Netball expert Megan Maurice takes us through a team-by-team preview of the delayed Super Netball season, due to kick off on the 1st of August.
After a delayed start to the season, a two-point shot controversy and the relocation of the majority of the competition to Queensland, round one of the Suncorp Super Netball is nearly upon us. With changes to team line ups and three rule changes, excitement and possible upsets loom around every corner.
The rule changes are top of mind, with plenty of interest surrounding how teams will adjust. The introduction of the two-point ‘super shot’ has provided most of the talking points, as it fundamentally changes the structure of the game. Players across the eight teams were united in their aversion to both the rule and the manner in which it was introduced. However, they will now have to live with it and the approach they take will be closely monitored during the opening rounds.
Previously announced rule changes for 2020 include rolling substitutions, which have been welcomed more enthusiastically. This will negate the need for players to feign an injury when the team needs a change and will improve the speed of the game. The introduction of extra time for drawn matches was also met with excitement. With six draws in the 2019 season, the increased likelihood of a result out of every game has been celebrated by fans.
Team by team preview
NSW Swifts (2019 place: First)
The reigning premiers, the NSW Swifts have one of the most settled lineups in the competition. After underperforming for the first two seasons, the young squad stepped up in 2019 and shocked the competition, finishing with a dominant grand final win over the Sunshine Coast Lightning. The team looks in good shape to defend their premiership, bolstered by the return of their captain Maddy Proud from an ACL injury. With a noted long shooter in England’s Helen Housby and the steady hand of Trinidad and Tobago international Sam Wallace under the post, they will be hard to stop.
Sunshine Coast Lightning (2019 place: Second)
Despite the loss of coach Noeline Taurua, the Lightning look like a champion team. With no changes to their playing squad and assistant coach Kylee Byrne stepping up as part of strong succession planning, this team are accustomed to playing finals. South African duo Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni seem the pair most likely to be able to neutralise the two-point shot if their opponents rely on it too heavily. Pretorius is well-known for her ability to swoop in from behind and snatch an unexpected intercept, so teams playing the ball around in the two-point zone may well fall prey to her quick hands.
Melbourne Vixens (2019 place: Third)
Another largely unchanged line up, the Vixens have replaced the retired Renae Ingles with young Victorian Kate Eddy, who had been playing with the NSW Swifts. As always, the Vixens look strong on paper, with six current and former Diamonds in their ranks, as well as Malawi and Jamaican internationals. However, with only one win in the finals series in the first three seasons of the competition, they will need to address their composure under pressure if they hope to take out that elusive SSN title.
Collingwood Magpies (2019 place: Fourth)
The Magpies have a very different team than the one that finished the 2019 season. With April Brandley, Kim Ravaillion and Nat Medhurst sitting out the season after recently giving birth and Ash Brazill suffering an ACL injury during the AFLW season, change has been a necessity. Medhurst’s loss will be the biggest hit for the club that suffered plenty of woes in the goal attack position before her arrival. There was hope that the delayed season may allow her to take part, but the news of her emergency caesarean has made that unlikely. The return of the Browne sisters will bolster the mid-court, while the defence end remains strong. However, much will hinge on the ability of Gabi Sinclair to step up in goal attack and the improvement of Shimona Nelson in goal shooter.
Giants Netball (2019 place: Fifth)
After missing out on the finals by the smallest of margins in 2019, the Giants will be raring to go in 2020. The biggest change to their lineup comes through the retirement of captain Kim Green. Her replacement with Maddie Hay only adds to the team’s defensive log jam. The team’s three mid-courters are all more at home in wing defence and centre, meaning the wing attack spot is likely to be filled by shooter Kiera Austin. However, with goal attack Jo Harten a long shot specialist and the Diamonds’ captain Caitlin Bassett under the post, they are well placed to handle the two-point shot. Young defender Matilda McDonell will be one to watch in her second season – she has shown potential in the Australian Netball League and NSW Premier League.
West Coast Fever (2019 place: Sixth)
From a three-goal loss in the 2018 grand final to the depths of sixth place with only one change to their starting seven, the Fever will hope to rebound from this form slump in 2020. While shooting star Jhaniele Fowler and Diamonds’ goal keeper Courtney Bruce are among the best bookends in the competition, a lack of changes to the squad for 2020 mean that weaknesses in the attacking mid-court and the goal attack position are likely to continue to plague the Western Australians.
Adelaide Thunderbirds (2019 place: Seventh)
After their best SSN finish in 2019, the Thunderbirds will be looking to move further up the ladder this season and push for their first finals campaign. On paper, this seems to be the best team the Thunderbirds have assembled in their SSN history. The return of Layla Guscoth at the defensive end, paired with Jamaican star Shamera Sterling, as well as the inclusion of Lenize Potgieter at goal shooter will afford the team more cohesion than in previous seasons. Young South Australians Sasha Glasgow, Maisie Nankivell and Charlee Hodges will provide dynamism and spark through the middle.
Queensland Firebirds (2019 place: Eighth)
Once a powerhouse of the defunct ANZ Championship, the Firebirds have struggled to regain their past form. With a line-up that already seemed one of the least prepared to deal with the two-point shot, the team received a further blow to their chances with the pregnancy of reigning Liz Ellis Diamond winner Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett). Among a fairly inexperienced squad, captain Gabi Simpson is a shining light, while new recruit Ine-Mari Venter will look to make the most of the opportunity provided by Bueta’s absence.
Round One begins this weekend
Queensland Firebirds v Sunshine Coast Lightning – Saturday August 1st, Nissan Arena (Brisbane), 1:00pm AEST
Giants Netball v West Coast Fever – Saturday August 1st, Ken Rosewall Arena (Sydney), 3:00pm AEST
NSW Swifts v Adelaide Thunderbirds – Sunday August 2nd, Ken Rosewall Arena (Sydney), 1:00pm AEST
Melbourne Vixens v Collingwood Magpies – Sunday August 2nd, Nissan Arena (Brisbane), 5:00pm