It’s a brave new world for Suncorp Super Netball, with the announcement that a 2-goal Super Shot will be unleashed in domestic matches this year. It adds to the uncertainty of a 2020 season that has already been impacted by the global pandemic, and other new rules including rolling substitutions and extra time.
Trialled in the Bushfire Relief match earlier this year, we saw controlled, and at times uncontrolled, chaos when the Super Shot came into play. With the mix of rolling subs and the exhilaration of shooting ‘the money shot’, the last five minutes of each quarter were frenzied. Heading into the 2020 season, teams will need a cool-headed side to steer themselves through the rush.
It will be fascinating to watch whether the new rule is just a minor distraction to clubs as they go about the business of mainstream netball or an opportunity for astute coaches and players to change the fabric of the game. How will tactics change across the season as clubs adjust to it? Could some of the goal shooting stalwarts of our game find themselves benched for five minutes each quarter, making way for longer range specialists?
Important notes to take in are that the Super Shot zone is wider than that in Fast5, being three metres from the post or 1.9 metres from the circle edge. It’s considered to be a distance that’s regularly practised from by long-range goal attacks, so goal shooters and the midcourt feeders may be the ones most impacted. The Super Shot also comes into play in the last five minutes of each quarter and in extra time.
So, how will your team fare with this new rule?
New South Wales Swifts
The reigning premiers shouldn’t have any issues adapting to the Super Shot. All four of their shooters have the skills to make the most of the initial 10 minutes of the quarter and to capitalise on the last five. Helen Housby sticks out as the strongest long-range shooter, so fans will likely see Sam Wallace, Sophie Garbin and Nat Haythornthwaite being swapped in and out as the rolling subs around her.
Housby is currently the most accurate player in the league from long range, having shot 94 goals at 80 percent from distance since her debut, while Sam Wallace’s average sits at 75 percent. It’s worth noting that the stats which look at ‘long range’ shots don’t match the distance of a Super Shot, and the shooting percentages have been recorded over national league careers, rather than the 2019 season.
Their fallen captain Maddy Proud will also be returning after an ACL injury and offers the right amount of intensity and composure to direct the side through the expectedly shaky final minutes of each quarter.
2018 Fast 5 defender Sarah Klau, as usual, will be difficult to shoot against. The goal keeper’s superior reach paired with the doggedness of her defensive partner Maddy Turner makes for a formidable defence, particularly when they’ve acquired a few strategies from playing Fast 5 together in 2017.
Overall the Swifts have the cool-headedness to get themselves out of any sticky situation as well as the shooting capacity to overwhelm other sides, and the Super Shot will be helping them to do it.
Sunshine Coast Lightning
Lightning will be heading into Round 1 with an answer to almost every challenge thrown at them. Their shooting combinations are already some of the strongest in the league, no matter which shooters are partnered up.
Peace Proscovia is undeniably strong under the post and Lightning don’t lose anything by swapping her with Steph Wood or Cara Koenen near the end of the quarter. While Proscovia may be tentative to take aim from distance, she does provide a rebounding option to finish off an easy goal after a Super Shot miss.
As the Diamonds go-to long range specialist, Wood has shot at 71 percent from distance over her national league career. And she has the confidence to take those shots regularly. We haven’t seen a lot of long bombs from Koenen, but as one of the emerging talents, she’s reliable and usually full of confidence.
The midcourt is still the focused powerhouse it has always been and have experience in Laura Langman and Laura Sherian who won’t be overwhelmed by the final minutes of each quarter.
Defenders Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni have the intimidation factor to fluster any shooter into missing a high-stake attempt. Their incalculable style of defence should be even more useful this year.
It’ll be a piece of cake for the Vixens goalers, so moving on to the next team…
But… It is still worth looking into how the Vixens can utilise the 2-point shot. Their shooting circle is probably the league’s most well equipped to take the Super Shot, with Mwai Kumwenda, Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip all brave (and accurate) enough to sink them.
In the 2016 Fast 5 series Thwaites had one of the most balanced approaches to the game, shooting 12/14 under the post and 12/22 (55%) from 2-point range. This may be a long time ago now, but her style of play even in the ‘normal’ game is still a good mix of short- and long-range shooting. Perhaps we’ll also see Kumwenda share the circle with Thwaites where both can be rebounding options.
