Garrett also showed glimpses of her potential with her tagging style of defence, while Emma Ryde debuted for the Pies with a wealth of experience behind her at the level.

GIANTS Netball

Although she has become a familiar name for many it was the increased game time that really allowed Kiera Austin to shine for the GIANTS. Replacing the retired Kim Green out in wing attack, Austin rose to the challenge with the shooter-come-midcourter feeding the ball into the circle with ease and precision while also sliding into the goal circle to hit the long bomb in the final five minutes of the term. No surprise that 2019 Rising Star Amy Parmenter continued her merry way with the wing defence causing havoc with her ball winning ways and speed off the mark while exciting defensive prospect Matilda McDonnell also plied her trade. After spending three years with the GIANTS as a training partner, Maddie Hay made her highly anticipated debut with her timing and slick hands on show and youngster Sophie Dwyer was injected to sink the long bomb and did just that, finishing with two super shots from two attemps.

Melbourne Vixens

In her debut match for the Melbourne Vixens Kate Eddy did not skip a beat with the talented wing defence taking like a duck to water in her new colours. Coming back from injury Eddy did not take long to adapt to her new surroundings showcasing her impressive three foot marking and deceptive speed to cover her opponent at every turn. Her versatility to switch from wing defence into goal defence is exactly what the Vixens needed displaying not only her skill but so to her netball smarts. Jacqui Newton also made her Suncorp Super Netball debut and while it was only a couple of minutes she quickly immersed herself into the the action.

NSW Swifts

Lauren Moore sent netball fans into a frenzy in her first full game with the New South Wales Swifts as the goal defence completely and utterly dominated across the four quarters with her tenacity and speed. She threw herself into every contest available and displayed her never say die attitude to constantly harass her opponent and create turnovers to propel the ball back down the court and into attack for the Swifts. She generated plenty of excitement for onlookers racking up valuable tips and intercepts to disrupt the flow of her opposition team in attack. Meanwhile goaler Sophie Garbin also plied her trade with her ability to come on and have an influence despite being down on her normal accuracy.

Queensland Firebirds

With no Gretel Bueta it was goaler Tippah Dwan that stood up in her place, wowing many with explosiveness and confidence to back herself from range. Although she is not the tallest shooter Dwan showcased her ability to create the play out the front and then deliver into Romelda Aiken under the post while also proving her netball smarts to get herself into damaging positions in the goal circle. Macy Gardner continued to find her form with the young midcourter displaying her speed and quick hands to give and go around the circle edge. Defensively it is hard to go past the combination of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe with the duo continuously improving with their tenacity and ability to shut down goals to post and skill to rotate through both goal keeper and defence. Still developing her craft, midcourter Lara Dunkley also fitted in effortlessly into the Firebirds attack with her calm and composed nature to re-offer around circle edge and provide support with her strong hands and clever positioning while both Mia Stower and Hulita Veve also made an appearance.

Sunshine Coast Lightning

Littered with experience and international stars across the court it was Cara Koenen that was the main focal point when it comes to young talent with the goaler leading the way under the post.  Although it took a while for her to find her feet and rhythm in attack, once Koenen settled into the match her skill shone through with her strong holds and silky movement doing the talking in the goal circle. She was down on her usual accuracy sitting at 81 per cent but still managed to pile on the pain with 35 goals from 43 attempts firming as a commanding presence for years to come both domestically and internationally.

West Coast Fever

After featuring in a couple of games last season Sunday Aryang burst out of the blocks in Round 1 with her defensive pressure. Despite playing out of position in goal defence Aryang took everything in her stride using her long arms and quick footwork to win ball back and drive ball through the centre third. Olivia Lewis and Emma Cosh also got some valuable time on court but it was 24-year-old Alice Teague-Neeld who took the step up that the Fever needed with the goal attack showcasing her range and playmaking abilities sinking 10 goals, four of which were from two point range.

