THE dust has just settled on what was an exciting Australian Netball League season.
The trophy remains in Victoria for another 12 months after the Victorian Fury triumphed in the Grand Final on their home court in Sunday’s decider – but the list of contenders to take that crown is growing.
Here’s five things we learned from the 2014 ANL season.
Who can end Victorian Fury’s winning streak?
We’ll have to wait until next year to answer that question, but 23 consecutive victories stretching over two complete seasons is a remarkable achievement by any team in any sport. The Fury is one win off equalling the record they set back in 2010 and will also be aiming in 2015 to make it a hat-trick of ANL titles. They also achieved that feat from 2008-2010. While they made it back-to-back titles this year, it wasn’t without a few tense moments. Their two matches against Netball NSW Waratahs went right down to the wire while the Grand Final saw them hold off a fast-finishing QLD Fusion. The Fury has lost just eight of their 77 ANL matches since the competition began and there’ll be a lot of states keen to be the first team to knock them off next year.
Among the many positives to come from Western Sting’s campaign was the performances of captain Ashleigh Brazill. The former Australian Diamonds squad member gave everyone a timely reminder of her talents by taking out the competition’s Player of the Year award. After two injury-interrupted seasons with West Coast Fever in the ANZ Championship, Brazill deserves a bit of luck and fingers crossed fans get to see more of her out on court in 2015. Brazill said she enjoyed contributing every game and helping develop the West Australian young players. Sting coach and new West Coast Fever mentor Stacey Rosman was also delighted by Brazill’s leadership so watch for her to flourish in that capacity in 2015.
If she wasn’t already, young New South Wales shooter Kristina Brice will be on the watch list of ANZ Championship teams after a record-breaking season for the Netball NSW Waratahs. The 20-year-old finished the campaign with 468 goals at an average of 42.5 goals a match and 93 per cent accuracy. That tally eclipsed the previous mark of 461 set in 2013 by Mwai Kumwenda (Victorian Fury), who’s now plying her trade in the trans-Tasman competition with the Mainland Tactix. Brice, who stands 196cm, also shared the Player of the Year award with Brazill. A member of Australia’s 21/U World Youth Netball Championship team last season, Brice must wait patiently for her opportunity to showcase her talents at the elite level.
The QLD Fusion and Western Sting re-emerged as title contenders in 2014 and both have a solid core group of young talent in their squads to remain around the top of the ladder next season. The Sting’s third place finish equalled their overall best standing which they achieved in 2011 and 2012 while the Fusion broke through for their first ever Grand Final appearance and almost produced the upset of the season against the Fury. That they chased down an 11-goal deficit and closed within one of the Fury with a minute left to play showed what spirit they had in the team. As Fury coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell noted after the match, sides now know they have to play 60 minutes of netball to beat the Fusion.
ANZ Championship fans, remember these names for 2015: Alice Teague-Neeld, Kaylia Stanton, Beryl Friday, Ingrid Colyer, Jo Weston, Gretel Tippett, Chloe Watson, Stephanie Wood and Emily Mannix. If you went along and watched an ANL match somewhere around Australia during the season these up-and-coming athletes would have caught your eye. All have contracts with ANZ Championship franchises next season and showed throughout the campaign what potential they have to make an impact at the next level. The depth of talent emerging through Australia’s pathways is exciting.