Super Netball guide: Big season ready for tip-off
EXPECT the Giants to cash in on their recruiting coup of the off-season when this year's Super Netball season commences this weekend.
The Giants landed Diamonds star goal shooter Caitlin Bassett to spearhead their attack, but they won't have things all their way.
You just know the Melbourne Vixens will be there while Collingwood Magpies have the depth to be thereabouts and last year's runner-up West Coast Fever will be driven to go one better.
Rebecca Williams and Warren Partland run the rule over the teams competing in the third season of the Super Netball in your ultimate guide.
Team: Kelly Altmann, Beth Cobden, Maria Folau, Sasha Glasgow, Layla Guscoth (co-captain), Cody Lange, Hannah Petty, Chelsea Pitman (co-captain), Kate Shimmin, Shamera Sterling
Coach: Tania Obst
Changes: Dan Ryan did not have his contract as coach renewed after last year and Tania Obst has taken the reins. The playing list has been overhauled and it is stronger this season, especially after Jamaican defender Shamera Sterling was lured to Adelaide. There will again be a powerful English presence with Layla Guscoth, named co-captain with Chelsea Pitman, and Beth Cobden signing. They have taken a punt on Cobden given she is coming back from a knee reconstruction. There will be a heavy reliance on New Zealand superstar Maria Folau in the goal circle.
Last year: Eighth (no wins).
Focus on 2019: The Thunderbirds beat West Coast Fever in the opening round in 2017 and have not won a game since. So just getting respect and a feared reputation back in the club would be the initial task. There is confidence in the group, but the Thunderbirds just need to find consistent, competitive netball and go from there.
Odds (Ladbrokes): $21
Team: Kiera Austin, Caitlin Bassett, Kim Green (captain), Jo Harten, Jamie-Lee Price, Kristiana Manu'a, Matilda McDonell, Teigan O'Shannassy, Amy Parmenter, Sam Poolman.
Coach: Julie Fitzgerald
Changes: There has been a few big ones. Veteran defender Bec Bulley and seasoned goaler Susan Pettitt have retired, while import and star midcourter Serena Guthrie has returned to England. But the Giants pulled off the biggest recruiting coup of the off-season by landing Diamonds star goal shooter Caitlin Bassett to spearhead their attack.
Last year: Finished regular season on top. Lost preliminary final to Lightning 59-57 in Sydney.
Focus on 2019: Now boasting arguably the most potent shooting line-up in the competition with Bassett alongside English sharpshooter Jo Harten, the bookies have jumped on the Giants to install them as equal favourites for the Super Netball crown. There are three rookies in the line-up this year, but with veteran Kim Green at the helm, they have the experience to guide the next wave. Definitely the team to watch.
Odds (Ladbrokes): $4
Team: April Brandley, Ash Brazill, Kelsey Browne, Matilda Garrett, Natalie Medhurst, Geva Mentor (co-captain), Madi Browne (co-captain), Shimona Nelson, Kim Ravaillion, Madi Browne, Gabrielle Sinclair
Coach: Rob Wright
Changes: Plenty. The Magpies said goodbye to their entire 2018 shooting division of Caitlin Thwaites, Erin Bell and Alice Teague-Neeld, with Jamaican Shimona Nelson, veteran Natalie Medhurst and Gabrielle Sinclair taking their place. Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne - who joins sister Madi - add defensive and midcourt strength, while the team has lost the on-court voice of the retired Sharni Layton. Change on the coaching bench, too, with Rob Wright taking over from Kristy Keppich-Birrell.
Last year: Seventh
Focus on 2019: After underperforming and missing finals in their first two seasons, the Magpies have made wholesale changes in a bid to make an impact this year. Mentor is a huge defensive coup while Nelson is regarded as a star on the rise and will have the canny Medhurst alongside her in the goal circle. The midcourt is as strong as any. Should make finals - and be contenders - with this list.
Odds (Ladbrokes): $5
Team: Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Lara Dunkley, Renae Ingles, Emily Mannix, Kate Moloney (captain), Tegan Philip, Caitlin Thwaites, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Ine-Mari Venter, Mwai Kumwenda
Coach: Simone McKinnis
Changes: The Vixens welcome back their former championship shooter Caitlin Thwaites to the attack as Malawi star Mwai Kumwenda continues her recovery from serious knee injury. South African Ine-Mari Venter is also a new addition to the goal circle. Midcourter Lara Dunkley has been drafted in for Tayla Honey, who tore her Achilles in the pre-season.
Last year: Fifth
Focus on 2019: Aside from the changes to the goal circle, the Vixens have retained largely the same list as 2018. They'll miss Kumwenda's spark in the goal circle, but Thwaites is a dominant and super reliable scorer. Anything less than finals won't be good enough for this line-up, boasting five Diamonds.
