Who will be named as a replacement player for Lightning captain Karla Pretorius for the 2022 SSN season?

Sunshine Coast Lightning captain Karla Pretorius yesterday announced that she would be sitting out of the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball season, expecting her first child in June.

In light of captain Karla Pretorius’ announcement that she and husband Werner are expecting their first child in June, the Sunshine Coast Lightning now have another list spot to fill.

The Lightning rounded out their roster for 2022 at the end of September as they signed young Giants training partner Annie Miller to her first full contract.

But after signing defender Tara Hinchliffe – who is still recovering from an ACL tear in July – the Lightning were already going to have sign at least one of their six training partners as an injury replacement player.

With Pretorius’ pregnancy, one signing spot becomes two. Both players that will be unavailable are defenders, meaning at least one defender or defensive midcourter will likely need to be elevated.

“It’s obviously a big decision to step away from netball for a year but I feel it’s the right time for me and my family,” Pretorius said yesterday.

“Of course, Lightning will remain close to my heart and I will absolutely continue to be involved – albeit in an off court role – and I hope to be back in the team in 2023.”

Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Kate Shimmin could fill the goal keeper and goal defence roles, but there will need to be at least one other defender available on the bench.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at who could be named as replacement players for Pretorius and Hinchliffe.

The options

Bridey Condren – Defender

Condren firms as one of the most like-for-like replacements for Hinchliffe and Pretorius.

The 21-year-old circle defender has already experienced a taste of the elite level, making her Suncorp Super Netball debut in 2020 for the West Coast Fever. She’s also been a replacement player for the Queensland Firebirds.

Throughout her career at junior level and in the HART Sapphire Series with the USQ Jets, Condren has shown versatility in her defensive roles.

She’s played both as a true circle defender in goal keeper, and pushing further up the court in goal defence.

Condren has also been a part of Netball Queensland’s Elite Development Squad, and should be more than ready to make the jump up.

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Maddie Hinchliffe – Midcourter

Twin sister of Tara, Maddie Hinchliffe was already briefly on the Lightning’s main list last season as a replacement player for Ashlee Unie.

She made her debut playing in the Round 14 clash with the NSW Swifts, given the unfavourable task of matching up on championship captain Maddy Proud.

A midcourter, Hinchliffe is equally capable of playing in both centre and wing defence, but would more likely be utilised defensively through the midcourt.

Unlike the other two options, she’s already familiar with the Lightning system, having been involved with the club for a season already.

Ava Black – Midcourter

Black is the picture of versatility in the midcourt, able to play in all three roles.

Perhaps most tellingly, the teenager added wing defence to her resume this year playing for the Bond Bull Sharks, adding a defensive edge to her attacking midcourt game.

She’s gone from strength to strength, moving up from state selection to national selection after being named as a part of the Australian under 19 squad in October.

With Mahalia Cassidy, Laura Scherian and Annie Miller ahead of her as attacking options, it will likely be wing defence or bust for Black.

Most likely…

Looking at the options available in the training partner squad of six, Condren looks to be a complete shoe in to sign as a replacement player.

There are no other circle defenders in the extended squad, and with Hinchliffe still injured this leaves no depth in the circle outside of Dehaney and Shimmin.

Some teams will use a defender off the bench, as seen with Dehaney herself for the Melbourne Vixens. Others will rotate a defensive player across goal defence and wing defence, like Lauren Moore at the NSW Swifts.

Condren fits the former, while signing Black could fit the latter. However, Shimmin didn’t play a full 60 minutes once, playing a maximum of 59 and 50 in the last two rounds of 2021.

Looking at coach Kylee Byrne’s preferred rotation, having an extra defender and midcourter to be able to rotate with Shimmin as opposed to having her shift between goal defence and wing defence.

With Hinchliffe the more experienced of the two wing defence options, signing both her and Condren as the replacement players seems to be the natural conclusion.

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