Centre Pass Podcast: Georgie Horjus interview (Round 1 wrap)

Centre Pass Podcast: Molly Jovic interview (Round 1 preview)

Final quarter blitz gifts Sunshine Coast Lightning first win of the season

GRAND finalists Sunshine Coast Lightning proved they are a threat to be reckoned with surviving an early scare from the Queensland Firebirds to win comfortably (66-48). It was a slow start for the Lightning who struggled both in attack and defence to get going while the Firebirds burst out of the blocks to stamp their ascendancy on the match. But the Lightning were not about to go down without a fight pulling together a phenomenal final term.

The Firebirds put their disappointing 2019 season to bed early, coming out with a real ferocity and intensity that was simply unmatched by the Lightning in the first 15 minutes. Captain Gabi Simpson set the tone in the opening stanza with her pressure over the ball forcing a held ball and a subsequent goal. Converting off the Lightning’s centre pass the Firebirds made it two in a row with Romelda Aiken and newcomer Tippah Dwan finding their feet instantly and hitting the scoreboard. The defensive pressure for the Firebirds was immense as the Lightning struggled to penetrate through the midcourt before Cara Koenen eventually sunk the opener for the Lightning. As the ball pinged around goal defence Karla Pretorius injected herself into the contest with a clever intercept to draw level with the Firebirds at two goals apiece.

Determined to keep their momentum rolling the Firebirds upped the ante through the midcourt with Lara Dunkley threading the needle into Aiken and Dwan. In her first outing for the club the wing attacked seemed to have the ball on a string, able to hit the circle edge with great precision. With the attack unit humming the Firebirds pushed out to a six goal lead before Ine-Mari Venter made her way onto the court for the final five minutes of the quarter. With the super shot now in play it was Dwan that made history sinking the first of the competition. Her hot hand led the way for the Firebirds in attack while Simpson continued her merry way picking of passes at every opportunity. The Firebirds were simply carving up the court using their pace and unpredictable nature to keep the Lightning guessing and go on a tear to open up an eight goal lead at quarter time.

Struggling to find any form of rhythm up their attacking end, the Lightning threw the bibs around with Peace Proscovia coming on in goal shooter pushing Koenen into goal attack and Steph Wood into wing attack. But that did not seem to bother the Firebirds with the girls in purple seeming to have the ball on a string. The defensive pressure coming from Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe was exceptional with the two forcing the Lightning goalers off balance and forcing turnovers aplenty with their read of the play and deceptively long arms. Hinchliffe was incredibly strong under the post, positioning well to collect rebounds while Jenner run amuck out the front.

Firebirds wing attack, Macy Gardner showcased her skill with ball in hand, driving into the pocket time and time again, while Dwan was having a field day out in goal attack for the Firebirds with her impressive timing and circle rotation with Aiken. Building in each facet of the game the Firebirds established a nine goal lead and did not look like slowing down until the Lightning rallied scoring three goals in a row. But the Firebirds answered the call once more as Aiken pulled out the party tricks with a unique layup style shot. Mia Stower made her way onto the court but it was her rival goal attack that got all the accolades with Wood proving to be the super shot star nailing five in a row, ultimately cutting the 10 goal deficit to a mere two at the break.

Drawing on their momentum from the second quarter, the Lightning got an early win before the Firebirds quickly answered streaming down court. They showed a good balance of speed and patience in attack with Mahalia Cassidy controlling the tempo and waiting for the options to appear rather than force them. Jenner kicked it up a gear after Wood showcased her class and range in the final minutes of the term with the defender getting hands to everything that came her way. The Firebirds suffocated the Lightning in attack and forced a wealth of missed opportunities with Sunshine Coast remaining goalless for the first five minutes of the term. Simpson continued to deliver for her side not only in defence but so too in attack with her drive through the midcourt and constantly hitting the transverse line with speed and intent.

The Firebirds made the Lightning work for every single pass as they dominated through the midcourt with their youth and speed. As the quarter went on the Lightning started to generate some better ball movement and force turnovers and hesitation in the Firebirds minds. Wood continued to do a wealth of damage from two point range, really rallying in the final five minutes to cull the margin and draw level for the first time since the opening quarter.

