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2014 Season Preview

With the start of the 2014 season of the ANZ Championship season less than 50 days away, the 10 teams in the trans-Tasman competition are stepping up their pre-season preparations in their attempt to claim the seventh Championship title.

With an offseason filled with big movements between teams, here’s my preview on each of the 10 ANZ Championship franchises for 2014.

Adelaide Thunderbirds

The first team to win multiple premierships in the championship, the Adelaide Thunderbirds, have lost two of their starting-seven premiership players during the offseason. Defender Sharni Layton has moved to the NSW Swifts after four years and two premierships with the Thunderbirds, whilst Australian and Adelaide captain, Natalie von Bertouch, retired from the game. Joining the team in their attempt to be the first team to win back-to-back premierships will be former West Coast Fever midcourter, Andrea Gilmore, as well as young talents Cody Lange and Madeleine Proud, returning from a year at the Australian Institute of Sport. The Thunderbirds’ young players will have to step up to fill the void left by some of the more experience players, or could find themselves victims of the premiership curse this year.

Queensland Firebirds

Last year’s runners-up, the Queensland Firebirds, have also recorded considerable losses to their team. Wing defender, Abbey McCulloch has defected to the NSW Swifts after one season with the Firebirds. Chelsea Pitman and Australian Diamonds goal attacker, Natalie Medhurst, both members of the Firebirds 2011 premiership side, have too left the team, joining the West Coast Fever.  They have however had some good gains over the offseason, with premiership defender, ClareMcMeniman has returned to the Championship after two years out of the game, adding to the already impressive defence of the Firebirds, and upcoming midcourter, Verity Simmons, moving to the Queensland side following a two year stint at the Fever. The Firebirds will be a tough competitor this season, providing that strong combinations in the new-look attacking line.

Melbourne Vixens

The Melbourne Vixens, following their third placing in 2013, will have their premierships hopes for the 2014 season bolstered with the signing of veteran Australian Diamonds shooter, Catherine Cox, who has played the past two seasons with the West Coast Fever. However, the Vixens have lost former Australian Diamonds captain and legend of the game, Sharelle McMahon, who after making her comeback after almost two years out of the game, has decided to retire from the sport. McMahon will be joining the Vixens for the 2014 season in the coaching group. Be on the lookout for the Vixens in 2014 – I’m tipping them to be the team to beat.

Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic

The Waikato/ Bay of Plenty Magic have had the most changes out of all ANZ Championship teams, with 10 changes being made to their playing line-up. Premiership coach, Noeline Taurua, who coached the Magic to their Championship win in 2012, and making them the first New Zealand side to claim the Premiership, will be replaced at the helm by former NSW Swifts head coach, Julie Fitzgerald, prompting mass changes within the team. Legendary shooter Irene van Dyk has made the move from Magic to the Central Pulse as well as New Zealand Silver Ferns captain, Laura Langman. The Magic have however had some good gains, with England shooter, Jo Harten, defecting from the Tactix. The Magic, with all the changes to their team during the offseason, may find the 2014 season difficult and potentially could fall out of finals contention.

Central Pulse

The Central Pulse are looking in good shape to make their first finals series in ANZ Championship history. Despite the loss of Australian Diamonds shooter, Caitlin Thwaites, who chose to move back to Australia after three years with the Pulse, they also gained valuable players in the offseason. The legend herself, Irene van Dyk, made the move from the Magic, the team which she had been with since the inception of the competition, to the Pulse. English defender Ama Agbeze also joins the Pulse for 2014, adding to the Pulse’s already impressive line-up.

Southern Steel

The Southern Steel has the most settled team out of all the franchises, with just three changes being made to their squad. One of the most prolific shooter in the 2013 season of the ANZ Championship, Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler re-signed with the Steel following her outstanding debut season, shooting 666 goals out of 709 attempts in 2013. The biggest loss for the Steel over the offseason was Courtney Tairi, who made her debut for the Silver Ferns in 2013. Tairi will take the court for the Magic in 2014.

West Coast Fever

The West Coast Fever will look to continue improving their standings, after recording their equal best finishing in the competition with five wins. Most notably, the Fever lost their captain and most experienced player, Catherine Cox, who made the move to Melbourne after two years with the Fever. This void in the goal attacking position will be filled however by Australian Diamonds goal attacker, Natalie Medhurst, who made the move west after four years and a premiership with the Firebirds. The Fever also gained Medhurst’s Firebirds teammate Chelsea Pitman, who too made the move west, with the inclusion of the two making the Fever a strong force in the 2014 season.

NSW Swifts

The NSW Swifts are looking to potentially be the biggest improvers in 2014, after a disappointing season last year. New head coach, Rob Wright, has made a number of changes to the team, with the signing of key players such as Australian Diamonds’ Sharni Layton and Caitlin Thwaites, with the aim to get the Swifts back into finals contention. The team also lost two of their long-time players – Vanessa Ware, who announced her retirement after eleven seasons playing for the Swifts in the national competitions; and Mo’onia Gerrard, who announced she was leaving the game for a year to focus on her goal to represent Australia in the rugby union in the Olympics. The Swifts are looking to be in good form to make a strong contention for the premiership in 2014.


The Tactix had a mixed offseason, with some gains and some losses. Most notably, their star shooter Jo Harten made the move to the Magic after two years with the Tactix. As her replacement, the Tactix have signed Malawi Queens shooter Mwai Kumwenda, who has recently impressed in the fast5 series in New Zealand last year. The side have also signed 2013 Mystics players Jessica Moulds and Hayley Saunders to boost their defence.

Northern Mystics

The Northern Mystics didn’t live up to their 2013 expectations, finishing on the bottom of the ladder and recording just one win for the season. Coach Debbie Fuller returns to the team and secured one of the best netballers in New Zealand, Laura Langman for 2014. With Anna Harrison returning after missing last year due to her pregnancy, and Bailey Mes set to return from her ACL tear which she injured in the last game of the season in 2013, as well as injuries to many others in their team, the Mystics injury woes should be over in 2014 and they will be looking to reclaim their place in the top four of the competition.


I’m tipping the top four at the end of the rounds to be the NSW Swifts, the Melbourne Vixens, the Central Pulse and the Northern Mystics, however the West Coast Fever and Southern Steel are also a close chance to make the finals. My pick for taking the Premiership, the Melbourne Vixens, who have the benefit of a fairly settled team which can only help their premiership campaign. With one of the best defensive combinations in the league, Bianca Chatfield and Geva Mentor, and an exciting and versatile midcourt and a mixture of youth and experience in the shooting end, they will be my pick for the team to beat in 2014.

The teams will get their first chance to test their new look line-ups in the pre-season tournament, the Summer Shootout, to be held in Melbourne on the 15th and 16th of February.

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