#CommonwealthGames ~ Netball; the sport filled with Female Coaches
Netball is one of those few sports in the World which is dominated by female athletes. The history of netball explains why, with it being invented just a year after basketball in 1891, it was designed to ‘accommodate’ women allowing them to adhere to social conventions of the time. With its initial intention of attracting more women to play basketball, the rules were modified in England several years later to create an entirely new sport called ‘Net Ball’. The first codified rules of netball were published at the start of the twentieth century, and from there the new sport spread throughout the British Empire.
In modern history, there have of course been the formation of men only teams and leagues, but at the performance / elite end, the sport remains entirely female; and with this of course, comes an almost entirely female coaching workforce. the more dominant / successful female coaches tend to originate from the oceanic Islands as Australia and New Zealand have dominated international netball for many years. Netball participation in those two countries are huge and both have professional leagues for their female athletes and coaches. Coaching legends such as Lisa Alexander, Marg Foster and Norma Plumer have been at the forefront of the development of netball.
In the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, 11 Teams out of the 12 have Head Female Coaches, all except Uganda, who have been on the hunt for a female coach for some time.
Click on the list of coaches below to read their profile and biography.
Australia – Lisa Alexander
Barbados – Anna Shepard
England – tracey neville
Fiji – Viki Wilson
Jamaica – Marvette Anderson
Malawi – Whyte Mulilna
New Zealand – Janine Southby
Northern Ireland – Elaine Rice
South Africa – Norma Plumer
Scotland – Gail Parata
Uganda – Rashid Muiru
Wales – Julie Hoonweg
Preview of the teams
The reigning gold medalists Australia, head into a home Commonwealth Games for the first time since 2006. During those Games in Melbourne, the Diamonds had to settle for a silver medal as rivals New Zealand took the gold in the final. Twelve years on and the opportunity to win a Commonwealth gold medal on home soil presents itself again.
Australia are the most successful nation when it comes to netball at the Commonwealth Games. Out of the five Commonwealth Games netball has featured in, the Diamonds have won gold three times. The first came in the inaugural netball tournament at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur 1998. Four years later the Diamonds tasted gold again when the Games came to Manchester. The Aussies would have to wait twelve years for their next gold medal, which came in the last Commonwealth Games, four years ago in Glasgow.
Australia are currently unbeaten in 2018 having won the Quad Series back in January. In that competition they defeated three of the top four sides in the world in England, New Zealand and South Africa. Their title clenching victory against the Silver Ferns was their largest victory against them since 2012.
Coach Lisa Alexander stated that selecting the squad was ‘enormously difficult’.
The side will be captained by Caitlin Bassett with Gabi Simpson as the vice captain. The squad consists of five former Commonwealth Games gold medalists who were victorious in Glasgow 2014. They are; Caitlin Bassett, Laura Geitz, Kim Ravaillion, Madi Robinson and Caitlin Thwaites.
Laura Geitz returns to the Diamonds squad for the first time since 2015 after a two year hiatus at international level following the birth of her first child.
Susan Pettitt has also been named in the squad after missing out four years ago in Glasgow. This will be Pettitt’s third Games following a silver medal in both Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010.
Six players will make their first ever appearance at a Commonwealth Games. They are; April Brandley, Courtney Bruce, Jo Weston, Gabi Simpson, Liz Watson and Stephanie Wood.
The squad have a combined total of 431 caps, with captain Caitlin Bassett being the highest capped with 74 and Stephanie Wood being the lowest capped with 8.
Barbados have been ever present at all of the netball events at the Commonwealth Games. Alongside Barbados, only Australia, New Zealand, England, Jamaica and South Africa have been ever presents. Their highest placed finish was in Delhi 2010 where they finished 7th.
In the twenty two games Barbados have had at the Commonwealth Games they have been victorious on eight occasions leaving them with a 36% winning record.
During Glasgow 2014, Barbados scored 215 goals which was the ninth highest. Shonette Azore was the player with the highest amount of interceptions during Glasgow 2014 with twenty four.
Barbados hosted fellow Commonwealth Games competitors, Uganda, in a three match test series in March. Barbados did slip to a 2-1 series defeat, however, their 42-38 victory in the second test certainly showed that the Bajan Gems can be a threat in this competition. Read more about that series here.
Five members of the Bajan Gems squad have participated at a Commonwealth Games before, including Vice Captain, Latonia Blackman who will be entering her fifth Commonwealth Games campaign. This is an extraordinary feat considering Gold Coast 2018 will only be the sixth time that netball has been staged at the Commonwealth Games.
