2023 Netball Scoop World’s Best Netballer

2023 Netball Scoop World’s Best Netballer

  • Cover photos by May Bailey, Shaun Sharp, and Marcela Massey

 

It’s that time once again where we at Netball Scoop, present the results of our annual World’s Best Netballer poll. 10 people (a mix of Netball Scoop’s own writers and some guest pundits) nominate their top five players of the past year on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis. Then, the votes are tallied up. We had two new guest judges to help us this year in Lucy Goodman (“Lucy G”) from the Qtr Time podcast, and the netball legend that is Cathrine Tuivaiti.

This year’s voting panel:

Brittany Carter (ABC & Netty Life Podcast)
Kate Cornish (Netball Scoop & Netty Life Podcast)
Erin Delahunty (Freelance journalist)
Georgia Doyle (Netball Scoop)
Lucy Goodman (Qtr time Podcast)
Tamsin Greenway (Sky Sports UK)
Ian Harkin (Netball Scoop)
Katrina Nissen (Netball Scoop)
Jenny Sinclair (Netball Scoop)
Cathrine Tuivaiti (Tonga Tala NWC team)

It was not an easy task for our voting panel with many fine performances at domestic and international level, the highlight being the 16th Netball World Cup held in Cape Town, South Africa. In all, 12 players from six different countries received votes from our judges. If you scroll down, you will find the full list. But it was the following six players who dominated the voting and pulled clear of the rest…

 


 

6th – GRACE NWEKE (New Zealand)

Grace Nweke voted 6th in Netball Scoop's World's Best Netballer. Image by Graeme Laughton-Mutu

Grace Nweke came back strongly from injury in the Constellation Cup. Image: Graeme Laughton-Mutu

 

To say that 2023 was a year of highs and lows for Grace Nweke, would be an understatement. She comes in a very creditable 6th in our poll, but things could have been even better for the Silver Ferns goal shooter. Showing steady improvement at international level, Nweke performed well during the Quad Series in January. She then had another dominant season in the ANZ Premiership, culminating in an extraordinary grand final. She notched an astonishing 70 goals at 96 percent as her Northern Mystics team romped to an emphatic win over their rivals, the Stars.

This irresistible form must surely have had opposition teams wary of the sort of impact she would have at the Netball World Cup in Cape Town. Sadly however, injury struck early on in New Zealand’s third match and ruled a shattered Nweke out for the rest of the tournament. Without her, the Ferns tried valiantly, but for the first time ever at a World Cup, they were unable to win a medal, showing just how much she was missed.

This was underlined later in the year when she returned from injury to help her country square the Constellation Cup series against Australia, inflicting two defeats on the newly crowned world champions. Combining height, strength and agility, and an ever improving temperament, she is only getting better. Providing she remains injury free, 2024 should be another big year for Nweke as she looks to go back to back with the Mystics and spearhead the Silver Ferns in search of silverware.

 

Georgia Doyle – “Grace Nweke’s impact on the Silver Ferns was evident when she went down with a knee injury in Cape Town and they went on to record their worst-ever finish at a World Cup. She spearheaded the Northern Mystics to their second premiership in three years as the league’s lead goal scorer, and her time on court during the Constellation Cup directly correlated to success, with the Silver Ferns winning both matches where she played big minutes. She has evolved her game, adding movement, clean ball handling and range to her shot and her ability to stand up against the physical pressure of the best defenders is improving with every outing. At only 21 years of age, she will be causing headaches for international coaches for years to come.”

 


 

5th – LIZ WATSON (Australia)

Liz Watson was voted 5th in Netball Scoop's World's Best Netballer. Image: Tanya Snelling

Liz Watson always leads from the front. Image: Tanya Snelling

 

Finishing fifth in our poll, Liz Watson had another great year in 2023. In the past two years, she has settled perfectly into her role as captain of the Australian team, and she led the Diamonds well again in the past 12 months. Under her captaincy, they are a happy, united, and successful team, currently holding all of the major titles they compete for. Watson isn’t a demonstrative leader. For the most part, she leads by example in just simply doing what she does best – regularly dominating the midcourt.

