Tag: tegan philip

2020 SSN: Season preview – Melbourne Vixens

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 Melbourne Vixens up next on the list. 

Coach: Simone McKinnis
Captain: Kate Moloney
2019 finish: 3rd

A solid season culminated in a finals berth for the Vixens, with a close miss in 2018 pushing the side to the next level in 2019. With a quality pickup over the 2019 off-season in Caitlin Thwaites – along with South African talent Ine-Mari Venter – the Vixens lifted their intensity and pressure last year and were ultimately uninterrupted in their connections and season bar the break in the middle of the season for the Netball World Cup. The return of Mwai Kumwenda from injury added an extra string to the Vixens’ bow, with the Malawi goal shooter rotating seamlessly with Thwaites and Tegan Philip. Meanwhile, the hardworking midcourt of the Vixens worked wonders, though their predictability left something to be desired when it came to finals time, unable to compete off the bench as easily as some of their opposition could.

2020 predictions/expectations:

Well equipped to take advantage of the two goal super shot thanks to the versatile shooting trio of Thwaites, Kumwenda and Philip, the Vixens will hope to go one better than last year. While they lost Venter, young gun Lara Dunkley and powerhouse wing defence Renae Ingles over the off-season, the Vixens have more than enough talent to replace them, it is more about whether they have had the time to forge the connections needed to go far this season. Young talent Tayla Honey had a shaky start in 2018 with injury putting off her first season at SSN level, but she is back in business this season and surely raring to go. Joining an already quality midcourt of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, the Vixens are not short of talent and experience making them a real force to be reckoned with. The Vixens will be hoping to build off their bench a bit more to provide a constant buffer and pressure through the contest. There is no denying that the Vixens have been a top team throughout the SSN and will be eager to assert themselves on the competition once again with their ability to treasure ball in offence and win ball back in defence. 

Key player to watch:

Kate Eddy is a quality pickup for the Melbourne side, which had a gaping hole at the end of last season given Ingles’ imminent retirement. Her versatility will allow her to slot in where required, likely playing in wing defence but with an ability to rotate further back with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston. With a season under her belt at the Swifts in 2019, Eddy has proved her growth defensively to provide a quality rotation through all three defensive positions. While she did not play in the 2019 grand final thanks to injury, the talented defender adjusted well to the top level and more than handled the job of holding down attackers. What’s more, Eddy is a former Vixens training partner meaning she already has forged connections with a number of players, something that will certainly come in handy given the side’s lack of time together prior to the season starting.

Team list:

Kate Moloney
Tegan Philip
Liz Watson
Caitlin Thwaites
Emily Mannix
Jo Weston
Kadie-Ann Dehaney
Mwai Kumwenda
Tayla Honey
Kate Eddy

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.

Top 20 players over 30: #10 Caitlin Thwaites

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Coming in at number 10 is none other than fan favourite and Australian netball sensation Caitlin Thwaites.

The Melbourne Vixens goal shooter is simply in a class of her own with her effortless movements and accuracy to post constantly leaving fans in awe. There is no denying that Thwaites is a marquee player able to single handily break a game wide open with her long bomb shooting, fancy footwork and versatility. While she is typically known for her role as a goal shooter the 33-year-old has developed her repertoire able to swing into the goal attack position and have just as much as a commanding presence with her impressive ball movement. Thwaites is a real play maker able to set up attacking forays while her ball control is second to none able to reel in errant passes time and time again.

Her connection with the likes of Tegan Philip is incredibly strong with the two able to rotate through the circle with ease and keep the defenders guessing. Her commanding presence under the post allows the likes of Kate Moloney and Liz Watson deliver the ball into her with ease. She can easily shake up her game style from a holding shooter to a moving one, able to get on the move and drive into the circle to keep heads turning and create confusion.

