Contributors: Katrina Nissen, Amy Cooper, Cara Gledhill, Ariane Virgona, Georgia Doyle, Andrew Kennedy, Esther Nelson, Kate Cornish, Jenny Sinclair
With just over a week until the 2022 edition of Suncorp Super Netball commences, fans could be excused for thinking that everything is ready to roll. And while many puzzle pieces are in place, there are still a few that need to be sorted.
Each club has now signed their athletes and training partners, although Firebirds will update their roster at some point when Romelda George takes maternity leave. New rights holders, Fox Netball and Kayo Sport, have made significant strides in how netball is presented, and the promise of several chat shows has fans excited. A Sabco mop deal has been signed, and met with universal approval and much mirth during preseason games. Many fans have cast their eyes over clubs at the Team Girls Cup and other preseason matches, and – cautiously – given how much is still to unfold, formed opinions on how clubs will fare.
However, there are still some issues to work through.
The biggest headache is how Covid will impact teams, and something that will unfold as the season progresses. The short and long term health of athletes will be paramount, and we could potentially see big stars missing in action for weeks, bench players used regularly and even a team so short-numbered they are unable to take the court.
However there is a lack of public clarity on Covid based needs – will traveling teams be able to take an extended bench, what happens if a club can’t field a team, what is the process around postponement, forfeiture and cancellations of heavily sold out home fixtures? Some fans are reluctant to buy memberships or put bums on seats, without greater certainty around attendance.
It’s Netball Scoop’s understanding that the players CBA isn’t finalised, leaving a level of uncertainty about whether it will happen before the season starts. Some low key, but significant industrial action occurred in 2017 as players were unhappy with Netball Australia board issues, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that an unsigned CBA could create a similar headache.
International viewers are currently in the dark – literally – about whether they can view SSN games. It’s understood that Netball Australia are working through geoblocking issues, and fans will be hoping for some last minute but much needed good news on this topic.
Fox Netball are still yet to reveal their full commentary lineup for games, and while it’s exciting to see some fresh talent emerge, the loss of experienced commentators Sue Gaudion, Liz Ellis and Annie Sargeant will be difficult to cover. The butchering of athletes names, as happened in the Team Girls Cup, will need to be rectified immediately, along with a few other minor teething issues.
What we can rely on is the incredible athleticism of the teams out on court. It’s likely to be extra spicy with the Commonwealth Games team announced after Round 4, so expect to see boundaries pushed, new heights reached, and a plethora of goals scored, particularly as the widely condemned supershot is still in play – for this season anyway.
So grab a coffee, and enjoy our experts analysis of each club for the 2022 season.
Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud, Helen Housby, Sam Wallace, Tayla Fraser, Allie Smith, Maddy Turner, Sarah Klau, Teigan O’Shannassy, Kelly Singleton
Kelly Singleton (elevated training partner)
Allie Smith (Melbourne Vixens)
Teigan O’Shannassy (former training partner GIANTS)
Sophie Garbin (Collingwood Magpies)
Lauren Moore (GIANTS Netball)
Natalie Metcalf (nee Haythornthwaite) (Manchester Thunder, Vitality Netball Super League)
Head Coach – Briony Akle
Where they finished in 2021 – Premiers
The X Factor: Sarah Klau has quietly but steadily gained in confidence over the past few seasons, and is now close to cementing herself as the Diamonds’ first choice goal keeper. Her Quad Series outings earlier this year were exceptional, and if she can continue this form – goal shooters beware!
The NSW Swifts have been the premiers of the best netball league in the world twice in 3 years; lifting the trophy against all odds overcoming injuries, two years of Covid disruptions and self-doubt.
This year however, they will attempt to defend their top spot on the Super Netball ladder without the extraordinary depth of their reliable bench, who, over the past three years played a pivotal role in getting this team over the line in clutch matches with coach Briony Akle having the luxury of calling on a formidable group of three who offered speed, impact and versatility.
After the end of the 2021 trade period, the Swifts were hit hard. Their bench of three (who are arguably starting seven players in their own right) decided they’d had enough of watching from the sidelines.
In recent times the player providing the biggest value off the bench for the Swifts was Sophie Garbin, known for her timing, elevation and impact abilities. Sitting behind Helen Housby in goal attack and one of the best goal shooters in the world in Sam Wallace, Garbin would come on with immediate influence but could never manage to convince Akle she should have a starting seven position.
