This week in netball – Diamonds/Roses tests cancelled amongst SSN signings
IT was another big week in netball, as the test series between New Zealand and England finished up, while Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) signings continued and big announcements were made off the court.
While SSN signings have somewhat slowed down this week, there is plenty that has happened with Lauren Moore officially confirmed to be suiting up for the GIANTS in season 2022 and Rudi Ellis heading from the east coast to the west, heading to the West Coast Fever. Reilley Batcheldor and Annie Miller signed maiden contracts with the Sunshine Coast Lightning, while 2021 GIANTS training partner Amy Sligar and injury replacement player Matisse Letherbarrow have been elevated and former Adelaide Thunderbirds training partner Tayla Williams also earned a maiden contract. This week’s announcements mean six of the eight clubs have announced full 10-player 2022 squads, with Fever (seven players) and Queensland Firebirds (six) yet to complete their lists.
The Vitality Netball Superleague will return to its traditional home and away season format in 2022, after two centralised venues – Studio 001 in Wakefield and Copper Box Arena in London – hosted the 2021 season to limit COVID-19 exposure. The majority of matches were played behind closed doors, with fans expected to return to home and away matches for the upcoming season in a huge boost to the 11 franchises. Selected rounds, including Round 1 and the grand final, will still be played in their entirety at a selection of neutral venues to allow for further spectator access.
“After two years like no other, it will be fantastic to see venues around the UK filled with VNSL fans again,” said Vitality Netball Superleague Chair Steve Elworthy MBE. “The centralised venues of Wakefield and the Copper Box gave us an unforgettable season, but we know clubs and players can’t wait to have their home crowds cheering them on once more.”
In disappointing news for netball fans, players and administrators alike, the three-match test series between Australia and England, planned for October, has been cancelled. The news comes after continued interferences to the New Zealand-Australia trans-Tasman bubble, with Australia’s current COVID-19 outbreaks barring England from flying into Australia with the border bubble closed for travellers. Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan said that she is disappointed the series will not go ahead, with already limited opportunities for 2022 Commonwealth Games preparation further disrupted.
“We are incredibly disappointed that this series will not go ahead,” Ryan said. “We thank Netball England, Netball New Zealand and the state and federal governments for their support and unwavering commitment to play this series.
“The evolving COVID-19 restrictions meant that the Roses would have completed two quarantine periods during the series, which has significant impacts on health and wellbeing and performance.
“I am proud of Diamonds head coach Stacey Marinkovich and our athletes and staff for their commitment, resilience and understanding during these uncertain times.”
Sunshine Coast Lightning has launched its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) this week, with the implementation intended to focus on developing strong mutually beneficial relationships, seeking greater respect and supporting social and economic opportunities within the organisation and community. It has been formally endorsed by Reconciliation Australia and provides the initial framework in Lightning’s commitment to educate, understand and acknowledge First Nations people and their culture, connections and histories. Lightning CEO Danielle Smith said formally introducing a RAP is a needed positive step towards real change.
“The Sunshine Coast is rich with First Nations culture and has proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation and as a Club we felt a strong responsibility to play our role in striving towards reconciliation,” Smith said. “As a proud community Club, the RAP adds another layer to how we can positively influence and contribute to the wider Sunshine Coast region and its people.”
Meanwhile, Melbourne Vixens has continued to secure its big names for the upcoming SSN season, with the return of Di Honey in an adjusted Assistant Coach role. While Honey has made the part-time role her own over the past 10 years, her extended contract will see her at the club for another two years in a newfound full-time capacity. Melbourne Vixens head coach Simone McKinnis said she looks forward to continuing her partnership with Honey.
“Di is one of the greatest minds in netball and is someone I have a lot of trust in on the coaching panel,” McKinnis said.“I have full confidence in the leadership and development she can provide to this next crop of Vixens as we look to reclaim our spot at the top of the competition.”
The role, selected in partnership with the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS), will also benefit and support the pathways programs up to the elite and high performance squad. Dave Crosbee, VIS Performance Director, said he was delighted to have Honey’s role expanded into a full-time position.
“Di is an incredibly respected coach and brings an innate understanding of the Vixens approach and the wider netball environment,” Crosbee said. “Establishing the role as a full-time position is an important strategic addition to the team, showing the importance placed by the Vixens and VIS on ensuring coaching is at the heart of the support the athletes receive.”
Draft Central completed its Cadbury Netball Series coverage with an in depth look at the best and most impactful statistics from the three-match series, before compiling a Team of the Series, which featured six Roses and four Ferns after an enticing three games and two wins to England. We also delved into our top international midcourt prospects from the netball ‘big five’ – Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa and Jamaica – and compared and contrasted a couple of young defensive superstars in Sunday Aryang and Funmi Fadoju.
SSN Signings updates
Full free agency period details: SSN announces 2022 signing period | SSN signings week one: The story so far | SSN signings week two: Clubs announce fresh faces
2021 SSN signing updates: Monday 27/9 | Tuesday 28/9 | Wednesday 29/9 | Thursday 30/9 | Friday 31/9
Centre Pass Podcast
Picture credit: Sunshine Coast Lightning