NS EXCLUSIVE: 16 players to watch at the Netball World Cup.

NS EXCLUSIVE: 16 players to watch at the Netball World Cup.

By |2019-09-03T00:19:53+10:00July 7th, 2019|Categories: World Cup 2019|3 Comments

Compiled by Jenny Sinclair, Katrina Nissen and Kate Cornish

At the 2019 Netball World Cup, there will be 192 extraordinary athletes on display. Across the course of ten days we’ll see their elation, their incredible physical prowess, their sweat, exhaustion and pain. Netball Scoop can’t feature all of these amazing women, but we salute them. We’re featuring one athlete from each country: they aren’t necessarily the most capped, but there’s something about their stories that inspired us.  


Sarah Klau (Australia)

Latonia Blackman (Barbados)

Fran Williams (England)

Laisani Waqa (Fiji)

Shanice Beckford (Jamaica)

Joyce Mvula (Malawi)

Casey Kopua (New Zealand)

Caroline O’Hanlon (Northern Ireland)

Gerardine Nafanua Solia-Gibb (Samoa)

Claire Maxwell (Scotland)

Shawallah Rashid (Singapore)

Shadine van der Merwe (South Africa)

Tharjini Sivalingam (Sri Lanka)

Kalifa McCollins (Trinidad and Tobago)

Racheal Nanyonga (Uganda) 

Adelaide Muskwe (Zimbabwe)



Sarah Klau (Australia)

After an outstanding start to the domestic season, Sarah Klau has earned her maiden call up to the Samsung Netball Diamonds, elbowing aside the incumbent Emily Mannix along the way. The 190 cm goal keeper has added agility to her game, giving her the ability to match up well against moving as well as holding shooters.

While Klau is quick to pay credit to the defence in front of her, she has put in an enormous effort across the last preseason. She said of her improvement, “Just believing in myself, and the coaches have been working with me on a lot of footwork and in developing my game coming out of the circle.”

Recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Klau has to check her blood sugar levels seven times per day. Diabetes is impacted not only by food, but by a range of factors including emotions, stress levels and exercise, meaning that Klau will be closely monitored throughout the Netball World Cup. 

Playing elite sport while coming to terms with a life-altering condition has been a challenge that Klau has risen to meet, and her national debut will be hotly anticipated by her legion of fans.


Sarah Klau, Diamonds practice match 2019. Image May Bailey


Latonia Blackman (Barbados)  

Latonia is the most versatile player at the 2019 Netball World Cup, having played all seven on court positions during her 21 year tenure with the Bajan Gems. The 36 year old debuted for her national team at the tender age of 15, and is now one of the most internationally capped players of all time. 

She’s been to five Commonwealth Games and five Netball World Cups, a remarkable feat in such a physically demanding sport. A highly respected member of the team, Latonia is the Gem’s vice-captain. She recently received the Female Athlete of the Year in Barbados, in honour of the contribution she’s made to women’s sport. 

We’re most likely to see Latonia in the defensive end of the court, but with such versatility on offer, what bib she’ll wear is anybody’s guess. 


Latonia Blackman shooting for Barbados, 2018 Commonwealth Games. Image: Simon Leonard.

Fran Williams (England)

Fran Williams was just four years old when teammate Geva Mentor first debuted for England. She’s also the least experienced member of the Roses – with just three test caps of the team’s total of 827. While confessing to being intimidated when she first joined a national camp last year, it’s clear that William’s is a star on the rise. 

The former English U21 captain was selected on the back of her outstanding form for Wasps Netball, where she formed a strong combination with captain Hannah Knights. Williams’ versatility will be critical for the Roses, as she can slide seamlessly from goal defence to wing defence, freeing up players such as Serena Guthrie and Jade Clarke to play in the middle. 

Standing at 188 centimetres, Williams is the second tallest player in the Roses, which will most likely be the tallest team on average. That vertical advantage could prove critical in disrupting opponents through court. 

As well as playing netball professionally, Williams is in her second year of an Economics degree at Birmingham University.  