Thwaites is incredibly strong on the hold able to ward of defenders with her clever body positioning and experience. She is not often flustered or out-positioned under the post given her cool, calm and collected temperament and frequently puts up high numbers of shots to give her side that competitive edge. When Thwaites is on there is no stopping the powerhouse goaler who is quick on her feet and can simply shoot from anywhere despite pressure. She is a real leader in the attacking third for the Vixens able to stand up and absorb the pressure no matter the stakes and does not look like slowing down.

Recently retiring from international netball, Thwaites proved to be a real force to be reckoned with able to come on and inject herself in the contest. She was a key contributor under the post for the Diamonds with her reliability and netball smarts constantly on display. Her adaptability to combine with the likes of Gretel Bueta or Steph Wood was equally as impressive able to create space or tailor her game style to suit the goal attack a clear testament to her netball nous.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)
#18 Ama Agbeze (Severn Stars/England)
#17 Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning/South Africa)
#16 Jade Clarke (Wasps Netball/England)
#15 Chelsea Pitman (Adelaide Thunderbirds/England)

#14 Romelda Aiken (Queensland Firebirds/Jamaica)
#13 Madi Browne (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)
#12 Nat Medhurst (Collingwood Magpies/Australia)

#11 Mwai Kumwenda (Melbourne Vixens/Malawi)
#10 Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens/Australia)

What if … Mwai Kumwenda did not return to SSN in 2019?

IN the second last game of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season, Melbourne Vixens goaler Mwai Kumwenda injured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), ruling her out not only for the rest of the season but so too much of the 2019 season. With athleticism and accuracy to boot, Kumwenda was a key cog in the goal circle for the Vixens and was sorely missed throughout the 2019 season despite the acquisition of another shooting sensation.

Kumwenda is highly reliable, able to post a high volume of shots and impose herself in the goal circle up against some of the worlds most renowned defenders such as Geva Mentor and Courtney Bruce. Her unique style of play allowed her to continuously have an influence under the post. While she is not the strongest or bulkiest shooter it is her clever positioning, fancy footwork and go-go gadget arms that make her such a challenge for opposition teams.

Sidelined for the majority of last season, new recruit and fan favourite Caitlin Thwaites took the centre stage alongside goal attack Tegan Philip. The two combined seamlessly with their impressive movement, shooter to shooter interplay and accuracy to post doing all the talking. However, with finals quickly approaching and Kumwenda on the mend, the inclusion of the Malawi shooter added an extra element to the Vixens’ somewhat predictable line-up, helping them surge ahead and take out third position on the ladder.

But what if Mwai Kumwenda did not return to SSN? Would the Vixens have gone as far as they did in 2019?

Her on-court influence is hard to deny. Simply the way Kumwenda moves and her effortless shooting action makes her incredibly hard to stop while her versatility to change from a holding to moving shooter adds another string to her bow. With pressure mounting towards the backend of the 2019 season the option to bring Kumwenda on for the Vixens paid dividends with the goal shooter able to absorb the pressure and shoot truly. Unfazed by the score or the theatrics of the game, Kumwenda was cool, calm and composed and forced other teams to shake up their defence given her impressive timing, aerial ability and strong hands on the take.

Since taking the court in 2017, Kumwenda has proved that accuracy and volume is no issue posting 588 goals in 2017 and 501 goals in 2018. While her 2019 season was interrupted, her accuracy did not waver, only missing nine of her 66 attempts. Her strong connection with the likes of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney was another focal point for the Vixens’ late success, with the midcourters easily able to sight the Malawian shooter and deliver the ball on a silver platter to her. The innate understanding between the trio allowed the Vixens to thread the needle through the defence and apply both attacking and scoreboard pressure, giving them the edge in the semi-final against Collingwood.

While she is not the sole reason the Vixens were able to triumph their way into the preliminary finals she was a key aspect to their success, able to come on and have an influence when need be. Although the Vixens also had South African Ine-Mari Venter amongst the mix the still developing shooter at times lacked the explosiveness and experience of Kumwenda.

