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Super Netball 2018 Season

It has been a long wait (pesky Commonwealth Games) but Suncorp Super Netball is back! Exciting times for TipBetPro after picking up 9 units (+15%) in our first season of netball betting and we are excited to do it all again in 2018.

Whilst in 2017, there was a clear gap between the top 5 sides (Lightning, Giants, Vixens, Magpies and Firebirds) and the bottom 3 (Swifts, Fever and Thunderbirds) – we are expecting more sides to be competing for finals action in season 2018. Indeed, with the champs from Sunshine Coast Lightning expected to come back to the pack (ask New Zealand netball how big a deal it is to lose Laura Langman) and the Fever and Swifts expected to improve significantly, our projections show very little separating 7 sides with only the Thunderbirds looking to be in “development” mode for the 2018 season.

This is how the TipBetPro model ranks the teams for 2018:

1. Melbourne Vixens – Team Rank 126 TBP Points

The Vixens surprised many throughout 2017 claiming the minor premiership with an entertaining, fast paced, high scoring brand of netball. In attack, Goal Shooter Mwai Kumwenda was a revelation, enjoying playing as part of a successful side and benefiting from the great feeds from a dominant Vixens midcourt. Goal Attack Tegan Philip returned from an injury ruined 2016 to rediscover her speed and simply be too quick for the majority of Goal Defences and she ensured that the Vixens had a two-pronged attack that was too much for most defences to handle. In 2018 – we rate the Vixens attacking formation alongside the Lightning (Bassett and Wood) and Fever (Fowler and Medhurst) as the best in the competition. What sets the Vixens apart is their midcourt with Kate Moloney (C/WD) and Liz Watson (C/WA) genuine superstars who overtook the Magpies attacking midcourt duo (Robinson and Ravaillion) as the best mid-court in the game last season. Plenty of options for the 3rd midcourt position with Khao Watts and Chloe Watson both more than capable of filling multiple positions in the midcourt as required depending on where they want to place Moloney and Watson. The Vixens defence features outstanding young duo Emily Mannix and Jo Weston who both can only benefit from Diamonds experience during the offseason. Exciting defence and world leading mid-court and attacking options has the Vixens our pre-season favourites for 2018.

2. Collingwood Magpies – Team Rank 119 TBP Points

Finishing 4th after buying up big with a virtually all Diamonds line-up was a bitter disappointment for Collingwood in season 2017. Other than Goal Shooter Caitlyn Thwaites, all other Magpie players under-performed with reputations slightly tarnished by their failure to perform in 2017. One of the great issues with the Magpies was their struggles in the Goal Attack bib as Alice Teague-Neeld lost confidence and struggled terribly forcing midcourter Shae Brown to be the number one Magpies Goal Attack by season end. The recruitment of Erin Bell from the Thunderbirds considerably improves the Magpies attacking end and with reduced reliance on the brilliant Thwaites, the Magpies should move back into premiership contention in 2018. Elsewhere across the court, the Magpies talent is undeniable. Kim Ravaillion and Madi Robinson didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2017 but they have enough credits in the bank to still be regarded amongst the world’s best in their positions. Ash Brazill and Shae Brown will likely compete for the final spot in the mid-court with the tenacious duo inspirational with their attack on the ball and defensive capabilities. In defence, Sharni Layton and April Brandley will cause opposing goal circles plenty of headaches with Layton’s reading of the play and Brandley’s unflinching tight defence ensuring that even the slightest mistake from opponents will result in a turnover. The only problem with this side is team chemistry and with a season under their belts we expect the Magpies to rebound from their 2017 struggles.