In 2022 Garbin is linked to Collingwood Magpies where it looks like she will start at goal attack, the extra minutes doing no harm to her Diamonds aspirations. Long-time training partner Kelly Singleton has been elevated to the squad, and while she does not pack the same sort of punch, she is very reliable and will look to take this opportunity with both hands.
Lauren Moore was a surprise move from the safe haven the Swifts had created. Successful, stable and on the brink of more premierships in the coming years, Moore could have settled for her limited minutes in a winning franchise, but bravely she chose to jump-ship to the Swifts cross-town rivals, GIANTS Netball where she has hedged her bets at gaining more court time following the retirement of goal keeper Sam Poolman and move of goal defence Kristiana Manu’a, who has crossed the ditch to play in the ANZ league. Former Vixen, Allie Smith, will see some time at wing defence as a replacement for Moore, and speedy attacker turned defensive-tagger Tayla Fraser has performed well enough as part of the backline that she has likely made her way into the game-day seven.
Losing Nat Metcalf (nee Haythornthwaite), who decided to go back to England, is another big loss for the Swifts in 2022. Possibly the most underrated bench player in Super Netball, she did not get the minutes she deserved, sitting behind the fierce attacking mid-court combination of Paige Hadley and Maddy Proud. Having Fraser who can swing between defence and attack, the Swifts elected not to replace Metcalf with another attacking midcourter.
While the Swifts feel a little defense heavy this year after adding former GIANTS training partner Teigan O’Shannassy to their line-up, the old saying ‘defence wins premierships’ may be the reason Akle has opted for another defender. Their depth with the rock-solid duo of Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau will no doubt feature again on the 2022 highlight reels.
The core of this team is solid and if any group can pull together to win back-to-back premierships it is the Swifts. Their culture is strong, they have high accountability within the playing group and they know how to rally. What will be intriguing to watch is how Akle pulls the strings using her new bench players as rolling subs and if they can offer the same sort of impact that their predecessors did.
April Brandley, Sophie Dwyer, Jo Harten (captain), Maddie Hay, Matisse Leatherbarrow, Matilda McDonnell, Lauren Moore, Amy Parmenter, Jamie-Lee Price, Amy Sligar.
Matisse Leatherbarrow (training partner in 2021)
Lauren Moore (NSW Swifts 2019-2021)
Amy Sligar (training partner in 2021)
Kiera Austin (Melbourne Vixens)
Kristiana Manu’a (Central Pulse, ANZ premiership, New Zealand)
Sam Poolman (retirement)
Coach – Julie Fitzgerald
Where they finished in 2021 – Minor premiers, runners up in grand final to Swifts
The X Factor: Maddie Hay had a break out season in 2021 – elevated from training partner and transitioning from the defensive midcourt into wing attack. Her strength and ability was impressive, and she could always be relied on to come up with some gains. Look to Hay expanding her repertoire of preliminary moves and passes into the circle, as she will be a key to the GIANTS fortunes.
GIANTS bounced back from forgettable seasons in 2019 and 2020 to make the grand final in 2021, their first since 2017. This was in large part down to the brilliance of their midcourt and some bad luck which in the end worked serendipitously in their favour.
There are personnel changes in each section of court. Beginning with shooters, Kiera Austin’s knee injury in the first match seemed like miserable fortune – however, with Sophie Dwyer’s miraculous breakout season, climaxing in rounds 9-14 and the first two finals, she arguably bettered Austin with safer hands and better accuracy. However, Dywer’s stunning form was unravelled in the grand final by Maddy Turner of the Swifts, showing her susceptibility to tight marking and trouble getting off the sideline.
Captain Jo Harten, who made the Super Netball Team of the Year as goal attack, has exceptional body positioning, timing, trickery, and leadership, making her a constant threat. However, the England Rose centurion also had a rough patch of 3-4 games in the middle of 2021, and her variable accuracy on supershots is a concern. Matisse Leatherbarrow has had extremely little experience as a reserve shooter, with only three goals in 2020 and eight in 2021. She needs legitimate opportunities to grow and gain confidence, as Harten, now 33 years old, is edging towards the end of her career.
In the middle, Maddie Hay and Jamie-Lee Price were respectively the number one and two for Nissan Netpoints in the entire league for 2021. Combined with Amy Parmenter at wing defence, who was the top midcourter for gains all year, they are really a dream team. Since Amy Sligar gained a full contract, they have a definite change of styles available in both attack and defence, as the teenage whizz is considerably faster and more elusive than her teammates, especially providing a point of difference to Hay at wing attack.