Diamond Liz Watson focused on Super Netball success with Melbourne Vixens

LIZ Watson is one of the most recognisable names in the netball world. The Melbourne Vixens turned Australian Diamonds wing attack provides a vital cog through the midcourt, using her netball nous to deliver crucial ball to her goalers and provide an option on circle edge with her impressive hold and clean hands. But like much of the world, Watson is having an unprecedented break from netball, having to switch up her plan and structure for the year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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While it was tricky in the beginning, Watson said the adjustment to isolated training has come in time thanks to routine and constant contact with her Vixens teammates and friends.

“I guess it was a bit tricky at the start when it all kind of happened but now I’ve got a bit of a routine and I’m still keeping busy with uni, we check in with the girls every day at Vixens which is really helpful,” she said. “So it sets up the day on what we’re required to do.”

Settling into a routine has made social distancing that little bit easier, working into training plan that fits around other ways of keeping busy during the pandemic.

“Before we went into lockdown we were pretty much match fit and I guess building up to competition mode, and now we’ve kind of had to strip that back and go right back to basic kind of fitness and strength,” Watson said. “Our training plans have been sort of up and down, so that’s probably the most tricky part and I think now we’re just starting to incorporate a bit more footwork and netball specific drills.”

“I love going for a big long walk in the morning, that kind of gets me moving and I guess sets up the day, but we are following a training program from the coaches so it’s set out every day – there’s either gym, conditioning and a bit of footwork stuff, but I also am loving doing a bit of palates and yoga, which is good because I don’t usually do that as much throughout the year.”

The past weekend was shaping up to be a blockbuster round one battle against Queensland Firebirds in the Suncorp Super Netball, one that Watson would have hoped to see replicate their 2019 matches, during which they defeated the Firebirds on both occasions. 

“It’s probably just, you know, the mental and physical idea that you’re preparing for a match, but now we’re going right back to sort of that preseason fitness base kind of work,” Watson said.

“We’d be having a pretty much a normal week at training but I guess that it’d probably be a bit lighter and throughout the back end of the week we’d have a light training session at the venue which would have been at Melbourne Arena for us. “That’s where we were playing round one so we would have headed there on the Friday for a training session and then played there on the Saturday, so a lot different at the moment, but yeah it is what it is, I guess.”

On the international stage, Watson is vice-captain of the Australian Diamonds, joining forces with a number of her Super Netball rivals. She said the vice-captaincy has given her a lot of confidence in her game, able to share the leadership load with a number of her teammates.

“It’s really special,” she said. “I think the one thing I love the most about it is that you actually are voted in from the team and I think that it’s really important to have that belief and confidence and trust from the teammates to put you into that position. “That gives me a lot of confidence going out there and actually being able to be the vice captain alongside Bass (Caitlin Bassett) as captain so it’s a really special group. “Everyone has to come together, obviously we’re rivals throughout the year but then we are teammates.”

Teaming up with quality players from across the country, Watson has had to switch up her game style on the odd occasion, namely when taking the court with one of her round one opponents in dynamic goal attack, Gretel Bueta. Watson also took on somewhat of a different role in the Diamonds in 2019, playing more of a centre role than her typical wing attack.

“I absolutely love playing with Gretel because you don’t really know what she’s going to do,” Watson said. “I think that’s something that we’ve learned and are really encouraged, is to let Gretel play the way she plays and we kind of mold in around that.”

“I think I definitely feel it more in my lungs in centre, rather than wing attack. “But yeah, I think that they’re quite similar in their positions and the gameplay isn’t too different… in all our analysis sessions we’re always talking so I was across what centres have to do typically in a game so from a game sense it wasn’t too bad.”

At the Vixens, Watson feeds a couple more conventional – but not any less talented – goalers in Caitlin Thwaites, Tegan Philip and Mwai Kumwenda, typically teaming up with captain Kate Moloney to feed into the goal circle.

“A good mid courter, our job is to make our goalers look good and we need to do that by playing to their strengths,” Watson said. “So someone like Tegan is very fast and speedy and Caity, she can hold really well and get that high ball in, so as a mid courter it’s about working with each goaler and actually enhancing their strengths as much as possible and letting them do their thing and kind of fitting in around their their gameplay.” 