Odds (TAB): $5.50
Team: Kate Eddy, Sophie Garbin, Paige Hadley, Nat Haythornthwaite, Helen Housby, Sarah Klau, Lauren Moore, Maddy Proud (captain), Maddy Turner, Sam Wallace
Coach: Briony Akle
Changes: The Swifts are not known for making too many changes between seasons and the stable environment is a key reason the side continues to be competitive. There has been one major alteration, however, with Abbey McCulloch stepping away from Super Netball after two years as captain to recover from a knee injury. In her absence, midcourter Maddy Proud has been promoted to lead the team with Paige Hadley vice-captain and Maddy Turner named in the leadership. Lauren Moore has been promoted from the training partner group. England wing attack Natalie Haythornthwaite has been retained after joining the club before round 11 last season as a replacement for injured Claire O'Brien.
Last year: 6th
Focus for 2019: The Swifts need to take advantage of a settled line-up, and settled combinations. They had six wins last season and will be confident of an improvement with the likes of Maddy Proud, Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner now experienced at this level and primed to blossom. Briony Akle will also benefit from her debut season as head coach last season.
Odds (Ladbrokes): $10
Team: Tippah Dwan, Gabi Simpson (captain), Gretel Tippett, Caitlyn Nevins, Jemma Mi Mi, Kim Jenner, Laura Clemesha, Mahalia Cassidy, Romelda Aiken, Tara Hinchliffe.
Coach: Roselee Jencke
Changes: The Firebirds alter little from season to season and they have just one change this season. But it is massive with Laura Geitz no longer with the side. Young goal attack Tippah Dwan has been brought into the 10-person squad after being a training partner.
Last year: 4th
Focus for 2019: Ultra consistent, the Firebirds are highly competitive every season and lost the minor semi-final last year by just a goal to eventual champions Lightning. The loss of Geitz in defence will be tough to overcome, but the presence of goal-scoring machine Romelda Aiken, as well as Gretel Tippett in the goal circle all but guarantees competitive scores. The bonus for the Firebirds is having settled combinations. As always, they will be extremely tough to conquer, especially at home.
Odds (Ladbrokes): $11
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING
Team: Phumza Maweni, Peace Proscovia, Laura Langman (captain), Jacqui Russell, Annika Lee-Jones, Stephanie Wood, Madeline McAuliffe, Laura Scherian, Karla Pretorius, Cara Koenen.
Coach: Noeline Taurua
Changes: There have been changes galore with the loss of big names in each third of the court. Caitlin Bassett and Geva Mentor, arguably the best shooter and keeper respectively in the world, have changed clubs, as has midcourter Kelsey Browne. And Erena Mikaere has returned to New Zealand. The club will rely heavily on veteran South African defender Phumza Maweni to fill the Mentor's shoes, while Ugandan captain Peace Proscovia will be the go-to shooter. Annika Lee Jones, 197cm, has joined the club from the Fever and her height can be used at both ends of the court.
Last year: Premiers
Focus for 2019: It will be difficult to match the remarkable efforts of the first two seasons of Super Netball when they have reigned as the champions. Losing Bassett and Mentor is massive but wily Kiwi coach Noeline Taurua is still in charge and she has an uncanny ability to get the best out of her players. Laura Langman is still in the midcourt and she is an absolute champion.
Odds (Lightning): $7.50
WEST COAST FEVER
Team: Olivia Lewis, Stacey Francis, Shannon Eagland, Kaylia Stanton, Jhaniele Fowler, Jessica Anstiss, Ingrid Colyer, Courtney Bruce (captain), Alice Teague-Neeld, Verity Charles
Coach: Stacey Marinkovich
Changes: There was a massive shock when former Diamonds goal attack Natalie Medhurst was released and signed with the Magpies. The Fever brought Alice Teague-Neeld, previously with the Vixens then Magpies, into the squad to take Medhurst's role. Teague-Neeld's shooting has been a concern in the past two years but she will be used as a feeder to goal-scoring machine Jhaniele Fowler. Defender Olivia Lewis has been elevated from the training partner group and the club has high hopes for the youngster.
Last year: Runner-up
Focus for 2019: Having being beaten in last year grand final, it is crucial the Fever back up that effort when they announced themselves as a title threat. Such is the confidence in the product, the club has moved all home games to RAC Arena and is aiming to get 10,000 fans to each contest. Having Jhaniele Fowler is the goal circle all but guarantees a highly competitive score each week. But the Fever needs to prove it is more than just a one-person show.
Odds (Ladbrokes): $4.50