Netball Scoop World’s Best Netballer 2022

Netball Scoop World’s Best Netballer 2022

 

It’s that time of year again – as the results of Netball Scoop’s annual World’s Best Netballer poll are unwrapped!

Once again, the minds of five netball pundits were challenged to cast votes for the best netballer this year – Caroline Barker (Sky Sports UK commentator), Brittany Carter (ABC Journalist), Erin Delahunty (Freelance journalist – Guardian & Fox Sports), Tamsin Greenway (Scotland Thistles Head Coach & Sky Sports UK commentator) and Jenny Woods (Sky Sport NZ commentator).

The pundits joined Netball Scoop writers Emily Bruce, Georgia Doyle, Andrew Kennedy, Jenny Sinclair and Ian Harkin, in nominating their top players of the year on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis.

It’s a challenging task narrowing down many top performers to create the list. In all, 15 athletes from five countries received at least one vote from the panel of ten, but it wasn’t long before a definite top five emerged. In fact, these five players dominated to such a degree, it was difficult for others to pick up votes.

A special mention to the following two defenders who eventually finished in equal-sixth place.

 

The incredible elevation of Funmi Fadoju. Image: May Bailey / Clusterpix

Equal 6th – FUNMI FADOJU (England)

No doubt there were still some netball fans outside the UK who weren’t too familiar with London Pulse defender Funmi Fadoju until recently.

That all changed with her performances across the three-Test series against the Australian Diamonds in October and November. Fadoju was already among England’s best players in the first two Tests, but it was in the final Test where that her game went to a whole other level, finishing the match with ten Gains, four Intercepts, two Rebounds, and 17 (yes, seventeen) Deflections.

Despite being relatively short for a defender at 176cm, her amazing athleticism and reflexes had the Diamonds attack end looking hesitant. At just 20 years of age, there are potentially many more years of Funmi Fadoju creating havoc for opposing teams ahead, both at club and international level. It would be a shock if she doesn’t finish higher up in this poll in years to come.

 

Jo Weston winds up the arm. Image: May Bailey / Clusterpix

Equal 6th – JO WESTON (Australia)

In 2022, Jo Weston proved once again to be solid as a rock in defence. It started in January, playing a starring role in the last quarter blitz that won the Quad Series final for the Australian Diamonds against England.

Weston was also a vital member of the Melbourne Vixens side reaching the Super Netball grand final, and also the gold medal winning Australian team in Birmingham. It’s no mere coincidence that in the recent internationals, the Diamonds rediscovered their winning ways when Weston returned to the team.

Georgia Doyle – “The quiet achiever of any team she’s in, whose impact isn’t noticed until it’s gone. Weston is ever-constant for the Vixens, and while her statistics aren’t huge, her workload is second-to-none in shutting down opposition and creating opportunities for those around her. Her value to the Diamonds was clear when they lost the first two Constellation Cup matches in her absence, then won the final five matches of the international calendar with her inclusion. Add to this her ability to perform under the external pressure she has faced as president of the Australian Netball Players’ Association and the tumultuous year they’ve been through, and it cements her spot as one of the sport’s best.”


 

To the top five, who all had incredible years.

 

Australian captain Liz Watson. Image: Aliesha Vicars

5th – LIZ WATSON (Australia)

In 2021, a foot injury ruled Liz Watson out for most of the year, including the entire Super Netball season. In 2022, she was determined to make up for lost time.

The end result? Helped the Vixens go from wooden spooners to grand finalists, led Australia to Quad Series, Commonwealth Games and Constellation Cup success, and claimed her second Liz Ellis Diamond. An absolute workhorse in the midcourt, Watson played every single minute of every Vixens match this year. Then stepped up and played more minutes than probably expected at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham due to the injury to Paige Hadley.

An attacking ball-magnet, Watson regularly tops the Feeds and Assists numbers (as she did in Birmingham), but it’s not all about statistics. Watson leads by example on court, and her captaincy qualities shouldn’t go unnoticed. Bringing the Australian team together as a strong, united and happy team is one thing, and at season’s end, the Diamonds remain atop the World Rankings despite strong challengers.

