21/U national titles kick off Tuesday


South Australia will be out to end the host team hoodoo at this year’s 21/U National Netball Championships, which start in Adelaide next Tuesday.

No team has won the national crown on its home court for almost two decades and South Australia is defending the title in Adelaide for the first time since 1998.

The 2014 21/U tournament begins on Tuesday 12 March and runs through until Sunday 16 March.

South Australia has retained 10 players from last year’s triumphant line-up, including shooter Cody Lange and midcourter Madeleine Proud, who were members of Australia’s 21/U side that won silver at last year’s World Youth Netball Championships in Glasgow.

That duo have also returned to the Adelaide Thunderbirds’ line-up in the ANZ Championship this year after spending 12 months at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

Victoria will field an entirely new line-up to the one that finished runner-up to South Australia in 2013.

Victoria has five players – Melissa Bragg, Maggie Lind, Emily Mannix, Madeline Morrison and Chloe Watson – who were part of its 19/U team last year stepping up to the top age group in a bid to help the state win its first 21/U title since 2007.

The Vics’ line-up also features 18-year-old shooter Alice Teague-Neeld, who finished runner up in the Australian Netball League MVP award last year and was part of the state’s triumphant 17/U line-up.

New South Wales missed the Grand Final last year for the first time since 2006 and has six players from its 2013 squad featuring again.

Unfortunately, the Sky Blues will be without star NSW Swifts shooter Gretel Tippett after she was ruled out of the tournament through injury.

Tippett’s Swifts teammate Madeline Hay and World Youth Championship teammate Kristina Brice are among the Sky Blues’ squad, as is defender Kristiana Manu’a, who was twice called up by the Swifts in 2013 as a replacement player.

Western Australia’s line-up features four members from its squad that played at last year’s nationals in Perth.

Mid-courter Ingrid Colyer was called up by West Coast Fever as a replacement player in the ANZ Championship last season and was also part of the state’s ANL squad.  Injury has also forced new Fever signing and Australian 21/U representative Kaylia Stanton out of the tournament.

The last time Western Australia contested the Grand Final of the 21/U national championship was back in 2006 – also in Adelaide.

Queensland has four players from its 2013 line-up returning this year and among its new faces are Beryl Friday and Madeline McAuliffe, who were part of the state’s ANL roster last season and also the Australian 19/U squad.

The Australian Capital Territory finished fifth in 2013, equalling its best ever result at the 21/U national titles, and have eight players returning from last year’s squad along with 18-year-old shooter Georgia Marshall.

Marshall captained New South Wales at the 2013 17/U nationals and has also been part of the NSW Blues squad in the ANL for the past two seasons.

New 21/U coach Tania Obst and selector Nicole Richardson will be watching all the action over the week with an Australia 21/U squad to be announced at the end of the tournament to attend a training camp in Canberra later this year.

A tour of New Zealand is also planned for September.