Lockdown Defenders in action in 2021.

Jodi-Ann Ward, Courtney Bruce, Emily Mannix, Latanya Wilson and Shamera Sterling (Clockwise) are some of the big-name defenders off contract. (Images: Dani Brown, West Coast Fever/Twitter, Adelaide Thunderbirds /Twitter)

With the Suncorp Super Netball signing period upon us, there are plenty of questions about which defenders will sign where. Who will stay and who will go?

With the Suncorp Super Netball signing period open and going, there is plenty of speculation about which players are signing where. After looking at the shooters, now The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the defenders, and who is likely to stay or go for 2022.

With Phumza Maweni’s departure from the Sunshine Coast Lightning, there is going to be some movement among defenders across the SSN, as at least one spot has to get filled in a starting lineup, with at least a couple of reserve positions as well.

Despite that, there are a number of circle defenders who are extremely unlikely to be on the move, and the question becomes, who will actually be available to fill the empty spots?

The Departures

Kristiana Manu’aGiants NetballReserve Goal Defence
Sam PoolmanGiants NetballGoal Keeper
Phumza MaweniSunshine Coast LightningGoal Keeper

Kristiana Manu’a has announced that she has signed with the Central Pulse for season 2022, and won’t be returning to the Giants.

It’s not a shocking move, given that she was clearly behind April Brandley for the starting goal defence position at the Giants, and appeared to be behind Tilly McDonell late in the season as Fitzgerald’s go-to changeup in the defensive end.

The Giants have also lost Sam Poolman who retired after a long and decorated career. After years as the Giants dependable goal keeper, Poolman has taken a step back, leaving McDonell as heir to the position.

Phumza Maweni, after starting every game for the Sunshine Coast Lightning in 2021, announced at the club Best & Fairest that she, along with Peace Proscovia would not be returning to the Lightning for season 2022.

The Untouchables

There are a handful of goal keepers who barely came off the court last season, and will have been a high priority for their clubs to re-sign.

So too, last year was a season for a number of goal defenders to stand out, either in returns, as a rising star, or a repeat of previous years strengths. For those players, the clubs will likely be confirming the cost and length of a new deal, and not whether they want to keep the players.

Shamera SterlingAdelaide ThunderbirdsGoal Keeper
Matilda GarrettAdelaide ThunderbirdsGoal Defence
Geva MentorCollingwood MagpiesGoal Keeper
Jodi-Ann WardCollingwood MagpiesGoal Defence
Jacqui NewtonCollingwood MagpiesReserve Defender
April BrandleyGiants NetballGoal Defence
Tilly McDonellGiants NetballReserve Goal Keeper
Jo WestonMelbourne VixensGoal Defence
Sarah KlauNSW SwiftsGoal Keeper
Maddy TurnerNSW SwiftsGoal Defence
Lauren MooreNSW SwiftsReserve Defender
Rudi EllisQueensland FirebirdsGoal Keeper
Kim JennerQueensland FirebirdsGoal Defence
Tara HinchliffeQueensland FirebirdsGoal Keeper (injured)
Karla PretoriusSunshine Coast LightningGoal Defence
Kate ShimminSunshine Coast LightningReserve Defender
Courtney BruceWest Coast FeverGoal Keeper
Sunday AryangWest Coast FeverGoal Defence

The Adelaide Thunderbirds play on court starts with Shamera Sterling. The goal keeper was dominant last season, and her ability to intercept and disrupt opposing attacks provides support for the rest of the Thunderbirds team any time the ball gets into the circle.

Sterling’s partner in the circle for most of last year, Matilda Garrett, in her first year at the Thunderbirds, showed the chemistry with Sterling that coach Tania Obst would have been looking for, and it looked to be the start of a strong partnership.

After Garrett departed the Magpies at the end of 2020, it gave Jodi-Ann Ward a chance to step up into the goal defence role at the Magpies. She impressed throughout the year, with her ability to read the play and take the ball off the opposition coming to the fore, particularly late in the season.

In three seasons at the Magpies, Geva Mentor has continued to show why she has set the standard for professionalism, and on-court play. The veteran celebrated her 200th top-flight game this year, and as long as she wants to play and her play holds up, the Magpies will probably be keeping the 36-year-old on the roster.

As Mentor continues to play, her understudy and future replacement continues to grow as well.

Jacqui Newton played in nine games in 2021 in her first season at the Magpies, and averaged 2.33 deflections per match. It was a bright start to her Magpies career and shows why the club went out of their way to sign her for 2021, and why they’ll keep her for 2022.

This year the Giants had four defensive players in the squad of ten. Poolman and Manu’a have indicated they will not be returning, but Poolman was outstanding as goal keeper in season 2021.

Alongside Poolman, April Brandley had a year to remember. The form goal defence of the competition for much of the year, Brandley showed every bit of the talent she showed in previous years as a training partner and more. Brandley is playing some of the best netball of her career, and the Giants will be thrilled to have her back in 2022.

Behind Poolman and Brandley, Matilda McDonell showed that she is the future at goal keeper for the Giants. In limited minutes throughout the season, McDonell flew around the court, showing a physical presence and a nous for the ball that will hold her in strong stead for the future. Now that Poolman has retired, the goal keeper position is hers for the taking.

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One of the bright lights for the Vixens in a tough 2021 season was Jo Weston. The leader of the Vixens and the Diamonds, Weston has made public her desire to be a one-club player for the Vixens. That, combined with her play in 2021, points to a return for next year.

