As Sue Gaudion is always quick to remind netball fans, statistics can’t tell us everything. What they can do is offer an insight into how teams play the game strategically and how individual players have performed over the season.
This article is the culmination of looking at the stats of every player to have taken the court in the 2019 SSN season. A similar series of articles I wrote last year looked at players according to position. This year, I have opted to take a slightly different approach by looking at some of the key stats across different positions, as well as team stats in areas like turnover and gain conversion. These statistics were collected from publicly available Champion Data stats for every game this season and compiled in a giant Excel document.
|Team||Player||G||Att.||%||Team’s total||Share (%)||R|
Players are listed by team then position. G – goals; Att – Attempts; % – goal percentage; Team’s total – all goals scored by the team this year; Share – Player’s total share of all team goals; R – rebounds
Jhaniele Fowler has scored an incredible 460 goals for the West Coast Fever at 95.4%, with the next most prolific shooter 70 goals behind her in fellow Jamaican Shimona Nelson. Fowler has also scored 85% of her team’s total goals with the remaining 15% shared among Kaylia Stanton (68 goals) and Alice Teague-Neeld (13 goals). Sam Wallace has scored 64.4% of her side’s goals, but has ideal backup in Helen Housby who will shoot from around the circle and is on a creditable 83.3% for the season.
Gretel Tippett is the most accurate player in the league, having previously scored 100 goals without a miss between rounds 2 and 5. With an ongoing injury to shooter, Romelda Aiken, Tippett has filled in admirably and has been backed up by Amy Sommerville, Abigail Latu-Meafou and most recently, South African star shooter, Lenize Potgieter.
Sasha Glasgow leads all others in her position for rebounds, managing 30 for the season. Caitlin Bassett has also rebounded 28 times, many of these from her own missed shots. Proscovia (27) and Fowler (26) have also been impressive.
Goal Assists and Feeds
|Team||Player||QP||A||Share %||Feeds||Feed eff. %|
This table shows the top two players for goal assists from each team. QP – number of quarters played; A – assists; Share % – the player’s share of a team’s total goal assists; F – feeds; Feed eff. % – assists/feeds i.e. how many of a player’s feeds are also assists.
Not many netball fans will be surprised to learn that superstar wing attack Liz Watson has tallied up just over half of the Vixens’ goal assists in 2019 and leads the next best player in the league by a huge 70 assists, averaging over 28 per game. She is also a highly accurate feeder who is more often than not able to find players in shooting position.
In round 1, Watson managed 36 goal assists for the game, that’s more than one every two minutes. Watson doesn’t really seem to have off games in this department, with even her lowest total goal assists a more than creditable 23. Watson’s midcourt teammate Kate Moloney has also been impressive to this end and is currently third overall for goal assists behind Watson and Kelsey Browne.
Feeding efficiency was added to this table to determine how often players were needing to feed a ball in and back out to get into scoring position. Players who can regularly find shooters in the right position on a feed are a dime a dozen – Steph Wood and Nat Medhurst are the most obvious examples.
Wood has had a less successful shooting year than she would have hoped, but is the key netball brain in the Lightning attack end. Medhurst has also with 73% of her feeds ending in a goal. Neither player seems to have had much trouble adjusting to new shooting combinations in 2019.
The Lightning probably share the feeding load around more than most other teams, with Scherian (171), Wood (165) and Langman (129) all able to put the ball into their shooters. For the Swifts, Maddy Proud was the leader in her team for goal assists until an ACL rupture in round 7. Proud, who had predominantly played at wing attack over the season has been replaced in the team by dual coder Elle Bennetts.
The Fever’s goal assists are primarily coming from their centre and goal attack. With both in the 50s for feeding efficiency, the Fever are taking more risks with the ball in and around the circle. Despite a lack of accuracy at the post, Alice Teague-Neeld has looked like a strong option given the opportunity to come on as an impact player. In the round 8 game against the Thunderbirds, she came on midway through the first quarter and was key in their one goal victory. Teague-Neeld notched up 26 assists from 32 feeds (81% efficiency).
There are a few factors that can contribute to low efficiency feeds. The first is the kind of shooter one is feeding to. As Medhurst eloquently showed us at the Fever last year, a great feed into Fowler is almost impossible to stop. Fowler takes primarily short and mid-range shots and is able to hold exceptionally under the post and take the ball cleanly if it’s put in roughly the right place. With Medhurst making the bulk of feeds into Fowler in last year’s SSN, neither Stanton nor Charles have been able to capture the same fluency in attack, nor the accuracy at the post when required in Stanton’s case.