With the game on the line, it was the experience and class of the Lightning that shone true with Laura Langman and Laura Scherian taking the game by the scruff of the neck and taking full control in attack. Despite going goal for goal in the first couple of minutes Sunshine Coast put the foot down nullifying the Firebirds defence and forcing Jenner and Hinchliffe to swap bibs. But the Lightning kept coming exploiting the Firebirds youth with their precise ball movement, netball smarts and cleanliness with ball in hand. The momentum completely shifted despite the best efforts of the Firebirds as the Lightning capitalised on each and every turnover to run out 18-goal victors.

Aiken was the hot hand for the Firebirds sinking 26 goals from 33 attempts while Dwan showcased her skillset and excitement with 11 goals from 17 attempts, along with three goals from super shot range. Venter also proved to be a solid option to post with two goals from two point range. However it was Wood that stunned many with her accuracy to post sinking a whopping 10 goals from 11 attempts in the super shot zone, while Koenen did the heavy lifting with 34 goals from 40 attempts. Defensively Jenner had a stats-stuffing performance with five gains, two intercepts and three deflections, while Maweni and Pretorius combined for 10 gains, six intercepts and nine deflections.

>>> LIGHTNING TEAM PAGE

>>> FIREBIRDS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL MATCH STATS

QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 18 | 12 | 12 | 6 (48)
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 10 | 18 | 14 | 24 (66)

STARTING SEVEN

Queensland Firebirds:

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Tippah Dwan
WA: Lara Dunkley
C: Mahalia Cassidy
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Tara Hinchliffe

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

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

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in just a couple of days, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. One of the most interesting adaptations this season is the addition of rolling subs, with a few teams that could benefit more than others in different parts of the court.

Starting with last season’s premiers, the NSW Swifts have plenty of talent on their bench that proved they could impact where required last season. Over the past few seasons the development of Sophie Garbin has been impressive with the youngster finding patches of court time last season and a huge benefit of her improvement could see her jump on as an impact player where required to assist Helen Housby and Sam Wallace. Through the midcourt, the Swifts have some high quality names in the mix with Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite all dominant attackers and Proud returning from injury, as well as some stellar youngsters on the bench who can ply their trade when required. In defence the side is a little less versatile than past seasons so is unlikely to see as much change as past seasons, though expect to see the likes of Lauren Moore ply her trade to rest Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner.

Sunshine Coast Lightning are almost in a completely different position to the Swifts in that they rarely made use of their bench in past seasons, bar to rotate Steph Wood, Cara Koenen and Peace Proscovia last season. Given Wood is the most confident on the long bomb, expect the pocket rocket to be the main offender in the last five minutes of the quarter while Koenen can push out to goal attack when required to assist Proscovia at the post, though we are still yet to see who will take the starting spot alongside Wood. What we could see from the Lightning is a different kind of rolling rotation through the midcourt, with potential of Laura Langman and Laura Scherian shuffling for a different approach to the centre position or to rest given the condensed fixture will see double the games in a short amount of time.

Heading to the Melbourne Vixens and it is much the same story to the Lightning, with rotations expected in the goal circle but significant and trusted connections formed down the rest of the court. With a number of goalers who are able to sink the long bomb, expect the Vixens to adapt their rolling subs based on the game at hand, with the trio of Mwai Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip all able to ply their trade from anywhere in the circle. While the Vixens have been known to not make a huge amount of changes in past seasons, the addition of Kate Eddy this season could open up different defensive combinations, though the tried and tested duo of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston has rarely faltered with little rotations expected unless injury strikes.

Heading to a new look Collingwood Magpies side and it is safe to say that the Magpies will see plenty of rotations, especially with the return of Madi and Kelsey Browne from injury. With the dynamic sisters able to impact in any position through the midcourt and potentially set to be rested in patches to work up to full match fitness with no recent practice matches behind them, expect a couple of the Magpies’ young guns in Mel Bragg and Molly Jovic to take full control of their opportunities to get valuable court time. The goaling unit will be crucial for the Pies, with Shimona Nelson and Gabby Sinclair all but expected to play full games at this point with Julia Woolley returning to her Victorian Netball League side. This puts training partners Emma Ryde and Nyah Allen in good stead to make their Magpies debut but also puts a question mark over their heads with Allen having no prior SSN experience and Ryde a goal shooter like Nelson. Defensively, expect Jodi-Ann Ward and Matilda Garrett to be the major switch-ups in goal defence, with Ward also able to ply her trade in wing defence and Geva Mentor holding strong in goal keeper. 

