For a state accustomed to national netball success, last year’s Australian Netball League ladder doesn’t sit well with South Australia’s Southern Force.
Missing the ANL finals for the first time since 2014 by a single point, after one-goal and six-goal losses in the final weekend of round robin games denied them a spot in the top four, has given the team all the motivation it needs ahead of its 2018 campaign.
“It’s a new team this year with a lot of new faces into the group, but it doesn’t dilute the fact that we were disappointed and that the Southern Force, representing our state, wants to be in finals and really make a stake for the title,” Force coach Brian Lines said as the team prepared to kick off its season against Canberra GIANTS on Saturday.
And it’s a fresh approach to training that the team hopes will deliver it back to the top of the national competition, which underpins Suncorp Super Netball.
Lines said the team identified a lack of court training and matchplay as key factors in its disappointing result last year, and moved quickly to change its program for 2018.
“We learnt that we needed to be on court a lot earlier as a group, which we’ve corrected,” he said.
“We’ve had weekly matchplay against either the (Adelaide) Thunderbirds or other teams, and a second session focusing on the skills for those matchplay sessions.”
A lot of the matchplay has been against the T-Birds, which is really cool, because then we can utilise the Thunderbirds training partners in our matchplay, and that’s what we felt was also missing a little bit last year, that we didn’t have those connections on court in our matches because we didn’t have that accessibility to those training partners. Dan (Thunderbirds coach Dan Ryan) and I are committed to making that connection much stronger this year.”
Thunderbirds training partners Gia Abernethy, Chelsea Blackman, Emily Burgess, Charlee Hodges and Chelsea Lemke are expected to play a significant part in the Force’s season, along with a group of returning players and four new faces.
Lines also pointed to defenders Lucy Armfield and Elly Cleggett, who have won the last two South Australian Premier League goal keeper of the year awards, as critical to the team’s chances.
Young midcourter Rebecca Moyne was still coming through South Australia’s junior ranks when the Force last hoisted the ANL trophy in 2012, but said the team is still acutely aware of the need to boost its performance.
“Our goal obviously for the season is to make finals this year and to be consistent with our performances,” she said.
“Last year we had some good performances but that’s what we need to have week in, week out, and I think that’s what let us down a bit.
“That’s a real focus: consistency and not playing stock standard netball, making our opposition actually think about what we’re going to put out on the court.”
The Force start their ANL draw with home games against Canberra GIANTS on Saturday 5 May and Sunday 6 May.
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2018 Southern Force team
Sophie Agostino (Oakdale)
Kelly Altmann (Oakdale)
Lucy Armfield (Garville)
Elly Cleggett (Oakdale)
Georgia Dent (Matrics)
Rebecca Moyne (Oakdale)
Maisie Nankivell (Matrics)
Asha Thurlow (Metro Jets)
Gia Abernethy* (Contax)
Chelsea Blackman* (Contax)
Emily Burgess* (Matrics)
Charlee Hodges* (Contax)
Chelsea Lemke* (Contax)
Note: * denotes player is an Adelaide Thunderbirds training partner.