2018 Final Ladder Position – 8th
Head Coach – Tania Obst
Kelly Altmann (Southern Force, ANL)
Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning, UK Superleague)
Maria Folau (Northern Mystics, ANZ Premiership)
Layla Guscoth (Team Bath, UK Superleague)
Shamera Sterling (Loughborough Lightning, UK Superleague)
Leana de Bruin (Northern Stars)
Abigail Latu-Meafou (WBOP Magic, ANZ Premiership)
Bongiwe Msomi (Wasps Netball, UK Superleague)
Shimona Nelson (Collingwood Magpies)
Cat Tuivaiti (Strathclyde Sirens, UK Superleague)
2019 Full Team: Kelly Altmann (WA/C), Beth Cobden (WD/C), Maria Folau (GS/GA), Layla Guscoth (GK/GD/WD), Shamera Sterling (GK/GD), Chelsea Pitman (WA), Hannah Petty (C/WA), Sasha Glasgow (GS/GA), Cody Lange (GS/GA), Kate Shimmin (GD/GK).
2019 Training Partners: Charlee Hodges, Chelsea Blackman, Nyah Allen, Maisie Nankivell.
The 2018 season was a prolonged and testing year for Adelaide Thunderbirds fans.
The team in pink showed patches of brilliance – notably in Rounds 6 and 10 with close matches against NSW Swifts and Collingwood Magpies – but their gameplay was plagued with unforced errors and an inability to capitalise on defensive ball.
The Thunderbirds shuffled around their game day squad more than any other team, due to both injury and form, but never settled on a starting seven.
And with just one win tallied from two seasons of netball, the dismal year was costly for outgoing coach Dan Ryan, whose contract – along with majority of the 2018 playing list – was not renewed at the season’s end.
Instead, South Australian Tania Obst returns to the club, having previously helmed the Thunderbirds back in 2007.
This proud Adelaide club, who up until 2011 had never missed a finals series, are long awaiting a resurgence.
Defence was not the problem for Adelaide in 2018, with Club Champion Kate Shimmin regularly winning ball for her side.
In 2019, Shimmin will be joined by another renown shot-blocker – and arguably the most exciting new player in the league – Jamaican Shamera Sterling. Sterling has impressed at recent international tournaments, and was the 2018 Player of the Season in the UK Superleague. She is likely to start in Goal Keeper, which means that Shimmin will be pushed out to Goal Defence to compete for the bib with English import Layla Guscoth.
Guscoth has also been in fine form at international level, and was named in the 2018 UK Superleague All Star VII at Goal Defence. If fellow English import Beth Cobden does not recover in time for the early rounds or runs out in the Centre position, then expect Guscoth to swing out to Wing Defence and play as a tall defender on the circle edge.
While some have questioned the Thunderbirds’ decision to sign Cobden as she recovers from an ACL injury, her arrival to the competition is long overdue. Like Sterling, it is surprising she has not been picked up by any of the Suncorp Super Netball clubs already. Cobden is a shut-down Wing Defence who doesn’t mind the odd intercept, and provides back-up in the Centre position. She will team up with returning midcourters Chelsea Pitman and Hannah Petty, along with rookie Kelly Altmann.
Pitman is a near-certainty to start in Wing Attack, while this season is a new chance for Petty to claim the Centre bib after foot injuries and concussion have plagued her in previous years.
The goal circle line up is trickier to predict, with all three signed goalers capable of playing both positions.
Cody Lange returns to Adelaide after two years with Collingwood; while an ACL injury ruined her 2017 season, last year she captained Collingwood’s ANL aligned side, the Tasmanian Magpies, to victory.
Fellow South Australian Sasha Glasgow has also had her share of injury concerns in recent years. Her breakout season in 2017 made her a shining light in an otherwise bleak year for the Thunderbirds, and she will be hoping to return to that form.
New Zealand stalwart Maria Folau will almost certainly be part of the starting seven – but in which bib?
The greatest positive of this shooting end is that it allows flexibility that the Thunderbirds haven’t had in recent years, and given that teams are now comprised of ten players rather than twelve, flexibility has become a necessity in the Suncorp Super Netball era.
With only four players returning from last year’s squad, it’s hard to predict how the Thunderbirds will fare. On paper, the team is bolstered with the signings of five in-form internationals, and a healthy spread of Adelaide talent.
The defensive end of Shimmin, Guscoth, Sterling, and Cobden is particularly exciting, but the trick will be whether the Thunderbirds can improve their ball transition down court.
Pitman, Cobden, and Guscoth are all English Roses teammates, while Cobden and Sterling were teammates at UK club Loughborough Lightning. These established connections should help the Thunderbirds’ new combinations to gel.
To gain a pass mark this season, the Thunderbirds need at least one win and, arguably, they need to avoid eighth place.
The priority for the Thunderbirds in 2019 is to not rush the rebuild. The players need to be retained and combinations developed, new coach Obst needs to be supported and given time to implement her long-term plans, and the fans need some reward for sticking with the team.
If the Thunderbirds can lift themselves from easy beats to competitors in 2019, that’s a win both for Adelaide and for the competition as a whole.