This is vital as Hay’s play is somewhat slower and favours drifting to pockets, and other teams will target her more and more on second phase, with double-teaming or using the goal keeper to take intercepts. In the off season be sure that Hay has worked on variation and stronger preliminary moves. Other areas to watch are Parmenter’s high penalty count, and Price’s offensive penalties.
The defence end sees the most change up and the biggest concern – Sam Poolman, the only goalkeeper to consistently best West Coast Fever’s goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler, has retired. None of the current squad have anywhere near the size and experience to intimidate the Jamaican powerhouse. Fever have been a bogie team for Giants and now the Sydneysiders will need a new game plan to still win those close tussles.
Fortunately April Brandley was sizzling at goal defence in her first full season back as a mother, and her defensive partners Matilda McDonnell and Lauren Moore both have energy, desire, and enough experience in the past 2 years to really make their mark. Expect to see a lot more pace at goal keeper, switching between players, and potentially more clean intercepts outside the goal circle.
West Coast Fever
Jess Anstiss, Sunday Aryang, Courtney Bruce (captain), Verity Simmons, Emma Cosh, Rudi Ellis, Jhaniele Fowler, Stacey Francis-Bayman, Sasha Glasgow, Alice Teague-Neeld.
Talented defender Rudi Ellis, 24, has joined West Coast Fever for the 2022 and 2023 Suncorp Super Netball seasons. Ellis played 17 games since her debut for the Queensland Firebirds in 2020, playing both Goal Keeper and Goal Defence before signing with the Fever.
A big in for the Fever is new coach Dan Ryan. The experienced international coach and former Australian men’s captain has taken the reins following Stacey Marinkovich’s Diamonds appointment.
Former West Coast Fever defender Olivia Lewis joined the Melbourne Vixens for the 2022 season. After debuting in the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season, Lewis played 27 games with Fever in both Goal Keeper and Goal Defence.
Coach – Dan Ryan
Where they finished in 2021 – 3rd
The X Factor: Sunday Aryang has made a name for herself as the cleanest defender in the league, and her ability to come from nowhere to pick off a ball. Former Diamonds’ coach Lisa Alexander is of the opinion that defenders take longer to mature than attackers, and if this is the case, Aryang should continue her rapid trajectory in the sport.
West Coast Fever may be one of the favorites to take out the 2022 SSN title but will have an uphill battle to reach their maiden premiership. With limited pre-season training – the team were only able to connect in mid February – and many of their squad busy in the off-season with international commitments, Fever will need to hit the ground running, and most of that will be without the green army. Four of the first six games will be on the road, with rounds two to four seeing the team bounce between Victoria and Queensland.
Despite the interrupted pre season, Fever showed promising signs at the Team Girls Cup. Undefeated heading into the final, Fever’s brand of netball looks to be on song, with fast and furious connections in the attack partnered with the hard physical defence continuing under new coach Dan Ryan.
With a generally unchanged team, Fever can work this to their advantage early in the season while the opposition settles in the first few rounds. With dynamic defensive duo Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang in the circle for both the Fever and the Origin Diamonds it can be assumed that their partnership will be even stronger this season. The arrival of Rudi Ellis, and the re-signing of experienced English international Stacey Francis-Bayman, make the Fever even more flexible. They have numerous options defensively, and the luxury of pushing Bruce out to goal defence where her height and reach make her a formidable opponent.
Goalers Sacha Glasgow and Alice Teague-Neeld have also grown in confidence, both stepping up and giving opinions to goal shooting superstar Jhaniele Fowler. Under Ryan, a specialist shooting coach, look to see all three improve their courtcraft.
The ever stable mid court, with speed to burn,will also be a hard task for the other teams this year. Jess Anstiss and Verity Simmons have shown their versatility across the court, while Emma Cosh has cemented her place since becoming a contracted player in the 2021 season. She was in strong form against the Victorian men’s side, and will push for a starting seven position. One of the keys to their season will be working the ball closer to circle edge, rather than sending it skywards from distance to Jhaniele Fowler, and so limiting defenders ability to intercept the pass.
With two grand final losses in the past four seasons the team in green will be looking to get the monkey off their backs and bring the trophy West for the first time in the clubs history in the 2022 season.
