NS EXCLUSIVE: Netball in the 2010s (Part 4)

NS EXCLUSIVE: Netball in the 2010s (Part 4)

By |2020-12-30T09:07:02+10:00December 30th, 2020|Categories: Featured, International, World, World Cup 2019|0 Comments

In the final part of our look at the 2010s, we review 2019, wrap up the decade as a whole and take a look ahead to what might happen in the next 10 years. Here are the previous parts in the series:

Part 1: 2010-2012

Part 2: 2013-2016

Part 3: 2017-2018

 

2019

 

The netball year began with a Quad Series played in England. It was a remarkable series, for it demonstrated how competitive netball has now become at the top level. All four countries recorded at least one win and no one was left undefeated. In the final match of the series, England backed up their Commonwealth Games success of the previous year by defeating Australia once again, this time 52-49.

That wasn’t enough for England to claim an overall series victory however, as the Roses had been surprisingly beaten by an ever-improving South Africa the previous day. Australia eventually took the Quad Series title on goal difference from England, while New Zealand finished third. The Ferns only just avoided the ignominy of finishing without a win, as they overcame the Proteas 62-60 in a sudden death extra time thriller.

This tour was a continuation of Noeline Taurua’s attempt to resurrect the Ferns. She put her stamp on squad selection by controversially leaving out players who had failed to meet certain fitness standards. Purely on results, Taurua’s short tenure as coach had so far been a struggle, but there were some glimpses of promise. This Quad Series was a good forerunner to the World Cup for all four teams, but before that, there was club netball to be played.

In the UK, London Pulse played its first season of Superleague, replacing Team Northumbria, which had pulled out the previous year. The grand final was a tremendous battle between Manchester Thunder and two-time defending champions, Wasps. In a seesawing encounter, Wasps led by five at quarter time, only for Thunder to go in at half time up by two. Then, Wasps again dominated the third quarter and took a six goal lead into the last break.

There was conjecture that different umpiring interpretations were leading to the massive swings. As such, Thunder couldn’t be written off. And so it proved as the Manchester team ran over Wasps in the final 15 minutes. Even the loss of shooter Joyce Mvula through injury couldn’t halt Thunder’s charge. Ellie Cardwell came on and put in a faultless display to seal a terrific win 57-52. A gallant Wasps had come up just short of winning three in a row.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand’s ANZ Premiership, Southern Steel also failed in their bid for a third straight title. In the elimination final, the unheralded Northern Stars upset them 56-53 and then went on to play Central Pulse in the decider. Stars had finished well adrift of the top two teams at the end of the home and away rounds and many thought they were merely making up the numbers in the playoffs. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Pulse was overwhelming grand final favourite, but Stars gave them a real battle. In the end, class shone through however. After the disaster of the previous year when they imploded late and lost the unlosable match, the Pulse players weren’t going to let this one slip. They triumphed 52-48 with youngster Aliyah Dunn shooting 40/43. This was despite the disappointment of being left out of the Ferns world cup team just 10 days earlier.

Victorious Pulse captain Katrina Rore had better world cup news. After a tremendous season, she was back in the New Zealand team, having been left out of the January Quad Series. Meanwhile in Australia, the big news was the fact that neither Gabi Simpson, nor Ash Brazill were chosen for the Diamonds, meaning the team was effectively left without a single player who was playing wing defence for their club.

England lost an important team member when Thunderbirds’ recruit Beth Cobden, ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in a year. This was one of a spate of ACL injuries in Super Netball in 2019 that had people searching for answers. Magpies’ co-captain Madison Browne went down in the pre-season, and later in the year she was joined by sister Kelsey. Also succumbing were Firebirds’ Mahalia Cassidy, Thunderbirds’ Sasha Glasgow, and Swifts’ captain Maddy Proud, who was in the form of her life when cut down in round seven.

