2021 British Fast5 All-Stars: Talking points

THE British Fast5 Netball All-Stars event may be done and dusted for 2021, but that does not mean there is not still a heap to discuss following Team Bath’s title victory. From long-bomb prowess to high-powered defensive units, we run through the biggest talking points from the event.

READ>>2021 British Fast5 All-Stars wrap: Bath claims Fast5 trophy | 2021 British Fast5 All-Stars: Top performers

What did Bath do so well?

When looking at Team Bath’s Fast5 outing, it was certainly not the unblemished outing one would expect from the champions. However, what they did boast was a heaving defence unit, focusing just as much on their defence as their offence regardless of whether they were in the power play. Defensively, Bath was one of the most reliable units with eventual Most Valuable Player (MVP) Layla Guscoth leading the pack and Tash Pavelin working hard to shut down ball movement. While it did not seem to be a huge tactical change compared to other teams, Bath was patient and composed in defence, staying in play and then working hard to create the rebound or turnover. While it was not necessarily an attacking masterclass at the other end, with two close one-goal results to show for it, Bath had lots of opportunities to go to post off the back of their great defence and transition down court, and smothered their opposition well to come out with four wins from five games and the silverware. What was most important about Bath’s game was how well they adapted, not allowing the heavy loss to Manchester Thunder to impact their confidence or game plan, and playing well through fatigue.

Timing of the power play can make or break

One of the biggest additions to Fast5 compared to typical netball is the golden buzzer power play, which allows a team to score double points for any two minutes of their choosing, bar the opening and closing minutes. It was clear from the group stage that all eight teams came in with their own tactics around the golden buzzer, with the likes of Loughborough Lightning using it as soon as possible – a tactic that unfortunately did not pan out for them – compared to the likes of champions Team Bath who based their use around what was happening in the game. Most importantly, it seemed to be contentious across the board about when to press the buzzer, with turnovers seeming to happen more frequently as the two minutes begun. Realistically, for the teams with players with their eye in – think Rachel Dunn, Kadeen Corbin and Ellie Cardwell – the timing did not matter given they were willing to shoot from range regardless, and it showed in the way all three teams made it to the semi-finals stage.

Relaxed atmosphere paves the way for greater player enjoyment

While it is silly to say athletes will play sports regardless of their enjoyment levels, what makes exhibition matches and series like the Fast5 so fun to watch is how much fun the players on court seem to have. Whether it is the dancing as teams make their way onto the court, long-bomb specialists like Corbin throwing her hands up in shock after a 10-pointer or the excitement off the bench when Funmi Fadoju plucks an insane turnover ball out of the air, the atmosphere gave plenty of opportunities for players and fans alike to soak in the moment. While there was a trophy on the line, it was not the be-all and end-all of the series, with the excitement of netball returning – albeit in an adapted format – and speed of the games enough to keep the adrenaline pumping. Overall, the relaxed atmosphere of the day saw coaches swing changes they may not have usually done with higher stakes, and even with knock-out stages in play, teams and players did not sweat the heavy margins and just enjoyed themselves regardless of the results.

New combinations out in full force

With the VNSL signing period only completed a few weeks ago, the Fast5 was the perfect opportunity to testout new combinations and give fans a taste of what they could see during the 2022 season. The defensive connection between Mavericks’ Jodie Gibson and Jameela McCarthy was one to watch, with the duo steadily growing throughout and Razia Quashie set to return to make for a hugely powerful Mavs’ back-end. Mavs’ midcourter Beth Ecuyer-Dale was one who played out of position in goal attack, using her transitional skills to enter the circle while the likes of Rhinos put forward young and developing talent to reward their hard work in training. Fran Williams and Zan Vimbela debuted for the Loughborough Lightning with the latter rarely put a foot wrong upon return from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, while both Pulse and Bath selected Severn Stars players Paige Reed and Lucy Herdman, respectively, well and truly testing the waters with talented players outside their franchise – Herdman especially intriguing, with the rangy goal shooter typically playing goal keeper for the Stars.

Great exposure for young players

It comes as no surprise that plenty of developing talent is selected to compete in exhibition events such as the Fast5, with the shorter matches a great opportunity to test pathways talent and allow them to go toe-to-toe with world-class opposition. Manchester Thunder U19s talent and Roses Academy member Ruby Parker was one of a number of goalers to take the opportunity and showcase her skills, while Team Bath and Academy member Molly Hole also earned minutes with Guscoth and made it count. Leeds Rhinos development players and Under 21s Annie James and Amy Braithwaite were also late inclusions prior to the event and soaked up the atmosphere and experience. It is clear that young players putting their name on the map is always a good thing, with the upcoming talent sure to go far.

Picture credit: Matchroom Multi Sport

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2 years ago

[…] READ>> 2021 British Fast5 All-Stars wrap: Bath claims Fast5 trophy // 2021 British Fast5 All-Stars: Talking points […]