 

Courtney Bruce in action. Image: Clinton Bradbury

Fever’s winning captain Courtney Bruce in action. Image: Clinton Bradbury / Bradbury Photography

4th – COURTNEY BRUCE (Australia)

It was a wonderful netball year for Courtney Bruce.

Consider this – Bruce was involved in five different tournaments or Test series in 2022 and won every single one of them.

In January, it was the Diamonds’ Quad Series win in London, then the Suncorp Super Netball crown with West Coast Fever – the first title won by a Perth team in the 25 years of Australia’s National League. She played a vital role in Australia winning Commonwealth Games gold, before returning home and reclaiming the Constellation Cup, and finally defeating the England Roses.

In all, Bruce played 33 top-level matches this year at club and international level, and was on the winning side in 25 of them.

Playing both defensive circle positions, her non-stop pressure style ruffles feathers, but it certainly gets results and she is regularly near the top of all defensive stats. If the Fever or Diamonds are looking for a crucial possession gain, almost inevitably it is Bruce who comes up with it at just the right time.

In this season’s Super Netball, Bruce had 65% more deflections than any other player in the league.

 

Shamera Sterling’s elevation is insane. Image: May Bailey

3rd – SHAMERA STERLING (Jamaica)

The status of Shamera Sterling continues to grow with each passing year. Considered the world’s premier defender by many, she helped Jamaica reach new heights in 2022.

At the Commonwealth Games, she played a significant role in the Sunshine Girls’ first-ever win over Australia in a major tournament, and then their first appearance in a major final. Although the Jamaican side ultimately came up just short, albeit with their first silver medal, the promise is there of more to come in the future.

Sterling possesses all the secrets of a truly great defender – athleticism, anticipation and the ability to apply pressure and stay in the contest. In Birmingham, Sterling averaged almost seven Gains and four Intercepts per game and doing so while remaining relatively clean in the eyes of officials. In fact, Jamaica was the least penalised nation at the event.

On the Super Netball scene, Sterling dominated again, taking 13 more Intercepts than any other player. Although her brilliant work is sometimes unrewarded, there are enough positive signs to suggest that better results are just around the corner for her and the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

 

Jhaniele Fowler had another dominant year for Fever. Image: Clinton Bradbury / Bradbury Photography

2nd – JHANIELE FOWLER (Jamaica)

The unstoppable force that is Jhaniele Fowler was ever present once again. The dominant goaler for both West Coast Fever and Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls, Fowler helped both sides achieve their best-ever results this year.

It was fifth time lucky for Fowler at Fever as the West Australian side won their first elite title in front of over 13,000 screaming fans.

Once again, Fowler was Super Netball’s leading shooter, topping the goal scoring ranks and doing so with the greatest accuracy. And once again was rewarded with the Super Netball MVP award – for the fifth straight year.

In Birmingham, it was Fowler who led Jamaica to an historic win over Australia in the group stage, before eventually earning a well-deserved silver medal. She led the scoring for the tournament with 273 goals at an incredible 97% accuracy.

Her height is often talked about, but it is her strength, composure and her consistency that sets Fowler apart. It’s rare for Fowler to have a ‘quiet’ game.

 

NS World’s Best Netballer for 2022, Gretel Bueta. Image: England Netball

1st – GRETEL BUETA (Australia)

In what was a year full of splendid performances, one player rose above all others in the view of the voting panel. In fact, it was almost unanimous.

For the Queensland Firebirds, Gretel Bueta has a solid season, scoring 317 goals at 90% accuracy, forming a formidable combination with new goaling partner in Donnell Wallam and notching up her 100th elite domestic match.

Bueta put together a string of sensational games for the Australian Diamonds on the international stage that were just too hard to ignore. The Quad Series in January was a revelation. Playing her first test matches since giving birth to baby Bobby, Bueta was back in the Diamonds looking fitter and stronger and more dangerous than ever.

She also added another string to her bow, by now dominating at goal shooter. She continued the remarkable form across the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, again shining in two positions and proving to be the difference as Australia took gold, winning their first major tournament since the 2015 Netball World Cup in Sydney.