Sitting just out of the top four last season, this GIANTS unit is looking very similar and is sure to benefit off the rolling subs with Kiera Austin a fantastic long shot to rotate into goal attack with fellow long bomb specialist Jo Harten at the post during the five minute two goal super shot period. Austin will likely fill the wing attack hole left by Kim Green at the end of last season for much of the rest of the quarters, with Caitlin Bassett important at the post and plenty of time for the goaling unit to meld better than they did in season 2019. After some fiddling last season Jamie-Lee Price secured the centre position with Amy Parmenter holding ground at wing defence little midcourt changes are expected except in the instance of the final five minutes, with Maddie Hay a potential to come off the bench where required. Defensively, Kristiana Manu’a and Sam Poolman are expected to hold down defence with assistance from Matilda McDonell.

After a disappointing season last year, West Coast Fever has nowhere to go but up and will likely see the most rolling sub movement through their goal circle in much the same way as they did in 2019. With Jhaniele Fowler as consistent and reliable as they come at the post, much of the movement will likely come from Kaylia Stanton and Alice Teague-Neeld, though Stanton’s goal shooter experience could prove crucial given she and Teague-Neeld are certainly more confident and used to the long bomb than Fowler. While it would be a huge change not having Fowler at the post, perhaps the switch-up is what the Fever need up forward when the two goal super shot comes into play. When it comes to  the midcourt and defence the Fever were forced to blood up a couple less experienced names last season that saw some impressive development, giving plenty of confidence to rotate where required. While Courtney Bruce is unlikely to rotate from goal keeper, Stacey Francis had a couple of runs out in wing defence last season while Jess Anstiss is a versatile midcourter meaning there could be plenty of movement in this Fever side.

A much-improved 2019 season saw the Thunderbirds suffer injuries aplenty and a bottom two finish while the off-season saw a flurry of changes. The retirement of long bomb specialist Maria Folau will hurt the Thunderbirds with the super shot coming into effect so shortly after her time with the side, and while the T’birds still have some stellar goalers, the likes of Lenize Potgieter and Sasha Glasgow are not the most adaptable, playing out most of their time in goal shooter. Still potentially in recovery from her 2019 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture, Glasgow will likely be rested early in the part of the season leaving much of that attacking rotation to Charlee Hodges and Sam Gooden out the front with Hodges expected to get the start. With a highly versatile back-end, expect Kate Shimmin, Layla Guscoth and Shamera Sterling to really utilise the rolling sub with each defender able to add something different to the circle, while Shadine Van Der Merwe can also be a handy option down back.

Like the Magpies, expect the Firebirds to really take advantage of the rolling subs in 2020 with a couple of young, inexperienced names and plenty of upcoming talent in the mix. With a couple of young defenders holding down the circle expect to see some rotation between Kim Jenner, Tara Hinchliffe and Rudi Ellis, while the experience and consistency of Gabi Simpson will hold up well in wing defence and highly unlikely to change from her regular post. The attacking midcourt will be down to Jemma Mi Mi and the hopeful return of Mahalia Cassidy, although young guns Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley are both capable of rotating in where required especially if Cassidy is still a while off returning from ACL recovery. The real question for the Firebirds is what will happen in attack, with Romelda Aiken the obvious go-to girl at the post but no official replacement for Gretel Bueta as of yet. The rolling subs rule will allow the Firebirds to really feel out connections, with South African import Ine-Mari Venter the only viable option for the time being as the sole additional goaler on the list, though training partner Tippah Dwan is a solid option on the bench after being a quality option in preseason last year prior to injury.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

 

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 1

DESPITE a last minute fixture change the highly anticipated return of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) is set to kick off this weekend with cross town derbies the main flavour of the round. With COVID-19 restrictions in place for many of the states, teams have made the last minute dash to the Sunshine State meaning all four games will be played at Nissan Arena.

