Champion Data: Who are your team’s A-graders?

How many of your team’s players are bona fide stars this season?

It’s a question that’s been answered statistically for a number of years now in other sporting codes, with deep analysis telling us, for example, which AFL players are true A-graders in their position on the field.

So why not Suncorp Super Netball, too?

We asked Champion Data to run their eyes over each Super Netball team to determine which players are elite at their position this season, from a statistical perspective. We’re classifying “elite” or “A-grade” as being in the top three players in their main position, out of all players in the competition.

The results will almost certainly surprise you.

The system

For this exercise, Champion Data devised a system that awards points based on positive and negative on-court statistics.

West Coast Fever – 6 players

Jhaniele Fowler – GS
Nat Medhurst – GA
Verity Charles – C
Jess Anstiss – WD
Stacey Francis- GD
Courtney Bruce – GK

It’s easy to say that the Fever are only in the position they’re in – on top of the Super Netball ladder – because of a certain goal shooter recruit, but statistically they’ve got winners all over the court this season.

The women from the West have six players who rank in the top three statistically in their number one position – double the number of A-graders of any other team.

It’s horses for courses, too. Nat Medhurst might only have 57 goals against her name, but according to Champion Data’s formula she ranks as the number one goal attack in the competition because she racks up huge numbers of goal assists and circle feeds to Fowler.

Sunshine Coast Lightning – 3 players

Steph Wood – GA
Karla Pretorius – GD
Geva Mentor – GK

The defending champions lost one unquestionable A-grader in Laura Langman this season, but their star quality at both ends of the court has them in title contention again.

It’s no surprise that Geva Mentor is classified as one of the game’s elite goal keepers – she’s the competition’s best player at this position, statistically – but it’s the improvement of Karla Pretorius that is most noteworthy.

As the competition’s leading interceptor (a stat that’s weighted heavily in our analysis) she’s the clear number one goal defence in the competition.

Steph Wood ranks as the third best goal attack in the league, with her combination of accurate shooting and sharp feeding to Caitlin Bassett a major asset for the Lightning.

Interestingly, Diamonds shooter Bassett doesn’t figure in the top three at her position.

GIANTS Netball – 3 players

Jo Harten – GS
Kim Green – WA
Serena Guthrie – C

There’s no denying the Giants are again genuine title contenders, and it’s their evenness across all areas of the court that has them sitting second on the ladder after six rounds.

But three players stand out, according to Champion Data.

At the top of the tree is English centre Serena Guthrie, who ranks as the best centre in the game, due to her ability to get the job done at both ends. She scores highly for goal assists and feeds, but it’s the defensive side of her game that sets her apart, with more than a third of her Champion Data points coming from intercepts, deflections and loose ball pickups.

Impressively, while goal shooter Jo Harten isn’t the dominant aerial force that other teams possess, she ranks equal second with Romelda Aiken – and only marginally behind Jhaniele Fowler – as an elite goal shooter.

And then there’s Kim Green, who just keeps on keeping on after returning from an ACL injury, and is comfortably in the top three wing attacks in the league, with her 644 stat points ranking her second behind Liz Watson (725) but ahead of Madi Robinson (622).

Melbourne Vixens – 3 players

Liz Watson – WA
Jo Weston – GD
Emily Mannix – GK

The Vixens haven’t quite been the force they were throughout the 2017 regular, with other teams raising the bar and the Melbourne team coming back to the pack.

But that drop-off hasn’t stopped Liz Watson, who ranks as the competition’s premier wing attack, with daylight between her and the Giants’ Kim Green, statistically. With goal assists garnering two points under Champion Data’s formula, and circle feeds one point, it’s Watson’s 154 goal assists that have been the difference.

Perhaps surprisingly, defensive duo Jo Weston and Emily Mannix find themselves at the top end for their positions. Considering Mannix’s return from a concussion, and Weston’s tweaked ankle in the early rounds, it’s an impressive effort, with Mannix statistically ranked ahead of Laura Geitz as the second best GK, while Weston (126 points) sits just ahead of Stacey Francis (123 points), but some way behind Karla Pretorius (166).

Queensland Firebirds – 3 players

Romelda Aiken – GS
Gretel Tippett – GA
Gabi Simpson – WD

She’s sometimes polarising, but you can’t deny Firebirds goal attack Gretel Tippett is in red hot form.

And her potent combination of goals scored, feeds to Romelda Aiken and centre pass receives has her with 604 points against her name under Champion Data’s system, only just behind Nat Medhurst (634), but ahead of Steph Wood (541) and Helen Housby (522).

Aiken completes the Jamaican takeover of the league’s goal shooting rankings, sitting in equal second with Jo Harten, although Aiken’s numbers are boosted by her 23 attacking rebounds, which usually mean she’s missed a shot first.

It’s no surprise to see Gabi Simpson among Super Netball’s best wing defences – many pundits would have her as their number one. But her 74 points actually has her a long way behind Ash Brazill (165). She’s also behind the Fever’s Jess Anstiss, but Anstiss has spent some time in centre this season, giving her a significant number of points for goal assists and circle feeds.

Of course, it could be argued that Simpson’s defence is so good that her opponents aren’t targeted with passes, limiting her opportunities to effect intercepts and turnovers, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.

 

Collingwood Magpies – 2 players

No Sharni Layton. No Kim Ravaillion. No Caitlin Thwaites.

The Magpies have been disappointing this season, and that’s reflected in Champion Data’s statistical rankings, which have a number of the team’s stars way down on they might have expected to be.

Only Madi Robinson, who ranks third among wing attacks (and only fractionally behind Kim Green) and Ash Brazill, whose numbers have her as the top wing defence in the league after six rounds, earn “A-grade” status at this stage of the season.

Thwaites isn’t far away, ranking fourth among goal shooters, but Ravaillion and Layton – who were both replaced in the starting seven for the team’s Round 6 win against the Firebirds – are way down in seventh spot among goal keepers and centres, respectively. A lack of goal assists has crueled Ravaillion’s numbers, while Layton is way behind the competition leaders in defensive gains and deflections.

NSW Swifts – 1 player

Maddy Proud – C

Now here’s a real shock: the Swifts’ only top-three player isn’t Helen Housby, it’s Maddy Proud.

Housby, who we selected at goal attack in our midseason mock All-Star team, isn’t far off the mark and ranks fourth at her position, despite being the highest-scoring goal attack. It’s her lower number of goal assists that hurts her stat line, with Nat Medhurst, Gretel Tippett and Steph Wood gaining big points for their ability to feed their goal shooter.

Proud, meanwhile, has hit the ground running this season and sits behind only Serena Guthrie on the list of the league’s best centres. She’s arguably Super Netball’s best attacking centre, with her 92 goal assists the most of any player at her position.

It’s a mark of the Swifts’ evenness and depth throughout their team that they sit inside the top four on the ladder, despite having only one player ranked statistically as a top threat in her position.

Adelaide Thunderbirds – 0 players

With a squad assembled almost from scratch this season and a number of injuries hampering the team’s progress, it’s hardly surprising that the Thunderbirds have no players at the top end.

There are some green shoots, however, with the experienced Chelsea Pitman ranking as the fifth most damaging wing attack, while Kate Shimmin, who has spent a reasonable amount of time on the bench, has made things happen when on court to sit fourth among goal defences – ahead of Bec Bulley and Tara Hinchliffe.

 

THE RESULTS