Sunshine Coast Lightning
Reilley Batcheldor, Mahalia Cassidy, Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Cara Koenen, Maddie Hinchliffe, Tara Hinchliffe, Annie Miller, Karla Pretorius (Maternity Leave), Laura Scherian, Kate Walsh (nee Shimmin), Steph Wood
Reilley Batcheldor (QLD Firebirds Training Partner)
Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Melbourne Vixens)
Maddie Hinchliffe (Sunshine Coast Lightning Training Partner)
Tara Hinchliffe (QLD Firebirds)
Annie Miller (GIANTS Netball Training Partner)
Phumza Maweni (Team Bath, VNSL)
Maddy McAuliffe (Retired)
Peace Proscovia (Surrey Storm, VNSL)
Ashlee Unie (SCL Training Partner)
Coach – Kylee Byrne
Where they finished in 2021 – Fourth
The X Factor: It’s a big call given that she’s yet to play in the official season, but Reilley Batcheldor could be a game changer for the Lightning. Able to play both shooting positions, in preseason matches Batcheldor was composed, accurate and able to shoot from range. She will have a big impact as a change up, and particularly during super shot time.
Lightning’s biggest concern heading into season 2021 was how to cover the loss of Laura Langman, and both Mahalia Cassidy and Maddy McAuliffe proved more than capable. Now heading into 2022, none of Lightning’s starting defensive players remain, leaving many questions about their ability to replicate their defensive form of past seasons.
Perhaps the biggest question is how to replace the worlds best goal defence in their captain, Karla Pretorius who is expecting her first child in mid 2022. Kate Walsh (nee Shimmin) can expect to see more court time there, previously covering wing defence since her move from the Thunderbirds. Tara Hinchliffe made an impressive return to court following her ACL injury in their pre-season match against Collingwood Magpies, racking up 30 minutes across both defensive positions.
Expect to see lots of rotation through the defensive line, with all three players able to cover both circle positions effectively. Due to Hinchliffe’s ongoing rehabilitation, pre-season games have been dominated by Dehaney & Walsh, who are proving to be a lethal combination with their athleticism, wing-span and anticipation.
Several training partners have also been given a run throughout the pre-season in the hunt for Pretorius’ replacement, with Lightning eventually opting to elevate Maddie Hinchliffe. With all three options covering different positions, Maddie Hinchliffe (WD, C), Ash Unie (GD, WD) and Bridey Condren (GK, GD), the fact that Tara was available for the season start may have been the deciding factor in opting for more mid court coverage. One bright side of giving both Unie and Condren significant exposure is should COVID interrupt player availability through the season, Lightning can be confident they have plenty of players to call on that can be banked on to perform against the best players in the world.
The recruitment of dynamic NSW pathway athlete Annie Miller also adds some excitement to an already impressive midcourt. At just 21 years old, Miller has speed and court smarts to match the most experienced of players. With WA previously being a position with minimal coverage besides foundation player Laura Scherian since the departure of Kelsey Browne, expect to see Miller injected to provide a steadying influence through the attacking line.
Lightning often struggled in the super shot period in 2021, although Wood is more than capable of rising to the occasion sinking the long shots – she was often the only player willing to shoot from range. Enter Reilley Batcheldor, one of the most exciting players of the Team Girls Cup. She shot 12/16 supershots during the pre season tournament across goal attack and goal shooter, combining well with Koenen and Wood. Expect this to add some much needed versatility to their front line, while also taking the pressure off Steph Wood during the power five period.
While Lightning have lost a significant amount of experience through all areas of the court – and the absence of wing defence Maddie McAuliffe shouldn’t be underestimated – heading into 2022 they have gained some exciting new talent. As they have proven every year, it would be bold to write them off from a sixth consecutive finals appearance, but it will come down to how well they can use their versatility to keep other teams guessing while also building their own combinations.
Romelda Aiken, Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Gretel Bueta, Lara Dunkley, Kim Jenner, Jemma Mi Mi, Kim Ravaillion (Captain), Gabi Simpson, Mia Stower, Eboni Usoro-Brown
Ruby Bakewell-Doran (Elevated Training Partner)
Mia Stower (Elevated Training Partner)
Eboni Usoro-Brown (Team Bath, VNSL)
Tippah Dwan (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
Rudi Ellis (West Coast Fever)
Tara Hinchliffe (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
Coach – Megan Anderson
Where they finished in 2021 – 5th
The X Factor: Lara Dunkley is a true product of Victorian pathways, with a calm head and cool hands, while Jemma Mi Mi has enormous flair. Given that Gretel Bueta often doesn’t know what she’s going to do, until it’s done, both wing attacks will be crucial in working around Bueta, allowing the Firebirds’ marquee player to weave her magic.