Queensland Firebirds v. Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday, 1 August

Grand finalists Sunshine Coast Lightning will be eager to get the wood over their state side rivals and prove that they will once again be the team to beat in 2020. Despite losing the grand final last year the Lightning have had little to no turnover in the off-season with the major change coming in the coaches box with Kylee Byrne taking charge. For the Firebirds they have been dealt a huge blow with Gretel Bueta announcing her pregnancy and subsequently out for the season.

With options aplenty in the goal circle for the Lightning expect the two time premiers to rotate their options to find their best combination. Entering her second SSN season Ugandan shooter Peace Proscovia will be hoping to bring her intensity and accuracy to post to become a real force to be reckoned with in the circle. Bursting onto the scene last year, Cara Koenen is another option in at goal shooter for the Lightning able to go to post from range and showcase her clever movement. But it is her versatility that could cause headaches for the Firebirds defensive unit able to switch out to goal attack when needed. The ever-reliable Steph Wood is crafty with ball in hand and not afraid to put up the long bomb and while she did not finish the way she would have liked last year will be keen to make amends in 2020. Although still young, the combination of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe will have to be on song from the opening minute of the match if they are to shut down the Lightning attack. Jenner and Hinchliffe are both renowned for their ball winning ways but can often rack up the penalties, which is something they will have to monitor in this clash to limit the amount of free opportunities to go to post. The injection of Rudi Ellis could provide a point of difference and some extra height to nullify either Proscovia or Koenen at the post.

Boasting a stacked midcourt with the likes of Silver Ferns veteran Laura Langman and Diamonds representative Laura Scherian the Lightning will be hoping to exploit the young Firebirds midcourt of Jemma Mi Mi, Macy Gardner and Lara Dunkley. Bueta’s absence will leave a w=hole both through the midcourt and in the goal circle meaning it will be up to Romelda Aiken to lead the charge under the post and do the heavy lifting. Defensively the Lightning have one of the strongest combinations with Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius constantly on the hunt for any loose ball and able to apply a wealth of pressure both on the shot and through transition. With Ine Mari Venter or Tippah Dwan likely to take the goal attack position expect the Lightning to double down on Aiken at the post and freeze up any easy avenue to post.

Given Sunshine Coast’s strong connections down the court and their never say die attitude they should have the upper hand against the Firebirds.

Adelaide Thunderbirds v. West Coast Fever
Saturday, 1 August

Both sides had an up and down season last year and will be hoping to put their foot down in Round 1. When they met in the concurrent round last year it was the Adelaide Thunderbirds that got the job done ended their 23 game losing streak. It was a feat they will be hoping to repeat this season against a relatively unchanged West Coast Fever line-up.

There is no denying that Jhaniele Fowler is the go-to girl for the Fever. Standing at 196cm the goal shooter is the Fever’s get out of jail free card, able to bomb it long into her and she will deliver on the scoreboard. She is prolific to post and oozes nothing but class, composure and balance to reel in errant passes. The battle in the air will be exciting to watch with Shamera Sterling a real menace for the Thunderbirds given her long limbs and impressive leap. Still solidifying their starting goal attack, both Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton will have to up the ante if they are to draw attention off Fowler at the post. Both goalers have the ability to go for the long bomb and are clever with ball in hand to create space but at times lack confidence, something the Thunderbirds will be hoping to exploit. The return of Layla Guscoth will bolster the Thunderbirds line-up with the experienced defender able to tag players out of a game with her shadowing style of play while Kate Shimmin is another viable option inside of the defensive circle to provide that spark and athleticism.

With Fowler up one end the other bookend for the Fever is captain and Australian Diamonds goal keeper Courtney Bruce. She is a hardnosed defender, constantly on the lookout for an intercept and uses her quick feet to will herself to the ball. Her lean over the shot is impressive while her physicality alongside Stacey Francisconstant niggle can offset opposition goalers. In her first official outing as a Thunderbird, South African Lenize Potgieter will have her work cut out for her but is no stranger to the big stage often letting her quickfire shot and accuracy to post do the talking. While it may take a couple of minutes for her to settle into the match expect Potgieter to control the flow in attack and be the main avenue to goal with Samantha Gooden and Charlee Hodges to play more of a supporting role. Neither Gooden or Hodges played at SSN level last year meaning the T’birds frontend will have a very fresh look this season with experienced heads in Potgieter and Chelsea Pitman to lead the way.

