Netball to farewell three Australian stalwarts

2014 Round 14 ANZ Championship game Adelaide Thunderbirds v Mainland TactixAn era of Australian netball will come to an end when three stalwarts bow out of the ANZ Championship on both sides of the Tasman this weekend.

Jane Woodlands-Thompson, right, will make her 114th and last appearance as coach of the Adelaide Thunderbirds – fittingly at home – when her side finishes their season against the Central Pulse on Sunday.

She’s been the Thunderbirds coach for all eight seasons of the ANZ Championship and will bow out the most successful coach in the competition’s history with the most victories overall (69) and having led them to premierships in 2010 and 2013.

“I’m looking forward to the game,” Woodlands-Thompson said. “When that final whistle goes it will hit me then. One of the biggest things I’m going to miss is being part of an elite sports team and that’s not something you can get in any other employment sector. That’s something really special and I’ll be very sad not to be part of that anymore.”

2013ANZ-GF-ATvQF1949LWoodlands-Thompson said it’s been an “incredible honor and privilege” to have led the Thunderbirds and also been allowed put her stamp on Netball SA’s High Performance Program, through their `Thunderbabes’ development program and the state’s underage sides.

“I’m really proud of our next layer,” Woodlands-Thompson said. “Our Thunderbabes program will churn out some great players in the next few years.

“(South Australia) has won the 21/U title three years in a row and they’ve had a wonderful environment to develop and blossom and we’re finally sowing the seeds of what we planted five years ago which is super exciting.

“I’m going to be super proud to sit in the stands and see Hannah Petty and Sarah Klau and Chelsea Lemke and Gia Abernathy come through and represent the Thunderbirds knowing that what we put in place was a really good pathway for them and netball in South Australia.

Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander served as an assistant to Woodlands-Thompson for four years – including their historic first title – and said she has enormous respect for what she’s achieved in the world’s best netball competition.

“Jane has a terrific sense of humour and we had a lot of laughs and enjoyed our time immensely together,” Alexander said.

“I have much admired Jane’s attention to detail and `no stone unturned’ approach that she has brought to her coaching and her creative style.

“Personally, I will miss her professionalism and just plain hard work within our High Performance system whether with the Adelaide Thunderbirds or assisting the Australian Diamonds program.

“I also have enormous respect for the sacrifices she has made, along with her family, to contribute so tirelessly to our efforts to maintain excellence within our national system.”

Across the Tasman, two former Australian internationals are also making their last appearances at the elite level.

2015 ANZ Championship Round 13 Melbourne Vixens v NSW SwiftsThe Melbourne Vixens will farewell inspirational captain Bianca Chatfield, left, when they travel to Auckland to take on the Northern Mystics.

The 33-year-old began her career in the former national league as an 18-year-old and will bow out having played the second most ANZ Championship games (111) of an Australian player behind Natalie Medhurst.

Overall, Chatfield has made 243 national league appearances with only Catherine Cox (254) playing more.

She also played 54 Tests for Australia.

2015 ANZ Championship Round 9 Vixens v Tactix“I’ve hogged one of the defence positions for 17 years and it’s about time someone else gets an opportunity out there,” Chatfield said.

Defender Demelza Fellowes, right, has also called time on her national league career that spans 15 years with teams in both Australia and New Zealand.

The 34-year-old, who has played for four teams in the ANZ Championships, plays her last match for New Zealand side the Mainland Tactix in Christchurch on Sunday night.

“For half my life this game has blessed me with so much joy and I can’t thank it enough,” Fellowes, who played nine Tests for Australia, said.

“I won’t know myself when it comes to December and I don’t have a set program, but I’m excited about that at the same time.”