Blackman made her Commonwealth Games debut at Manchester 2002 in which the Gems finished 9th overall. She was recently awarded Senior Female Athlete of the Year and the President’s Award at the annual Barbados Olympic Association (BOA) Awards ceremony. Read more here. Nobody has played more times for the Bajan Gems than Latonia Blackman.
In contrast, Barbados will send five Commonwealth Games debutantes to the Gold Coast. They are Tonisha Rock-Yaw, Shonte Seale, Teresa Howell, Rieah Holder and Vanessa Bobb.
Elsewhere, Damisha Croney will participate in her third Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. She has played in Delhi 2010 and in Glasgow 2014. Shonette Azore, Rhe-Ann Niles and Shonica Wharton were also present at Glasgow 2014.
The England Roses are another side who have been ever present in the netball event at the Commonwealth Games. In five previous appearances, England have been on the podium three times although they have never finished above the bronze medal position.
England missed out on the medals all together in the last Commonwealth Games, being pipped to the Bronze by Jamaica, 52-48. The Roses were on the podium the last time the Commonwealth games was on Australian soil. They finished third in Melbourne 2006 after a 53-52 win against Jamaica.
Tracey Neville’s side had a good 2017, beating the Silver Ferns in New Zealand and winning the Netball Europe Open via a clean sweep of victories. They have started 2018 in the same vein of good form. Finishing second in the January Quad Series, after victories over New Zealand and South Africa, was their highest finish in the competition.
There will be plenty of experience within Tracey Neville’s side at the Gold Coast. Eight of the twelve members of the squad have participated at a Games before with Geva Mentor about to participate in her fifth Commonwealth Games. This milestone will mean Mentor will have played at all but one netball event at the Commonwealth Games since its inclusion in 1998.
Elsewhere, Jade Clarke will be competing at her fourth Games whilst captain Ama Agbeze, Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Jo Harten will be representing the Roses for a third time on the Commonwealth stage.
Beth Cobden, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite and Chelsea Pitman will be making their inaugural appearance at a Games this April.
This will be the Fiji Pearls first appearance in the netball event at the Commonwealth Games since 2006. That competition was also in Australia and was Fiji’s best performance at the Games in their two appearances to date.
In their last Commonwealth Games outing, Matelita Shaw played a big part as she was Fiji’s top goal scorer with 137, the eighth highest in the competition.
Fiji will be battle hardened following their appearance at the Taini Jamison Trophy in March. They came up against New Zealand, Jamaica and Malawi in Auckland.
The new generation of Fiji Pearls will have the opportunity to shine on the Commonwealth Games stage. Following Fiji’s 4th placed finish at last year’s Netball World Youth Cup, many of the players have made the jump up to the senior squad and will be heading to the Gold Coast next month.
Experience also exists within the squad with the likes of Alesi Waqa, Nina Cirikisuva and Afa Rusivakula, making it a fairly balanced squad in terms of youth and experience.
Coach Vicki Wilson, has experienced the ultimate success at a Commonwealth Games before. She successfully led Australia to gold in the inaugural netball competition at the Games in 1998.
Jamaica are the reigning Bronze medalists, having finished third four years ago in Glasgow, defeating England in the bronze medal match. The Sunshine Girls are currently ranked 4th in the INF World Rankings and have been at every netball event at the Commonwealth Games.
In Kuala Lumpur 1998, Jamaica finished 5th which still remains their worse performance at the Games. Four years later, in Manchester, Jamaica claimed a podium position, finishing third. They would have to wait another twelve years to step on the podium again.
Four years ago in Glasgow, Jamaica were the highest scoring team out of all twelve with a staggering 438 goals. Star shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid played a big part in this as she scored 214 of those goals.
The Sunshine Girls have had the perfect start to 2018, following their clean sweep of victories in the Taini Jamison Trophy in March. Jamaica defeated the Silver Ferns twice, the first time they have secured back to back wins over the Ferns in their history. Elsewhere, there were victories against fellow Commonwealth Games qualifiers, Malawi and Fiji.
The Sunshine Girls have opted for a dynamic blend of youth and experience. The squad consists of seven players with twenty or fewer test caps to their name. However, the likes of Romelda Aiken and Paula Thompson will be embarking on their third appearance at a Commonwealth Games. A combined total of 329 caps exist within the squad.
Glasgow 2014s second highest goal scorer, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid has been selected for her second Games campaign. She was second to only Malawi’s Mwai Kumwenda four years ago.
Their will be five athletes making their Commonwealth Games debut next month. They are; Vangelee Williams, Jodi-Ann Ward, Shamera Sterling, Adean Thomas and Nicole Dixon. Both Jodi-Ann Ward and Rebekah Robinson have five or fewer caps to their name.