With plenty of talent coming up through the pathways, Watson is well aware of the Victorian netball pathways given she followed them through in the traditional sense, even playing much of her junior netball at the State Netball and Hockey Centre where the Vixens train and hosted their impressive semi-final against Collingwood Magpies last season.

“I’m very lucky I’ve played and pretty much followed the Netball Victoria pathway to a tee,” Watson said. “I’ve been there ever since I started really, 11-years-old.”

Watson said the Victorian pathway helped curate her competitive streak, with the winning culture something that helps push every young player to keep putting their best out onto the court. 

“We always have a strong history of winning in Victoria, and right through nationals, Victoria were always expected to be in that top two, if not number one,” she said. “So it brings that competitive side and I think it’s great that we’ve got such a really structured pathway for young girls and they know the step by step to become a Vixen, and it’s easy when kids say to you, you know, how did you become a Vixen and I say ‘I followed this pathway, this is what you can do to get there’. “We’re very lucky in Victoria that we have that winning culture and that success and that’s because all our pathway is planned out right from when we’re juniors.”

Simone (McKinnis) has made a Vixens squad so we’ve got an extended squad of girls who are up and coming and I think that’s really important,” Watson said. “It’s so special. “As a young kid I remember going into the Vixens environment, even if it’s just for one training session, and you just see how they train and then you go back and you say, ‘that’s how I need to be training if I want to become a Vixen or be at that level’. “So I think it’s great that we’ve got this squad, and then they can go back to their clubs and I guess drive that standard with their local clubs too so I think having the extended squad has been really valuable for us.”

While the 2020 season is ultimately still up in the air, Watson said the Vixens’ season aims still ring true despite not yet taking the court. Having made finals last season but fallen short, the tenacious Vixens want to win back some of the glory that has evaded them in the Suncorp Super Netball and bring the trophy back to Victoria.

“We want to be the team that comes out of isolation the best… yes we can be fit and strong and deliver our programs but it’s that mental toughness that we’ve always been working on and that’s the side that I feel has let us down previously, that mental side of our game, and if we can come out of this isolation the toughest strongest team mentally, then nothing can really stop us,” Watson said.

As for fellow netballers who are itching to get back on the court and may be feeling a bit sluggish or unmotivated, Watson said it is useful to remember that everyone is in the same position and acknowledge that plenty of others are in far worse situations across the globe.

“I think it’s important to know that everyone’s probably feeling a little bit like that, even us as elite athletes do feel like that … I always think I’m so lucky – I am still playing, I still get to train and I still get to talk to my teammates every day, it’s just in a different way and that’s just the way it has to be right now,” she said. “I think just acknowledging that – yes it’s hard, but if we just sit here and say it’s hard then we’re not going to really move forward at all.”

“(We’re) all trying to work to come out as I guess, fitter and stronger but also just mentally ready to hit competition mode and, yeah, hopefully have a really good season. “Fingers crossed we do play some sort of netball in the back end of the year.”

Top 15 SSN training partners: #14 Ruby Barkmeyer

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team takes a look at the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) plate in 2020. The next in line at #14 is Melbourne Vixens up and coming goaler Ruby Barkmeyer. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration 2019 form, individual potential and future development.

While Barkmeyer is yet to get court time at SSN level, she has the ability to stand up under pressure and deliver at both Australian Netball League (ANL) and Victorian Netball League (VNL) level. She is a classy mover and at the ripe age of 19 still has plenty of development left in her.

Although Barkmeyer is still honing her craft, there is no denying that she has plenty of skill on court. In the 2017 VNL Grand Final, Barkmeyer won the 2017 Most Valuable Player award, showcasing just how much of an influence she can have under the post. That influence is something she hopes to build on with her time at the Vixens. However the accolades do not stop there for the up-and-coming training partner. Her impressive netball skills earned her a spot in the Victorian Under 19s team at the 2020 National Championships.