3. Giants Netball – Team Rank 117 TBP Points

The 2017 runner-ups get two huge boosts for their 2018 campaign with the return from injury of Kim Green and Kristiana Manu’a. The Giants ooze experience with star mid-courter Green feeding to veterans Jo Harten and Susan Pettitt – can that trio continue to perform at their best to lead the Giants to go one better than 2017? The great news for the Giants is if one of their veteran shooters isn’t firing they have the best back up shooter in the league in Kristina Brice and that depth was crucial in turning games several times in 2017. Joining Green in the mid-court will be another experienced star in English midcourter Serena Guthrie with the immensely talented Jamie Lee-Price likely to join Green and Guthrie in an all-star mid-court that ranks only marginally behind the Vixens and Magpies. There is plenty of experience in defence as well with Bec Bulley exceptional last season returning from the birth of her first child and Sam Poolman looking a revitalised player at the Giants after struggling somewhat to fulfil her potential at former club the Thunderbirds. With Manu’a providing an exciting 3rd defensive option, the Giants are well stocked across the court and perhaps the only risk to another strong campaign is a decline in the output of their large group of players at the back end of their career.

4. West Coast Fever – Team Rank 116 TBP Points

We can talk about the development of youth and the emergence of Courtney Bruce as a bona fide star as reasons for our model predicting the Fever to be the 2018 bolter, but overwhelmingly their expected march up the ladder is due to one reason – Jhanielle Fowler. The superstar Goal Shooter was the highest rated player in the old ANZ netball competition in 2016 and enjoyed an immensely successful 2017 campaign in New Zealand before leading Jamaica to it’s first ever medal at the Commonwealth games. The recruitment of Fowler to join veteran Nat Medhurst in the Fever attack gives Fever an attacking goal circle up there with the Vixens and Lightning as the best in the league. The mid-court has historically been an issue for the Fever but 2017 saw Ingrid Colyer improve her game significantly and Verity Charles enjoy her best ever season at the club. The real reason for the Fever’s mid-court improvement though is rookie Jess Anstiss who won the club MVP in her rookie season and possessed an incredible ability to read the play through the mid-court to rack up terrific numbers of deflections and intercepts for a mid-courter. The Fever defence is led by new skipper Courtney Bruce who has emerged as one of the best defenders in the country and can seamlessly manoeuvre between the GK and GD bibs. This allows the Fever the flexibility to rotate between youngster Annika Lee-Jones for taller attacking line-ups and English import Stacey Francis for when more mobility is required. A quality young outfit with a superstar Goal Shooter, the Fever have a huge chance to qualify for just their 2nd ever finals series in 2018.

5. NSW Swifts – Team Rank 114 TBP Points

This will likely cause some controversy ranking the Fever and Swifts over the higher profile Queensland teams but we are really bullish on the Swifts. The Swifts only won 3 games in 2017 but were agonisingly close on numerous occasions and with their youth, one would expect they could only improve. The shooting circle combination of Sam Wallace and Helen Housby impressed last year and should only improve with Housby boasting sky high confidence following her magnificent Commonwealth Games performance (and match winning goal for the Gold Medal!). Mid-court for the Swifts will likely feature Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley and Abbey McCulloch (with depth from Claire O’Brien). The star here is Proud who enjoyed a spectacular 2017 campaign – her first half of the season briefly seeing her rated the top mid-courter in the competition before dropping off a little towards the tail of the season. There is upside here as well with Paige Hadley a great talent who has fallen off the radar a little since debuting as a Diamond at a young age whilst skipper McCulloch is returning from injury and would expect to have a greater influence in 2018. The Swifts defensive circle may not feature big names but statistically they excel with 2017 Swifts MVP Maddy Turner and the vastly improved Sarah Klau ranked 3rd only to the Lightning (Mentor and Pretorius) and Magpies (Layton and Brandley) by the TipBetPro model. Expect the Swifts to be right in the conversation for finals come the business end of the season.