The Swifts this year had one of the standout defensive units. With Sarah Klau holding down the goal keeper position, they were able to get on top of most opposition teams throughout the year. The recruitment of Bec Bulley to coach at the Swifts seemed to pay dividends as Klau was one defender who took her game to another level.

The other Swifts defender who took her game to another level under Bulley was Maddy Turner. Turner had an outstanding year across the board, capped off with a player of the match performance in the Grand Final for the Swifts to seal the premiership.

In ordinary circumstances, a young defender like Lauren Moore, who is behind Klau and Turner may be thinking of moving teams for more opportunity. The Swifts made sure that Moore had court time, as she shared the wing defence position with Tayla Fraser, and still backed up Turner to play goal defence at different times. Its expected that all three Swifts defenders return to the reigning premiers for 2022.

It’s very likely that the Firebirds contract Tara Hinchliffe the way that the Vixens approached Liz Watson for 2021. With her late season ACL tear, she is unlikely to play in season 2022, but the Firebirds will be keen to keep her in the establishment.

Hinchcliffe’s injury opens the door for Rudi Ellis to get more court time, and cement her role. A young player with plenty of potential, her transition to more court time late in 2021 will likely carry over to 2022 in Hinchcliffe’s absence, but that will make the Firebirds even more keen to keep her.

Alongside Ellis, Kim Jenner will be important for the Firebirds in 2022. Since stepping into the gap left by Laura Geitz, Jenner has thrived, and will be key to support Ellis on court in 2022, so she likely won’t be going anywhere.

The Lightning have already announced some movement to their defensive end, but its unlikely that the upheaval includes captain and defensive stalwart Karla Pretorius. Another year of Pretorius setting the tone for the Lightning looks certain, as they will push to improve on their fourth place finish in 2021.

For 2021, the Lightning recruited Kate Shimmin from the Adelaide Thunderbirds, where she thrived. A hardworking and smart playing style, she was a perfect foil for Maweni and Pretorius in 2021, and helped the Lightning to win a number of close games throughout the season, closing down with strong defence.

Courtney Bruce fits into the same category as Klau, Sterling, and Mentor. As the Diamonds’ leading goal keeper, Bruce was one of the best defenders for 2021. As she continues to thrive, so do the Fever, and she won’t be going anywhere in 2022 or into the future.

One of the rising defensive stars of Super Netball is Sunday Aryang. After her debut in 2019, Aryang became a regular for the Fever in 2020, and grew in 2021. It has become clear that she is the future at the goal defence position for the Fever, and she will likely be locked in at the Fever for years to come.

The Not so Certainties

For one reason or another, this handful of players might be on the move for season 2022. While its perfectly foreseeable that each of them could be back, there is also every chance that two or three of these players are on a new team in 2022.

With the Lightning having the most obvious vacancy, it’s likely that more than one team is sniffing around for a change to the defensive end and may be looking to sign a player from elsewhere.

Latanya WilsonAdelaide ThunderbirdsReserve Goal Defence
Kadie-Ann DehaneyMelbourne VixensReserve Defender
Emily MannixMelbourne VixensGoal Keeper
Olivia LewisWest Coast FeverReserve Goal Keeper

The Adelaide Thunderbirds didn’t quite utilise Latanya Wilson this year. In her first year for the Thunderbirds, she appeared in 13 games alongside Jamaican teammate Sterling. Despite that, she played just 36 per cent of game time, and struggled to find her feet.

Wilson may be on the move in 2022 in search of more court time, despite the comfort of playing alongside her international teammate. A move to the Lightning beckons, but the option of playing as an impact player on a team where she may get more court time and show off her skills is also a possibility.

The Vixens in 2021 were plagued by injuries. A niggling thumb injury to Emily Mannix meant that she was kept off court for an extended period. In that time, Kadie-Ann Dehaney stepped up and showed that she could play goal keeper as a starter, and not just as an impact player.

It may mean that the Vixens have a conundrum put to them, as they have two top-shelf goal keepers. If a team makes an offer for one of them to start as goal keeper, how will the Vixens compete with the offer? Who will they prioritise for 2022?

Even though they may end up keeping both Mannix and Dehaney, the offer of a starting position would be tempting for either, and would be another move that shows that the Vixens are rebuilding after a tough 2021 season.

The West Coast Fever are spoilt for choice at the defensive end. With Bruce, Aryang and Stacey Francis-Bayman all starting, the Fever have plenty of top talent. Couple this with the fact that Francis-Bayman acts as an alternative goal defence when Aryang comes off, and it is difficult to see what the future holds for Olivia Lewis.

Lewis is older than Aryang, and it appears as if the Fever have prioritised Aryang’s growth for the future. While things can change with a new coaching staff, it appears as if there may be one too many defenders for them to keep, and Lewis appears to be the one who misses out on court time the most.

Will the temptation to be the first choice impact player, or grow her court time be enough for Lewis to move away from her home club, and see what she can do?

The Wrap

While there is much conjecture about how the defenders will end up at the end of the signing period, the signs point that most clubs will keep their defensive end similar to the way it looked last year.

Some teams will have some questions about their defensive ends, but the market may be thin. Will any club be able to tempt one of the defenders that seemed to be locked in to move? Will they take one of the players with an uncertain future?

It’s all to play out.

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