THE rest of the world is about to see firsthand why the ANZ Championship is the best competition for developing young talent.
When Australia and New Zealand take to the court in Glasgow for the Gold Medal play-off at the World Youth Netball Championships, both sides will be stocked with talent representing the 10 ANZ Championship franchises.
The two teams have gone through the tournament undefeated to set up a fascinating showdown for the gold medal.
Given the amount of talent in both squads, it will be interesting to see what line-ups the respective coaches Carol Byers (Australia) and Janine Southby (New Zealand) start with and what changes they make during the game.
In the build-up to what should be a cracking contest, we take a look at each section of the court to see which team may hold the overall advantage.
This is where Australia’s strength lies. It boasts two current Diamonds squad members in Kim Ravaillion (Queensland Firebirds) and Paige Hadley (NSW Swifts), who are both influential playmakers.
They’ll be supported by Ravaillion’s Firebirds teammate Gabi Simpson and team captain Maddy Proud, who is returning to the Adelaide Thunderbirds next season.
The loss of Silver Fern Kayla Cullen to a knee injury in the lead-up to the tournament doesn’t appear to have impacted on New Zealand’s game plan at all.
It still has some solid midcourt options in new Northern Mystics recruit Nadia Loveday, who has crossed from the Kia Magic, Stacey Peeters (Steel), Erikana Pederson (Mystics) and Kirsten Hurley (Tactix) who are capable of shutting down their opponents.
Phoenix Karaka and team captain Storm Purvis have no doubt benefitted from playing an ANZ Championship season together with the Steel and both will know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Zoe Walker showed promising signs with the Tactix in 2013 and has carried that form into the championships. She’s the shortest of the New Zealand defenders (181cm) but has proved she’s capable of being able to stand tall shooters and handle any task thrown at her.
Australia also has good options in defence with Adelaide Thunderbirds’ premiership player Kate Shimmin and Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever) also gaining great experience at ANZ Championship level in 2013.
New Melbourne Vixens signing Jo Weston and Michaela Wilson, who’s previously had court time with the Vixens, have been more than handy alternatives throughout the tournament.
Shooters from both teams have been given plenty of court time throughout the tournament and are putting up big numbers.
Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Steel) and Malia Paseka (Mystics) are likely to be the starting combination for New Zealand with Sophia Fenwick (Tactix) waiting for her opportunity at some stage throughout the match.
New Magic signing Brooke Leaver has shown an ability to score heavily when given an opportunity in the circle.
New South Wales’ Kristina Brice will be Australia’s main target and the 197cm shooter’s performances throughout the championships are no doubt attracting the attention of a few ANZ Championship teams, who will be keen to follow her progress in 2014.
The Thunderbirds were eager to regain Cody Lange’s services next season – and it’s easy to see why through her output in her time on court.
New Swifts signing Gretel Tippett, who was called up as replacement player twice by the Firebirds in 2013, and Kaylia Stanton, who is joining West Coast next year, are both showing signs that they will be able to handle the step up to the elite level.
Social media has been abuzz during the tournament with their ANZ Championship teammates offering support and encouragement from both sides of the Tasman.
The final may be played in the early hours of Sunday morning for those in the Southern Hemisphere, but no doubt there’ll be plenty of fans staying awake to see which country can hold bragging rights for the next four years.
Visit www.worldyouthnetball.com for a live stream of the Final. The game will be played at 3.45am (NZST), 1.45am (AEST), 1.15am (CST) and 11.45pm (Saturday night, AWST).