NETBALL SCOOP: 10 things we learned about the 2023 Trans-Tasman Series

NETBALL SCOOP: 10 things we learned about the 2023 Trans-Tasman Series

By |2023-10-29T09:20:31+10:00October 29th, 2023|Categories: AUS, Men's Netball, NZ|Tags: , |0 Comments

1.The Net Blacks are an exciting work in progress. With six debutantes and the loss of players such as former captain Kruze Tangira (retired) and goal keeper Timothy Apisai (unavailable), the Net Blacks were always going to take a while to build their on-court connections. And while the first test was a blowout, with Australia winning 76-41 (35 goals), New Zealand made huge inroads across the series. The Kelpies winning margin for tests 2 and 3 was just 14. Despite the number of newcomers, the Net Blacks (45) had just one less international cap than Australia (46), with Junior Levi and Jake Schuster combining for 26 caps.


New Zealand’s Liam Dalton was one of six debutantes for his side. Image Shaun Sharp/Moments by Shaun


2. The Kelpies had to bed in almost a completely new defensive end, given they were missing four of their stars. Dravyn Lee-Tauroa (unavailable), Tim Malmo (retired), Daniel Cools (retired) and Taylor Glassie (unavailable) left a mighty gap, but Australia were able to flex their depth. Alistair Punshon put in a mighty shift at goal defence across the three matches, Josh Byron returned from AFL and exciting newcomer Victor Nicolic rounded out the trio of players used in the circle.


Alastair Punchon put in a huge shift at goal defence across the tournament. Image Shaun Sharp/Moments by Shaun


3.Two vastly different goal shooters kept crowds enthralled with their ability under the post. Net Black’s captain Junior Levi was the highest scorer of the tournament, using his athleticism and strength under the post to put up 124 of New Zealand’s 144 goals. The Kelpies starting shooter was the wily Jerome Gillbard, who shot 104 goals in a display that showcased all of his legendary courtcraft, and a strong combination with any of the goal attacks or midcourters in front of him.


New Zealand's Junior Levi takes the ball close to the post. Image: Nicole Mudgway

New Zealand’s Junior Levi takes the ball close to the post. Image: Nicole Mudgway


Net Blacks GK Dylan Bartels getting air time over the shot of Jerome Gillbard. Image – Simon Leonard


4.Brodie Roberts is unparalleled in netball for his ability to cut the top of the circle, while his ability to receive the ball mid-air but land under the post is lethal. Agile and accurate, the goal attack was a standout across the series. Roberts scored 52/61 (85%) during his time on court. The New Zealand goal attacks were less prolific, given they were feeding Levi, but Thomson Matuku’s high-arching shot was reminiscent of a Nat Medhurst special. 


Brodie Roberts was a stand out in the goal circle. Image Shaun Sharp/Moments by Shaun


5.Winning 11 of the 12 quarters across three matches highlighted just how dominant the Kelpies were. In addition, Australia was able to lift their workrate across each game, rotating on fresh legs as New Zealand tired. In tests 1 and 3 their last quarter was their best, while in test two, their final quarter equalled their second quarter surplus. The Net Blacks will look to narrow that gap as their debutantes adjust to the fitness standards required for international netball.


Kelpies captain Dylan Nexhip defending the shot of Thomson Matuku. Image – Aliesha Vicars


6.Is there a better attacking line to start a game than Brodie Roberts, Riley Richardson and Liam Forcadilla? We’ll wait! While Roberts was busy in and around the circle, Richardson and Forcadilla were relentless in both attack and defence. The latter banged in 108 feeds across the series as he controlled the middle of the court. 

While Dylan McPherson, Anton Stechiwskyj and Eugene Lee had less court time, they also rotated seamlessly onto court when given the opportunity. After the last test, captain Dylan Nexhip paid tribute to McPherson – the trailblazer having announced his retirement.


Australia's Liam Forcadilla applies strong arms over pressure in the Kelpies game 3 win. Image: Nicole Mudgway

Australia’s Liam Forcadilla applies strong arms over pressure in the Kelpies game 3 win. Image: Nicole Mudgway


7.The Kelpies shared the defensive love around, with at least seven players picking up gains in every match. New Zealand started well, with six players gaining ball in test 1, but dropped off with five players (test 2) and just three players (test 3) coming up with wins. Of those, Jake Schuster and Dylan Bartels were their best defensive contributors, with Schuster pulling in 10 gains across the three matches, and Bartels 9 gains in the two matches he played. The 198 cm Michael Mundy got his first taste of international court time when he subbed in for the third test, and took a respectable 3 gains.


8.The Net Blacks have work to do in their team conversion statistics. While they would be pleased with their ability to score from centre pass, increasing from 52% in test 1, to 74% by test 3, their other conversion rates dropped off a cliff. By test 3, they were 60% worse than Australia for their gain to goal conversion rate, and 63% worse than Australia for their turnover conversion rate. In contrast, Australia maintained a consistently high standard across all three tests in these measures.


Test 1 Test 2 Test 3
Centre pass conversion A 81%

NZ 52%

A 67%

NZ 61%

A 76%

NZ 74%

Gains to goals conversion A 74%

NZ 62%

A 82%

NZ 44%

A 85%

NZ 25%

Unforced turnovers conversion A 82%

NZ 50%

A 75%

NZ 44%

A 85%

NZ 25%


Eugene Lee finds acres of space near the post. Image: Shaun Sharp

Eugene Lee was part of a crisp Kelpies’ attacking unit. Image: Shaun Sharp


9.While Australian netball fans claim Diamonds goal defence Jo Weston as prime ministerial material, New Zealand’s youngest debutant, Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes, is equally as impressive. The 22 year old midcourter is a rangatahi activist who has immersed himself in studying the revitalisation of the Māori language, and constitutionalism. A thought provoking interview with Hynes can be found here. 


10.While Australia may have taken the series 3-nil, netball was the winner. Both teams highlighted their incredible skills and athleticism, attracting whole new audiences to both the men’s game, and the sport. While the recent series between England and Jamaica was streamed, could South Africa be the sleeping giants of men’s netball? They have a strong local league, and games we’ve seen against Uganda look promising. 


Jack Vandervelde earnt his first test cap for the Kelpies in Test 1. Image – Aliesha Vicars

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About the Author:

Physiotherapist, writer and netball enthusiast. Feature articles, editorials and co-author of "Shine: the making of the Australian Netball Diamonds". Everyone has a story to tell, and I'm privileged to put some of them on paper. Thank you to the phenomenal athletes, coaches and people in the netball world who open a door to their lives, and let me tiptoe in.
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