The Adelaide Thunderbirds have looked to the youth of the competition this SSN Signing Period, adding Tippah Dwan and elevating training partner Tayla Williams, as they aim for consistency heading into 2022.
In the 2021 off-season the Thunderbirds had their quietest signing period since 2013, changing just two players on their roster.
With an average age of 23 years, the Thunderbirds are a young squad who will be looking to find consistency in their group and their performances out on court in 2022. It starts with head coach Tania Obst settling on her line-up and reducing the substitutions made at any little falter.
The Inner Sanctum takes a look at how the Adelaide Thunderbirds could line up in 2022 with these two new additions.
|Shadine van der Merwe
Biggest Signing: Tippah Dwan
After a breakout season filling Gretel Bueta’s shoes in 2020, Queenslander Tippah Dwan has taken a one year contract to move to South Australia in search of more court time and new opportunities.
The return of Bueta to the Queensland Firebirds squad, after the birth of her son Bobby, put Dwan back on the bench for much of 2021.
She played in 10 matches throughout the season, riding the bench for two games and missing Round 11 and Round 12 due to home quarantine requirements after attending a COVID-19 exposure site.
Dwan averaged 21 minutes across her 10 appearances, scoring a total of 48 goals for the year.
Her biggest contribution for the year was in Round 4 against the Collingwood Magpies. Dwan played the entire second half of the match at goal attack, scoring four goals during regular time and four Super Shots.
Just how Dwan fits into the Adelaide line-up, only time will tell.
Biggest Departure: Shadine van der Merwe
Adelaide opened its signing period by announcing the departure of South African defender Shadine van der Merwe after three seasons at the club.
The SPAR Protea moved to Adelaide in 2019 as a replacement player for Beth Cobden and continued on full-time for the following two years.
As a seasoned 28-year-old, van der Merwe was a calming influence on court for Adelaide and her versatility meant she could be thrown into any defensive position.
Her loss will be felt among the playing group, who all spoke highly of her – even voting her Player’s Player of the Year in 2021. She leaves South Australia having helped the club develop a strong connection on and off the court.
During the UK Vitality Netball Superleague signing period it was announced that van der Merwe has signed with Manchester Thunder for 2022. She first played in the league in 2018 with the Surrey Storm and sees her return as an important move heading into the Commonwealth Games.
Samantha Gooden also departed the club after two seasons in Adelaide.
Projected Starting Seven
The starting seven for the Thunderbirds is one that will change on a weekly basis, depending on opposition match ups.
Lenize Potgieter will start in goal shooter, her role under the ring important to the Thunderbirds capitalising off their stellar defence.
Who gets the goal attack bib will be one of the most debated topics in several Super Netball teams, none more so than the Adelaide Thunderbirds. The addition of Tippah Dwan, who comes to Adelaide looking for more opportunity, puts pressure on 2021 Club Champion Horjus.
Dwan’s extra height will see her start in goal attack, with Horjus and her improved midcourt game to start at wing attack.
Captain Hannah Petty will start in the centre bib, though the flexibility of her fellow midcourters could see Obst continue her obsession with the rolling substitution rule.
After a season in a more attacking midcourt role, Maisie Nankivell will likely return to her more comfortable and dominant position at wing defence.
Down in defence, the combination of Matilda Garrett at goal defence and Shamera Sterling at goal keeper will continue to trouble the best shooting teams. Garrett and Sterling developed across 2021 and they will flourish even more as they spend greater court time together.
This leaves a strong and versatile bench including Elle McDonald, Tayla Williams and Latanya Wilson, with options to restructure across the court to better compete with opposition match-ups.
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Dwan joins a fairly settled starting goal circle combination from the past two seasons in South African Potgieter and South Australian Horjus. She takes the position of Super Shot specialist Gooden.
While Gooden saw some court time in early 2021, as Horjus found her rhythm there was less and less opportunity to mix things up in goals. Potgieter and Horjus become a stronger combination and the rotation with the bench was limited to just a few minutes or during the Super Shot period.
At times the Thunderbirds lacked experience in the front end, and needed extra height at goal attack or more versatility at goal shooter. With experience in the Super Netball competition, new acquisition Dwan could be the solution to these problems.
Having learned from some of the very best international netballers, Dwan’s time at the Firebirds will be incredibly valuable from a personal and team perspective.
A starting combination of Potgieter at goal shooter, Dwan at goal attack and Horjus at wing attack could be lethal.
Four names feature in this section, but there are at least six, maybe even seven, players who could see time in a midcourt bib in 2022.
Captain Petty will continue to lead from the middle of the court. While her leadership was felt across the court last season, there is still room for the Wudinna-born player to grow in this space.
The move of Nankivell to the attacking end of the midcourt in 2021 was a new role, but one she flourished in. However, with the likes of McDonald, Petty and even Horjus looking to play in the wing attack role, the squeeze will be on and Nankivell may return to the defensive end.
McDonald will be hoping to see more court time next season, after her move to Adelaide was less fruitful than fellow Victorian Garrett’s. With another contract signed she will look to prove her value in the pre-season, with the aim of becoming a preferred option in 2022.
Williams’ elevation from training partner to contracted player is a reward for the young midcourter’s effort throughout her time in the South Australian netball pathway. The versatility of Williams will be loved by Obst, as she can be thrown into any position at any time in the game and will give it her all.
There is also Horjus, the young goaler who could start at wing attack in Round 1, and defender Wilson who’s wide wingspan will likely feature at wing defence throughout the season.
It is almost guaranteed these two players will make their way into the midcourt at some point during the year, but will they start there? We’ll leave that tricky decision to Obst.
The loss of van der Merwe will be felt most in the defensive group, who respected the international star and looked to her for support and guidance when things were tough.
Now it is up to Sterling to lead the group from her position at the back of the court; her view of the court at goal keeper will be key to how the likes of Garrett and Wilson influence play into the centre third.
Garrett, who moved to South Australia in search of more on-court opportunities, took her chances and started at goal defence in all 14 matches in 2021.
The combination between Sterling and Garrett came a long way in one season, with the pair quickly learning how to play alongside and compliment each other. Garrett learnt how to read Sterling – the “freak of nature” – while also developing her own defensive game.
Wilson will be an alternative option for the defensive goal circle, but will be more likely to feature at wing defence when the Thunderbirds are after extra height in the centre.
Adelaide has retained eight players, strengthened its attacking end and given an Australian youngster another Super Netball opportunity. The club will be aiming for a better start in 2022, if it wants to be any chance for its first top four finish.
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