Laisani Waqa (Fiji)

Laisani Waqa was just a 15 year old school girl when she played for Fiji at the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup. The young Pearls team stunned onlookers in Botswana, when they finished fourth ahead of other more fancied teams.

Since that time Waqa has competed in the Tani Jamieson series and 2018 Commonwealth Games, and now has 12 test caps to her name.  

Along with her Fijian teammates, Waqa recently spent two weeks in Australia preparing under the expert eye of national coach and Australian legend, Vicki Wilson. The Pearls followed that up with the Cadbury test series in New Zealand. The young goal shooter/goal attack might still only be 17, but she wasn’t intimidated by the older, more experienced opponents that she faced. 

Fiji are drawn in the toughest pool at the Netball World Cup, playing Jamaica, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. It will be a stern test for Waqa, but look to see her improve across the competition. 


Laisani Waqa, Fiji, 2018 Commonwealth Games. Image Marcela Massey


Shanice Beckford (Jamaica)

Shanice Beckford may only be 24, but she’s no rookie when it comes to international competition. Heading to her second Netball World Cup, Beckford plays a crucial role for the formidable Sunshine Girls.

For a number of years Jamaica have been threatening to upset the world hierarchy of netball, and they came close to achieving it at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Defeated by eventual gold medallists, England, by one goal in the semis, Jamaica rallied to upset New Zealand in the bronze medal match. 

It is Beckford’s prowess in attack that makes her so dangerous. While the diminutive goal attack can slide into wing attack, she is best known for her ability to feed her towering shooters. With her creative movement, agility and ability to go to the post, there aren’t too many opponents who would dare leave her alone in order to double team Jhaniele Fowler or Romelda Aiken.   


Shanice Beckford, Jamaica, 2018 Commonwealth Games. Image Simon Leonard.


Joyce Mvula (Malawi) 

Joyce Mvula has been a fixture in the Malawi team since she was 16. For the past three years she’s been plying her trade for Manchester Thunder, picking up a swag of awards along the way. With an appetite for hard work, fans have gradually seen her evolve until she’s one of the premier players in the English Superleague.

It’s been a hard road for goal shooter: bullied for her height as a youngster, Mvula has had to leave her fiance and young son behind in Malawi while she plays overseas. Now hoping to attend her third Netball World Cup, those sacrifices would appear to have paid off.  

With Mwai Kumwenda still recovering from a long term knee injury, Joyce Mvula was expected to be Malawi’s first choice goal shooter at the Netball World Cup. That is, until she sustained what was thought to be a knee injury during the English Superleague grand final in May.

Diagnosed with a muscular strain, Mvula couldn’t return to Malawi for training camps, but had to remain in England for specialised treatment. Mvula will have until the day before the tournament to prove her fitness. It would be a cruel blow if she doesn’t recover in time. 


Casey Kopua (New Zealand)

If ever there’s a warrior, it’s Casey Kopua. Since her first appearance on the netball scene she’s been the one her teams have turned to when they’ve needed a crucial intercept, an inspirational play or a mental lift. Kopua’s gutsy determination and will to win can never be underestimated. Her leadership was recognised when she was appointed as the Silver Fern’s captain at just 23, and she’s gone on to become their most capped leader in history. 

Throughout her playing career, Kopua has been dogged by serious injury – she ruptured ankle ligaments the night before the World Youth Cup, played a Commonwealth Games final on a fractured ankle, and ruptured a patellar tendon on court in 2014. 

After a long rehabilitation period, Kopua somehow made it back in time for the 2015 Netball World Cup, but not long afterwards left the game following the birth of her daughter Maia. 

After New Zealand’s dismal performance at the Commonwealth Games, legendary coach Noeline Taurua took over the reins, and Kopua was coaxed out of retirement. About to appear in her fourth and last Netball World Cup, fans will enjoy one last glimpse of one of the all time greats of our game. 



