There are some stars on the netball court who we sing the praises of every week and others who fly under the radar. The Inner Sanctum takes a look at who the unsung heroes of the Suncorp Super Netball competition are.
Whether they are new faces in the league, impact options from the bench or playing second-fiddle to an International superstar, we give the quiet achievers the recognition they deserve.
We ask the question and give you the answers; who’s your club’s unsung hero?
Adelaide Thunderbirds – Matilda Garrett
Matilda Garrett goes quietly about her business in defence for the Adelaide Thunderbirds, but has produced a very consistent and impressive season.
She has battled in goal defence for a team that has only won three games, often doing work that is overlooked, particularly when it’s not converted by the shooters.
Garrett’s netball career has been revived by the move to the Thunderbirds. After four years at Collingwood Magpies, she moved across for the 2021 season.
She has played in all 11 games for the Thunderbirds this Super Netball season and featured at goal defence in every starting line-up so far this year.
She has 17 intercepts and 33 deflections for the season, along with five defensive rebounds.
Garrett is the unsung hero of the Thunderbirds because she has been quietly playing her defensive role alongside fan-favourite and regular MVP awardee Shamera Sterling.
Her back up for Sterling’s deflections or her coverage of the players while Sterling hunts the intercept should not go unnoticed.
Garrett’s 2021 season has played her into Australian Diamonds conversations, which would be fitting reward for one of her best seasons in the league.
Collingwood Magpies – Molly Jovic
Molly Jovic was first brought into the Magpies lineup last season when she was named as replacement player, and since her first time out on court in the black and white she’s never looked out of place.
In 2020, Ash Brazill was ruled out for the season, as were Madi and Kelsey Browne for a large portion of the year. It was Jovic who stepped up and really took control of the Collingwood mid-court.
In season 2021, Jovic has made the centre position her own, starting there for all 10 games she’s played this season. She missed the side’s round two game against the Giants due to an injury in her foot.
So far this season Jovic has had 122 goal assists and 19 deflections, along with seven intercepts.
Jovic has combined nicely with Kelsey Browne in the wing attack position and provides a lot of speed through the Magpies mid-court.
Giants Netball – Sophie Dwyer
Sophie Dwyer has starred at goal attack this season, after joining the Giants’ squad this season, and moving up from her role as a training partner. She has 239 goals at just over 75 per cent accuracy, and has 31 super shots, which is second in the league.
The reason she’s the unsung hero of the Giants season is more than the fact that she’s not getting publicity for putting up those kinds of numbers aged just 19, and doing it against some brilliant goal defence players across the league.
It’s also because Sophie Dwyer was not expected to be playing this role. She was supposed to be an impact player for the Giants, coming in to change the shooting circle mix up.
After Keira Austin’s ACL injury in Round 1, Dwyer was thrust into the circle full time, and has played 60 minutes most weeks, starring in the spotlight. She has kept the Giants rolling, as they now sit first on the ladder, despite losing their first choice goal attack.
Melbourne Vixens – Allie Smith
After making a name for herself as a premiership player at just 19, Smith signed on as a permanent member of the Vixens squad at the start of the 2021 season. With that security in the team, she hasn’t looked back.
Wing defence by trade, Smith has often rotated into centre through the season and has shown how dangerous she can be offensively and defensively.
Playing defensively, she’s shown a strong ability to be able to disrupt opposition wing attacks and limit their movement. In a quarter of game time against the NSW Swifts, she had four assists and eight feeds playing centre.
In her game against the Adelaide Thunderbirds, both her and partner in wing defence crime Kate Eddy forced Maisie Nankivell to cause seven turnovers, harassing constantly.
Coach Simone McKinnis has praised her “precision and finesse” when working the ball forward, while teammate Hannah Mundy describes her as “relentless” on court. The more minutes on court Smith gets, the more comfortable she looks.
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New South Wales Swifts – Maddy Turner
While Sarah Klau gets plenty of plaudits for the job she does as goal keeper each week, Turner has quietly turned heads as her partner in the circle. The two have formed the best defensive duo in the league, conceding the least goals, and are a big part of why the Swifts are at the top of the ladder.
Turner has 12 rebounds, 12 intercepts and 12 turnovers so far this season, along with 34 deflections as she and Klau disrupt attacking play from their opponents. Turner has shown versatility when thrown into goal keeper on occasion, but her highlight has been in goal defence.
Turner has shown the ability to match it with the best shooters, and has worked her way into the conversation for Diamonds contention again, after making her debut at the 2019 Constellation Cup.
Turner’s defensive performance, and particularly her ability to take away the baseline and the depth towards the post have been key to the Swifts season so far, and will likely be required for the Swifts to make a serious push for the Super Netball Premiership.
Queensland Firebirds – Lara Dunkley
Lara Dunkley has gone from strength to strength since moving to the Firebirds in 2020, sharing the wing attack role with Jemma Mi Mi across the 2021 season.
Dunkley learnt under some of the best in Kate Moloney and Liz Watson at the Melbourne Vixens as a training partner and an injury replacement player, before receiving the offer to move north to the Firebirds.
Dunkley has been able to complement the Firebirds attack end nicely and has really strengthened the on-court connection with Romelda Aiken and Tippah Dwan.
She has built a strong combination with Gretel Bueta and Kim Ravaillion, after the pair returned to the Firebirds this year.
Dunkley has featured in all 11 of the Firebirds games and has had 137 centre pass receives and 77 goal assists, as well as 10 deflections and one intercept.
Dunkley was named in the 20/21 Australian development squad late last year after her performances during the 2020 season with the Firebirds, which shows how much of an asset she is to the Queensland Firebirds.
Sunshine Coast Lightning – Binnian Hunt
The Lightning had injury headaches before the season had even started, when recently promoted Ashlee Unie went down with an ACL injury, and Maddie Hinchliffe, brought into the squad to replace her, was unable to take her place due to her own injury concerns.
Enter Binnian Hunt. Hunt has been a member of the Lightning 10 for the first 10 matches, and has made the most of her opportunities when she has taken the court.
Hunt’s had minutes on court in six out of the Lightning’s ten matches so far, and did not look out of place in any of them. But her best performance to date was against the Giants in round seven.
In 29 minutes on court, Hunt had 13 goal assists (equal best for the match for the Lightning), 23 feeds (best for the match for the Lightning) and nine centre pass feeds (second best for the match for the Lightning).
Hunt will take a lot from her stint at the top level, and the Lightning now know more about what they have in Hunt, ahead of the future.
West Coast Fever – Jess Anstiss
The Fever’s seven is as rock solid as it gets, with coach Stacey Marinkovich minimising their bench use because their partnerships are superb.
Jess Anstiss has been the glue that keeps this side motoring. The 2018 Young Star winner gained valuable experience with the Diamonds squad earlier in the year, and this season has solidified herself as one of the best centres in Super Netball.
Her natural defensive play – having started out as a wing defence – is paramount to a Fever attack that features some of the world’s best in Verity Charles and Jhaniele Fowler.
Charles is equally adept at centre and wing attack, and Marinkovich has tinkered with that formula this season.
In round three against the Lightning, Anstiss started at wing defence with Charles at centre. Fever won the match by 15 goals, but Anstiss’ play at centre since that game has been undeniable.
In round four she started at centre again and finished the game with 25 feeds, 16 goal assists and just two general play turnovers.
Charles may earn more plaudits in the mid-court, but Anstiss has played all 10 games for the Fever and continues to motor the league-leading offence whilst restricting opposition attacks with her defensive mindset.
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