04/12/2023

Hannah Petty, Shamera Sterling and Georgie Horjus in the Adelaide Thunderbirds Heritage dress (Picture: Adelaide Thunderbirds/Twitter, Design by Will Cuckson)

The 2022 SSN season was full of high highs and close losses for the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Finishing one game outside of the finals, Adelaide showed some improvement across the board, while bringing in some youth and retaining its squad from the seasons prior.

The Inner Sanctum reviews the Thunderbirdsโ€™ 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season.

What Worked?

On the whole, the Adelaide Thunderbirds improved from the last couple of seasons, which is not reflected in the ladder position as they finished second to last. This is due to how close the competition was this season with bottom place winning more games than any other bottom-placed side in Suncorp Super Netball history.

For the Thunderbirds, one of the highlights of the year was the growth coming from the youth in the squad. Georgie Horjus, Tippah Dwan, Lucy Austin, and Latanya Wilson were immense this season considering they were usually expected to perform against more experienced opponents each week.

The shining light in the Thunderbirds’ season was their defence, which was mainly comprised of Wilson, Shamera Sterling, and Matilda Garrett.

Sterling was steadfast in every single game working very well with either Garrett or Wilson at goal defence. If the midcourt and the attacking end converted the turnovers and gains that were taken by the defenders, then the Thunderbirds would have been one of the highest-scoring teams this season.

What didnโ€™t?

The midcourt mix and form as well as the chemistry inside of the attacking circle meant that the Thunderbirds were so close to winning games but couldn’t bridge the gap.

When it came to their midcourt, they are still inexperienced and are without some real star power or senior heads in that area. The most experienced players are Hannah Petty and Maisie Nankivell, who are still relatively young in terms of their careers, both played well enough but not at the level of previous seasons.

Adding this mix is former goal attack Horjus, who still plays some of her best netball inside the circle, which is a concern with her moving to a midcourt role next season. She was solid in her first year at wing attack and will be better for learning her role.

As a result, Elle McDonald did not play much in wing attack due to this change and with the development within the squad, she will no longer play for Adelaide next season.

Young talent Tayla Williams was a find at the centre position during the middle stretch of the year. The 21-year-old came on with immediate impact and seemingly having her in centre meant Petty and Nankivell could play better-suited positions at wing defence and attack respectively.

With this mix in the middle, the Thunderbirds look better and more dynamic, a trend that hopefully will be seen in the new season to compliment their new attacking set-up.

Along with a mid-court that didn’t work and one that turned over the ball, the attacking end didn’t convert turnovers that had been won by the stellar defence. Lenize Potgieter and Tippah Dwan particularly seemed to lack chemistry and confidence with themselves and each other.

This was addressed post-season with the recruitment of star English Rose shooter Eleanor Cardwell being offered a contract. She will play a role in teaching both Dwan and young shooting sensation, Lucy Austin about what it takes to make an impact at a higher level.

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Season highlight

The season highlight for the Thunderbirds was the game at Netball SA Stadium against the Firebirds. The Thunderbirds’ defence was on show that night with the Firebirds attacking circle being held scoreless for the last seven minutes.

Potgieter was resolute in attack shooting 46 goals at 100 per cent to show up the hapless defence of the Firebirds. Alongside her performance, Wilson played a blinder, helping herself to 10 deflections, five gains, and three intercepts.

Horjus had a feeding frenzy at wing attack with 17 feeds and eight assists, a glimpse of her potential.

The Thunderbirds were still in the top four at the end of this round, buoyed by this performance against a team, which should have made finals in the first half of the season.

Lenize Potgieter will return to the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2022.
Lenize Potgieter playing for the Adelaide Thunderbirds (Image: Adelaide Thunderbirds/Twitter)

Season lowlight

The Thunderbirds had an almost season so the lowlight for the team would be the back-to-back losses against the Lightning and the in rounds three and four.

Considering Adelaide finished one win out of finals and everything had to go its way to make it, these two wins were not only heartbreaking for the players but devastating for the club and its fans.

These two losses summed up the season for Adelaide, so close but not close enough.

Team MVP

The Thunderbirds’ Most Valuable Player award was presented to Shamera Sterling. She was a highlight for not only Adelaide fans but fans of netball due to her flying intercepts and rebounding ability.

Showcasing her talent in defence, Sterling was second in the league for defensive rebounds with 37, two behind Fever defender Courtney Bruce. The 26-year-old finished with 67 deflections for the season, ranking her fourth in the league behind Bruce, Latanya Wilson, and Sarah Klau.

Sterling ranked first for intercepts and finished the season with 52. She had 16 more intercepts than Courtney Bruce and 21 more than teammate Latanya Wilson.

Rising Star

As much as Latanya Wilson’s ability ascends in SSN, she rose on the international scene as well. She was the perfect partner for Sterling in defence, with both of them possessing the ability to turn a game on a dime for their team.

The 20-year-old was a handful for every attack in the league with her move to wing defence, another plus for Adelaide in the upcoming season as she spent more time at the position for Jamaica in the Commonwealth Games.

This season Wilson had the second most deflections in the league with 70, only behind Courtney Bruce, who has been the benchmark defender in the competition for over five years.

Along with her deflections, Wilson’s athletic intercepts have become a trademark. She had 31 intercepts, averaging around two per game.

With Wilson staying put alongside Sterling in the Jamaican National team and the Thunderbirds at SSN level next season, their partnership and chemistry will continue to grow which is frightening for the competition.

Jamaican National Netball Team and Adelaide Thunderbirds defenders Latanya Wilson and Shamera Sterling (Picture: Suncorp Super Netball/Website)

Moving Forward

Into the next season, Tania Obst seems to have been re-signed with the Thunderbirds despite the noise that would suggest that Adelaide would be interested in looking elsewhere.

With McDonald gone, this means more midcourt time is looming for Tayla Williams and Georgie Horjus in 2023. Losing Potgieter indicates that Adelaide will look to Tippah Dwan and Eleanor Cardwell in the attacking circle with Lucy Austin learning from the sidelines.

In 2023, the Thunderbirds will again be looking for a top four spot or they will risk losing their star players in the next year.

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