Caroline O’Hanlon (Northern Ireland)

Caroline O’Hanlon is a sporting legend. Northern Ireland’s inspirational captain will be attending her third Netball World Cup, and has most recently taken the court for Manchester Thunder in the English Superleague. She’s also captained her country’s Gaelic football side, and not surprisingly was talent scouted for both soccer and AFLW, although couldn’t fit them into her busy schedule. 

Playing at wing attack and centre, O’Hanlon’s extraordinary athleticism and passion for the game inspires players around her. Her contribution to sport in Northern Ireland was recognised when she was asked to be her country’s flag bearer at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. During the course of her decorated career, she has received awards ranging from Northern Ireland’s Sportswoman of the Year to Female Footballer of the year. 

Caroline works part time as a doctor, somehow fitting in shifts with her dual sporting codes. 

Caroline O’Hanlon, Northern Ireland, 2018 Commonwealth Games. Photo: Simon Leonard


Gerardine Nafanua Solia-Gibb (Samoa) 

While many players will have a well-earned break after the Netball World Cup, Gerardine Solia-Gibb won’t be one of them. The astonishing 35 year old is a mother to five active boys, aged between one and fourteen, who currently go with her to training when school has finished for the day. She and her husband also run their own business, which is based in Wellington, New Zealand. Despite these additional demands of employment and family, Solia-Gibb is the fittest athlete in the Samoan team. 

She originally found it difficult to get back into training, saying “By the time I’d finished training I’d be too tired to look after the kids.” Solia-Gibb has worked hard to regain her conditioning, and has put particular emphasis on increasing her core and back strength after each pregnancy. 

Solia-Gibb wants to make both her family and her country proud. She recently said, “There’s no excuses to get where you want to be. It’s a struggle for me, but I don’t let it get in the way of my goal.”


Claire Maxwell (Scotland)

Claire Maxwell is a household name in Scotland. The Strathclyde Sirens and Scottish captain has been a key driver in netball’s growing popularity within the country. She’s quick to wave off praise, crediting England’s win at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as having a flow on effect up north. Netball participation and memberships are up 74% in Scotland since that time. However, Scotland’s performance was none too shabby at the Commonwealth Games, beating Malawi and Wales in their pool. 

Maxwell is set to play her 100th test match at the World Cup, after making her national debut in 2009. Across her journey the wing defence/centre has battled a few serious injuries, including a fractured foot and an ankle reconstruction. 

She’s part of an incredible sporting family, with her sister playing touch rugby and her mum playing Masters hockey both for Scotland.


Claire Brownie, Scotland, stretches for the ball. 2018 Commonwealth Games. Image Marcela Massey


Shawallah Rashid (Singapore)

Shawallah Rashid is one of twelve Netball World Cup debutants for Singapore, but it’s remarkable that she’s making the journey to Liverpool at all.

Rashid gave birth to her second child in February, just four months ago, so was somewhat surprised to learn of her selection. However, she’d remained in good shape throughout her pregnancy, and had recently returned to twice weekly training with her Singapore club, the Swifts, to improve her strength and conditioning.

The 26 year old said, ““I want to be a good example for my kids and show that mothers can also represent their country in sport.” 

Singapore are currently ranked 24th in the world, but are aiming for a top 12 finish. It would be mean finishing third in their pool, which includes New Zealand, Malawi and Barbados.


Shadine van der Merwe (South Africa)

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Shadine van der Merwe was one of South Africa’s most recently capped players. Not part of their starting seven team, she was thrust into the spotlight when regular wing defence Precious Mthembu went down with a knee injury. Van der Merwe rose to the challenge, and hasn’t relinquished the bib since. She’s made a name for herself as a gritty, uncompromising defender, and was snapped up by the English Superleague and most recently the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2019.

van der Merwe didn’t receive her first national cap until she was 25. Suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in 2015 proved to be a turning point for the South African. Following surgery she completed a year of rehabilitation, earned her call up to the Proteas, and now believes she is fitter and stronger than ever before. Her work in front of circle defenders Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni makes the South African defensive end one of the formidable in netball.

