Rookies to watch: The Sapphire Series young guns set to fire
They are the young players rapidly making their mark in the minds of HART Sapphire Series spectators.
Meet the 16 players - most of whom are not even 20 yet - too keep an eye on as the season heats up.
Alice Mauga, Tigers
She's a quiet achiever but this 19-year-old mid court with an eye for defence has talent to burn.
Mauga, who dominates as either a centre or wing defence, simply won't be beaten, says Tigers head coach Erin Byrnes.
"She doesn't like anyone to get the better of her," Byrnes said.
Mauga is entering her second season in the Sapphire Series, with last year's debut coming off the back of her vital role in the Tigers' 2019 Ruby Series championship win.
Byrnes said spectators could this season expect to see Mauga up her game even more to deliver an intense 60 minutes.
Rianah and Lynette Childs, Tigers
Remember these names as they make their mark as one of the most frustrating, dominating goal defence duos in coming games.
Their sisterly connection allows for seamless communication as Lynette (18) and Rianah (17) work together to block skilled shooters while also putting up dominant one-on-one defence.
"They make it really difficult for players to be where they want to be," Byrnes said.
"I think very quickly people are going to be not wanting to play the Childs sisters."
Dakota Newson, QUT
At just 15 years old Dakota Newson is one of the youngest players in the Sapphire Series.
Newson, a student from the Gold Coast, travels to Brisbane to train with QUT each week.
She made her debut against defending champions Brisbane North Cougars in Round 1 of the 2021 Sapphire Series. Newson has skipped straight to this high level bypassing the QPL and Ruby Series competitions. Newson plays alongside her New Zealand netball idol Keshia Grant.
Keara Fitzgerald, QUT
A centre and wing defence player Keara Fitzgerald has moved up into QUT's Sapphire Series team after playing in the club's QPL team in 2020.
Fitzgerald has previously played in the Victorian Netball League - where, in 2019, she made the top 10 list of players in the league.
Maddi Ridley, Bull Sharks
Defender Ridley is a member of the Australian U21 and Queensland U19 squads who spent time training with the Firebirds earlier in the year in preparation for the National Camp. Ridley moved to the Gold Coast to study at Bond University as the recipient of ADCO Sports Excellence Scholarship and is an outstanding student as well as a netball talent on the rise.
At 184cm, Maddi is one of the new generation of athletic, defensive talls. Her brother, Jordan, plays AFL for Essendon.
Ava Black, Bull Sharks
Mid court Black was named the Katie Walker Medallist in the Sapphire Series in 2020 and will be looking to build on that form in 2021.
Originally from Toowoomba, Black, 18, moved to the Gold Coast full-time this year to study a Bachelor of Sports Marketing at Bond University.
Bond University director of netball and club sport Stuart Allen said now that Black was relieved of the burden of the thrice-weekly commute from the Darling Downs, "we are excited to see what another year's experience brings for Ava on the court this year".
One of the most dynamic players in the series, Black's speed belies her length.
Like her team-mate Maddi Ridley, Black stands at just over six feet tall in the old measure.
Rylee Burns, Bull Sharks
Another of the Coast's generation of home-grown talent, Burns is also a member of the Queensland U19 squad and the netball Australia Talent Squad.
Heading into her third year in the league at just 19 years of age Bond, who dominates in C and WA, will be looking for Rylee to add leadership to her already impressive resume of on-court skills.
With a mother who played three sports for New Zealand and is currently her coach, Burns certainly has the genes for success.
Ashleigh Ervin, Bull Sharks
A towering defensive presence at 191cm, 18-year-old Ashleigh Ervin (GK/GS) is expected to quickly establish herself as one of the premier defenders in the competition. After making her Ruby Series debut last year,. Her rapid progression has seen her selected as part of the Qld 19U squad and the Netball Australia Talent Squad. Having spent much of her youth playing on the attacking end, Ash is revelling in the challenge of her defensive assignments and with exceptional length and anticipation, the Bull Sharks are expecting big things.
Annabelle Lawrie, Thunder
Annabelle Lawrie is one of Thunder's Sunshine Coast Lightning Training Partner players.
Lawrie, 20, is a talented goal attack/ goal shooter.
She represented Northern Territory as an import player in the U19s Nationals and trained with the Territory Storm Australian National League before joining the Brisbane South Wildcats Team in the Ruby Series.
This year she is playing for Thunder.
Ashlee Barnett, Thunder
A talented goal keeper, Ashlee Barnett is one of Thunder's rising stars.
The 18-year-old has arrived in Queensland after playing in Victoria.
Barnett has been selected in the Queensland under-19s squad and Australian under-19s.
Halle Geyer, Wildcats
The 18-year-old wing defence and goal defence player is new to the Sapphires competition this year.
Geyer has worked her way up from the QPL competition. She also competed in the under-19 State Schoolgirls competition.
Lillyana Rennie, Wildcats
Lillyana but not have much experience in the Sapphires competition but she is used to playing high level netball.
The 16-year-old goal keeper/goal defence player from Logan has represented Queensland in the under-15 schoolgirls competition (2019), the Australian schoolgirls under-15 side in 2019, the under-19 state schoolgirls last year and was selected in this year's Queensland's 17 and under state squad.
Estel Mocelutu, Mendi Rays
Mid-court player Estel made her debut at the U18 titles last year.
She takes the court with the Rays in the Sapphire Series for the first time this season.
She is currently studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in Sports and Event Management at James Cook University.
Last year she also picked up the titles of Townsville City Netball Association Inc grand final winner and MVP.
Eden Cassidy, Mendi Rays
A C and WA talent, this former Brisbane North junior represented Lynx before the Sapphire Series was created. She completed her studies as a secondary teacher in 2019 before taking a position at Tully State High School in the Far Northern Region.
She shares the netball gene pool with sister Firebirds star Mahalia and is rapidly making a name for herself on court.
In 2016, Caboolture Netball Association ace Cassidy was named Player of the Year in the Samsung QSNL Division 2 City competition at the Netball Queensland awards night.
Another mid-court master, Michaela was a foundation member in the 2019 Sapphire Series and is currently studying a Bachelor of Secondary Education. She has played all her netball in the Far North Queensland region and has been a representative for Cairns since she was 14.
She is also a gifted Australian Rules player, last year playing in the AFL Cairns Women's decider.
A defender both in the mid-court and the circle, Elliott is in the midst of her first year at the Mendi Rays but you probably already know her name. Elliott has previously played in the ANZ Premiership with the Northern Mystics and Southern Steel. She has moved to Townsville for a new experience and is looking forward to playing in north Queensland and exploring all the state offers.
Originally published as Rookies to watch: The Sapphire Series young guns ready to fire