The Vixens also have some of the most level-headed midcourters to cool things down in those last few minutes. But what could be the curveball is how the Vixens utilise their defence end. The rolling subs will allow for quick and unexpected changes. This may be a long shot, but with the number of defensive options that the Vixens boast, could we see the likes of Jo Weston slot into WD to defend the Super Shot from outside the goal circle? It’s a tactic that’s been used by Fast 5 teams in the past and could be just enough to unnerve the opposing shooters.
This is going to be interesting. If Nat Medhurst can return to play after the birth of her child (due July), and Kelsey Browne fully recovers from an ACL injury, the Magpies could be hitting their straps a bit later in the season.
But for now, Gabrielle Sinclair and Shimona Nelson will be sharing the circle with Julia Wooley as a replacement player for Medhurst. Since her debut last year, Sinclair has been able to hit 75 percent of her 20 attempts from range. To no surprise, Medhurst’s long shot accuracy since the start of the ANZ Championship sits at an impressive 71 percent. But what may be worrying for the Magpies is that Nelson has only attempted 16 long shots since her 2018 debut but nailed 11.
The Magpies also have time on their side. As teams use the first half of the season to adjust their game plans to the Super Shot rule and find their footing, the Magpies should be able to scrape through until Medhurst returns to the game (if that’s what she decides). It’ll be a big win for Collingwood when Kelsey Browne returns as well. For a relatively young goal circle, it’d be a major confidence boost having the Browne sisters feed them.
We also can’t forget the great strategist that is Geva Mentor. She’ll have a new defensive partner in Jodi-Ann Ward this year, along with Matilda Garrett. Despite this being the debut year for Ward, the agile Jamaican brings experience from playing Fast 5 in 2018.
Young gun Kiera Austin is probably counting her lucky stars. Before the rule change, the emerging talent seemingly forfeited a starting position at other clubs to sit behind two of the best shooters in the game, Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett and club captain Jo Harten. Now, it looks like Austin could be enjoying more court time as the preferred long-range shooter over Bassett.
At the 2018 Fast 5 World Series, Austin was among the top six point-scorers (not ‘goal-scorers’ in this case) and led Australia for 2-pointers (18/45) but was behind on accuracy (40%). Luckily, her teammate Harten is one of the best long-range shooters in the business. Since her ANZ championship debut, she’s scored 607 goals at 67 percent from range. Not only does she have the accuracy, but she has the confidence to regularly turn and shoot from anywhere. Harten will likely be the mainstay, while Bassett and Austin utilize the rolling sub rule to offer rebounding and shooting options.
The defence end has also dipped their toes into the altered format of the game. Sam Poolman represented Australia in Fast 5 in 2017 and 2018, while Kristiana Manu’a represented the All Stars in the Bushfire Relief match, so the pair may at least have a head start on their defensive strategies.
The Giants also maintained the bulk of last year’s line-up, so should be a well-oiled machine come Round 1.
West Coast Fever
Fever fans may be hurting right now. What was once the biggest weapon in the game may have now lost its fear-factor. Since joining the team, Jhanielle Fowler has dominated the goal circle, not just in beating her opponents, but in hugely outscoring her shooting partners. It will now be a challenge for Fever to adapt from what was a relatively straightforward game plan to one that relies heavily on teamwork between both shooters.
Although Alice Teague-Neeld seems to have lacked the confidence to put up shots in the last few seasons, we can’t look past Kaylia Stanton to step up and take the Super Shot. In the 2018 Fast 5 tournament, Stanton was a standout, scoring the second highest volume of points across the entire competition. She trailed behind England’s Georgina Fisher who’s 3-point game was unmatched, yet Stanton did sink a not-so-shabby 3/7 from that range and 17/41 (41%) from the 2-point line.
More good news is that despite sitting in the category of ‘towering timber’, Fowler’s shooting repertoire is one of the most versatile of the league’s tall shooters. This may come as a surprise, but fans who can recall the 2017 Fast 5 will remember Fowler scored the most points for the series, with 64 up close and 16/38 at 42 percent from Super Shot range. She also hauled in the most rebounds for the tournament.
