Netball: Team-by-team guide

By Dana Johannsen

Temepara George of the Mystics secures the ball during the round seven ANZ Championship match between the Mystics and the Firebirds. Photo / Hannah Johnston
Temepara George of the Mystics secures the ball during the round seven ANZ Championship match between the Mystics and the Firebirds. Photo / Hannah Johnston

Herald netball writer Dana Johannsen looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the 10 teams and rates their chances of success.

Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic


Key additions: Leana de Bruin (Steel), Khao Watts (plucked from obscurity, or Adelaide to be exact)

Key losses: Jamilah Gupwell (Pulse), Frances Solia (pregnant)

Where are they strong? With Leana de Bruin rejoining the franchise to pair up with Silver Ferns captain Casey Williams, the Magic have arguably the strongest in-circle defensive combinations in the competition. The pair are likely to switch between the goal defence and goal keep positions, with Noeline Taurua to take a "horses for courses" approach.

Where are they a bit skinny? Goal attack and wing attack remain the problem positions for the Magic. Taurua will be relying heavily on the likes of Julianna Naoupu and Jess Tuki to step up as her bench options are limited.

Player they would love to have: A crafty goal attack along the lines of Sharelle McMahon, pre-pregnancy.

Predicted finish: 2.

Melbourne Vixens

Key additions: Kara Richards (Thunderbirds)

Key losses: Renae Hallinan (Thunderbirds), Sharelle McMahon (pregnant with first child - fingers crossed for a boy)

Where are they strong? The Vixens are another side with star power in their defensive end, headlined by English import Geva Mentor and Australian international Julie Corletto. The pair make a formidable in-circle combination, but - to the disgust of many fans - it is unlikely we will see much of this partnership this season. Last season, coach Julie Hoornweg made room for former international Bianca Chatfield by pushing Corletto out to wing-defence, which is thought to be the reason for Corletto's unsuccessful attempt to seek a release from her contract this year. But it appears Hoornweg will stick to her guns this season having named Chatfield as captain, assuring her place in the starting line-up.

Where are they a bit skinny? Sharelle McMahon's withdrawal from the squad last month means the Vixens shooting end no longer has the same bite to it. Young goal-attack Tegan Caldwell was impressive preseason, but lacked support from her more experienced shooting partner Kate Beveridge.

Player would they love to have? A strong, dominant shooter like Irene van Dyk.

Predicted finish: 5


West Coast Fever

Key additions: Catherine Cox (Swifts), Eboni Beckford-Chambers (England), Ashleigh Brazill (Swifts), and a new coach by the name of Norma Plummer

Key losses: Ama Agbeze (England), Ashlee Howard

Where are they strong? The Fever are one of youngest sides in the league, but if anyone can turn this rag-tag bunch into finals contenders, it's wily Australian coach Norma Plummer. The addition of Catherine Cox will also help their cause, although the veteran shooter is likely to spend much of her time at goal attack partnering new shooting star Caitlin Bassett.

Where are they a bit skinny? The Fever don't really have a strong leader in the midcourt. New recruits Ash Brazill and Verity Simmons are highly rated, but still unproven in the transtasman league.

Player they would love to have: Natalie von Bertouch

Predicted finish: 6


Northern Mystics

Key additions: Charlotte Kight (Tactix), Jade Clarke (England)

Key losses: Joline Henry (Pulse), Megan Dehn (retired to join the coaching team)

Where are they strong? Last year's runners-up have added further firepower to their defence with English import Jade Clarke (WD, C) and former Cantabrian Charlotte Kight (GD, WD) joining the already well-stocked Mystics defensive end that includes Silver Ferns Anna Scarlett and Kayla Cullen, with the highly experienced Rachel Rasmussen. This gives Debbie Fuller a wealth of options ... although some might say she now has too many options.

Where are they a bit skinny? With a stacked defensive end, the Mystics are looking light on attacking cover. That may force captain Temepara George to move up the court to wing attack and put Clarke in to centre.

Player they would love to have: With the ability to put out a starting line of past and present internationals, it would just been plain greedy for the Mystics to have anyone else on their wishlist.

Predicted finish: 3

Central Pulse

Key additions: Joline Henry (Mystics), Paula Griffin (Steel), Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit (Steel), Jamilah Gupwell (Magic) and new coach Robyn Broughton.

Key losses: Bessie Manu (Tactix), Cushla Lichtwark

Where are they strong? Another Kiwi team with a talented defensive line-up (what does that say about New Zealand's attacking depth?). The Pulse have made a handy pick-up over the off-season in formidable defender Joline Henry, who brings some valuable experience to the young side. She and fellow Silver Fern defender Katrina Grant will be expected to lead from the front.