Once renowned as a dominant goal shooter, her change from the Cougars to Boroondara Express at VNL level also brought about a positional swap. Much like Vixens teammate and international dynamo Caitlin Thwaites, Barkmeyer has blossomed with the extra space. This has allowed for her natural netball flair to do all the talking.

Unfazed by the extra workload, Barkmeyer further showcased her clever ball placement, netball smarts and accuracy to post whilst remaining a constant threat. Barkmeyer is good on her feet and creates space, making her a promising prospect in Australian netball.

Exposed to some of the highest quality shooters at the Vixens such as Thwaites, Malawian goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda and Diamond Tegan Philip, the young goaler has seen what it takes to become a star and have a profound impact at an international level. While there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the ANL season, the talented goaler would be dying to get on court and defend Vic Fury’s premiership in 2020. She failed to get on court in last year’s decider, and will be keen to show what she can do on the big stage.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
14. Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)

Commane shooting goals overseas

WITH COVID-19 still holding up much of the sporting world, we will take a look at some Australian names that are making waves overseas, starting with New South Wales born goaler, Kim Commane.

A handy past player for the NSW Swifts (ANZ Championship), Melbourne Vixens and through various Victorian netball pathways, Commane was thrown back into the netball ring in 2018 when Vixens goaler Mwai Kumwenda went down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, giving Commane an opportunity to rejoin the national league for the first time since 2016 – when she was an injury replacement for Tegan Philip. While being an injury replacement has its downfalls, Commane took it upon herself to make it clear why she deserves a spot on the court and, though it was the final match of the Suncorp Super Netball season, it saw clubs overseas in the Vitality Netball Superleague take notice of her shooting prowess with new and exciting international opportunities coming to fruition.

The goal shooter joined Team Bath for the 2019 season, making an immediate impact. The crafty goaler well and truly cemented her spot in the side, teaming up with the likes of Serena Guthrie, Eboni Usoro-Brown and plenty of other key names, having the ball on a platter for much of the successful season which saw Bath take home the bronze. Commane made herself a key cog in the defensively minded side, transitioning the ball into attack with ease and creating a formidable option at the post with her height, strength and accuracy, using her experience and game smarts to work her way around the goal circle. She collected the Team Bath Players’ Player and Coaches’ Awards in 2019, won multiple match ‘most valued player’ awards and was named Fan Favourite for the season.

Looking towards the 2020 season, Commane once more signed with Team Bath and was named captain this season, leading the new-look side as they hope to go one step further in 2020. Team Bath won its first three rounds before the competition was postponed, sitting in second on the ladder – but having played one less match than its ladder leading rivals and 2019 premiers, Manchester Thunder.  

Commane has impressed on the stats sheet again this season with 137 goals at 92 per cent from just the three appearances and the one turnover to her name. With a never-say-die attitude and a constant drive to improve, Commane is one to watch with plenty left in the tank thanks to her cleanliness and ability to get the job done under pressure.

Commane wrote a preseason Player Diary on the BiG Showdown, which you can read here.

SSN All-Stars prove no match for Diamonds in Bushfire Relief game

THE Diamonds claimed victory over the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) All-Stars (66-53) in the Netball Bushfire Relief game. Australia’s strong connections down court proved to be the difference between the two teams with their ability to weave their way down the court and use their change of speed to exploit the All-Stars side. Despite having a stacked line-up it took a while for the All-Stars to gel, but a potential third quarter comeback had the Diamonds worried before they resorted to their usual ways and ran out comfortable winners. The new rules did not seem to bother either side instead they embraced the rolling subs and two-point shot with both sides making the most of the changes.

It was a big game for the Diamonds with coach Lisa Alexander heading up her last game and Caitlin Thwaites pulling on the green and gold dress for the last time. With Ash Brazill ruled out of the clash due to a potential anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained in her AFL Women’s game against Melbourne, Gabi Simpson made the switch from All-Stars to Diamonds, while Amy Parmenter was elevated into the All-Stars squad. The disruption did not seem to unsettle the Diamonds, with Simpson slotting back in seamlessly credit to her skill, defensive pressure and pre-existing connections with a host of players while Parmenter added plenty of excitement.