The Giants have struggled more in attack more than most people probably realised they would. Bassett famously only likes to take shots from right near the post and will pass the ball out if she’s not in a confident shooting position. At the Lightning, this worked well as Wood or Kelsey Browne could find her most of the time, but has worked less well at the Giants. A fractured arm in the preseason to Bassett has clearly contributed to the discord and disrupted the training time needed to make this combination work.
Caitlyn Nevins has taken the bulk of the feeding load for the Firebirds. The player who has taken the second most goal assists for the team only played four and a bit rounds before a heart wrenching ACL rupture in the first quarter of round 5. Tippett and Jemma Mimi are sharing the remainder of the feeding responsibilities.
Centre pass receives
Laura Scherian is at the top of the leaderboard for centre pass receives this season, able to beat opposing players over the line the vast majority of the time. Watson comes in at second and in these terms is probably the most statistically effective at her position, boasting by far the highest number of goal assists and the second highest number of centre pass receives.
In round 3, the Fever lost to the Swifts by 14 goals. In amongst the loss, Ingrid Colyer managed 40 centre pass receives with Stanton, Anstiss and Francis taking 23 between them. Could this mismatch explain some of the Fever’s woes in attack this season? It’s difficult to tell just from looking at the numbers whether Colyer’s lack of goal assists has to do with the work she’s putting in on the centre pass, but it is certainly an area that could be looked at going into the last few rounds.
In two teams, the goal attack rather than the wing attack has taken the bulk of centre pass receives. At the Swifts, Housby often takes the centre pass, to open up space for the wing attack to drive down the middle. For the Firebirds, Tippett has excelled in this area. Who takes the centre pass can often determine how the team will then play the ball into the circle. For the Vixens, the strategy has always been for Watson to drive onto the centre pass, give it off to Moloney or Philip and then drive hard onto the circle edge for the pinpoint feed.
Turnovers for each team in each round. A season average (rounded to the next whole number) is given in the bottom row.
The top three teams in the Suncorp Super Netball are also the three with the lowest average turnovers per game. Currently fourth on the ladder, the Magpies lead all other teams for average turnovers per game (27).
Individual turnovers are partially determined by position. Goal keepers should always have the lowest turnovers on a team. Key to any good performance from a goal keeper is making sure that when you get the ball, you hold onto it. Emily Mannix of the Vixens has a single turnover to her name so far this season. Bruce has had just six, but has also played fewer games.
Goal attacks have had the highest rate of turnovers in the 2019 season. When you consider the dual midcourt and shooting roles played by this position, it makes sense. Helen Housby has managed to play a key role in the Swifts campaign this year with just 20 turnovers for the season so far.
For the Magpies, turnovers are particularly concentrated in their attack end with Nelson (33), Medhurst (43) and Kelsey Browne (46) accounting for exactly half of the team’s season total. The Magpies coughed up the ball 33 times in their round 4 win against the Adelaide Thunderbirds, with Ash Brazill the only player to take the court without a turnover.
The Thunderbirds have also struggled with turnovers this season. While Shamera Sterling has picked up countless balls in defence for them, they haven’t been able to make the most of these gains and often squander them in transition. Sterling herself has contributed 13 turnovers.
Most of these turnovers are happening when the Thunderbirds try to force the ball into the circle. Maria Folau has 43 to her name. The team is clearly still in a rebuilding phase, but if they can learn to hold onto the amount of defensive ball they are getting, they could be unstoppable.
The Firebirds are averaging a less than ideal 26 turnovers per game. With no settled starting seven and a number of injuries to key players, the responsibility to organise the attack end has fallen on Tippett’s shoulders. She has the highest turnovers to her name of any player in the league (63), possibly a sign of playing with so many different shooting partners.
The Vixens had their worst game in round 7 against the Magpies where they tallied up 30 turnovers. Moloney, Watson and Philip had a total of 20 turnovers combined with ten of these coming from the hands of Watson. This game was defensively excellent for the Magpies with Mentor, Brandley and Brazill causing havoc for the Vixens frontline who are usually so accurate.
The Swifts have the lowest average turnovers (18) with their round 3 tally of 12 against the West Coast Fever simply exceptional. Time will only tell if the injury to their superstar wing attack, Maddy Proud, will affect this. However, the return of Nat Haythornthwaite after the Netball World Cup at least gives them some more options in the midcourt.