The Firebirds’ 2021 season was a promise of things to come, finishing two games short of finals. The team will be glad they were able to sustain a mostly unchanged line-up into 2022. After several seasons at the club, the loss of Tara Hinchliffe was perhaps the most significant, with Eboni Usoro-Brown effectively replacing her, while talented youngster Ruby Bakewell-Doran was elevated from a promising year as a training partner and part of the ten after Hinchliffe was sidelined with a knee injury. Bakewell-Doran snaffled the winning intercept in the Firebirds’ final round robin game and had similarly impressive performances at the Team Girls Cup more recently.
The signing of Eboni Usoro-Brown was also an exciting one. The English Rose has moved over from Team Bath in the VNSL but has also played in Australia, having been a signed player at both the Adelaide Thunderbirds and West Coast Fever. She brings screeds of experience and will be relishing the opportunity to go up against some of the best shooters in the world. She only arrived in Australia in January and had limited time training with the team before the Team Girls Cup. Her combination with Kim Jenner will only build and will be key to how far the Firebirds can go in 2022.
The Firebirds averaged 7.5 more penalties per round than any other team in 2021. They were particularly highly penalised in the defensive circle, frequently having penalties called before the ball had even entered the circle and giving their opposing team an easy goal. Reducing the number of penalties is a must if they are to break into finals contention. The experienced head of Gabi Simpson and her ability to lead and direct the players around her will also be key to breaking this trend.
The shooting end is where there is currently still the most uncertainty. Romelda George (nee Aiken) has been contracted for an extraordinary 15th season with the club, and is reportedly hoping to play at least a couple of games before going on maternity leave. Her replacement player has yet to be named, but during the Team Girls Cup young Western Australian train-on player Donnell Wallam more than demonstrated how she could slot into the side if given the opportunity. If Wallam is signed, we can expect to see Gretel Bueta switch between goal shooter and goal attack depending on who is partnering her on court which could cause a headache for opposition sides. More supershot success could also be on the cards with Mia Stower and Wallam both showing their ability to shoot from range at the Team Girls Cup.
The return of Ravaillion to the Firebirds in 2021 was instrumental and it will be interesting to see how the midcourt is juggled in the season ahead. With both Jemma Mi Mi and Lara Dunkley strongest in wing attack, we may see a rotation similar to what was seen in 2021. Both players bring different strengths in terms of their connections with the shooters and their approach to the circle. While Mi Mi is also a possibility to swing out to centre, the Firebirds seem to look at their best when Ravaillion is running the middle.
With a relatively young defensive end and a midcourt which struggled to fire at times, finals could be difficult in 2022. That said, if the Firebirds can limit their penalties and find attacking connections, they could push for a finals berth. They also look to have a particularly strong bench, with their train-on players showing their talents in the Team Girls Cup. With COVID still likely to be a factor, players like Hulita Veve and Macy Gardner could well be given an opportunity on game day.
Ash Brazill (co-Captain), Kelsey Browne, Sophie Garbin, Molly Jovic, Maggie Lind, Geva Mentor (co-Captain), Shimona Nelson, Jacqui Newton, Gabrielle Sinclair, Jodi-Ann Ward
Sophie Garbin (NSW Swifts)
Maggie Lind (Elevated Training Partner)
Kalifa McCollin (TBA)
Melissa Bragg (AFLW)
Coach – Nicole Richardson
Where they finished in 2021 – 6th
The X Factor: Ash Brazill is essential to the Magpies success. In addition to her leadership and athleticism, she is one of those rare players who has the ability to lift teammates around her. Any side is better with Brazill as part of it.
Collingwood’s 2021 season was a definite improvement after a tumultuous 2020 finishing with the wooden spoon. In 2021 Collingwood settled under new head coach, Nicole Richardson, and showed more confidence and trust in each other as the games went on. In her dual role as Assistant Coach of the Diamonds, Richardson knows how to work with her players so they can be at peak performance both individually and as a group.
