Top of the tables: Who are the top international goaling prospects?
WITH the three major netball competitions – Suncorp Super Netball (SSN), ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) – done and dusted for the year, it is time to delve into the top prospects from around the grounds. In the first edition, Draft Central will look into the most threatening goalers from the three major competitions and who will be the top options to take the starting bibs across a range of nations.
Note: All three competitions played a different number of games, meaning goals scored and match averages are not comparable across varying leagues
* Missing from upcoming international series’ due to pregnancy, injury or leave
Likely starters: Cara Koenen, Steph Wood
Depth: Sophie Garbin, Gretel Bueta
Kiera Austin, Caitlin Bassett*
There is no doubt that the Australian Diamonds have a plethora of talented players to choose from for the upcoming international series’, with ongoing injuries to Kiera Austin and Caitlin Bassett making it easy to rule out two of Australia’s six goaling options. With the likes of Bassett already out of action that puts talented youngster Cara Koenen straight into the goal shooter position with a couple of international caps to her name already proving she is capable of starting in the upcoming tournaments, while the real question for the Diamonds will be their starting goal attack. Both Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood had up and down seasons, both hugely threatening and reliable but having spent significant time out of the international fray with pregnancy and leave, respectively. Realistically, Wood is most likely to start given her tried and tested connection with Koenen, although Bueta is a key versatile option who could rotate between both goal attack and goal shooter where required. Sophie Garbin is the remaining goaler on the list, with her versatility impressive despite her preferred role in goal shooter, but is unlikely to earn that starting role with Koenen around.
Interestingly, not one of the five goalers – four if you factor in Austin’s Round 1 injury – finished the season within the SSN top five for goals scored or attempts, though Koenen led all-comers from the above group with 517 goals at 90 per cent for the season. Wood assisted well with 209 goals to her name, while Bueta finished with 243 for the season and Garbin put up 152 goals during her limited court time. Bassett finished with 474 goals from her 15 outings with the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in the ANZ Premiership.
Likely starters: Maia Wilson, Grace Nweke, Te Paea Selby-Rickit
Depth: Jamie Hume, Tiana Metuarau
The Silver Ferns squad has a heap of depth in attack, with the focus clearly on building up the nation’s attacking combinations in the absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio. It is safe to say that given the lack of international experience of the likes of Jamie Hume and Tiana Metuarau, it is most likely that Te Paea Selby-Rickit will earn the starting goal attack bib for the Ferns, at least for the first few outings at the nation’s upcoming test matches. The big question will be around the form of Maia Wilson, with the goal shooter undoubtably one of the biggest individual threats across the world, but having had shaky form during the 2021 ANZ season head coach Noeline Taurua could opt for the likes of tall timber Grace Nweke under the post instead, with the talented teen enjoying a rapid rise over the past 18 months. The catch though is Nweke’s lack of experience, as she looks to earn her first official senior caps against England and Australia in the coming months.
Looking to the stats, Nweke is the clear leader with 852 goals at 90 per cent for the season, over 200 more goals and attempts than the next best and a whopping 369 more than fellow Fern, Wilson. Hume leads the charge for goal attacks with 244 goals to her name at 74 per cent accuracy, followed by Metuarau (221 goals) and Selby-Rickit (207) who sat out the first few matches of the season.
Likely starters: Jo Harten, Helen Housby
Depth: George Fisher, Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, Ellie Cardwell, Ella Clark, Rhea Dixon
The England Roses are another nation that appears to be looking to the future, with a heap of exciting goaling options at their disposal. Realistically, the nation is most likely to play the reliable combination of Jo Harten and Helen Housby with the two match-winners as good as they get. England’s depth is where things get interesting though, with George Fisher having an outstanding season in the the ANZ Premiership with a couple of caps already under her belt and a great connection with fellow developing talent and playmaker Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. Both Ellie Cardwell and Ella Clark have proved to be gamechangers for their respective VNSL sides and are great versatile options despite preferring goal shooter and goal attack, respectively, while newcomer Rhea Dixon rounds out the goaling group after an excellent VNSL season with the Leeds Rhinos, with her versatility adding another string to the Roses’ bow.