With the centre pass starting with the All-Stars it did not take the Diamonds long to create a turnover with Courtney Bruce taking an impressive intercept, proving why they are world number one with Gretel Tippett rewarding Bruce’s efforts with a goal. The Diamonds continued their merry way building on their connections and using their experience together to slice through the All-Stars defensive unit. The combination between Geva Mentor and Karla Pretorius was strong with the two drawing upon their time at the Lightning to rotate through the circle and use their feet to cause confusion in the circle but it was not enough to put off Tippett, Thwaites and Caitlin Bassett. Thwaites scored the first super shot of the game proving that she was going to go out in style thanks to her long range shooting and smooth movement. Australia opened up a four-goal lead with five minutes left in the opening term before really ramping it up to take a commanding eight-goal lead into the first break.

With the lead in favour of the Diamonds, the All-Stars had plenty to prove with England Roses teammates Chelsea Pitman and Helen Housby combining nicely in the attacking third with their clever movement and precise ball placement. Housby and Jamaican, Jhaniele Fowler found plenty of space in the goal circle against the likes of Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau with Fowler making full use of her height and reach. The continuous subs provided plenty of opportunities for players to come on and have an immediate impact, with Adelaide Thunderbirds defender Shamera Sterling using her lean over the shot and lanky arms to gobble up any missed shots or errant passes. Nine goals down, the All-Stars went for an all-Swifts approach with Nat Haythornthwaite, Housby and Sam Wallace all combining but it was not enough to draw back the margin with the Diamonds powering through and using their ball speed to work through the All-Stars defence. Through the midcourt, Liz Watson was electric using her quick feet and good vision to sight Tippett and Thwaites in the circle time and time again. The Diamonds were well and truly humming as the quarter went on unfazed by what the All-Stars line-up threw at them extending the lead to a whopping 18 goals at half time.

It was do-or-die for the SSN side and with the writing on the wall they upped their ante mounting somewhat of a comeback to reduce the deficit to 15 goals at half-time. Newcomer Kiera Austin got her fair share of court time and while she was not overly accurate on the shot her silky movement across the court caught the eye of many interested onlookers. The speed of Laura Scherian through the midcourt opened up the attacking end for the Diamonds with Laura Langman doing her best to combat her Sunshine Coast Lightning teammate with her defensive prowess and sheer stamina. It is hard to argue that Australia seemed to have the majority of the play dominating through the midcourt with Paige Hadley also doing a wealth of work to feed the ball into the goalers with her quick hands and work around the circle edge. The All-Stars dwindled the lead down to 11 goals before the Diamonds once again found their feet in attack thanks to long bomb two-point shot from Tippett and strong defensive work from the likes of Simpson and Turner with the two creating a wall in defence.

The final quarter continued the same fashion as the previous ones with the Diamonds dominating. The All-Stars simply had no answers for Australia unable to stop the rate they were scoring at and moving the ball at. Jo Harten had a hit and miss performance under the post struggling to find her usual range while up the other end Kristiana Manu’a and Emily Mannix both combined well using their intercepting ability to cause havoc. Thwaites was near on unstoppable in the goal circle with her strong hands and well timed movement on full display pairing with Tegan Philip to create a moving circle. Simpson showcased her elite skill with two intercepts in under a minute using her leap and strong hands to reel the ball in. It was a complete performance from the Diamonds with the All-Stars succumbing to their opponents strong connections across the court.

Tippett did the most damage on the scoreboard for the Diamonds converting 20 goals from 27 attempts at 74 per cent accuracy, with five of those goals coming from two-point range while Bassett 11 from 15 and Thwaites 10 from 13 were not far behind. Simpson had a game to remember with four intercepts and four deflections, while Klau impressed with five gains, five deflections and two intercepts. For the All-Stars Sterling led the way down back with a whopping eight gains, four intercepts and five deflections in what was a stellar performance by the developing Jamaican defender. In the goal circle Fowler was accurate to post with 19 goals from 20 attempts.

