Reunited Roses Series: Eleanor Cardwell Player Focus

SHE might not have the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) experience that her peers in England’s shooting circle do, but Eleanor Cardwell proved to be a match-winner for the Roses against Jamaica. After an impressive Cadbury Series in New Zealand, Cardwell was relegated to the bench upon the return of SSN stars Jo Harten and Helen Housby for game one of the Roses Reunited Series against the Sunshine Girls.

To be the third shooter behind those two stars is no disrespect, but Cardwell soon gave coach Jess Thrilby and England selectors something to think about against one of the world’s most dynamic defenders. With five minutes to go and scores level at 20 goals apiece, Cardwell was handed the goal attack bib to replace Housby. Her opponent: the versatile and athletic Shamera Sterling.

Whilst Cardwell is not the most athletic shooter out there, her strength and reading of the play proved far superior, with the Roses’ talent able to cement her spot by reading the feeds early, and frustrating the Jamaican defence. Not only that, but her consistency to put ball to post was a huge tick in her favour, and lead to her shooting an impressive 18 goals from 20 attempts in 35 minutes of action.

Here is how Cardwell’s game panned out:


With five minutes on the clock, Cardwell was subbed on for Housby with the scores level at 20-20. She immediately went to Sterling and put body contact on the wiry Jamaican to let her know that she would not be pushed around. Just 23 seconds into her stint, Cardwell battled for the ball at ground level, ripping it off the deck quickly with great strength, and delivering to post for her first goal of the series.

Not long after, Cardwell set up Harten with a lovely lobbed pass assist, and from then on, it was the new inclusion who was able to cover the space in the circle close to goal. Whilst Cardwell might not be as nimble as Housby, her strength is what really worried Sterling, with the goal attack getting into the front position time and time again, protecting the ball drop zone.

Similarly, whilst she might not have the athleticism and vertical leap that Sterling has, Cardwell’s hands are safe, often pulling it down in one take, and showcasing the same confidence when shooting. She scored two more goals for the quarter, finishing with three goals and an assist in her first five minutes, with England down by one goal at half-time.


It was the quarter where Cardwell – and England – came alive to turn the game around and really win the game. Immediately Cardwell showed her intent by charging out to the transverse line, grabbing the ball and feeding it forward. Her first goal came in the early stages of the term, courtesy of a quick one-two with Serena Guthrie.

Cardwell’s composure under pressure was crucial, with Harten rushing a little with her overzealous passes, not so the substitute. She used great court positioning and footwork to win the ball in the air time and time again, and despite Sterling’s best efforts, the Jamaican could not move her. She was able to get back-to-back goals off a Jamaican turnover to level the scores at 29-apiece.

After a couple of minutes without a goal – though still running out to open the space up for Harten – Cardwell nailed a nice mid-range goal. Subtle nudges on Sterling continued to frustrate her Adelaide Thunderbirds opponent, with Sterling unable to have her usual impact on the game. The trend continued throughout the quarter, but a highlight was Cardwell’s smarts close to the post when she was out of position to win the rebound, just protecting the drop zone for Kadie-Ann Dehaney to come over the top and have no other choice but to tap it out of bounds.

Engaged in a wrestle for the ball with Sterling at ground level, that was only ever going to go one way, and Cardwell was right on top in the matchup. Producing a brilliant pass to Harten, she then received an assist from Serena Guthrie with just over two minutes on the clock. Her confidence throughout the third quarter was sky high, even asking for the ball with a second left when Harten was within range. She received it and duly delivered as the siren sounded after she shot to hand England a 41-35 lead. Having shot 11 goals that quarter and 14 out of 14 for the match thus far, she was the difference


Cardwell started the fourth quarter as she had the third, remaining in goal attack and receiving an early feed close to the post. Whilst she did all the hard work – planting the feet and positioning her body well – she missed her first shot of the day. Her work rate remained strong, she came out to the top of the circle, showcasing her high release shooting style that proved effective, scoring her 15th goal in the third minute of the term.

She made a rare error with an airball miss a minute later, but was called for contact, and duly delivered under pressure. Cardwell had a piercing long pass to Natalie Haythornthwaite at the top of the circle, and then produced a lovely high lob goal that never looked liked missing. When Harten went for a goal, Sterling was able to put enough pressure to force a miss from the long-bomb, but Cardwell read the rebound faster than anyone else, recovered the ball and nailed the goal.

Midway through the term, her desperation to keep the ball in after getting to the right spot saw her tap it back into play, but it was intercepted, and then she missed a rare close shot on goal. Luckily it was Harten’s time to pick up the pieces, rebounding it and securing the score. As Cardwell began to tire a little more, Harten stepped up to be that reliable shooter again, though the Thunder shooter still managed another two goals to finish with 18 for the match, as well as a slick assist with two minutes remaining on the clock.


“I’m so, so, so proud of all the girls, we’ve not had long together as a full team with everyone back in, so it’s just down to all the hard work that everyone’s put in. We just clicked together as a team and I think that shows out on court. The grit that we bring on court. It was fantastic to be a part of.” – Eleanor Cardwell talking to Sky Sports post-game.


Overall, Cardwell was the spark the Roses needed to lift them to victory. Given Sterling was so familiar taking on Housby at SSN level and in past international matches, the difference with Cardwell filling that role threw the Jamaican off her game. Whilst Sterling clearly had the upper hand in terms of her vertical leap and agility, Cardwell impacted when it counted and her court smarts and strong hands won out, frustrating Sterling and deservedly earning the England shooter Player of the Match honours.

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