2018 Final Ladder Position – 7th
Head Coach – Rob Wright
Geva Mentor (Sunshine Coast Lightning),
Shimona Nelson (Adelaide Thunderbirds),
Nat Medhurst (West Coast Fever),
Kelsey Browne (Sunshine Coast Lightning),
Gabi Sinclair (Training partner)
Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens),
Alice Teague-Neeld (West Coast Fever)
Erin Bell (retired)
Shae Browne (retired)
Sharni Layton (retired)
2019 Full Team: Geva Mentor (GK), Kim Ravaillion (C, WA, ), Shimona Nelson (GS), April Brandley (GK, GD), Madi Browne (WA, C), Nat Medhurst (GA, GS), Matilda Garrett (GD), Kelsey Browne (WA, C), Gabrielle Sinclair (GA, GS), Ash Brazill (WD, C)
2019 Training Partners: Sam Gooden, Brooke Allen, Jane Cook, Sharni Lambden, Kelsie Rainbow, Vanessa Augustini, Mel Bragg.
The burden of unmet expectations from the Magpies’ first two SSN seasons has not prevented this indefatigable club from rebuilding with a fanfare of star-studded signings. The biggest turnover is on the coaches’ bench. 2018 assistant coach and former NSW Swifts head coach Rob Wright has moved up to the role of Magpies head coach, and the club has signed as its new assistant coach experienced defence expert Nicole Richardson to work alongside co-assistant Kate Upton, fresh from coaching the Tasmanian Magpies to victory in the ANL.
The dramatic coaching adjustments presaged some equally significant player departures. Sharni Layton had already announced her retirement from the defensive goal circle, but few predicted that Caitlin Thwaites would be dropped from the squad after her consistent on-court leadership. For a proud club, three wins and seventh spot on the ladder in 2018 was not tolerable, and so there has been a complete rebuild in the shooting end.
Jamaican import Shimona Nelson, who starred in her third-choice-as-shooter stint for the Thunderbirds last season, has joined the Magpies along with the unexpected windfall of former Australian GA Nat Medhurst, sensationally not re-signed at Fever in 2019. In the end, this signing produced a straight swap of GAs between the two clubs, with the Fever’s earlier signing of former Magpies GA Alice Teague-Neeld. The all-new goal circle is rounded out by the addition of Gabrielle Sinclair, who played a key role at GA in the Tasmanian Magpies premiership victory in the 2018 ANL grand final.
The new combination of the mobile Nelson with the crafty Medhurst in the Magpies’ goal circle should have netball fans squirming with anticipation, particularly when it combines with the midcourt of Kim Ravaillion and Madi Browne to feed them. They will be joined by Madi’s younger sister Kelsey Browne as a specialist WA, providing some fabulous midcourt selection pressure following her debut season with the Diamonds.
Another surprise signing was Geva Mentor, a more than adequate replacement for Sharni Layton at GK as she returns home to Melbourne following two outstanding years with the Sunshine Coast Lightning. She will join April Brandley and Matilda Garrett in the defensive circle.
Once again, the Magpies are overflowing with netball stars and on-court leaders. Mentor has captained both the Lightning and the England Roses to significant victories, while Robinson captained the Vixens and was vice-captain of the Diamonds. Robinson is a past winner of the Liz Ellis Diamond, and Mentor has just received a CBE for her services to England netball. There is a wealth of premiership experience: Mentor, Robinson, Browne, Ravaillion and Medhurst have all won premierships in the ANZ Championships or SSN over the past 16 years.
Managing the depth of talent in key positions will be crucial. Wright has double-ups at GK and GD and WA. The Magpies have not entirely solved their shooting dilemma however: Nelson and Medhurst will carry much of the load in terms of experience, as Sinclair has had no prior exposure to the SSN. The key in 2019 has to be whether the new coaching team can get this group to reach their potential straight up, with a dearth of experienced linking combinations through the court. After two grand final losses broke his heart at the Swifts, Rob Wright may just be the coach to do it.