This week in netball – SSN re-signings kick off with a bang

IT has been another huge week in netball, with Suncorp Super Netball re-signings getting underway and plenty of intrigue surrounding who will be the first official trade announced. Elsewhere, England and New Zealand are  gearing up for a test series with another Cadbury Series in the works for the Silver Ferns and men’s squad while team lists were confirmed for the upcoming Sunshine Series between Jamaica, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. Suncorp Super Netball 2022 is looking fairly similar to last season so far, with only a couple of big changes in the opening week of announcements. Those big changes have made holes in a couple of lineups though, with Maddy McAuliffe‘s choice to forego a 2022 contract shaking up the Sunshine Coast Lightning. She joins both Peace Proscovia and Phumza Maweni on the list of players not returning to the Lightning ranks, with at least two starting roles now up for grabs there, while the NSW Swifts confirmed that neither Sophie Garbin nor Nat Haythornthwaite would return next season, with Garbin offered an unconfirmed contract elsewhere and Haythornthwaite heading back to the UK. Factor in GIANTS foundation player Sam Poolman‘s unexpected retirement, the Adelaide Thunderbirds confirming Shadine van der Merwe will not return next season and the Melbourne Vixens’ announcement that Kaylia Stanton will depart the club, and that leaves a number of holes to be plugged. The Vixens, Swifts and Fever have confirmed their 2021 captains will all return to their respective clubs, with the Vixens and Swifts leading the pack with four confirmed returnees so far. Fever is next in line with three rejoining the ranks, while GIANTS Netball have confirmed two and both Adelaide Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds have re-signed just the one player apiece thus far. Neither Collingwood Magpies nor Lightning have confirmed their first 2022 signs as of yet. Across the ditch, the Taini Jamison test series between the New Zealand Silver Ferns and England Roses is set to go ahead next week, with Monday’s opening clash proving tantalising. The Ferns encountered a couple of issues around player movements across the country given ongoing COVID restrictions, with confirmation yesterday that four of the Auckland based squad members – including new captain Gina Crampton and vice-captain Sulu Fitzpatrick would be granted dispensation to travel for the series. With the four players requiring negative COVID-19 tests, strict protocols and a Ministry of Health assessment of public health risk and economic impact, Netball New Zealand Chief Executive Jennie Wyllie said that the exemption would not be taken lightly. “We are extremely grateful to the Ministry of Health and for the assistance of Sport New Zealand to allow these players the opportunity to be a part of the Cadbury Netball Series,” Wyllie said. “To be able to play international sport during these times is something we don’t take for granted, so we’d like to acknowledge the work done behind the scenes from many to ensure this series can go ahead.” Three elevated players – Georgia TongParis Lokotui and Kimiora Poi – will still be part of the squad series despite initially being added to the fray in the off chance the Auckland quartet could not join ranks. Silver Ferns head coach Dame Noeline Taurua said that the decision would benefit the Ferns in the long run, giving the squad plenty of options with such a short and disrupted lead-in to the series. “It was really important to us to give a full squad as much time as possible to train together,” Taurua said. “This is an opportunity for Georgia, Kimi and Paris to showcase the form that we’ve seen from them during the ANZ Premiership and I know they will ensure the competition for starting spots remains strong. “We have a limited build up but I think we’re going to see a true test in character of this Silver Ferns squad and we are grateful to have the opportunity to play these Test matches.” Serena Guthrie has been named England Roses captain for the series, with the centurion an integral fixture in the Roses squad since her debut in 2008. The defensive midcourter is as dynamic as they come, and says she is “honoured” to be given the role given the amount of talent within the England ranks. “I am absolutely honoured to be given this role,” Guthrie said. “This group are incredible, and they inspire the country, they inspire me, and they inspire the fans back home and we are looking forward to putting some great performances out on the court.” Head coach Jess Thirlby is thrilled with the appointment of Guthrie and the four-player leadership group, which will see Laura Malcolm, Fran Williams and Haythornthwaite assist Guthrie over the course of England’s upcoming tests. “Serena embodies all of what being a Rose means and the values that the group work hard to uphold. Not only is she able to inspire people by the way she expresses herself on court but her energy off it motivates the team to go on the journey with her too. She is a proven force and well respected on the international stage and is restless in wanting the team to be better day in, day out. “I am a big believer in shared and collaborative leadership and am proud of the growth the team have shown in this area over the last two years. Serena is well supported by the leadership group of Nat, Fran and Laura and also by a Roses team with an abundance of leadership experience. The trio that makes up the leadership group have been outstanding over the past two years in navigating some challenging times and have done so with humility, passion and drive.” A three-match invitational has also been announced this week, with the Silver Ferns set to take on the New Zealand Men’s squad across October 10, 11 and 12 in Hamilton. The event will also see curtain raiser clashes between the New Zealand A and New Zealand Under 21 teams. New Zealand Men’s and Mixed Netball Association President Junior Tana said the Cadbury Netball Series is a huge opportunity to develop the men’s squads skills against the world champions. “We are really excited to be able to get some of our elite men’s players out on court after Covid led to the postponement of our 2021 Men’s Nationals,” Tana said. “We always love these dual gender clashes as they push our athletes to new extremes and add to the development of both sides. “Horekau he tīma i kō atu i Ngā Kaponga hei hoa whawhai mā mātou i Aotearoa nei hei whakapakari ake i ō mātou pukenga. [There’s no more worthy opponents than the Silver Ferns in New Zealand to grow and develop our skills].” Big news has come out of the Vitality Netball Superleague this week, with the VNSL full signing window open ahead of the 2022 season and  coming hand in hand with an increase in the current salary cap. The salary increase is a promising move for the league, with the overall cap increased by 29 per cent compared to 2021 and the minimum individual salary increased by 20 per cent. Clubs can also now have two players who sit outside the salary cap, increased from one in 2021, with the remaining 10 falling within the cap compared to nine this year. The signing period opened on September 15 and is set to close on October 15, leaving four weeks for the 11 franchises to confirm their full 15 player squads made up of 12 ‘registered players’ and up to three training partners. As per regular VNSL guidelines, each team can sign two non-UK players, with the stipulation that they may not play in the same third at the same time throughout the season. Meanwhile, the British Fast5 Netball All-Stars Championship will return in October, with the top eight from season 2021 – Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Team Bath, Leeds Rhinos, Saracens Mavericks, Strathclyde Sirens, Wasps Netball and London Pulse – competing in a double elimination group stage before semi-finals and and a grand final between the top two sides. Both Pulse and Rhinos will debut in the format for the first time. VNSL Chair Steve Elworthy says he is excited to see the return of the Fast5 event, set to play out on October 30 at Copper Box Arena in London. “We’re delighted to see the return of Fast5 – an exciting and dynamic adaptation of the traditional game that both fans and players enjoy,” Elworthy said. “The atmosphere each year is electric, and it promises to be even bigger and better in 2021, with fans able to see some of their favourite players in action ahead of the Vitality Netball Superleague 2022 season.” Meanwhile, squads have been confirmed for the upcoming Margaret Beckford Sunshine Series between the Jamaica Sunshine GirlsSouth Africa Spar Proteas and Trinidad & Tobago Calypso Girls in October. Set to play out from October 10-22 in Kingston, Jamaica, all three squads boast some great talent and developing players with a number of hopeful debutants named across the three teams. Away from the international action this week, Draft Central posed a couple of hypotheticals, including asking the question of where Garbin heads next season as well as what kinds of player movements could happen, while also looking at the best defensive prospects across the netball big five and comparing and contrasting Donnell Wallam and Grace Nweke.
Picture credit: Getty Images
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