It will be an intense battle with both teams vying to kickstart their season in style and showcase their development. A settled line-up could give the Fever a slight edge however the T’birds have a couple of game changers across the court.

GIANTS Netball v. NSW Swifts
Sunday, 2 August

Fresh off a premiership the NSW Swifts will be hoping to make it back-to-back grand final wins and it all starts here with a clash against their state rivals. The Swifts stunned many last season with their remarkable season and will be hoping to build on that momentum this season. After narrowly missing the finals last season the GIANTS will have a real fire in the belly and another preseason together could give them that edge they have been looking for.

Both sides boast a relatively young and developing midcourt making for an intriguing battle through the centre third. The loss of Kim Green could be huge for the GIANTS but Kiera Austin is shaping up to be the favourite to replace the veteran with her impressive ball placement, speed across the court and vision into the circle while centre Jamie-Lee Price will be looking to elevate her game even further. Although more accustomed to the wing defence position, Price showed last year that she has the endurance and skillset to flick the switch and deliver in attack, something the GIANTS will be hoping to see more of this season. No longer the new kid on the block, Amy Parmenter will be keen to back up her stellar 2019 season and prove it was not a one off with her speed off the mark, tenacity and silky footwork set to match up on Swifts wing attack Natalie Haythornthwaite or returning captain Maddy Proud. Coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) Proud offers experience and excitement in attack with her fancy footwork and hustle for prime spot on circle edge while Paige Hadley is dynamic in centre able to light up the court with her speed and read of the play.

Defensively the combination of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner will have their hands full with Caitlin Bassett and Jo Harten at the post. Klau and Turner found their rhythm last season with their defensive prowess, ability to set up a wall down back and cleanliness to attack each and every play. But Bassett and Harten are no easy beats, oozing nothing but netball smarts and experience to work the ball around the court and get into damaging positions. Harten is not afraid to go for the long bomb which could prove a problem with the introduction of the super shot while Bassett’s accuracy wavered at times last season, something she will be hoping to address.

If Sam Wallace and Helen Housby can get on top of Sam Poolman and Kristiana Manu’a it will go a long way in setting the tone for the Swifts and ultimately claiming the win.

Melbourne Vixens v. Collingwood Magpies
Sunday, 2 August

The last time these two sides met the Melbourne Vixens got the last laugh, dominating the Pies in the semi-final from start to finish. But since then the Magpies have had a complete overhaul with four of their starting seven all not taking the court this season while the Vixens have maintained a stable list with Kate Eddy the only person to join the fray, replacing Renae Ingles. Having played no practice matches due to the COVID-19 restrictions both sides could come out a bit rusty but that will not stop either team from fighting tooth and nail to secure the first derby win.

The weight of putting up a competitive total ultimately falls onto the young shoulders of Shimona Nelson with the Collingwood goaler a dominant force under the post with her strong holds, aerial skill and height. With no Nat Medhurst out the front to deliver into her or put up shots it will be up Gabby Sinclair to fill the hole left and showcase her netball nous to dish off pin point passes and go to post. The added bonus and potential return of Madi or Kelsey Browne for Round 1 will also have a huge influence on the Magpies shooting unit with the duo able to release the ball with confidence and ease credit to their impressive vision, variety of passes and ball placement. But the Vixens have a tight defence with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston a threatening combination with their suffocating pressure, three foot marking and physicality to force turnovers aplenty.

Up the other end the Melbourne Vixens also have a three pronged attack with Mwai Kumwenda officially returning from her ACL injury in 2018 and joining tried and tested duo of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip. The three can all rotate seamlessly through the circle and, most importantly, quickly adapt to whatever scenario they are placed into. Thwaites and Philip are a concerning prospect for the Magpies when it comes to the super shot with the two reliable from range while Kumwenda is an excitement machine thanks to her leap and aerial presence. It will be up to Collingwood co-captain Geva Mentor to stand up in defence and win ball back for her side while both Matilda Garrett and Jodi-Ann Ward offer that element of unpredictability.