With one of the biggest signings for the 2022 season in Sophie Garbin from the Swifts, Collingwood has an opportunity to build better attacking combinations this year. The attacking end has previously been a weakness for Collingwood if Shimona Nelson was having an off game at goal shooter position, with limited options to replace her. Garbin brings the skills as both a traditional goal shooter who can hold strongly under the post as well as playing a different kind of goal attack, able to set screens and direct the play more confidently.
Collingwood’s performance at the recent Team Girls Cup was positive and the team experimented with different combinations out on court. Garbin and Nelson had some time together and Molly Jovic and Kelsey Browne led the midcourt well. Recently elevated player, Maggie Lind, was only out on court for a short amount of time so it was hard to gauge her capabilities.
Ash Brazill was in great form, particularly during the West Coast Fever game, coming off an impressive performance during the Quad Series in January. Brazill is sitting out the AFLW 2022 season as she prepares for selection for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later in the year.
Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward worked well down the defensive end in the Team Girls Cup, with Mentor back to her punishing best. Unfortunately, she rolled her ankle in the penultimate match and was out for the finals game against Queensland Firebirds. It is unclear whether Mentor will be ready for round 1 in little more than a week’s time. She is a key piece to the defensive end as well as providing leadership to the team and any absence will likely have an impact on their performance.
Collingwood seem to have all of the pieces to have a solid 2022 season but perhaps not quite at finals level, as they potentially lack depth, and the oncourt cohesion that is needed for ultimate success.
Tippah Dwan, Matilda Garrett, Georgie Hojus, Elle McDonald, Maisie Nankivell, Hannah Petty (captain), Lenize Potgieter, Shamera Sterling Tayla Williams, Latanya Wilson
Tippah Dwan (from Queensland Firebirds)
Tayla Williams (elevated Training Partner)
Sam Gooden (Glenelg Football Club, SANFLW)
Shadine van der Merwe (Manchester Thunder, VNSL)
Coach – Tania Obst
Where they finished in 2021 – 7th
The X Factor: You know what you get from Shamera Sterling (brilliance!), but it’s the form of Latanya Wilson that will be crucial for the Thunderbirds. The rising star has incredible athleticism, a long set of arms that balls just seem to stick to, and the versatility to play across a number of positions. As her ability and netball brain matures, she will become increasingly dangerous to opponents.
The Thunderbirds pulled off a recruitment coup by signing former Queensland Firebird Tippah Dwan for 2022. The shooter is a boon for the Thunderbirds as she is experienced at this level, having played a full season at goal attack in 2020 and an impact role in 2021. Dwan brings some much needed depth to the front end as she is confident and accurate with the 2 point shots, is very elusive in her movements and seems to have already combined well with Lenize Potgieter and Georgie Horjus.
The other new signing for the club was Tayla Williams, who has a few seasons under her belt as a Thunderbirds training partner. This elevation was a good move for the club as Williams is ready for this level and will not need to work to build combinations. She is an unflappable midcourt athlete who plays with maturity and accuracy when feeding, and exuberance in defence.
The Thunderbirds finished the 2022 Team Girls Cup with three wins from four matches. While this was great for the club and will definitely buoy them leading into the season, more importantly they looked settled – particularly in the midcourt which has been their downfall for the last few years.
Over the 2020 and 2021 seasons we have seen captain, Hannah Petty run at centre. As a defensive midcourter this does not work for her. Too much of her time was spent chasing intercepts or being out of play. For a centre, this is not ideal and can be disruptive to the flow, especially in transition play. But during TGC, Petty ran at wing defence where she was far more effective. This left Maisie Nankivell at centre and Elle McDonald to take wing attack, while Williams was able to slot in where needed, without missing a beat. All the midcourters played their roles with symmetry and fluidity during TGC.
At the defensive end, the Jamaican power combination of Shamera Sterling and rising star Latanya Wilson looks particularly deadly, and should give opposition shooters a considerable headache. They are likely to be the preferred starting seven, but Matilda Garrett will also make an impact.
The key for the Thunderbirds this year is going to be their versatility. Aside from a few key anchors, namely Sterling at goal keeper and Potgieter at goal shooter, most of the team are comfortable across multiple positions. This means that when they do need to make personnel changes there should be no lag as the new combination adjusts.
