Compare the Pair: Sulu Fitzpatrick & Kelly Jury
AS the off-season continues, Rookie Me Central will return to a regular Compare the Pair series; delving into, and analysing two fan favourites from different competitions. In this edition, we compare and contrast a couple of New Zealand Silver Ferns defenders in Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kelly Jury.
She may not always be the star of the show, but it is safe to say that Fitzpatrick is one of the most underrated defenders across the ANZ Premiership. The Northern Mystics defender is at her best back in goal keeper, but boasts the selflessness to rotate into goal defence if required and does so very well considering. A very body-on-body type of defender, Fitzpatrick is a creative type who has the consistency to get the job done, and do it well with her smooth footwork and rotation inside the circle. While Fitzpatrick does not inject a heap of flair into her game, one of the things she does well is shut down her individual opposition and allow her goal defence to shine. By negating the goal shooter and blocking that easy avenue to post, Fitzpatrick’s smart style of play enables her teammates to finish the job and rocket the ball back up the court.
There is no doubt Fitzpatrick’s game is very much dictated by the style of her direct opposition, but the bonus with the goal keeper is her keen eye for improvement and ability to adjust quickly, and do it well. While not always playing a high-impact role, her leadership is key and is a huge plus in her corner.
A tall and lanky type, Jury’s long arms are her focal point with great timing and clean hands to match. She also has very smooth and quick footwork for her tall stature, able to quickly adjust to the play and impact with ease. Jury’s sticky fingers allow her to take possession of otherwise unexpected turnovers, utilising her long reach and vertical jump to bring down the ball quickly and effectively. Her extra height also assists in defence of the shot, able to block vision and get first hands to the rebound with her innate timing and positioning at the front of the pack. A huge plus for Jury is her improved explosiveness over the past few seasons, able to use her great anticipation to spot the turnover opportunity, coming in hot with the intercept or deflection with her great turn of speed.
With a great few seasons behind her with the Central Pulse, there is no doubt Jury still has room to grow her game – a highly daunting prospect for other nations. Her speed and adaptability will only grow as she earns greater opportunity at the international level, with her cumulative penalty count possibly the only statistic not quite going in her favour.
One of the big comparisons made between the two players is not necessarily about their styles of play, but more so their respective outlooks and willingness to do it for the team. Both are at their most impressive in goal keeper but have shown the capacity to play out of position for other players, showcasing the team-first attitude, which allows them to grow and develop. Both players also have a bit of “unknown” about them, with evasive movement forcing the attacker to think about where they are rather than playing their own game. With relatively similar stats to their names, it is clear just how impactful and explosive both defenders are, able to wreak havoc on the play. While Fitzpatrick has played two more matches on the stats sheet, the experienced goal keeper has less intercepts and deflections to her name showcasing her blocking and shadowing style of play, compared to Jury’s high risk, high reward style which also spawns a higher rate of penalties.
Adding to some of the comparisons, one of the biggest ones to make between the two goal keepers is their body types. While Jury is tall with long limbs and a great reach over the shot, Fitzpatrick is slightly shorter and more broad, able to body up on her player with ease. Their difference in body type also highly impacts on their style of defence, with Jury boasting a great reach over the shot, while Fitzpatrick can block vision to her opposition before the ball enters the circle. What makes the two so threatening is their ability to use their different strengths to their advantage, arguably becoming two of the most difficult players to take on with their ability to adjust in a split second.
That being said, both players have the innate ability to spot the turnover ball and take advantage of their great positioning to create turnovers, using their different styles to achieve the same outcome. Both Jury and Fitzpatrick are also great team players, able to put the team first and adjust from there, while also adapting well to different defenders and attackers as required. Both players have earned their place within the Silver Ferns program over the past few seasons, and while both have gotten their chances to start for the squad through other missing defenders, there is no doubt that both Jury and Fitzpatrick have put their best foot forward every time and taken advantage of their limited opportunities to shine for new Zealand.