The star wing attack is a big game player who always seems to lift for the occasion. She has the knack of finding space, getting to that circle edge, and providing her shooters with the right pass at the right time. Just consider these numbers. In Cape Town, under the pressure of a World Cup semi final and final, Watson came up with a total of 40 goal assists, 87 feeds, and just three turnovers in 120 minutes of high quality netball.

A genuine ball magnet, Watson has been producing brilliant stats like that for the Melbourne Vixens for ten seasons. This year, she helped Vixens to the finals once again. She will face a new challenge in 2024, having signed to play with the Sunshine Coast Lightning. There’s no reason why she won’t be just as successful with her new team, as she links up with a few of her Diamonds teammates. Meanwhile, she will attempt to carry on her winning run as Australian captain under the constant threat of so many other nations on the improve.

 

Jenny Sinclair – “It was a close tussle for places in the number one position, but the recent Constellation Cup cemented Liz Watson as my top pick. She was dominant throughout the domestic and international season, and only lowered her colours once – to Latanya Wilson. Watson owns the attacking third, using a combination of strength and athleticism to find prime feeding position on the circle, while her precision into her shooters is incredible. In addition, Watson’s role as the Diamonds’ captain can’t be overlooked – she’s been one of the key drivers in building a tightly knit group who stand together both on and off the court.”

 


 

Equal 3rd – ELEANOR CARDWELL (England)

Eleanor Cardwell was strong for England at goal shooter. Image: Danny Dalton | Tah Dah Sports

 

English Roses star, Eleanor Cardwell, is one of two players tied in equal third place in our poll. It was a big year for Cardwell who helped take England to their first ever World Cup final, and ultimately the silver medal. Showing poise, strength, and a fierce will to win, she shot 34/35 against Australia in the group stage as the Roses beat the Diamonds for the first time ever in a World Cup. She then took six crucial offensive rebounds as they overcame New Zealand to reach the final.

It’s no mere coincidence that after years of struggling in the bottom half of the table, the signing of Cardwell led to success for the Adelaide Thunderbirds. In her first taste of Suncorp Super Netball, Cardwell played well in the opening rounds, but it was round six when she really came to life, hitting a late super shot to defeat the previously unbeaten Fever. From that point on, she was at her very best in the biggest matches. Both the major semi final and grand final against NSW Swifts went to extra time, and on both occasions, Cardwell sank two super shots from as many attempts when under extreme pressure to get her side home. She was a very deserved player of the match in the decider.

For the 2024 Super Netball season, Cardwell has moved from Thunderbirds to the new franchise, Melbourne Mavericks, where she will team up with fellow Roses shooter Sasha Glasgow and be coached by her former Manchester Thunder coach Tracey Neville. There will no doubt be challenges being involved in a new team, but with Cardwell’s determination, there’s every chance she will make it a success. For the Roses, she is a big part of a shooting line up that keeps getting stronger each year and their next test is in the upcoming Nations Cup.

 


 

Equal 3rd – SHAMERA STERLING (Jamaica)

Shamera Sterling with the blocked shot! Image: May Bailey

 

2023 was another tremendous year for Shamera Sterling, both internationally and domestically, and she joins Eleanor Cardwell in equal third place in our poll. Anticipation, elevation, agility, reflexes, positioning, it’s all there and it makes Sterling a constant defensive threat to any team she comes up against. After another strong tournament, she helped Jamaica to a bronze medal at the World Cup in Cape Town. She had four possession gains as the Sunshine Girls lost narrowly to eventual champions Australia in the semi finals, and another five as they overcame New Zealand in the bronze medal game.

Some people thought a bronze medal was perhaps an underachievement for what was a strong Jamaican team, but it must be remembered that they only finished fifth in Liverpool in 2019, and hadn’t claimed a World Cup medal in 16 years! So, to finish with bronze was certainly something for Sterling to be very proud of. That tournament came on the back of what was surely the highlight of the year, claiming the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball title.

After four fruitless seasons at or near the bottom of the ladder, Sterling was able to celebrate when her Adelaide Thunderbirds team triumphed in a thrilling grand final that went to extra time. Sterling was voted the SSN Player of the Year, and as per usual, her defensive stats were outstanding (she led the competition for deflections and intercepts). In the grand final, Sterling had seven possession gains, including three intercepts and three rebounds, and came up with vital plays at just the right time. She returns with the Thunderbirds in 2024 and will no doubt do everything she can to help them defend their title.