We saw this during TGC with Latanya Wilson equally effective at goal defence and wing defence, or with Georgie Horjus at wing attack or goal attack. This adds unpredictability to the side as they will likely not have the same starting seven each week.
The Thunderbirds look the goods in 2022. They have power all over the court, strong ball winners in defence and accurate long and close-range shooters at the front. If they can keep their roster fit this season, they should make finals.
Kate Moloney (co-captain), Liz Watson (co-captain), Emily Mannix, Jo Weston, Mwai Kumwenda, Kate Eddy, Rahni Samason, Hannah Mundy, Kiera Austin, Olivia Lewis.
Olivia Lewis (Fever Squad, 2021)
Kiera Austin (GIANTS Squad, 2021)
Rahni Samason (Vixen Squad Member)
Hannah Mundy (Vixens Squad Member)
Alllie Smith (New South Wales Swifts)
Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
Kaylia Stanton (Hawks, VNL)
Ruby Barkmeyer (Training partner, Vixens)
Coach – Simone McKinnis
Where they finished in 2021 – 8th
The X Factor: It was little surprise during the Team Girls Cup that former star wing attack Madi Browne rated Hannah Mundy so highly. Thrust into the deep end in 2021, Mundy has just started to show fans what she’s capable of. A swift but sure set of hands, strength onto the ball, and all the competitive instincts of her famous mother. She might start as a bench player, but Mundy will push the more established stars every step of the way for court time.
After finishing at the bottom of the ladder in 2021, off the back of a premiership win in 2020, the Melbourne Vixens have something to prove. With the retirement of Australian Diamond legends Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip in 2020, the team had a big job of finding replacement shooters. This proved to be difficult, as many predicted, and despite best efforts, the connections between circle feeders and shooters were often stagnant and goal accuracy struggled. In addition, Australian Diamond Captain, Liz Watson, was recovering from a foot injury for the entirety of the season, and her absence was noted, as the team faced difficulty bringing the ball down court to circle edge and finding space on the circle.
This year brings Watson back on court, after captaining the Diamonds to a win over England in the Quad Series in January, alongside fellow Diamonds squad member, Kiera Austin, who made the move from GIANTS netball. Austin is still recovering from an ACL injury, but her combination with Watson at wing attack will be something to admire across the season. The exceptional and long-standing combination of Kate Moloney and Liz Watson will return, and the experience that Hannah Mundy has acquired as a replacement player for Liz Watson in 2021 will be instrumental in increasing the sophistication and flexibility of the midcourt.
The depth in the shooting circle, with the inclusion of fan-favorite, Rahni Samason, into the contracted ten, alongside Austin and Kumwenda, will provide the flexibility the team have been looking for. The Team Girls Cup showcased Samason’s dangerous accuracy and her strong movement under the post and we eagerly await her appearance on court in the first match of the season against the Firebirds, against whom she debuted in 2021.
Looking down to the defensive end, Emily Mannix looks to be on track to get more court time, after a rough trot with injuries in 2021 and the loss of impact-player Kadie-Ann Dehaney. New recruit, ex-Fever player Olivia Lewis, brings a vibrancy and eagerness to the defensive circle and only time will tell whethershe is utilized as an impact player or can push her way into the starting seven. Regardless, the new recruit will add great flexibility and depth to the defensive combinations, alongside Jo Weston, Moloney and Kate Eddy out at wing defence.
Given the pressures of Covid and rolling subs, the loss of specialist wing defence, Allie Smith, might be costly for the Vixens however teams will be relying on player flexibility across the court to adjust to real-time challenges this coming season.
If the undefeated win of the Team Girls Cup is anything to go by, and given the depth and flexibility across the court, it looks like we can expect the Melbourne Vixens to be up around where they finished in 2020.
2017 – Lightning
2018 – Lightning
2019 – Swifts
2020 – Vixens
2021 – Swifts
Fixture Round 1
The 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season kicks off on 26 March 2022. The Round 1 fixtures are below – please note times are local.
Sat 26 March
5pm Adelaide Thunderbirds v Collingwood Magpies Netball SA Stadium
7pm NSW Swifts v GIANTS Netball Ken Rosewell Arena
Sun 27 March
2pm Queensland Firebirds v Melbourne Vixens Nissan Arena
4pm Westcoast Fever v Sunshine Coast Lightning RAC Arena
All games are broadcast live on Foxtel and Kayo Sports (Sunday games plus all finals are also available on Kayo Freebies).