 

New Zealand’s Ameliaranne Ekenasio at the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool. Photo: Danny Dalton

 

Already without Cobden, England suffered another huge blow when the world cup got underway in Liverpool. Defender Layla Guscoth ruptured her achilles tendon in the second round win over Scotland. Unlike Cobden’s injury, the Roses couldn’t replace Guscoth, so they had to play out the rest of the tournament one player short. Despite these setbacks, confidence was high among the many England fans that flocked to the tournament.

There appeared to be five possible winning chances going into the world cup. However, three of them (England, South Africa and Jamaica) were all on one side of the draw, meaning one would have to miss out on the semi finals. That team was Jamaica, who went down to South Africa 55-52 in an enthralling group game.

There was no such drama on the other side of the draw as Australia and New Zealand predictably advanced to the semi finals. When they met in the group stage, the Diamonds won by a single goal. But the Silver Ferns would have gained great confidence from that match, having fought back from a deficit of eight at one stage in the third quarter.

Both semi finals were classic affairs. The South Africans came up against Australia and gave them a tremendous fright. The Australians got out to a good lead and looked in control, but just as they had done against New Zealand, they faded in the second half against a determined Proteas team. The faltering Diamonds clung on desperately to win by just two goals.

Then it was the Roses against the Silver Ferns. It was a seesawing match, with first one team on top, then the other. The kiwis dominated the third quarter through the faultless shooting of goal attack Ameliaranne Ekenasio, and although England threatened to come back in the final quarter, New Zealand held on strongly to win by the same margin; two goals.

As an example of the more competitive nature of world netball, two goals was the closest margin in a world cup semi final in 20 years. For all the talk about the rest of the world catching up however, the two finalists were once again Australia and New Zealand, as they had been at every world cup since 1995. And this final was another trans-Tasman classic.

 

South Africa’s Karla Pretorius, the 2019 World Cup Player of the Tournament. Photo: May Bailey

 

After an even first 15 minutes, New Zealand got on top in a high scoring second quarter, and they led by four goals going into the last quarter. Once again it was Ekenasio who was the star for the Silver Ferns. Under enormous pressure, she held her nerve time and time again with some sublime shooting to continually keep the Australians at bay.

The Diamonds came home hard in the last quarter, but the greater big game experience of New Zealand won out. In what was to be the world cup swansong for long term players Casey Kopua, Maria Folau and captain Laura Langman, the Ferns protected their lead and played out time to record a deserved 52-51 victory, prompting a huge celebration from the kiwis.

The resurrection of the Ferns was now complete. Taurua had achieved what to some might have seemed impossible. When she took over as New Zealand coach, the team looked as far from winning a world cup as you could imagine. The turn around in form from the Silver Ferns in the space of just one year was extraordinary.

For Lisa Alexander and Australia, it was the second straight time they had gone into a major tournament as clear favourites and ranked number one in the world, only to falter at the final hurdle with a one goal loss. For the sake of just two more goals on each occasion, things could have been so different.

In the playoff for third, England accounted for South Africa quite easily 58-42. But fourth place was still a fine achievement for the Proteas and their star goal defence Karla Pretorius was rewarded with the title of Player of the Tournament. This was the last match in charge for Norma Plummer, who has left South Africa in good shape for the future. It was also the last match (for now at least) for England coach Tracey Neville, taking time away from the game to have a baby.

Meanwhile, a disappointed Jamaican team had to make do with fifth place, beating Malawi 68-50. 2019 will be remembered as a celebration of African netball, with all four nations finishing in the top eight. Joining South Africa and Malawi were Uganda (seventh) and first timers Zimbabwe (eighth). The excitement and fanatical crowd support that followed the Zimbabwe Gems whenever they played, will be remembered for years to come.

In Liverpool, the phenomenal Rhonda John-Davis, captain of Trinidad and Tobago, played in a record sixth world cup, an incredible achievement. Meanwhile, Geva Mentor and Jade Clarke of England both played in their fifth. It remains to be seen if one or both will be there in Cape Town in 2023 to equal the record.

