Analysis: Verity brings variety to new code and new team

AFTER a decorated career in Australian netball, Verity Simmons retired from the sport after the 2023 Suncorp Super Netball season.

However her retirement from netball was not the end of her elite sporting career, with the announcement coming last week that she was going to be joining the West Coast Eagles in the AFLW as a rookie.

She is not the first athlete to go down this path, joining fellow former Diamond Ash Brazill in the AFLW ranks.

As a midcourter, her speed and agility will help her transition into the AFLW smoothly and will help her play a part in West Coast’s midfield brigade.

The Eagles had a year to forget in 2023, with only the two wins to their name for the season.

But, with new coach Daisy Pearce at the helm, there is a sense of the dawn of a new era around the club.

There are some physical strengths of Simmons that will help her contribute to the Eagles but she also has also some less tangible strengths.

Although it is too early to confirm where she will play on the Australian rules field, the most obvious choice is the midfield.

From a long career in the netball midcourt – largely spent at centre – Simmons has become a strong, fast and agile athlete, all qualities you need to shine in the midfield of an Aussie rules team.

As someone of a similar build to Aisling McCarthy, Simmons may ultimately be the perfect replacement for the recently departed McCarthy, and play a similar role as the strong body in the midfield, feeding it out to the outside.

Simmons also has the fitness to last in the midfield, as she played large percentages of most of her netball games in centre without a break.

Simmons’ inclusion in the midfield would also allow someone like Ella Roberts to play a more permanently forward role, a role that proved particularly crucial for the Eagles in 2023.

In terms of intangible strengths, she brings leadership, age experience and the mindset needed to thrive in the midfield.

Simmons would be one of the oldest in the West Coast midfield, but with a group that is as young as West Coast’s, that is not necessarily a bad thing.  

The average age of the West Coast midfield cohort in 2023 was roughly 22 years old, with only three of them older than 25. One of those was McCarthy, who is no longer at the club.

Simmons coming into that cohort would bring a lot of experience in terms of preparation for a game and mindset, which is always handy for a group as young as West Coast has.

Playing at centre for so long, Simmons is used to having to change from attacking mindset to defensive mindset and back again quickly, which as a midfielder on an Aussie Rules field is a crucial one to have.

However, despite all these positives Simmons brings to the Eagles, she is a very raw talent.

She is knew to the code so will take time to learn the skills and get them up to an AFLW standard, but with high quality coaches like Pearce and Michelle Cowan, and the clubs’ track record with cross code athletes like Grace Kelly and Niamh Kelly, it may not be long before Simmons catches up.

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