Header Image West Coast Fever
It’s been a chaotic few weeks with the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) signing period keeping many fans on their toes; from retirements, interstate transfers and international moves to the players that remain at their beloved clubs. As this series draws to a close with the Sunshine Coast Lightning and West Coast Fever, the Netball Post review how teams have fared this signing season, and what the 2022 season looks like for the Suncorp Super Netball.
Sunshine Coast Lightning
Ins: Cara Koenen, Kate Shimmin, Tara Hinchliffe (QLD Firebirds), Steph Wood, Mahalia Cassidy, Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Melbourne Vixens), Laura Scherian, Reilley Batcheldor (QLD Firebirds Training Partner), Karla Pretorius, Annie Miller (GIANTS Training Partner).
Outs: Peace Proscovia (Surrey Storm, VNSL), Phumza Maweni (TBA), Binnian Hunt (Central Pulse, ANZP), Ashlee Unie (released due to injury), Maddie Hinchliffe (TBA), Maddy McAuliffe (Retirement).
This point comes down to not as much a player, but rather a position with Lightning recruiting two incredible GKs to replace outgoing South African International Phumza Maweni. With Kadie-Ann Dehaney moving north from Melbourne Vixens in search of more court time, many had predicted her move to QLD Firebirds so were surprised to see her appear further up the Bruce Highway at Sippy Downs.
Likewise, Tara Hinchliffe making the move from QLD Firebirds, where she was starting GK, was something that had many gobsmacked. While she is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, having suffered an ACL injury towards the end of 2021, her and Dehaney offer extremely different games at GK that could be used to Lightning’s advantage, while Hinchliffe also has the ability to play out at GD and WD as needed.
In perhaps the most shocking move of the entire contracting period, Lightning Foundation Player Maddy McAuliffe announced her retirement from elite netball, making the difficult decision to pursue her law career rather than take up an offered contract for the 2022 season. McAuliffe had arguably her best season, playing well across WD as well as showing more of her attacking prowess in C. Many questioned her exclusion from the Australian Development Squad, but were given a clear reason for her omission with this announcement. She has been a pivotal part in all five of Lightning’s Finals appearances to date, no doubt her on and off court contributions will be significantly missed by Lightning and Netball Fans alike.
A position that is tending to be left by the wayside with the reduced squad size of 10, Lightning are lacking a specialist WD for the first time since their inception, previously having the likes of Jacqui Russell, Maddy McAuliffe and Laura Langman filling this position with different game styles and strengths. Lightning have four players that can cover this position, but teams have been stung before by not having a specialist to fill this position. Expect Kate Shimmin to start the season there, but for the shorter, speedier attackers Cassidy may make the switch back allowing room for new recruit Annie Miller to slot into the attacking mid court.
Predicted Starting Seven
West Coast Fever
Ins: Courtney Bruce, Jhaniele Fowler, Verity Charles, Rudi Ellis (QLD Firebirds), Alice Teague-Neeld, Sasha Glasgow, Jess Anstiss, Emma Cosh, Stacey Francis-Bayman and Sunday Aryang.
Outs: Olivia Lewis (Melbourne Vixens).
An easy point to comment on when only one player is new to the squad, with Rudi Ellis making the move across from the Queensland Firebirds – a somewhat confusing move once it was revealed Firebirds incumbent GK would be moving north to play for Lightning in 2022. Ellis is one of the taller defenders in the league, who has a strong aerial game and physical presence. The addition of another strong GK will also allow Bruce to potentially spend more time out at GD, where we have recently seen her for Diamonds. Honourable mention also goes to the recruiting of Dan Ryan as new Head Coach, replacing outgoing Stacey Marinkovich. While he initially struggled in his early SSN coach days with Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2017-18, his recent success over in England’s VNSL bodes well, as well as having inherited a strong team to work with. A slight change in game plan and coaching style could be just what Fever need to get themselves over the line, as they have so narrowly missed taking home the title in recent years.
With only one change to their line-up, this isn’t as much of a move of players to the side but a lack of players leaving the side. It is well known that International players have struggled with prolonged time away from their family throughout the last few years due to COVID, meaning many fans were expecting the likes of Jhaniele Fowler or Stacey Francis-Bayman to return home to their daughter and wife respectively. As such key players for Fever, they will have been very pleased to have secured the services of these talented athletes for at least another year.
Fever have been so close to the premiership title for three of the last four years, so wholesale changes definitely weren’t required when Dan Ryan was looking to assemble his new team. Their one potential area for improvement relates to their attacking superstar Jhaniele Fowler, and how the team copes when she isn’t on court. The few times where the team opted for the moving circle of Glasgow and Teague-Neeld, the mid-court often struggled to find the finesse on the feed, having been so used to being able to send the ball high and be confident that Fowler would find a way to haul it in. The connection between Fowler and the midcourt is often unbreakable, so finding a way to strengthen their alternative attacking option, normally Glasgow at GS, would likely further see them push for a premiership win.
Predicted Starting Seven
Well, that’s all the SSN signing news. Stay tuned to our socials for more developments across a range of national netball leagues in the coming months.
Categories: Suncorp Super Netball