 

The NSW Swifts, winners of the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball competition. Photo: Marcela Massey

 

For world cup players involved in Suncorp Super Netball, there was almost no time to recover from the rigours of a gruelling campaign as they were back in action the following weekend. For one player, there was an unexpected call up. Having just played an important part in the Silver Ferns’ triumph, Katrina Rore was cleverly snapped up by the Swifts as a replacement for wing defence Kate Eddy who had suffered a season ending ankle injury.

Rore joined a Swifts team which was riding high atop the Super Netball ladder after nine rounds. This lofty position was a surprise to many as Swifts had finished only sixth in both previous seasons with much the same lineup. Clearly the teamwork built up over three seasons was now paying off under the coaching of Briony Akle.

Come finals time however and Swifts were up against the juggernaut that was two time defending Super Netball champions, the Sunshine Coast Lightning. Lightning comfortably won the major semi-final by 10 goals and progressed straight to the grand final to be played in Brisbane. It seemed as though a third straight title was simply theirs for the taking.

But Swifts had other ideas. Defeating Vixens in the preliminary final to earn another crack at Lightning in the decider, they then put on a breathtaking display of netball. Lightning had no answer as Swifts won every quarter. Goal keeper Sarah Klau was everywhere, creating 10 possession gains, while goal shooter Sam Wallace (40/44) dominated the attack end to take out player of the match.

For Rore, this was the last leg of a rather unique treble; ANZ Premiership, World Cup, and Suncorp Super Netball. Winning all three in the one year is something that may never be repeated. It was also a big moment for inspirational Swifts captain Maddy Proud. Despite having to sit out the second half of the competition through injury, she was still very much involved with the squad, while Paige Hadley led the team well on court.

 

Katrina Rore, NSW Swifts, Image: Danny Dalton

NSW Swifts’ kiwi import Katrina Rore, who completed a rare treble in 2019. Image: Danny Dalton

 

Swifts’ win was a triumph for head coach Akle in just her second year in the job. Meanwhile, Noeline Taurua bowed out as Lightning coach to concentrate full time on her job with the Silver Ferns. In her three years at Lightning, Taurua had taken them to the grand final on each occasion, resulting in two wins. The 2019 grand final loss to Swifts was the first time in seven playoff appearances that Lightning had been defeated.

In 2019, three clubs (Wasps, Steel and Lightning) all fell short of winning three straight. But there was one club that did manage the feat. In South African netball, the Gauteng Jaguars won their third straight title when they defeated the Southern Stings 53-38 in the final of the Telkom Netball League.

Also in club netball, there was the Super Club competition in New Zealand. Joining the six ANZ Premiership teams were Collingwood from Australia and Wasps from England. Collingwood remained unbeaten and defeated Northern Mystics in the final, while Wasps unfortunately didn’t record a win and finished last. It was a great initiative to have both visiting teams there and the event was much the better for a move to the end of the year.

International netball for the decade ended with England winning 2-1 on a tour to South Africa. That was after a very hard fought Constellation Cup series. New Zealand led 2-1 after one goal wins in both the first and third tests, to follow on from their one goal win in the World Cup final. Australia eventually took the series on goal difference when they won the fourth and final test by seven goals.

As it turned out, that would actually be Lisa Alexander’s last test match as coach of Australia. She finished with a tremendous overall record of 83 wins from 102 tests. But it’s clear that those two one goal defeats, in the 2018 Commonwealth Games final and 2019 World Cup final, effectively sealed her fate and the decision was made early in 2020 that she was to be replaced as Diamonds coach.

2019 Honour Roll
World Cup: New Zealand
Player of the Tournament: Karla Pretorius (South Africa)
Constellation Cup: Australia
Quad Series: Australia
Suncorp Super Netball: NSW Swifts
ANZ Premiership: Central Pulse
Super Club: Collingwood Magpies
UK Superleague: Manchester Thunder
Telkom Netball League: Gauteng Jaguars
Liz Ellis Diamond: Gretel Tippett
NS World’s Best Netballer: Karla Pretorius

 

Lisa Alexander reaching 100 tests coached. Constellation Cup 2019, Image May Bailey.