The dual international – van der Merwe also played softball for South Africa as a junior – honed her early skills against her twin brother, one of her fiercest opponents.


Shadine van der Merwe, South Africa. 2018 Commonwealth Games. Image Simon Leonard.

Tharjini Sivalingam (Sri Lanka)

Standing at 208 cm (6’10”) Tharjini Sivalingam is the tallest player in world netball. In a country where the average Sri Lankan woman is just 150 cm tall, Sivalingam was originally discriminated against for her height, but has turned it to her advantage.

The former captain debuted for Sri Lanka in 2009, and was judged the best goal shooter at the 2011 Netball World Championships, hitting the goals at 98% accuracy. She was suspended for two years for political reasons, and during that time moved to Australia to play in a Victorian domestic league.

Sivalingam has been recalled to the Sri Lankan team, although it looks vastly different from her rookie years. Back then there weren’t phones or the internet available for many of the players to communicate, so they did so by mail, while sourcing shoes large enough to fit the players was also a challenge.

The goal shooter studied Arts and Economics at university, and now lectures about the Tamil language.


Kalifa McCollin (Trinidad and Tobago)

Kalifa McCollin’s parents both played netball, so it was only natural that she’d start playing as a five year old. McCollins debuted for Trinidad Tobago as a 17 year old goal attack, and went on to shoot at 92% accuracy at the last Netball World Cup. As a dynamic playmaker, she’s formed a lethal combination with fellow sharp-shooter and goal shooter, Sam Wallace.

For the past few years McCollins, now 23, has been playing for the Celtic Dragons in the Vitality Superleague, and this year was named in the All-Star VII, as the best goal attack in the competition. McCollins is making a move to the ANZ Championship in 2020 to play for the Southern Steel, and is likely to receive good court time given that Te Paea Selby-Rickit is moving on. 

McCollins is known for her court craft and ability to set up play, and regularly shoots at over 90% accuracy. A Gilbert netball ambassador, McCollins is also studying Sports Psychology at university. 

Rachael Nanyonga (Uganda)

Uganda have rocketed up the world rankings, rising from 15th to 7th in just four years. Part of the key to their success is the shooting combination of captain Peace Proscovia and the dynamic Rachael Nanyonga.

Rachael is living proof that netball is a game that can suit anyone, as she stands just 152 cm tall. Her short stature hasn’t stopped Rachael from developing into an athletic, agile goal attack that is the perfect foil to Peace. A tireless playmaker who can also slide across to wing attack, Rachael credits her ability to constant practice and playing a range of sports including netball, basketball and athletics. 

Her goal at the 2019 Netball World Cup is to beat one of the higher ranked African teams – Malawi or South Africa – and finish in the top six. Given Uganda’s rise to prominence in the netball world, anything is possible. 


Racheal Nanyonga, Uganda, 2018 Commonwealth Games. Image Simon Leonard.

Adelaide Muskwe (Zimbabwe)

After watching her twin brother play soccer for Zimbabwe and English team Leicester City, Adelaide Muskwe was inspired to emulate him. Based in the United Kingdom since she was three years old, Adelaide was playing for the Severn Stars when she was also selected to play for Zimbabwe. 

Having made her national debut in April, it will be the goal defence’s first Netball World Cup. She said, “My twin brother in my number one fan. He is always there to watch me play whenever he is not playing.”

Given her English Superleague commitments, it’s been difficult for Muskwe to return to Zimbabwe for training, but she said about the Gems, “The team is so committed, they do things as a team and when they step on court, it is not about personal glory for them.”

Muskwe is a Sports Science and Arts graduate.



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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.


  1. Allie Collyer July 7, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Fantastic article. Thanks so much for the in-depth research into players that we mostly don’t know a lot about.

  2. Pardalote July 9, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    That was a great read, thankyou

  3. […] story is that of Samoan international Gerardine Nafanua Solia-Gibb, a 35 year old mother of five boys aged between one and fourteen years. Despite being a mother of five Solia-Gibb is reported to be one of the fittest members of the […]

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