• Stephanie Smarrelli

Points to take from the #TeamGirls Cup


THERE was plenty to take away from the weekend’s pre-season competition with many of the teams unveiling a new look, while others did not live up to the hype.

Magpies finally living up to the ‘dream team’

Coming off an underwhelming season the Magpies took out the inaugural #TeamGirls Cup on the weekend. Collingwood were impressive throughout the tournament with just the one loss under new head coach Rob Wright who was not afraid to toy around with player positions.

Collingwood recruit Geva Mentor led from defence with her quick feet and pressure over the ball, creating plenty of problems for the other teams. Kelsey Browne starred in wing attack pairing well with her sister Madi Robinson to move the ball into the goal circle with ease.

Young gun Gabrielle Sinclair made her mark while she was on court, confident under the ring alongside fellow shooter, Shimona Nelson. Fan favourite Nat Medhurst also hit the court in the black and white putting up shots and feeding well into fellow recruit, Nelson who benefitted from Medhurst’s experience. Sinclair shot at 84 per cent, Medhurst 69 per cent and Nelson who did most of the shooting for Collingwood shot at 93 per cent making them a formidable trio under the post.

Dual code athlete Ash Brazill was as strong as ever in wing defence on Friday night before she returned to Melbourne for her AFLW commitments. Kim Ravaillion played well defensively as did training partner Mel Bragg who took the opportunity to shine.

Vixens are a force to be reckoned with

Like their Victorian rivals, the Melbourne Vixens flourished throughout the preseason tournament, only falling to the Magpies in the final match of the series.

Caitlin Thwaites, Ine-Mari Venter and Tegan Philip‘s accurate shooting of 90 per cent, 84 per cent and 93 per cent respectively was backed by a stacked midcourt of Diamonds superstars including Kate Moloney, Liz Watson and former Diamond Renae Ingles.

Thwaites in particular seemed to settle in well with her old side despite wearing the goal attack bib for some of the tournament. Thwaites in goal attack was an unexpected move that proved a success for the Vixens with defenders not familiar playing on her in goal attack.

Training partner, Lara Dunkley provided fresh movement to the mid-court when she was given the opportunity, slotting into the Vixens side with ease.

Lightning are still strong

They may have lost three big names in Bassett, Mentor and Browne during the offseason, however, the Sunshine Coast Lightning did not seem to suffer much without them.

Peace Proscovia dominated in the goal circle, shooting at 95 per cent for the tournament while shooter Cara Koenen looked right at home alongside Proscovia and Steph Wood.

Lightning struck in the mid-court with the speedy and experienced Laura Langman returning to the side.

Overall, the Lightning performed well, however they will be looking to tighten up their connections heading into the new season.

Giants are on the rise

The Giants played fairly well throughout the course of the weekend led by the experience of Jo Harten, Kim Green and Sam Poolman. However, it was some of their younger players who stood out.

21-year-old, Amy Parmenter came out firing from the first match making the centre position her own with smart play both offensively and defensively throughout the weekend.

Kiera Austin‘s connection with Harten in the goal circle was electric as the young player confidently put up goal after goal and moved quickly to lead defenders astray. Head coach Julie Fitzgerald is going to have plenty of options in the shooting circle during the season with Caitlin Bassett still to come into the side.

Although the Giants lost to the Lightning in their final match there are a lot of positives for them to take out of the #TeamGirls Cup.

Swifts calm and collected

The New South Wales Swifts took to the #TeamGirls Cup without their captain Maddy Proudbut that did not seem to phase them as they continued to push sides to their limits.

Paige Hadley led for the Swifts, placing her feeds carefully into the safe hands of Sam Wallace who shot at 90 per cent and Sophie Garbin 79 per cent. Alongside Garbin and Wallace, versatile wing attack Natalie Haythornwaite also flexed her shooting muscle.

Defensively, Sarah Klau and Kate Eddy both did well, looking solid down back rotating well through the circle.

The young Swifts side was impressive throughout the tournament and managed to stay cool when scores were close. They put out a four-quarter performance in most matches and they will be wanting to keep that up heading into the new season.

Firebirds not firing on all cylinders

The Queensland Firebirds were up and down throughout the tournament, proving they still have areas across the court to improve on if they want to challenge sides in 2019.

True to form Gretel Tippett and Romelda Aiken paired well in the shooting circle, however at times failed to capitalise on their scoring opportunities.

Head coach Roselee Jencke also gave shooter Tippah Dwan some time out on court showcasing her dynamic footwork around her opponents and finding space in the goal circle often.

Defensively, the loss of Laura Geitz down back was evident for the Firebirds as young defenders Kim Jenner, Laura Clemesha and Tara Hinchliffe continued to figure out their combinations. Despite the loss of Geitz, each defender held their own and were able to create turnovers throughout the weekend.

Fever in trouble?

The West Coast Fever looked like a completely different team to the side that dominated the Super Netball league in 2018.

Missing star shooter, Jhaniele Fowler for most of the weekend, the Fever struggled to get the ball into the net. Kaylia Stanton did the majority of the work in the circle for the Fever shooting at 74 per cent. Accuracy and volume seemed to plague the Fever with Stanton lacking back-up in the goal circle.

Alongside Stanton was new Fever recruit, Alice Teague-Neeld. Teague-Neeld did well to free up space in the circle for Stanton, but she lacked the confidence to back herself and shoot. Training partner Emma Cosh did well when she was given the opportunity on court, scoring quickly after she came on.

Overall, the Fever seemed to be the team that struggled the most in comparison to where they were at last season. With still a few weeks to go until the season and Fowler coming back into the side at full capacity it would be wrong to write them off just yet based on one weekend.

Thunderbirds not to be underestimated

One of the most exciting things to take away from the #TeamGirls Cup is the spark that the Thunderbirds seem to have finally found.

After failing to win a match last season the new look Adelaide Thunderbirds, under new head coach Tania Obst, came out firing and seriously challenged their opponents.

The defensive trio of Shamera Sterling, Layla Guscoth and Kate Shimmin were dangerous with Sterling finishing the weekend with the most intercepts of any player racking up 17.

In attack Sasha Glasgow, Cody Lange and training partner Nyah Allen seemed confident. The Thunderbirds will be significantly boosted when experienced shooter Maria Folau joins the side after missing the #TeamGirls Cup due to commitments with the Auckland Cup.

After losing the experience of Chelsea Pitman on day one to a calf injury, Hannah Petty and Kelly Altmann impressed through the midcourt with their clever drives and attack on the ball.

Despite not winning a game during the #TeamGirls Cup, the Thunderbirds put out their best performance on day three against the West Coast Fever with the match ending in a draw, giving South Australian fans plenty to look forward to in the coming season.

Overall the #TeamGirls Cup provided a glimpse into the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball season. Though the matches were significantly shorter and some teams were missing players, the standard of netball was high. All teams will take plenty of positives out of the weekend but will also be able to identify areas that need more work before the season begins at the end of April.

Originally published on: Netball Draft Central

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