 

The Decade In Summary

 

The overall strength of international netball has greatly improved from 2010 to now. The first major tournament of the decade saw New Zealand beat Australia in a classic in Delhi. The last major tournament of the decade also saw New Zealand beat Australia in another close one in Liverpool. But despite that symmetry, a lot actually changed over the course of the ten years in international netball.

Australia was ranked number one for almost all of the 2010s, due to their very consistent record. They won three major tournaments during the decade, and were runners-up in the other three, beaten by a combined margin of just four goals. The form of New Zealand was less consistent, but under the coaching of Noeline Taurua, they are now looking extremely formidable, and with lots of exciting young talent coming through.

In 2010, England were just starting to show some signs of being able to upset the trans-Tasman dominance. They suffered through the heartbreak of 2014, and then finally fulfilled their promise in 2018 on the Gold Coast. The Roses are now considered a strong threat in every major competition, and have great player depth. In 2022, they will be a strong chance to successfully defend their Commonwealth Games title in Birmingham.

Jamaica are the sleeping giant, the perennial underachievers. Despite finishing a disappointing fifth in Liverpool, netball watchers everywhere know they have the talent. In Jhaniele Fowler, they have a dominant shooter who can help the Sunshine Girls beat anyone on any given day. It’s just a case of them putting it all together as a team over the course of a tournament, something which has proven difficult for them in the past.

Then there is South Africa. At the beginning of the decade, they weren’t even really in the conversation. Certainly, they weren’t competitive with the top four nations. But with the help of Australian coaching legend Norma Plummer, and thanks to having regular tough competition through the quad Series, the Proteas have slowly but surely improved. They now fear nobody and will have the advantage of hosting the World Cup in 2023.

This current competitiveness at international level means there are five nations which can legitimately claim to have a chance of success in major tournaments. There are also more nations involved in netball now than ever before, and we have seen the meteoric rise of African nations like Uganda and Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that international netball is looking up in a big way.

 

Geva Mentor was a major part of England’s improvement through the decade. Photo: Danny Dalton

 

On the club netball scene, the picture is very different to how it was in 2010. Australia and New Zealand have parted ways, and that has brought with it successes and failures. In New Zealand, there were (and still are) some worries about the sustainability of a six team elite competition, with the Northern Stars being the only addition to the five teams from the ANZ Championship. But the ANZ Premiership is looking strong. The sport is well supported by Pay TV network Sky Sports and fans are enjoying watching the mostly home grown talent on display.

At the beginning of the decade, the thought that Pulse would be the best team in New Zealand and that Tactix would be one of their main challengers, would have been considered laughable. Both teams were regarded as perennial easy-beats in the ANZ Championship, but demonstrating that everything is cyclical, the ladder has been turned on its head over the course of the decade.

In Australia, the beginning of Suncorp Super Netball has meant great change. The new competition has brought with it more publicity, greater recognition, and better pay for players. But is it sustainable? Much faith is being placed in the television rights deal, currently with the Nine Network, which ends in 2021. What will the next TV rights provide for netball? Netball Australia doesn’t want to be seen as going backwards, so 2021 will be vital.

On the court, the five original state based teams from the ANZ Championship, were joined by three new teams, all with backing from football teams. One of those, the Sunshine Coast Lightning, made the grand final in each of their first three years of existence, winning two titles. On the other hand, the much hyped Collingwood Magpies have underperformed, while Giants haven’t quite delivered on their early promise. In 2017, it was feared that the five existing teams would be totally swamped by these three new teams, but that hasn’t eventuated. One remarkable achievement that shouldn’t go unnoticed. During the 2010s, Geva Mentor won four titles with three different teams in two competitions.