 


 

2nd – HELEN HOUSBY (England)

Helen Housby revving up her Swifts team. Image: Aliesha Vicars.

 

Finishing second in our poll after an incredible year is NSW Swifts and England Roses shooter Helen Housby. She has been a top performer at the highest level for several years now, but she seemingly took it to a whole new level in 2023. Showing a willingness to take the game on and an ability to execute under pressure, Housby played a huge part in the Roses’ campaign in Cape Town where she was named Player of the Tournament. For the first time ever at a World Cup, England defeated both Australia and New Zealand, on their way to their first ever final. Their eventual second placing is England’s best finish at a World Cup since 1975.

At club level, an inspired Housby helped get NSW Swifts into the Super Netball grand final, where they came up agonisingly short, beaten in extra time. During the second half of the regular season, she went on an unbelievable run of form, racking up match winning stats game after game. Goals, accuracy, assists, gains, super shots, she did it all as she scored 100+ Nissan Net Points for six games straight, something that nobody else has ever achieved. In the grand final, she did all that she could to help keep Swifts in the game and get them over the line, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t to be.

Housby has signed on with Swifts for three more years, meaning that she will end up being a 10-year player at the club. That’s a great achievement and a big show of faith from her and the team. If she produces another season like 2023, there’s every chance she (and the Swifts) could end up going one better in 2024. Meanwhile, as the Roses continue to build, especially in the shooting department, Housby is sure to play a crucial role for England in the coming years.

 

Lucy Goodman – “Queen. Icon. Legend. Although there are many worthy contenders for this top spot, for me it goes to English Rose Helen Housby. In my opinion this year has seen Helen at her absolute best, being crowned NWC Player (and shooter) of the Tournament, as well as part of the SSN Team of the Year. What I love about Helen is that she is absolutely fearless, and she is not afraid to step up when it matters most. She has played her heart out for Swifts and Roses in 2023, suffering heartbreak both domestically and internationally at the final hurdle, but none of that should take away from the fact we’re seeing some of the best netball of her life right now, and long may it continue.”

Cathrine Tuivaiti – “Helen Housby is lethal. Her accuracy and shot selection make her a danger for any team she comes up against. Defensively she is a pain in the bum. Which is a great thing if she’s on your team. But my favourite thing about Helen is her court play. She is methodical about her movements and her circle entry is sublime. She has shared the circle with many different shooting partners this year and has remained dominant and damaging.”

 


 

1st – COURTNEY BRUCE (Australia)

Courtney Bruce was voted Netball Scoop's 2023 World's Best Netballer. Image: Danny Dalton | Tah Dah Sports

Courtney Bruce keeping a ball in play. Image: Danny Dalton | Tah Dah Sports

 

Australian Diamonds’ defender Courtney Bruce comes out on top in our poll after being chosen in the top two by all ten judges! She has been a consistently strong performer at club and international level for some time, but she really shone in 2023, culminating in her winning her second Liz Ellis Diamond. Bruce had a tremendous year all round, but it was her efforts in helping Australia to its 12th World Cup win in Cape Town, that proved to be the major point of difference for our judges. Quite simply, she was integral to the Diamonds taking out the tournament and reclaiming the last piece of silverware they didn’t already hold.

After a quiet game against England in the group stages, Bruce came back strongly under the pressure of the World Cup playoffs. When the game was really on the line in the pivotal semi final against Jamaica, it was Bruce who stepped up with four crucial possession gains. She then dominated the return bout with England in the final, once again being one of the best on court with six gains to get on top of the strong Roses’ shooting circle. Bruce’s ability to relentlessly wear down her opponents and then pounce on even the slightest error is what makes her so tough to beat.

On a domestic level, Bruce had another strong year, topping the competition in defensive rebounds. She led the defending champions West Coast Fever to the Super Netball Preliminary final, but despite an incredible game from herself with 12 possession gains, they went down narrowly to the Swifts. 2024 will bring a new challenge for Bruce, as she joins Liz Watson in heading to the Sunshine Coast. A fresh start could reinvigorate Bruce and make her even more dangerous – that’s a scary thought for the opposition.

