In the six days since Kate Moloney was the first Suncorp Super Netball signing, there has been plenty of news in Super Netball, but little clarity nonetheless. For all the Suncorp Super Netball signing news, stay up to date with our Off-Season Hub and follow The Inner Sanctum’s netball podcast, Over a Third, on Twitter and Instagram to get the news when it breaks.
This is the overall look at the first week of signings, and what it means for 2022. With all the announcements, there has barely been time to step back and look at the big picture.
In the first week, 29 players have been announced as signings for 2022. Of that group, 10 belong to the Collingwood Magpies who dropped the announcement of eight players on Saturday morning, after revealing Sophie Garbin and Maggie Lind on Friday night.
It has also been announced that 15 players will not be returning to their 2021 team, with two retirements (Sam Poolman and Maddy McAuliffe), two players leaving to other competitions (Kristiana Manu’a and Natalie Haythornthwaite), Sophie Garbin who has changed teams, and ten players who have not yet declared their 2022 plans.
The Magpies dropped the biggest bombshell so far on Friday evening, when they announced that they had secured Sophie Garbin for two seasons, after four years and two premierships with the NSW Swifts.
The first question on everyone’s lips was about the shooting circle for 2022.
Garbin has long been considered a goal shooter, and Shimona Nelson, the incumbent, was outstanding in 2021. Gabby Sinclair was the first choice goal attack in 2021, and Garbin exhibited her versatility to dabble in goal attack in her time at the Swifts.
It is unclear whether Garbin is anticipating playing goal attack, goal shooter or her hybrid bench role from her time at the Swifts, but many expected that she would be leaving the Swifts if there was an offer of more playing time. It is unclear whether starting on the bench would fulfil Garbin’s expectations, or whether someone else will be starting there.
Both Garbin and Nelson are traditional holding shooters, with a trademark strong hold, a wide split jump on the feed, and the ability to grab the ball at its highest point on the feed. While it’s a valuable asset for a team, as a bailout for mid-courters and for a high efficiency offence, it does seem like two in one circle might be too much.
Garbin and Nelson have both showed some mobility and playmaking, but neither has played significant time at goal attack, leaving questions as to how the Magpies will go forward next year.
The other major move for the Magpies was the elevation of training partner Maggie Lind, while Melissa Bragg was not signed for 2022. Bragg covered wing defence and centre, while Lind has traditionally been a wing attack/centre.
Kelsey Browne and Molly Jovic are both traditionally wing attack/centre players, same as Lind. While the three player rotation in the forward half of the mid-court is clear for the Magpies, Ash Brazill is the only traditional wing defence on the Magpies roster.
Jodi-Ann Ward played in wing defence for just under 60 minutes across 2021. Her ball aggression and speed make her an intriguing prospect for more time in the mid-court.
Ward had 34 intercepts and 83 deflections across 2021, and would allow the Magpies to play a tall, yet fast defensive circle and still put pressure on the circle edge with the combination of Geva Mentor and Jacqui Newton, and with Ward out in front.
She would be able to interrupt opposition attacking plays further up the court, and allow for a quick rebounding game for the Magpies in 2022, which might be the strategy tweak that sends them to the finals.
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What’s happening in Queensland?
Between the Queensland Firebirds and the Sunshine Coast Lightning, five players will be departing their 2021 teams before next season. So far, just one player has been announced by either team in Kim Ravaillion, who played for the Firebirds in 2021.
Both sides have a defensive circle position and a shooting position available, after the departures of Phumza Maweni and Peace Proscovia from the Sunshine Coast Lighting, and Rudi Ellis and Tippah Dwan from the Firebirds.
The Firebirds defensive circle is the most interesting of all the vacancies.
With Tara Hinchliffe’s late season ACL tear, and now Ellis’ departure, there is a serious gap in the defensive stocks at the Firebirds. The other factor is that at least one defender who signs there knows they probably have a 12-month clock, as Hinchliffe recovers, before she is expected to resume her spot.
The Lightning have been quiet on the signings front. Since announcing that Proscovia and Maweni were departing the club the morning after the club awards, McAuliffe’s retirement has been the only other announcement.
While it is expected that Ashlee Unie’s return from injury will fill one of those spots, there remains much intrigue as to how the Lightning will replace their starting goal keeper and change-up shooter.
Swift changes to a premiership side
The Swifts have announced that all three players who started on the bench in their grand final team will not be returning, with Haythornthwaite announcing her return to the UK, Garbin being signed by the Magpies, and Moore taking up a contract at an undisclosed club for 2022.
While it’s hardly shocking that key players from a premiership side have been snatched up, it remains to be seen how the Swifts will reload. With a player missing from each position group, there will likely be a mixture of upcoming NSW talent, and transfer players coming in.
There is plenty to attract talent about the Swifts, with the way Briony Akle uses her bench, and the success of a team that’s won two of the past three championships.
In 16 matches this season, the Swifts used nine players or more in every match except Round 8, and used the full 10 players on nine occasions.
There is little doubt that the Swifts will be able to attract the talent to replace the departing players, but it is unclear whether they will be from other Super Netball clubs, internationals or development pathway players. It’s expected that some of those gaps will be filled in the coming days.
Where are they going?
Moore, Tippah Dwan, Kaylia Stanton and Samantha Gooden are among the players who will not be returning to their current team for 2022. Bragg and Kalifa McCollin have been informed by the Magpies that their services will not be required for 2022 either.
It leaves a number of talented players in the lurch, and many others at other teams are possibly in the same boat. Players at the Vixens and Fever may be feeling the heat as rumours fly as to potential additions, with Kaylia Stanton the only confirmed departure from those two clubs combined.
Liz Watson and Rahni Samason have already been added to the Melbourne Vixens, paving the way for at least another mid-courter (likely) to be moving clubs. With gaps at the Giants and Thunderbirds, as well as the previously mentioned clubs, there is no shortage of potential destinations for talented players, but the pieces have not yet fallen into place.
McCollin, Dwan, Gooden and Stanton are all very talented shooters, and there appears to be at least a few vacancies for shooters around the league. Moore and Ellis are the only confirmed defensive departures who are headed to new clubs, and there looks to be more defensive dominos to fall before everything falls into place.
Thunderbirds are Go-ing where?
The Thunderbirds have announced that Shadine van der Merwe and Samantha Gooden will not be returning for 2022. After the Thunderbirds finished with just five wins from 2021, it was expected that there would be a number of changes for a team that hasn’t made the finals since 2013.
Van der Merwe’s departure came as something of a shock, while there are whispers that Gooden’s departure was a surprise to her. Regardless, the Thunderbirds will be reloading with new talent in the wing defence position, and with a third shooter going forward.
They will be hoping that under Tania Obst’s instruction, the group is on the rise, and will be able to arrest the fortunes of the struggling club.
As the only Super Netball team with no representatives in the Diamonds camp, there is a concern that a talent differential may prevent the team from pushing for finals in 2022.
It’s expected that more of the picture will become clear in the coming days, ahead of the Thunderbirds’ Awards night on Friday, September 24.
So what’s next?
After a week of signings, it is fair to say that there are as many questions as before the week. The Giants have yet to clear up their defensive stocks, the Firebirds are in the same boat, and the Lightning haven’t even opened their account yet.
Expect some of the picture to clear up over the next week, but there are likely to be some questions that linger until the first week of the 2022 Super Netball competition.
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