Caroline Barker – “Gretel Bueta is everything I want to be when I grow up – her leadership for Australia, her stats (253 goals at 96% accuracy at the Games) after everything she’s had thrown at her, says all you need to know about a player who carries herself on and off the court like the superstar she is.”

Emily Bruce – “It’s a no brainer really! Bueta impressed right from the get go at the Quad Series. She’s versatile and unpredictable and creative with her movement, as well as having the all-important shooting accuracy.”

Brittany Carter – “Gretel Bueta’s star power has risen another level since she returned from having her son Bobby and her impact on court was felt immediately in the Quad Series. At Super Netball level, the new combination with Donnell Wallam is highly entertaining, producing a type of flair and unpredictability that is likely to sell many many tickets for the club in the years to come. And at the Commonwealth Games, Bueta proved the difference in the circle, giving defenders nightmares as they tried to contain her in both goal attack and shooter. Australia look like a totally different team with her on court.”

Erin Delahunty – “A rampaging performance in January’s Quad Series in London – in which she was named Player of the Series and best-on in the final – signalled the start of a career-defining year for Gretel Bueta. Her arrival as the best player on the planet was complete after another dominant Super Netball season and leading Australia to Commonwealth Games gold. The now 29-year-old shooter became one of the few truly “un-match-up-able” players in the game, playing with a sense of freedom, fluidity and fearlessness that’s lay beneath the surface since she burst onto the scene. The 192cm Gold Coast-native’s athleticism, smarts, split and unflappability make her impossible to mark. And she’s only just hitting her peak – a scary prospect for opponents.”

Tamsin Greenway – “Gretel Bueta is just a different class. She is a special player. Equally good in both shooting positions, her style of play has become unmarkable. She’s so powerful, her elevation is lethal and her timing and take of ball entering the circle is unlike anyone else. She brought a spark to Australia that helped them take home the gold at the Commonwealth Games. I can’t wait until she’s back on court.”

Andrew Kennedy – “Only mid-career, and Bueta has achieved Legend status. Netball has never seen such a versatile, athletic shooter. She is a trump card in Australia’s attack line, and a championship-winner.”

Jenny Sinclair – “Once again, the star goal attack has been in amazing form in 2022. While she played across both shooting positions, Bueta’s height and athleticism made her impossible to match up against at goal attack. Bueta’s also increased her accuracy, shooting at a formidable 96% across the Commonwealth Games.”

Jenny Woods – “She has taken her game to a whole new level. Was the difference for Australia at the Commonwealth Games. Not only is she good, but people want to watch her – she can pull a crowd.”


 

FINAL VOTING

45 . GRETEL BUETA (AUS)
26 . Jhaniele Fowler (Jam)
24 . Shamera Sterling (Jam)
16 . Courtney Bruce (Aus)
12 . Liz Watson (Aus)
5 . Funmi Fadoju (Eng) & Jo Weston (Aus)
4 . Eleanor Cardwell (Eng) & Kelly Jury (NZ)
3 . Karin Burger & Grace Nweke (NZ)
2 . Paige Hadley (Aus) & Peta Toeava (NZ)
1 . Latanya Wilson (Jam) & Shaquanda Greene-Noel (T&T)

 

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)


 

MEN’S NETBALL

A change has come in the netball landscape.

When the annual World’s Best Netballer poll began in 2016, men’s netball wasn’t even a consideration. At that time it was given very little recognition and barely visible to most. However, in recent years, largely through the support of Dame Noeline Taurua and Netball New Zealand, the Cadbury Series has seen men’s netball thrust into the spotlight.

This year, it grew further with the historic first televised men’s Tests between Australia, New Zealand and England, with those nations also involved in the Fast5 Netball World Series.

These international matches gave a larger audience of netball followers a taste of men’s netball at the elite level. Men’s netball will continue to grow in the coming years and this poll will evolve with it. But for this year, a player from each of the competing countries has been selected who impressed across the international matches.

The standout was Australian goal attack, Brodie Roberts. He’s a star.

Brodie Roberts (Australia)
Timothy Apisai (New Zealand)
Jamal Nicholson (England)

Brodie Roberts’ movement along the baseline troubled defenders. Image May Bailey / Clusterpix

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