Similar to many other teams, the Giants have struggled and seem to be highly inconsistent in their turnover count from game to game. They had a shocker in round 2 against the Vixens and turned the ball over 40 times. Every player who took the court for the game except Sam Poolman contributed at least two turnovers. The front three of Green, Harten and Bassett contributed were responsible for half of them. By contrast, in their round 8 loss to the Swifts, they recorded their lowest number of turnovers, but were simply unable to take the opportunities.
This table includes the number of turnovers converted from each team for each round of the league with an average down the bottom (to one decimal place). This was calculated by dividing the number of goals from turnovers by the number of opposition turnovers.
As the Thunderbirds have so aptly demonstrated this year, a team having 134 gains over nine rounds does not necessarily equate to a good season. Teams need to be able to put the pressure on to get the turnover and then be ready to safely get the ball down to their shooters.
The Thunderbirds have the lowest turnover conversion rate of 28.7%. In their round 4 loss to the Magpies, they only turned the ball over one more time but lost by 18 goals. This was largely due to only 21.2% of the Magpies’ errors being turned into points.
Unsurprisingly the Swifts have the highest turnover conversion rate and are the only team over 40% average. Many thought they were lucky to salvage a draw against the Thunderbirds in round 9. Despite committing more turnovers during the game, they were much better at taking care of the ball when it was turned over. They ended the game with more than half of the Thunderbirds’ turnovers converted into goals, while the Thunderbirds were only able to hold onto their opposition’s errors 28.7% of the time.
Swifts have had a standout season with the best overall gain and turnover conversion of any team. In round 7 against the Firebirds, they converted 100% of their 11 gains into goals, helping them to a 22 goal win.
|Team||Player||QP||GN||I||Def – g||Def – ng||R|
QP – quarters played; Gn – gains (intercepts, deflections with a gain and rebounds combined); I – intercepts; Def-g – deflections with a gain; Def-ng – deflections with no gain; R – rebounds.
Shamera Sterling has announced herself to the Australian league, taking 81 gains so far this season, including 42 intercepts, 18 deflections with a gain and 22 rebounds. Karla Pretorius is having an outstanding season at goal defence, taking 61 gains across the competition so far. Sarah Klau has also had a breakout year, winning the ball 44 times for her team and getting a Diamonds call-up in the process.
The Achilles tendon injury to Layla Guscoth at the Netball World Cup is likely to lead to further problems. While not at the statistical heights of her defensive counterpart, as the old adage goes, the players out in front are the ones who make passing over the keeper the only option. The Thunderbirds will likely push Kate Shimmin out to goal defence.
Courtney Bruce has impressed in her limited time in court. A nasty fall in round 1 saw her sit out the next two games, but her comeback has been impressive. In her first game back in round 5, the Fever were victorious over the Magpies, owing in no small part to Bruce’s eight gains (four intercepts, three deflections with gain and a rebound).
Penalties have been relatively even across different defensive lines this year. Sam Poolman draws the most contact penalties of any player in the league, picking up 115 so far. Tara Hinchliffe has found herself standing beside her player a lot due to 59 obstruction penalties and will need to look to clean this up in the second part of the season.
Poolman and Sterling lead the stat for defensive rebounds, having both picked up 21 so far. Their ability to block out shooters from gaining the rebounds under the post is particularly impressive.
This table shows the number of gains converted into goals for each round with the team’s average (to one decimal place) shown at the bottom.
The Swifts have been the most impressive in their gain conversion with the Vixens coming in a close second. In their round 7 win over the Firebirds, they had 11 total gains and managed to convert every single one of them, the only team to hit that height this season. Compare this to the Firebirds, who had one more gain during the game, but were only able to convert half of them.
The Thunderbirds have the lowest gain conversion. They have converted just over half of their gains so far this season (52.6%) ranking them the lowest of any team.
Interestingly, the Lightning who look to be finals bounds have been less convincing in their conversion of gains. The Lightning boast the most gains in the competition (144 total). Towards the business end of the competition, and particularly considering the large number of players returning from the Netball World Cup, the Lightning will need to reap the rewards of the best defensive combination in the league in order to stamp their mark and look towards a third title.
What about the wing defences though?
|Player||QP||GN||I||Def-G||Def-NG||CR||PU||C||O||Assists against||CRs against||Turnovers against|
|Van der Merwe||12||5||3||2||10||15||4||29||2||48||65||14|
QP – quarters played; GN – gains; I – intercepts; Def-g – deflections with a gain; Def-ng – deflections with no gain; CR – centre pass receives; PU – pickups; C – contact penalties; O – obstruction penalties; Assists against – total number of goal assists scored by opposing wing attacks – numbers were only collected when the player was on at wing defence; Centre receives against – total number of centre pass receives scored by opposing wing attacks; Turnovers against – total number of turnovers by opposing wing attacks.