Netball Bushfire Relief game preview: Diamonds and All-Stars to battle it out in huge showdown

WITH pride on the line for both sides, the contest on Sunday between the Australian Diamonds and Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) All-Stars will draw plenty of attention. It will be the first game the Diamonds have played this year and will be hoping to kick their international campaign off in style while on the other hand the All-Stars will be aiming to showcase their array of talents and bring everything together.

The All-Stars are littered with class acts across the court with Silver Ferns veteran Laura Langman named captain for the exhibition match. Langman is an excitement machine across the court with her dynamic change of pace, quick hands and ability to consistently do the unthinkable. Fellow midcourters in the likes of England Roses duo Chelsea Pitman and Nat Haythornthwaite will complement the speedy style of Langman, with both players renowned for the deliberate approach to circle edge. Wing defence Gabi Simpson will most likely head up the defensive side of the midcourt with her athletic ability and leap a couple of things in her extensive repertoire. Meanwhile Kate Moloney may also find herself rotating through the position given her more defensive style of play in the midcourt. The match-up through the midcourt will set tongues wagging with the likes of wing defence-cum-centre Ash Brazill potentially taking on Langman in what could be an action-packed battle. Brazill oozes athleticism and endurance while Diamonds teammate and wing attack Liz Watson has proven that timing and ball placement is no issue often delivering pin-point passes into the circle. Throw in the likes of Laura Scherian who has come into her own in recent times along with Paige Hadley and both sides have a relatively stacked line-up. Expect the wing defence role to fall to Jamie-Lee Price with her speed and hustle around the circle edge her bread and butter. Price will be looking to outmuscle the likes of Pitman and Haythornthwaite around the circle edge to limit scoring opportunities.

In the defensive circle itself, the All-Stars have a plethora of options none more daunting than the likes of Geva Mentor. The Roses goal keeper is in a league of her own credit to her experience and high netball nous while the likes of young up and coming Jamaican superstar Shamera Sterling will be hoping to set the court alight with her intercepting ability. Mentor will get the opportunity to reunite with former Lightning teammate, Karla Pretorius with the two posing a dominant threat to the Diamonds with their ability to deny ball into the circle with their extreme defensive pressure and skill to clog space. But Australian captain Caitlin Bassett is no stranger to the physicality and mind games that both Pretorius and Mentor play, having spent time with them at the Lightning and combating them at an international level for years. Bassett is strong in the air and under the post able to move her feet and hold space while in her final game before retirement Caitlin Thwaites will be hoping to leave a lasting legacy with her accuracy to post and ability to shoot from anywhere in the circle.  After a standout season for the GIANTS, Kristiana Manu’a will be hoping to make a splash and assert herself on the game while Emily Mannix knows what it takes to knock over the Diamonds having been inside of the Australian camp. Kiera Austin will get the chance to come up against club teammate Manu’a with the young Diamond hoping to highlight her smooth movement in the circle and accuracy to post. It is hard to go past the likes of Gretel Tippett with the star goaler winning the Liz Ellis Medal credit to her impressive 2019. Tippett will be hard to stop with her physical and athletic style along with her increased volume and accuracy to post while fellow goaler Tegan Philip will be wanting to cement her spot in the Diamonds side.

When it comes to the goal circle the talent does not stop headlined by towering Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler who has proven that volume is no issue while the Swifts’ Sam Wallace is no slouch in goal shooter able to use her aerial skills to reign in loose passes and shoot truly. Wallace will more than likely pair up with NSW teammate Helen Housby in the circle while Roses goaler Jo Harten’s combination with Housby could also be on display throughout the match giving the All-Stars coaches in Julie Fitzgerald and Briony Akle plenty to think about. Although the All-Stars have a stacked line-up the Diamonds will be hoping that their defensive connections between the likes of goal keeper Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston will disrupt their attacking flow and force turnovers. Both players are renowned for their hunt for the ball and intercepting ability. The potential match-up between Fever teammates Bruce and Fowler will be exciting with the two known for their aerial style of play and competitive nature. Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau will both also be hoping to impact the contest for the Diamonds with the defenders knowing Housby and Wallace’s game plan inside and out playing with them at the Swifts.