Harten was influential with 525 goals at 82 per cent throughout the 2021 SSN season, as Housby plied her trade with 191 to her name while Fisher impressed in her maiden ANZ season, piling up 585 goals at 91 per cent for the season, factoring in a couple of missed outings with concussion. Cardwell shot 377 goals at 89 per cent for the season, while Drakeford-Lewis (285), Clark (177) and Dixon (194) all plied their trade effectively.
Likely starters: Lenize Potgieter, Ine-Mari Venter
Depth: Sigi Burger, Lefebre Rademan, Jessica Du Plessis, Elmere Van Der Berg
The South African goaling list is an intriguing one, with somewhat of a changing of the guard in progress. Lenize Potgieter is the clear starting goal shooter with her impressive workrate and footwork, while Ine-Mari Venter may be a typical goal shooter, but has transitioned into a part-time goal attack over the poas few seasons to add another string to her bow, and has a bit more international experience than talented goal attack Lefebre Rademan which earns Venter the expected starting bib, at least at first. Sigi Burger and Rademan forged an impressive connection throughout the 2021 VNSL season with London Pulse, with the former a more traditional holding shooter role to replace Potgieter, though the duo’s connection could tip them to playing some time together. Squad newcomers Jessica Du Plessis and Elmere Van Der Berg are a couple of developing goal attacks looking to showcase their wares and earn some vital elite training experience.
Potgieter leads all comers on the stats sheet, firing 453 goals at an impressively accurate 95 per cent in the SSN, while Burger put up 281 goals from her 16 appearances for Pulse as Rademan was solid with 147 goals at 82 per cent with both players sharing their respective positions as the season went on. Venter piled on 368 goals, while Du Plessis and Van Der Berg do not have stats available, playing in the Telkom Netball League in South Africa.
Note: The most recent iteration of the squad is yet to be announced, with the listed players confirmed in late 2020 for the postponed Vitality Netball Legends Series
Likely starters: Jhaniele Fowler, Shanice Beckford
Depth: Gezelle Allison, Rebekah Robinson
Romelda Aiken, Shimona Nelson*
Jamaica has undoubtedly one of the greatest individual goalers in the world, with Jhaniele Fowler a constant threat with little defenders who can contain her. She is the clear focal point of this Sunshine Girls squad with her winning ability and volume to post, with Shanice Beckford likely to earn the goal attack bib for not only her experience, but willingness to shoot from range and impressive ability to find Fowler at the post, Both Gezelle Allison and Rebekah Robinson gained crucial experience at VNSL this season and will be looking to earn some valuable court time with the Sunshine Girls squad. With Jamaica has some formidable attacking talent at their disposal, a couple of tall timbers are potentially sitting out of coming international events with Romelda Aiken residing in Australia and now a dual-citizen, while Shimona Nelson is a future star of the side but may not participate either despite the 2021 SSN season being done and dusted for the year.
The SSN trio all put up hefty totals, with Fowler leading all comers with 883 goals from 917 attempts, while Nelson had a real breakout season with 614 goals to her name and Aiken was threatening as ever finishing with 531. Both Robinson and Allison played key roles for their respective VNSL sides in 2021, putting up 180 and 78 goals, respectively, sharing the load with their franchise’s other goalers, while Beckford does not play in any of the aforementioned major leagues meaning stats are unavailable.
It is also worth quickly touching on players outside the top five nations, with Malawi’s Mwai Kumwenda and Joyce Mvula both accurate and agile in the goal circle, while Trinidad and Tobago duo Sam Wallace and Kalifa McCollin have both become consistent threats. Ugandans Peace Proscovia and Mary Cholhok have impressed in recent years with their ability to stay consistent and strong at the post, while Bethan Goodwin, Lynsey Gallagher, Niamh McCall and Emma Barrie (Scotland), Georgia Rowe and Betsy Creak (Wales) and Emma Magee (Northern Ireland) are some of the other talented names playing in the VNSL.
Picture credit: John Davidson/AAP