Off-season Moves Set to Shake up the Competition
Thunderbirds defender Shamera Sterling promises fireworks and Lightning import Peace Proscovia offers intrigue.
But it’s the arrival in Adelaide of Silver Ferns star Maria Folau that shapes as the most influential signing ahead of the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season.
Seldom has player movement generated so much excitement during the off-season.
Sunshine Coast Lightning lost Caitlin Bassett, Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne, the Melbourne Vixens pounced on Caitlin Thwaites and West Coast Fever must choose a replacement to fill the hole created when they cut Natalie Medhurst.
Not since Mo’onia Gerrard and Renae Ingles jumped to Adelaide in 2008 has there been as much talk about the Thunderbirds.
New coach Tania Obst has added Jamaican livewire Shamera Sterling and England duo Beth Cobden and Layla Gusgoth.
Sterling is a wonderful athlete and a fiery defender who will stand up to the competition’s best shooters.
But the performance of Folau will be pivotal according to coach and commentator Sue Gaudion.
“All eyes will be on Maria,” she said.
Specifically, the interest centres on how Obst plans to use the two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
“Can an old dog learn new tricks? Or will the Thunderbirds style be shaped around Maria?”
The 31-year-old is nearing the end of her international career but remains a proven big-game player.
Many believe her future, at least for New Zealand, now lies at goal shooter rather than her preferred role on the circle edge.
Whether that is the role she fills at the rebuilt Thunderbirds is a big question.
“Can an old dog learn new tricks? Or will the Thunderbirds style be shaped around Maria?” Gaudion pondered.
“We saw what she did at shooter in the Constellation Cup. It will be really interesting to see whether Maria changes her style of play.”
Among the many narratives of 2019 will be how sisters Madi Robinson and Kelsey Browne, Kim Ravaillion and Ash Brazill fit into the Collingwood Magpies midcourt.
As much as coach Rob Wright is known for rotating his players, at least one must adjust to an impact role.
“Some one is not going to get a lot of court time, and one of their big issues has been finding a combination and sticking with it,” Gaudion said.
As for Proscovia, the Ugandan She Cranes captain offers a like-for-like replacement at the Sunshine Coast for champion shooter Bassett.
Although Proscovia has endured a knee problem in recent seasons, former England international Tamsin Greenway has predicted she will be a hit.
The 28-year-old dominated the 2017 Super League season with Loughborough and was a standout at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games where she shot at 91 per cent.
“One of the reasons for Loughborough’s success over the last couple of seasons is how lethal she is at taking the ball,” said Greenway who was the coaching director at rival Wasps.
“One-on-one she is so strong and the way she uses her body makes it difficult to take a ball off her.”