With Collingwood boasting a new look team expect the Vixens to exploit their developing connections with their quick ball movement and accuracy to post to catch them off guard and secure a win.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #5

WITH the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season beginning in less than a week, the Draft Central team has decided to count down five things we are looking forward to this season. Coming in at number five is the further development of young up and coming players across the league. With a couple of fresh faces showcasing their explosive potential last season, the extended break could have worked wonders for them and allowed extra time to hone their craft and come out raring to go in Round 1. 

Starting with defence, there are a couple of talented names in there with Shamera Sterling, Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe just to name a few. Sterling set the court alight last season with her impressive aerial ability and consistency in defence to win back a wealth of ball with her clever footwork and long arms, and with a little cleaning up she could be an even bigger threat this year with improved connections across the court. 

Jenner and Hinchliffe learned from the best in Laura Geitz and it shows, with the defensive duo a little on the undisciplined side but made up for it with their rate of development and ability to turn a game on its head. With more time behind them to strengthen their connections in the circle and increase their endurance they could be crucial to the Firebirds’ success this year. Turning to the Collingwood Magpies, Matilda Garrett will have a real chance this season to rack up some crucial minutes on court with April Brandley out of the mix. While she did not manage a heap of court time last season, Garrett will be one of the mid-tier experienced names with the Magpies this season making this a pivotal time for the young defender to step up to the challenge.

Coming through the midcourt, Amy Parmenter made herself into a crucial cog last season for the GIANTS and is set to provide that same impact once more given she will no longer be the new kid on the block. With speed and impeccable timing to boot, expect fan-favourite Parmenter to impress once more. Adelaide Thunderbirds youngster Maisie Nankivell was elevated for a patch of last season, with the tenacious midcourter able to create turnovers and be a physical threat with her arms over pressure and speed, though with the calibre of midcourters on the Tbirds’ list, there is no guarantee she will take the court. While not one of the younger ones on this list, Kate Eddy will hope for her first uninterrupted season at SSN level after all but cementing her spot as the Vixens’ starting wing defence for 2020. Her development with the NSW Swifts in 2019 shined bright but injury struck in the late stages of the season, seeing Eddy miss out on premiership glory. 

The retirement of Kim Green opens up further possibilities for Kiera Austin, with the versatile young attacker able to ply her trade in any number of positions, able to be a threat in both wing attack and goal attack. Austin can have an impact from within the circle with her clean movement and long range shooting ability while Lightning goaler Cara Koenen came along in leaps and bounds last season with her silky footwork and impressive accuracy. Talking of development, Shimona Nelson starred for the Magpies last year and as the now most experienced goaler in the attack unit, will need to continue that form if the Magpies want to win. She developed at a rate of knots in 2019 with her hands becoming cleaner with every match, but will need backup from her fellow young goalers to be able to ply her trade to her full ability.

Also looking to ply their trade this season are the likes of Charlee Hodges who returns to the Thunderbirds after a season at the ANZ Premiership and Sophie Garbin who has been a handy rotation for the Swifts over the past few seasons, able to have an impact off the bench. A couple of youngsters in the likes of Tayla Honey, Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Olivia Lewis will hope to gain some precious exposure but sit behind some formidable names that could see them continue as benchwarmers. Unlikely to share the centre role as much as she did in 2019, expect Hannah Petty to come out with a point to prove in centre while a Firebirds duo in Lara Dunkley and Macy Gardner will be vying for a starting spot through the midcourt with Mahalia Cassidy likely to be managed early upon her return from injury but two consistent fixtures through the midcourt already settled.

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #4

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #3

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #2

SSN: Five things we’re looking forward to – #1

Centre Pass Podcast: Season preview

2020 SSN: Season preview – Queensland Firebirds

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

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

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

2020 expectations/predictions:

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

Key player:

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

Team list:

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