There’s shooters-a-plenty at Adelaide. South African recruit Lenize Potgeiter will likely see the most court time in GS, while Sasha Glasgow and Charlee Hodges make interchangeable goal attacks, but can fill either position. After spending 2019 as a Magpies training partner, Sam Gooden rounds out the shooting line-up.
The Thunderbirds are well-equipped when it comes to long-range shooting. Across their national league careers Glasgow, Potgeiter and Hodges have shot at 70, 76 and 71 percent from range, respectively. Glasgow also finished the 2019 season ranked fifth overall for rebounds, so at 187cm, she won’t need to be subbed for the 190cm tall Gooden. She also stepped up in key moments last year, so will be well suited to the pressure of the Super Shot.
In hindsight, Adelaide lost the player that would have undoubtedly pushed the team into finals contention this year, in Maria Folau. Despite losing the long-bomb specialist, the Thunderbirds have built a sturdy attack line and maintained the core of their playing group.
Rejection queens Shamera Sterling and Kate Shimmin will also be a handful for shooters looking to go long, and they have the unpredictability that puts doubt in the minds of their opponents. Although Layla Guscoth is the preferred goal defender, we may see her subbed off for Shimmin’s timing on the shot.
Firebirds fans may be feeling uneasy about the new ruling, but the Queenslanders could be among the winners. Though she usually prefers hard drives under the post or a layup on the run, Gretel Bueta (nee Tippett) has no issue hitting the target from distance. Despite having one of the flattest shots in the game, her past performances in Fast 5 prove she’s a reliable shooter from range. In the 2017 series, she shot 19/19 near the post and netted 20/43 from the 2-point range at 47 percent. For comparison, the Vixens long bomb specialist Tegan Philip shot 9/12 up close and 15/38 at 39 percent from the 2-point line, trailing in both accuracy and volume.
Bueta also has one of the best rebounding partners in the business in Romelda Aiken, who unfortunately will rarely look to the post from distance. Though it will be worth keeping an eye on how this shooting circle changes in the last five minutes, with Ine-Mari Venter likely to enter the court in these stages. We didn’t see a lot of Venter last year, but like many of the South African shooters she has the range and the confidence.
Aiken could also make a handy defender during these minutes as she’s no stranger to the goal keeper position, however, new recruit Rudi Ellis still has the defence end covered for height, standing at 191cm. The connection between Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe has only been getting stronger by the year with the pair also sharing a Fast 5 court together in 2018.
The Firebirds are known for a flashy, high-octane style of play and with Jemma Mi Mi, one of the speedsters of the game feeding the goal circle, the Firebirds could risk getting caught up in the chaos of the last five minutes. Luckily Mahalia Cassidy will be returning from an ACL injury and could be the more level-headed midcourter they need to slow things down.
What the coaches think
While most of the talk has been around how the shooters can handle the pressure, according to Lightning coach Kylee Byrne, the defenders will be heavily impacted.
“But spare a thought for our defenders, their whole netball life they have been working on keeping their opposition away from the post,” she said.
“We all witnessed when Fast 5 competitions have been previously played, that the change in body positions, movement patterns and mindset to promote a one point play is so foreign for our defensive units.”
Vixens assistant coach Sharelle McMahon said on Keeping Contact that her team will work through this new challenge, given how they tackled the obstacles of training during a pandemic.
“I think, along with the teams that coped with isolation best and how they come out of that best, [they] will be the teams that do really well,” she said
“The teams that cope best with, not just this change, but the rolling subs – which significantly changes how you approach the tactics within a game too. The teams that cope well with those different scenarios will be the ones that come out on top.”
Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich voiced her concerns.
“This whole experience of COVID has been forever changing and, for me, I thought we just started to get back into a routine of what felt like normality,” she said.
“I think that by bringing in another rule, you’re just throwing a bit of a spanner in the works in terms of preparation.”
“We’ve only just returned to full contact training – to have a complete rule change will be challenging, but we’ll embrace it.”