Adelaide Thunderbirds Squad Analysis
It has been a tough couple of years for the Thunderbirds, a former powerhouse squad that has been the worst performed Australian side since 2015. Only three 2016 squad members have survived into the new season but that is perhaps not such a bad thing for the Thunderbirds to take a fresh start.
The big off-season recruit for the Thunderbirds is Karyn Bailey from the Vixens. Bailey is somewhat maligned but, statistically, her performances suggest she is comparable to Caitlyn Thwaites as the next best Australian shooter behind Caitlyn Bassett. In fact Bailey may flourish even further in 2017 as her statistics over the last 3 seasons suggest no shooter is more primed to benefit from the retirement of Laura Geitz than Karyn Bailey:
Bailey will receive support from former Diamond and long range specialist Erin Bell. The performances of Bell have matched that of her team over the last two years as she has slumped to be among the lowest rated GA’s in the competition. Bell’s shooting percentage dropped to 75% in 2016 (the premier GA’s shoot over 80%) and Bell's game-style ensures that she will generally shoot rather than look to pass of to her GS, leading to a poor Goal Assist tally. Finally, when Bell does pass, she tends to turn the ball over far more than the likes of premier GA’s such as Susan Pettitt and Nat Medhurst. It is crucial that Bell rediscovers something approaching her form of 2014 if Adelaide is to be a force this season. Jane Cook will be the back-up shooter to Bailey and Bell. Standing at 202cm, Cook is the tallest player in the competition and has the potential to pose a defensive nightmare for opponents if she can mature her strength and positioning with the Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds boast plenty of mid-court experience with English squad members Jade Clarke and Chelsea Locke supported by young guns Hannah Petty and Emily Burgess. Locke enjoyed an impressive 2016 at WA for the Central Pulse (indeed was our highest rated player in that position), however her form against Australian opponents was well below that of New Zealand opponents and that is some cause for concern. Jade Clarke struggled to find consistency last season with the Thunderbirds but her experience will likely see her get first crack at the crucial Centre bib. However, the Thunderbirds will be keen to keep an eye on the future and Hannah Petty is sure to be given the opportunity at Centre at some point during the season. Petty will be competing with Burgess for the WD spot – Petty was good early last season before succumbing to injury and should start at WD with an opportunity for Burgess likely dependent on whether the Thunderbirds are tempted to push Petty up court.
Defence poses plenty of questions for the Thunderbirds. English skipper Ama Agbeze returns to the top Australian domestic league and will be joined by Jamaican skipper Malysha Kelly. The international duo does not enjoy a great record against Australian opponents and we expect the Adelaide defence to be their greatest weakness in 2017. Completing the most international team in the competition is former Scottish representative Fiona Themann who deserves an opportunity having long been an impressive performer in the 2nd tier Australian competition.
Predicted 2017 Position: 6th
2017 Objective: Unlike the youth focus of the Swifts and Fever, the Thunderbirds have to be targeting finals with their numerous international signings and, in particular, the signing of experienced duo Agbeze and Bailey.
Player to Watch: Hannah Petty - Burst onto the scene with a sparkling debut performance against the Fever in Round 1 2016 and was looking set to establish herself in the league before being struck down by injury. The Australian Under 21 representative has a great opportunity to make the WD spot her own and possibly even push up to Centre in 2017.
The big question mark: Will the Thunderbirds defence be able to restrict teams to sub-55 goal totals in order to give their shooters a realistic chance for regular victory