Where are they a bit skinny? In general, the Pulse are a well-balanced side, but there are some question marks over their midcourt. The Pulse lack a dominant play-maker in the middle, and will need a big season from Camilla Lees and Daya Wiffen, who has made a speedy return to the court after the birth of her first child.

Player they would love to have: Temepara George.

Predicted finish: 7


NSW Swifts

Key additions: Jo Sutton (Thunderbirds), April Letton.

Key losses: Catherine Cox (Fever), Rebecca Bulley (Thunderbirds), Courtney Tairi (Steel).

Where are they strong? Despite losing former Australian international Rebecca Bulley, the Swifts still have good depth on defence.

Where are they a bit skinny? The baffling decision to let former captain Catherine Cox go (read below) has left the Swifts light on experience in the shooting end. Susan Pratley will need to step up and lead the shooting circle to take the pressure off Carla Dziwoki, who will likely be promoted to the starting line-up this year.

Player they would love to have: You would think Catherine Cox, but turns out the Australian vice-captain didn't feature in new coach Lisa Beehag's plans so the veteran shooter went looking for a contract elsewhere.

Predicted finish: 8


Canterbury Tactix

Key additions: Jo Harten (England), Stacey Francis (England), Bessie Manu (Pulse).

Key losses: Donna Wilkins (Steel), Charlotte Kight (Mystics).

Where are they strong? The Canterbury side don't look to be spectacular in any area of the court, but they have a few handy options in the shooting circle. The addition of young English shooter Jo Harten alongside fringe Silver Ferns Anna Thompson and Ellen Halpenny means the Canterbury side will have a very mobile shooting end.

Where are they a bit skinny? The Tactix have assembled a side that will battle to off-load the wooden spoon they've held on to for the past two seasons. The lack of height in the defence end is probably the biggest area of concern of the Tactix as they will struggle to contain the taller shooters in the league.

Player they would they love to have: Casey Williams.

Predicted finish: 10


Southern Steel

Key additions: Donna Wilkins (Tactix), Jodi Brown (had last season off to have a baby), Courtney Tairi (Swifts), Demelza McCloud (Australia)

Key losses: Leana de Bruin (Magic), Liana Leota (England), Paula Griffin (Steel), Natasha Chokljat, Wendy Frew (pregnant)

Where are they strong? The return of Donna Wilkins means the Steel's strength undoubtedly rests in the shooting circle, where the dual international will pair up with former Silver Fern Jodi Brown. The pair also form the experience base in what is a very young team.

Where are they a bit skinny? Having lost nine players from last season, the Steel are lacking in experience in the midcourt and shooting circle. Several young players will be thrown in the deep end and coaches will be praying they can swim.

Player they would love to have: Leana de Bruin. Of the nine players to leave the franchise last season, de Bruin was undoubtedly the biggest loss.

Predicted finish: 9


Adelaide Thunderbirds

Key additions: Rebecca Bulley (Swifts), Renae Hallinan (Vixens)

Key losses: Jo Sutton (Swifts)

Where are they strong? After finishing a disappointing sixth last season, the Thunderbirds have added some key experience to create a very well-balanced line-up. Their biggest strength is their midcourt, where Renae Hallinan will add further zip and pace alongside captain Natalie von Bertouch and Emily Beaton.

Where are they a bit skinny? Their bench.

Player they would love to have: Jhanelle Fowler. Not satisfied with just having one giant Jamaican shooter, they want two. They made a play to sign Fowler last year, but their bid hinged on the success of Carla Borrego's application for Aussie citizenship. To date that has not come through.

Predicted finish: 4

Queensland Firebirds

Key additions: Shannon Eagland

Key losses: Clare McMeniman

Where are they strong? The side remains virtually unchanged to that which blitzed their way through the 2011 season unbeaten. From star import Romelda Aiken in the shooting circle through to athletic defender Laura Geitz at the back, there are very few chinks in the Queensland side's armour - certainly none any of their rivals could find at the ANZ Championship preseason tournament earlier this month anyway. The Firebirds dominated the Tauranga tournament to set the benchmark for the rest of the teams.

Where are they a bit skinny? If you wanted to be picky you could say the loss of highly-rated defender Clare McMeniman means their depth on the bench has taken a bit of a hit.

Player they would love to have: Roselee Jencke will be very happy with her star-studded line-up.

Predicted finish: 1

- NZ Herald

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