 

The Sunshine Coast Lightning were the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball premiers. Photo: Marcela Massey

 

In the U.K, there has been no change of competition, but it still has a rather different look. After entering the Superleague in 2017, Wasps did exactly as the Sunshine Coast did, making three straight grand finals and winning their first two. Incredibly, Tamsin Greenway won four straight titles between 2015 and 2018, as coach of Surrey Storm, then Wasps. Also joining the competition in 2017 were Severn Stars and Sirens, while London Pulse joined in 2019 and Leeds Rhinos are set to follow in 2021. The standard of play in the Superleague has risen dramatically over the course of the decade. One sticking point however has been the lack of television coverage to showcase this talent.

The past decade has also seen the establishment of a national league in South Africa, firstly sponsored by Brutal Fruit and then Telkom. This competition began in 2014 and has so far been dominated by just two teams; Free State Crinums winning the first three editions and Gauteng Jaguars the rest. It has been responsible for giving an opportunity to up and coming players hopeful of breaking into the Proteas team.

Another noteworthy part of the decade was the emergence of men’s netball. In 2010, men’s netball was in the shadows, barely even talked about and certainly not promoted by national organisations. But it is growing in prominence and New Zealand is leading the way, with the encouragement of Noeline Taurua. In 2019, for the first time, the Silver Ferns took on the NZ men’s team in an official televised tournament. It was well received and undoubtedly played a big part in the Ferns’ build up to a successful world cup campaign in Liverpool.

 

Noeline Taurua, an advocate for men’s netball. Photo: May Bailey

 

2020… and beyond?

 

Well, what a year this has been! Nobody could have foreseen COVID-19 and the effects it would have on netball and sport in general. In Australia, it was almost a case of going from one disaster to another. The summer had seen damaging bushfires, and as a result, a charity match was organised and staged in early March. Over 10,000 people attended this great event, and then not long after, the Coronavirus forced a halt to netball across the globe.

The U.K was hit very hard, with the Superleague sadly abandoned after just four rounds. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were able to complete their club competitions, but they were all delayed, condensed and compromised in some way. At this stage, we still don’t know what netball will look like in 2021. In Australia and New Zealand, the prospects are better for a return to normal, but nothing can be taken for granted any more. Is this just a sign of things to come? In future, will netball competitions constantly be living under the threat of a global pandemic?

How will netball be broadcast in the future? The landscape of sporting telecasts is ever changing, with streaming services taking a bigger role. Netball Australia is pinning so much on the next TV rights deal, and free to air coverage is seen as vitally important in Australia. But in other countries, pay TV rules the roost. Maybe we will finally see a deal in the UK for matches to be streamed. The current one televised match per round isn’t satisfactory for a quickly improving competition.

What will netball even look like in future? 2020 has already given us the 2 point super shot, and there are signs that this is only the beginning. If there are more changes in store, Super Netball will continue to move further away from the international game. Or will the changes ultimately prove successful enough to prompt a change in other countries too? Administrators need to make sure they don’t alienate all of their current fans in the search for new ones.

What part will men’s netball play in the coming decade? Surely it will only get bigger. The Silver Ferns’ win over the New Zealand men’s team this year was one of the highlights of 2020. The wish of netball fans for their sport to be included in the Olympics grows stronger every year and a bigger role for men would assist with that.

The 2010s gave us so many great highlights in the world of netball. The 2020s have certainly started off in a very different manner, but no doubt there are also many great highlights to come.

 

The Bushfire Relief charity match in March 2020. The last big match before Covid-19 struck. Photo: May Bailey

 

Some Facts and Figures from 2010-2019

 

Record of top 6 nations in major tournaments
(World Cups and Commonwealth Games)

Australia: Played 43, Won 39 (90.7%), Lost 4
New Zealand: Played 43, Won 35 (81.4%), Lost 8
England: Played 43, Won 34 (79.1%), Lost 9
Jamaica: Played 43, Won 28 (65.1%), Lost 15
Malawi: Played 39, Won 25 (64.1%), Lost 14
South Africa: Played 39, Won 24 (61.5%), Lost 15

Medals
Australia: 3 gold, 3 silver
New Zealand: 2 gold, 3 silver
England: 1 gold, 4 bronze
Jamaica: 2 bronze