Wing defence is a crucial position on the netball court and one that is not easy to measure with statistics. Good wing defences can have many or no gains for a game and still have had a significant impact. This can turn up in the statistics as opposition turnovers or even gains to the defensive players behind them.
In an attempt to capture this, this table includes a rundown of several key stats including defensive stats, penalties and opposition centre pass receives and goal assists. This is a little fraught, as we know that players can switch between marking different players, but can give some insight into the level to which these players are able to shut others down.
With a heartbreaking injury to Thunderbirds player, Beth Cobden in round 3, the Thunderbirds found a permanent replacement player in round 7 – South African Shadine van der Merwe. Jess Anstiss has also played in all three midcourt positions over the season, but still predominantly plays wing defence. Kate Eddy missed the first game with an injury and has shared the wing defence responsibilities with promising youngster Sophie Halpin.
Renae Ingles has had an incredible season, picking up 25 gains including 12 intercepts. Ingles also has the highest centre pass receives of anyone in her position. She has a real knack of wearing down players until they start making mistakes, something not always captured in statistics. In the Vixens’ ten goal win over the Lightning in round 6, Ingles forced two changes to the wing attack position, neither which was able to stymie her influence on the game.
Gabi Simpson leads all others in her position for gains so far this season with 26. This is despite spending a game out with a groin injury and playing fewer minutes in other games. Non-selection in the Diamonds only appeared to spur her on. In the Firebirds’ draw with the Fever in round 5, Simpson took the attack line apart, relegating Ingrid Colyer to just 12 goal assists for the game and inspiring her team to come from behind and hand the Fever yet another draw.
Ash Brazill has a 75cm vertical leap, the highest in the league and a fact which makes passing the ball over her dangerous. Brazill has 43 deflections for the season so far and is fourth equal for this stat in the league leaderboard. She’s also played a crucial shutdown role in many games this year.
In the round 1 win over the Lightning, Brazill finished on four gains, but less obvious was the toll her presence took on the usually brilliant Laura Scherian. A change at wing attack near the end of the third quarter had little effect and both players finished the game on just seven goal assists combined and coughed up the ball 11 times. In their round 6 clash with the Vixens, Brazill forced a two midcourt switches at wing attack with both Moloney and Watson taking turns in the position. Watson, who spent most time at wing attack finished on ten turnovers for the game.
For the Giants, Parmenter has had a breakthrough rookie season. In their round 6 win over the Thunderbirds, Parmenter tallied up seven gains. While she has not had the same shutdown impact of players like Simpson, Ingles or Brazill, she has been key to the Giants’ drive for finals this year.
Madeline McAuliffe is very much a quiet achiever at the Lightning. She doesn’t take the huge intercepts to the same extent as many other players, but the fact that the defensive combination behind her is sitting on the highest gains of any team is a good indication she is doing her job well.
So what can these stats tell us about the Suncorp Super Netball season so far? In many ways, given the state of the ladder after nine rounds, many of these stats are unsurprising. Crucially, the battle for the last position in finals will likely come down to which of the Giants or Magpies is able to restrict their turnovers and convert any turnovers or gains they get. Likewise, during the finals series, the Lightning will need to lift their turnover and gain conversion to have a chance against the class of the Vixens and the Swifts.
There are a few players who have had outstanding seasons individually. Fowler has been a rock under the post for the Fever, while Sterling has had a breakthrough first season in SSN. Helen Housby of the Swifts has not only had an outstanding year in attack and has also been solid defensively, pulling in nine gains for her team. Paige Hadley has been instrumental in the Swifts’ turnaround this year and has the highest number of pickups of any player. Karla Pretorius has also been simply exceptional for the Lightning, who will need to reward her efforts in the last part of the season.
Conversely, there are some players for whom statistics don’t tell the complete picture. Laura Langman has been crucial in the Lightning’s drive to a third championship. Her ability to play the ball around and take every second ball is not necessarily captured by any statistics, bar a high number of turnovers (39). Similarly, Gretel Tippett has had an outstanding season in a losing team and there are very few people who still think she shouldn’t have made the Diamonds, despite her high number of turnovers. Her inventiveness with the ball and leadership on court has been important for the Firebirds, who have been incredibly unlucky with injuries as well.
Similarly Jamie-Lee Price has had an outstanding year playing out of position. Like Langman, she has a high rate of turnovers (32), but has been key to the Giants fighting back to give them a chance of going through to finals.