Expect a fireworks display from both sides with neither wanting to loose and key match-ups across the court especially considering the number of club teammate cross-overs across the court.

All-Stars
Jhaniele Fowler
Jo Harten
Nat Haythornthwaite
Helen Housby
Laura Langman
Emily Mannix
Kristiana Manu’a
Geva Mentor
Kate Moloney
Chelsea Pitman
Karla Pretorius
Gabi Simpson
Shamera Sterling
Sam Wallace

Australian Diamonds
Caitlin Bassett
Liz Watson
Kiera Austin
Ash Brazill
Courtney Bruce
Paige Hadley
Sarah Klau
Tegan Philip
Jamie-Lee Price
Laura Scherian
Caitlin Thwaites
Gretel Tippett
Maddy Turner
Jo Weston

Melbourne Vixens impress with back-to-back wins in Trans-Tasman Challenge

THE Trans-Tasman Challenge brought plenty of intrigue with both the Melbourne Vixens reigning supreme against ANZ Premiership sides, Northern Stars and Northern Mystics. The tournament proved to be a good opportunity for new recruits and young up and coming players to get some court time and iron out any issues ahead of the season.

Northern Mystics (51) defeated by Melbourne Vixens (61)

The Vixens made no mistake against the Mystics with a strong showing across the ditch. The battle between Mystics goal shooter Grace Nweke and goal keeper Kadie-Ann Dehaney lived up to the hype with the two renowned for their aerial ability but in the end it was the Vixens full court defence that paid dividends limiting any easy entrance into the goal circle. Former Swift, Kate Eddy got her time to shine on the big stage and made no mistake in her new dress using her hands over pressure, quick footwork and deceptive speed consistently throughout the Trans-Tasman Challenge. She paired well with Emily Mannix and Jo Weston down back with the trio working well to cause confusion and run out with an easy 10-goal win 61-51.

Northern Stars (44) defeated by Melbourne Vixens (71)

In their second game of the Trans-Tasman Challenge the Melbourne Vixens really showed who’s boss, flexing their muscles at every turn against a depleted Stars team with a whopping 27-goal victory. They were simply too good across the court with their precise ball movement and strong connections. Recovering from an Achilles injury midcourter Tayla Honey rose to the occasion with her quick ball movement, drive to the top of the circle and transition play while veteran Caitlin Thwaites found herself out of position in goal attack. The 33-year-old paired seamlessly with the likes of Mwai Kumwenda in the goal circle with the two rotating well and most importantly shooting accurately. Youngster Sacha McDonald also got her time to shine with the goaler making her presence felt under the post with her silky movement, accuracy to post and impressive timing. They seemed no match for the Stars defensive end with Oceane Maihi and Kate Burley struggling to combat their experience.

Vixens, assistant coach, Sharelle McMahon was pleased with the natural progression of the side over the weekend and their ability to combat the New Zealand style defence.

“It’s been a great trip from yesterday to today the girls have taken a step up which has been really nice,” she said on the Vixens’ website. “I think the way they brought the ball through court, probably just getting our heads around the zone defence and that different style of marking was a little bit better today.”

In the absence of Tegan Philip the Vixens resorted to a different attacking line-up, one in which McMahon believes will set her side in good stead heading into the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season.

“They coped really well today with all the different changes and that’s going to be important for the season because of our rolling subs, we need to get our heads around being able to come on and off so that’s been really good,” she said.

While it was good to get early wins on the board the assistant coach is more focused on trying out new connections and creating a cohesive group of players.

“I think for us we wanted to get a lot of different things out of this trip part of it was combinations, part of it was just working into things but we want to be successful every time we step out,” she said. “To have those two wins against some really tough opposition was really great.”