Could the drought be over?
Could this finally be the year a championship title heads west after more than 21 fruitless seasons?
There’s a new found optimism at the West Coast Fever in 2018. And it’s all down to the signing of one player. Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler arrives in Perth after five record-breaking seasons with Southern Steel.
A prolific scoring machine, the 198cm tall goal shooter uses her height and size to dominate the shooting circle like no other. Providing she’s fed even moderately well by her team mates, Fowler is almost unstoppable. She is fresh from a strong performance at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast where she was entrusted with the captaincy of Jamaica and led them to the bronze medal.
She will be joined in the circle by Nat Medhurst, in what should prove to be a formidable shooting combination. It would be only human if Medhurst feels she has a point to prove this season. The Commonwealth Games have come and gone and she was only a viewer this time. It was both a shock and a disappointment to many when she was left out of the Diamonds squad last year. That omission came on the back of a seemingly poor performance in Super Netball.
But there were mitigating factors to her drop off in form. Leading a Fever side greatly weakened by defections, she was required (or took it upon herself) to do too much work outside the circle, while she no longer had the talent of Caitlin Bassett inside it. Now that she’s not burdened with the captaincy, and has the huge presence of Fowler under the post, she can focus on doing what she does best; weaving her magic in and around the circle.
It will be interesting to see what role Kaylia Stanton plays. She showed glimpses of what she can do last season, but it was later in the year, when playing in Australia’s Fast5 team, that she performed above expectations. It would be a shame if she received little or no game time this year just as she was coming into her own.
Taking over the captaincy this season is Courtney Bruce. It is a sudden rise in responsibility for her, but it’s a position she seems ready to take. Now she just needs the performances to back it up. After a solid season with Fever last year, it was the international season where she really impressed.
Where previously Bruce has been liable to attract far too much whistle, she seems to have improved in that area and is now one of the leading defenders in the competition.
Experienced England representative Stacey Francis rejoins her in the circle – together they form a fierce partnership capable of being ball-winning weapons. The third defender in the squad, Annika Lee-Jones, is only likely to gain court time if extra height is called upon. At 197cm tall, Lee-Jones is now only the second tallest player in the team.
This Fever team looks strong at both ends of the court, but it will be the effectiveness of the midcourt which may ultimately decide their fate. This has seemingly always been the case. They have struggled to find midcourt players, especially in attack, who are consistent week to week and make few errors. Verity Charles and Ingrid Colyer return this season and will be aiming to again improve on previous years.
Then there is Jess Anstiss, who was outstanding in 2017. Her emergence as a rookie at wing defence was a genuine highlight. Thankfully however, specialist wing defence Shannon Eagland is back from a serious injury suffered in Round 4 last year and it seems Anstiss is destined to play a more attacking role now. She is clearly a star of the future. Could she be the midcourt saviour Fever has been looking for?
Long-suffering Fever fans should have more to cheer about in 2018. While it’s definitely a big ask for them to climb from seventh to first in just one year and take out the Super Netball title, the addition of Fowler gives them a far stronger look. It is now up to the team to start putting the wins together, gather some momentum and come season’s end, they should be challenging hard for a finals berth.
Courtney Bruce (c) GK/GD
Stacey Francis (vc) GD/GK
Jessica Anstiss C/WD/WA
Verity Charles WA/C
Ingrid Colyer C/WA
Shannon Eagland WD/C
Jhaniele Fowler GS
Annika Lee-Jones GK
Natalie Medhurst GA/GS
Kaylia Stanton GS/GA
Head coach: Stacey Marinkovich
Assistant coach: Belinda Reynolds
Training partners: Emma Cosh, Jessica Eales, Olivia Lewis, Jessica Penny