It’ll be uncharted waters for WA Sting in this year’s Australian Netball League.
As the team who finally cracked the code to Victoria’s dominance of the annual tournament, which underpins Suncorp Super Netball, the Sting will have something new to contend with in 2018: expectation.
The Sting pulled off one of the biggest upsets in ANL history last year, finishing the regular season in third place, knocking off second-placed Canberra Giants in the semi-finals and then smashing the top-placed Victorian Fury 63-47 in the final.
But the WA team are confident they have the players capable of delivering a successful title defence, with 10 of the 2017 squad returning for another tilt, along with four new faces.
Of course, they’ll have to do it without gun goal shooter Sophie Garbin, who was snapped up by the NSW Swifts after a record-breaking season that saw her smash the ANL goals record.
But new Sting coach Andrea McCulloch said last year’s breakthrough performance had become the base on which this year’s campaign has been built.
“Because they did win gold last year, it’s not about restarting and throwing everything out and doing something totally different this year,” McCulloch said.
“It’s more about building and continuing on from last year’s success and continuing to improve on what they did well and consolidating.”
McCulloch said the squad was showing signs of being able to reproduce its 2017 form.
“It’s been fantastic, actually. The girls have all been training exceptionally hard … and that’s really starting to show in our court play. The combinations are strong and we’ve got lots of different options with our combinations, so we’re looking to have a strong season this year.”
Defender Jess Penny, who was a part of last year’s success after returning from three years of injury and travel, said tight bonds between the players and a focus on full-court defence across all WA elite netball programs would underpin the team’s tilt at the 2018 title.
“I feel like we’re a strong team, as in a family on the court,” Penny said.
“The main focus for us is definitely on our defence, coming out of 2017, but we want to bring that into 2018 as well.”
“From the GS all the way to the GK, full court defence is definitely our goal. And that’s coming from (West Coast) Fever down through ANL and then through to our 17s and 19s, that’s WA’s focus.
Having Garbin move straight into a Suncorp Super Netball program was a huge carrot for the WA players, Penny said, knowing they’re being watched closely by SSN teams and coaches.
“It’s huge, especially coming into the 2019 Suncorp season. There’ll be definitely a lot of selectors watching. Everyone’s on show to all the Australian coaches and selectors. If you can perform at that level and adapt to different teams, that’s a massive, massive positive.”
The WA Sting start their ANL season with back-to-back games against the Tasmanian Magpies at Perth State Netball Centre on Saturday 5 May and Sunday 6 May.
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