Comparison of Diamonds & Silver Ferns
(Aust and NZ test records during the decade)

Australia: Played 131, Won 106 (80.9%), Lost 24, Drawn 1
New Zealand: Played 140: Won 90 (64.3%), Lost 50

Aust v NZ
All tests: Played 56, Aust 39 (69.6%), NZ 17
Con Cup: Played 40, Aust 28 (70.0%), NZ 12
Quad Series: Played 8 Aust 6 (75%), NZ 2
World Cup: Played 5, Aust 3 (60.0%), NZ 2
Comm Games: Played 3, Aust 2 (66.7%), NZ 1


Most wins by Australian club teams
(ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball)

Firebirds: Played 148, Won 95 (64.2%), Lost 49, Drawn 4
Vixens: Played 144, Won 88 (61.1%), Lost 54, Drawn 2
Swifts: Played 148, Won 86 (58.1%), Lost 55, Drawn 7
Thunderbirds: Played 138, Won 54 (39.1%), Lost 80, Drawn 4
Fever: Played 136, Won 50 (36.8%), Lost 82, Drawn 4
Lightning: Played 49, Won 37 (75.5%), Lost 10, Drawn 2
Giants: Played 47, Won 29 (61.7%), Lost 16, Drawn 2
Magpies: Played 44, Won 19 (43.2%), Lost 22, Drawn 3

Titles
Firebirds: 3 wins, 2 runners up
Lightning: 2 wins, 1 runner up
Thunderbirds: 2 wins
Vixens: 1 win, 1 runner up
Swifts: 1 win, 2 runners up
Fever: 1 runner up
Giants: 1 runner up


Most wins by New Zealand club teams
(ANZ Championship and ANZ Premiership)

Magic: Played 153, Won 83 (54.2%), Lost 69, Drawn 1
Steel: Played 144, Won 81 (56.3%), Lost 59, Drawn 4
Pulse: Played 140, Won 65 (46.4%), Lost 72, Drawn 3
Mystics: Played 145, Won 64 (44.1%), Lost 78, Drawn 3
Tactix: Played 137, Won 24 (17.5%), Lost 112, Drawn 1
Stars: Played 47, Won 15 (31.9%), Lost 32

Titles
Steel: 2 wins
Magic: 1 win, 1 runner up
Pulse: 1 win, 2 runners up
Mystics: 1 runner up
Stars: 1 runner up


Most wins by UK club teams
(Netball Superleague)

Thunder: Played 172, Won 137 (79.7%), Lost 34, Drawn 1
Storm: Played 168, Won 107 (63.7%), Lost 58, Drawn 3
Bath: Played 171, Won 103 (60.2%), Lost 64, Drawn 4
Mavericks: Played 168, Won 95 (56.5%), Lost 70, Drawn 3
Lightning: Played 160, Won 71 (44.4%), Lost 89
Wasps: Played 60, Won 50 (83.3%), Lost 10
Dragons: Played 157, Won 47 (29.9%), Lost 107, Drawn 3
Stars: Played 54, Won 20 (37.0%), Lost 34
Sirens: Played 54, Won 17 (31.5%), Lost 37
Pulse: Played 18, Won 2 (11.1%), Lost 16

Other teams
Leeds/Yorkshire Jets: Played 102, Won 39 (38.2%), Lost 61, Drawn 2
Team Northumbria: Played 136, Won 26 (19.1%), Lost 109, Drawn 1
Glasgow Wildcats: Played 32, Won 3 (9.3%), Lost 28, Drawn 1

Titles
Thunder: 3 wins, 1 runner up
Storm: 2 wins, 3 runners up
Wasps: 2 wins, 1 runner up
Bath: 2 wins
Mavericks: 1 win, 2 runners up
Lightning: 2 runners up
Dragons: 1 runner up


About the Author:

Long time member and contributor for Netball Scoop and all its predecessors since getting hooked in the early 2000s.