Sharpshooter Brice joins the Force

Imagine having Geva Mentor, Sharni Layton and Laura Geitz as opponents in your first three ANZ Championship matches – that’s as tough an initiation as you could get for a young goal shooter.

But you won’t hear Kristina Brice complaining. The experience of playing on the world’s top defenders in the world’s best netball competition will only help her development.

The 21-year-old has been a prolific goal scorer in the Australian Netball League since 2012 that’s earned her opportunities to step up to ANZ Championship level as a replacement player with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Brice showed signs of her potential when lining up for the Thunderbirds against the Queensland Firebirds in Adelaide last month, scoring 28 goals matched up against the Australian Diamonds captain in Geitz.

Brice has moved from New South Wales to South Australia this year and will play for Southern Force in the ANL.

It’s taken the Australian 21/U rep out of her comfort zone and into a new environment – but Thunderbirds coach Michelle den Dekker and Force counterpart Tania Obst are both pleased with the progress Brice has made in her game since arriving in Adelaide.

With the Thunderbirds having a bye this weekend, Brice will make the trip to the nation’s capital for Force’s opening two matches of the ANL season against the Canberra Darters.

“Krissy needed to move away and start in a new state and we wanted to make sure that she was living those behaviors of a high performance athlete,” den Dekker said.

“We’re seeing that. She hasn’t missed a beat, her fitness levels are great and her performance targets are pretty exceptional.

“Last year (at ANL level) I thought she had shooting accuracy but not movement; she couldn’t rebound her own shots or other peoples.

“This year we’ve worked on that, worked on her speed and just not having her as a tall shooter. She’s got a big tool box now and that’s because she’s in good physical shape.”

Pictures: Courtesy of David Callow and Ben Southall

Brice was the ANL’s leading goal scorer in 2012 (playing for the AIS) and 2014 (playing for NNSW Waratahs) and was joint winner of the Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2014.

Obst has vivid memories of Brice dominating a match for Waratahs against Force in the 2014 season, where her 468 goals was also a record for the most goals in an ANL season, and was happy to have the 196cm shooter wearing a red dress this season.

“Kristina had a quieter ANL campaign last year but her 2014 season was exceptional and we want to bring that form back because she’s certainly capable of being a dominant target,” Obst said.

“Kristina can be a real threat when the ball is delivered to her advantage.”

Brice is poised to break another ANL goalscoring record this weekend. She needs 31 goals to overtake the current mark of 1184 held by Kathleen Knott (Victorian Fury).

All she’s focusing on is helping Force, last year’s runners up, get away to a winning start against Darters, who have been competitive so far in their outings against reigning champions Victorian Fury and the Waratahs.

“I don’t think about that sort of stuff,” Brice said. “It’s more about my game and what I can do best to help the team win. Records just come and will be broken by someone else one day.

“It’s been good so far (in Adelaide) and I’m enjoying learning some new skills off different coaches.”

Like Force, Western Sting will make their first appearance of the season this weekend when they host QLD Fusion while the Waratahs head south to Melbourne to face the Fury. Sunday’s game is part of a double header following the Melbourne Vixens-NSW Swifts clash at Hisense Arena.

Week Three Fixtures

Western Sting v QLD Fusion
Saturday, May 14
State Netball Centre, Perth

Sunday, May 15
State Netball Centre, Perth

Victorian Fury v NNSW Waratahs
Saturday, May 14
State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne

Sunday, May 15
Hisense Arena (to follow ANZ Championship)

Canberra Darters v Southern Force
Saturday, May 14
SolarHub ACT Netball Centre

Sunday, May 15
SolarHub ACT Netball Centre