2018 Final Ladder Position: 2nd
Head Coach: Stacey Marinkovich
Olivia Lewis (Training Partner, 2018)
Alice Teague-Neeld (Collingwood Magpies)
Nat Medhurst (Collingwood Magpies)
Annika Lee-Jones (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
2019 Team: Courtney Bruce (GK/GD)(captain), Stacey Francis (GD/WD)(vice-captain), Jess Anstiss (WD/C/WA)(vice-captain), Olivia Lewis (GK/GD), Shannon Eagland (WD/GD), Verity Charles (C/WA), Ingrid Colyer (WA/C), Jhaniele Fowler (GS), Alice Teage-Neeld (GA), Kaylia Stanton (GS/GA).
2019 Training Partners: Jess Eales, Jess Penny, Emma Cosh, Sunday Aryang
After flying high for most of last year, West Coast Fever’s 2018 season finished on a disappointing note. After leading by seven goals at one point in the grand final, they were run over by the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the last quarter. Shortly afterwards they cut star goal attack Nat Medhurst in controversial circumstances. Medhurst was a crucial link in attack, and in preseason games Fever have shown they’re still adapting to her absence. Nevertheless, they remain a powerful unit who once again will have their eyes firmly fixed on the top of the ladder.
The defensive end is option-rich, with Courtney Bruce, Stacey Francis, Olivia Lewis and Shannon Eagland all capable of rotating through the circle and wing defence positions. Bruce and Francis have formed one of the most potent yet underrated duos in the competition. They are both instinctive hunters of the ball, with great stopping potential of any less-than-perfect passes. The duo have been in scintillating form in the preseason, racking up numerous intercepts and deflections.
Lewis is a former training partner but has earned a call up after some dazzling performances in the national U17 and U19 competitions. Standing at 185cm, she is a powerful athlete with great elevation, and looks ready to make her mark on the competition. She is most likely to be injected at goal keeper, giving coaching staff the flexibility to push Bruce and Francis forwards into goal defence and wing defence respectively. It could prove to be one of the most lethal back lines in the competition this season.
Shannon Eagland has struggled for court time since returning from an ACL injury, but she’s looking fitter than ever this year and will be keen to slot in at goal defence or wing defence when needed.
The midcourt’s most usual combination is Ingrid Colyer at wing attack, Verity Charles at centre and Jess Anstiss at wing defence. They’ve had the benefit of playing together for several years now, forming a combination that have added finesse and control to their speed. Anstiss and Charles may potentially be moved forwards into centre and wing attack, with both players particularly effective in feeding the circle.
Australian selectors will be keen to see Anstiss expand on her midcourt roles. In a national squad brimming with wing defence talent, Anstiss’ best route to the Diamonds is to prove her versatility in covering wing attack, centre and wing defence. While she’s predominantly been used in the latter role at the Fever, she has a deft touch in feeding the circle but needs more all-round experience before being considered a genuine selection chance.
Jhaniele Fowler remains the Fever’s most potent weapon in the goal circle, with her height, accuracy and aerialism making her a formidable target. In a scary thought for opponents, she’s continuing to add to her bag of tricks, and is showing greater variety of movement around the circle.
The biggest question mark in the Fever line is who will partner her. Alice Teague-Neeld is the more fluent mover around court, but there have been question marks over her shooting confidence for several seasons now. Kaylia Stanton is a former goal shooter who will bring her athleticism to the circle, but lacks the instinctive ability to create space that the best goal attacks offer. Expect coach Stacey Marinkovich to pick and choose her goal attack based on their weekly match ups, as both showcase very different styles of play.
Fever’s strengths in 2019 include their largely unchanged line, which will have the benefit of experience and understanding each other’s movement patterns; and one of the best through court defences in the league. This ability to stifle the opposition’s passage towards goal and force errors is critical, particularly given the era of tall and highly accurate shooters. They also have genuine depth on the bench, which will be crucial in their ability to come on and impact play.
Their biggest weakness will be adjusting to life without Medhurst, whose experience and creativity in feeding the circle will be sorely missed. Three of Fever’s wins in 2018 were by one or two goals, and it will be those close games that Fever will have to continue to find a way to win. The ladder will be so tight that losing just one or two games could see them drop out of the finals race.
In preseason games to date Fever’s circle feeding has been patchy. Several of the more athletic goal keepers have troubled the pass into Fowler when it’s been placed slightly off target. Geva Mentor (Mapgies) and Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Vixens) were both effective when playing in front of the Jamaican import, and it’s likely that Shamera Stirling (Thunderbirds) will also be a good match up for her compatriot.
The break for the Netball World Cup will perhaps work in Fever’s favour more than any other team. Suncorp Super Netball games return just six days after the gold medal match in Liverpool, giving players an outrageously short amount of time to return to Australia, recover from the soreness of a tough campaign, and hit the road again.
In all likelihood Bruce and Fowler, Fever’s bookends, will be their only two players travelling to England. The remaining eight players will remain behind to freshen up and continue training with minimal disruption to their on court unit. Most of the other Suncorp franchises will be significantly more impacted by the tournament, travelling further and having more players joining their national teams.
Once play resumes after the World Cup, Fever remain at home to the Swifts – an advantage as they don’t have to jump on another plane, followed by an away/home/home/away schedule. It’s a smooth run, albeit against some tired but formidable opponents, and a good opportunity to nail down some more wins in their push to the finals.
Fever have experienced the heady excitement and nerves around finals, and will again be a serious contender to hoist the Suncorp Super Netball trophy at the business end of the season.