6. Sunshine Coast – Team Rank 113 TBP Points

The “6th” ranking is a little deceptive here for the Sunshine Coast given we can just about throw a blanket across the top 7 teams in the competition (particularly 2nd to 7th). The defending premiers still boast dominant goal circles with Diamonds duo Caitlyn Bassett and Steph Wood at one end and international superstars Geva Mentor and Karla Pretorius (formerly Mostert). Each one of this quartet is an established international star and they were the driving force behind the Sunshine Coast winning the inaugural Super Netball championship in 2017. However, the impact of Laura Langman holding together an inexperienced midcourt cannot be under-estimated and in her absence we have question marks on an incredibly inexperienced Lightning mid-court. Laura Scherian and Kelsey Browne were outstanding in 2017 but will need to step up again in 2018 in the absence of Langman for the Lightning to repeat their 2017 success. A side where back to back success wouldn’t surprise but they’ll find it a tougher battle than 2017 with no Langman and most of their competition getting stronger.

7. Queensland Firebirds – Team Rank 110 TBP Points

The golden girl is back! Laura Geitz re-joins the Firebirds after a year off on maternity leave and based on her performance in the Commonwealth Games the champ has lost nothing. This Firebirds side boasts several proven stars with Geitz joined by Gabi Simpson at WD, Gretel Tippett at GA and Romelda Aiken at GS all with sensational records. The issue for the Firebirds is that their stars are no longer the dominant players in the competition they once were. There is no suggestion they are past their physical peak (Tippett is only 24, Simpson 25 and Aiken 29) however their player ranking does appear to be on the decline from the lofty heights when the Firebirds dominated the old ANZ champs. The Firebirds have some exciting youth to complement their stars with exciting youngster Jemma Mi Mi looking capable of playing Centre to assist veteran Caitlyn Nevins to return to her preferred Wing Attack position after spending a lot of time in the Centre bib last season. Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchcliffe will both be given early opportunities to lock down the GD bib left vacant by Kate Shmmin’s return to Adelaide. Both have shown enough in the pre-season to suggest they will be capable defenders for the Firebirds and we expect them to learn quickly under the tutelage of Geitz. For ours the key is in attack though - if Tippett and Aiken can return to their best the Firebirds will be a premiership threat but if not the Firebids will find finals a struggle in an extremely tough competition.

8. Adelaide Thunderbirds – Team Rank 81 TBP Points

We have “ranked” the sides above but in reality it is so even that it would not overly surprise us if our “7th” ranked side the Firebirds ended up as champions or our “1st” ranked side the Vixens dropped to 7th … what would surprise us though is if Adelaide finished anywhere other than last. Last year’s wooden spooners have put a lot of faith in a pair of New Zealand veterans that are well past their best in the recruitment of 40 year old Leanna de Bruin and 31 year old Cat Tuivati (formerly Latu). Indeed, the Thunderbirds have already been cruelled by injury with Tuivati succumbing to a knee injury shortly after being recruited by the Thunderbirds and unlikely to be available until late in the season whilst replacement Sasha Glasgow battled an off-season ankle injury and also won’t play the early rounds. In attack the Thunderbirds are ranked last in the competition by a long way with untested duo Shimona Nelson (injury replacement for Tuivati) and Abigail Latu-Meafou likely to start the season in attack. The mid-court has a little more strength with the experienced Chelsea Pitman to be joined by South African skipper Bongiwe Msomi and support coming from young up and comers Hannah Petty and Kaitlyn Brice. The Thunderbirds won’t be embarrassed through the mid-court but they still are unlikely to be a powerhouse and we rate their mid-court below average relative to the rest of the competition. In defence new skipper De Bruin will be joined by Kate Shimmin and Scottish defender Fiona Fowler (formerly Themann). Like the mid-court, whilst this defence is solid (with some upside from the exciting Fowler), it is certainly a long way from the premier defences in the competition and is ranked by the TipBetPro model as below average. So below average in defence and mid-court and a long way last in attack – for Adelaide fans we hope we’re wrong but it is hard to see where the Thunderbirds wins are going to come from in 2018.

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