 

Brittany Carter – “This year’s Liz Ellis Diamond winner had to be number one for me, although it was a tough call to make with another goal keeper in Shamera Sterling — really loving how much dominance the defenders are having in the game! Bruce was awarded POTM in three World Cup matches for her never-say-die attitude to hunt ball. She has played almost every game for the Diamonds over the past 12 months in their quest to win everything on offer from the Constellation Cup to the world crown. Although she can be a divisive figure (mainly for anyone not supporting her team) her tenacious presence at the back and ability to get in the head of the opposition is what makes her so good.”

Kate Cornish – “Courtney Bruce was so pivotal to the Diamonds winning their 12th NWC title (especially in the semi-final against Jamaica) that she had to take the pole position. Her leadership in defence and her ability to read the game and come up with match-winning intercepts are as impressive as her grinding and relentless physicality. In Cape Town, Bruce was named defender of the tournament against some remarkable competition in Jamaica’s Shamera Stirling and Latanya Wilson. Her stellar 2023 was recently capped off by winning the most coveted award in Australia Netball, the Liz Ellis Diamond (for the second time) and being named International Player of the Year. Her development as a player and a leader over the past two years has been outstanding to watch; rightly so, she is enjoying the success of her hard work.”

Erin Delahunty – “The Diamonds’ smiling assassin – who describes herself as “painfully shy” growing up – took all before her in 2023, menacing every opponent she faced, rarely lowering her colours. At international and domestic level, she always comes up with the ball when her side needs it: whether it’s through winning the mental game or fearlessly flying for an intercept.”

Tamsin Greenway – “This was really tough again this year, but with the amount of pressure the Diamonds have been under the last 2 years they have still continued to come out on top. So many Australian players have had standout performances in key matches, but Courtney Bruce is the ever consistent, she turns up in all the big games against the very best shooters in the world, she wins ball and she clearly knows how to lead. She is known for her ‘physicality’ which often overshadows the fact that her footwork, delivery of ball, reading of the game and athletic ability are incredible.”  

Katrina Nissen – “Courtney Bruce is in career best form. She backed up another strong domestic season with a competition leading performance at the Netball World Cup and in the subsequent international season for the Diamonds. She is one of the world’s most feared defenders, and her consistency and leadership, on and off the court, has made her a vital member of a successful Australian team.”

 


 

FINAL VOTING

45 . COURTNEY BRUCE (AUS)
24 . Helen Housby (Eng)
18 . Eleanor Cardwell (Eng)
18 . Shamera Sterling (Jam)
15 . Liz Watson (Aus)
12 . Grace Nweke (NZ)
5 . Jhaniele Fowler (Jam)
5 . Latanya Wilson (Jam)
4 . Mary Cholhok (Uga)
2 . Jamie-Lee Price (Aus)
1 . Karla Pretorius (SA)
1 . Fran Williams (Eng)

HONOUR ROLL

2016 – Sharni Layton (Aus)
2017 – Geva Mentor (Eng)
2018 – Geva Mentor (Eng)
2019 – Karla Pretorius (SA)
2020 – Ameliaranne Ekenasio (NZ)
2021 – Jhaniele Fowler (Jam)
2022 – Gretel Bueta (Aus)
2023 – Courtney Bruce (Aus)

 


 

MEN’S NETBALL

In 2023, we saw further growth in in the promotion of men’s netball with more international matches taking the spotlight. These matches gave even more people a taste of men’s netball at the elite level. For many netball fans, 2023 was the first time they had seen the South African or Jamaican men’s teams, and people liked what they saw. Men’s netball is only going to get bigger and better in the coming years with more countries and more players in the spotlight.

These were just some of the male players who impressed us this year. Cat Tuivaiti is a big fan of Liam Forcadilla!

Josh Byron (Australia)
Liam Forcadilla (Australia)
Richard Hendricks (Jamaica)
Shane Labuschagne (South Africa)
Junior Levi (New Zealand)
Thomson Matuku (New Zealand)
Brodie Roberts (Australia)

 

Liam Forcadilla was a stand out for the Kelpies in Melbourne. Image: Aliesha Vicars

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