The Malawi Queens have been present at all but one netball event at the Commonwealth Games. In the last two tournaments, Malawi have finished 5th, just missing out on the Bronze medal match. Out of the twenty three games Malawi have played at the Commonwealth Games, they have won thirteen of them. Malawi were one of the highest scorers in Glasgow 2014 scoring a total of 352 goals.
Preparations for the Games took place in Auckland for the recent Taini Jamison Trophy in which Malawi claimed a third placed finish. The Queens suffered defeats to New Zealand and Jamaica but recorded two victories over the Fiji Pearls.
Expect a loud atmosphere when the Queens are on court, they are often crowd favorites with their exciting and dynamic playing style.
An experienced squad has been selected for the Gold Coast, as nine out of the twelve athletes were present four years ago in Glasgow, leaving only three athletes within the squad that will be making their inaugural appearance at a Commonwealth Games. They are Martha Dambo, Thandie Galleta and Bridget Kumwenda.
Star shooter, Mwai Kumwenda, was the top goal scorer four years ago in Glasgow with a total tally of 230 goals. Mwai currently plays her club netball in Australia with the Melbourne Vixens, so will be no stranger to the Australian crowds.
The Silver Ferns have featured in every netball event in the Commonwealth Games and have won either gold of silver every time. They won back to back gold medals in the 2006 and 2010 Games, but missed out on the three in a row in the last games four years ago.
The gold medal win that came in 2006 came on Australian soil, could they do it again twelve years later?
So far in 2018 New Zealand have had mixed fortunes. A third place finish at the Quad Series in January was their worse performance in that competition. An extra time defeat to England was followed by a hard fought victory over South Africa. Their 19 point defeat to Australia was their worse result against the Diamonds for six years.
In March the Silver Ferns hosted fellow Commonwealth Games qualifiers, Jamaica, Malawi and Fiji for the Taini Jamison Trophy. The competition allowed coach Janine Southby to try different combinations in preparations for the Games. The Silver Ferns secured big wins over Malawi and Fiji but lost twice to Jamaica, their first ever back to back defeats to the Sunshine Girls.
Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was an uncapped Silver Fern Development Squad member when the Silver Ferns announced their squad. She has since made her debut at last months Taini Jamison Trophy. The defender joins eight other squad members for their inaugural appearance at a Commonwealth Games.
Only three members of the squad were present at Glasgow 2014. They are Katrina Grant, Maria Folau and Shannon Francois.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio has been recalled into the squad following a two year hiatus, as she took time away from the game to start a family.
Kayla Cullen was originally named in the squad but an ongoing knee injury has meant she has had to withdraw from the squad. She will be replaced by Claire Kersten who has three international caps for the Silver Ferns.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be Northern Ireland’s second appearance in the netball at the Games, having made their debut in Glasgow 2014. Now currently ranked 8th in the INF World Rankings, Northern Ireland have been showing that they certainly are a netballing nation on the rise. Their silver medal finish at the Netball Europe Open last October showed that Northern Ireland can pose a threat to any of the sides competing at the Games.
Northern Ireland had a great start to 2018 too by qualifying for next year’s Netball World Cup by taking a second place finish in the Netball World Cup 2019 Regional Qualifiers – Europe back in January. Their victory over Wales ensured qualification for Liverpool next year.
Not only did Northern Ireland finish 7th overall last time out in Glasgow, but they also were the seventh highest scorers with 269 to their name.
Head Coach, Elaine Rice, was the first coach of all twelve competing nations to name her squad ahead of the Games. Over half the squad were present at Glasgow 2014 and will have prior Commonwealth Games experience. They are, Niamh Cooper, Michelle Drayne, Noleen Lennon, Lisa McCullough, Caroline O’Hanlon, Fionnuala Toner. In Glasgow 2014, Noleen Lennon was the teams top scorer and the tenth highest overall scorer with 117 goals.
Captain Caroline O’Hanlon recently caught up with GC2018.com, to discuss her remarkable life as a double international and being a part time doctor.
Ever presents at the netball event in the Commonwealth Games, South Africa, will be looking to get on the podium for the first time in their history. The Proteas narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in the 1998 Games, losing 56-54 to England.
The last couple of campaigns have not been those that replicate the performance in 1998. During the last two Games, the Proteas have finished 6th, the most recent following a defeat against Malawi in the 5th placed classification match. In 2006 the Proteas beat Wales to finish 7th, which was their lowest finish at a Games to date.
However, South Africa have been putting in some impressive performances as of late. In the recent Quad Series, South Africa put in their best performance to date against World Champions Australia, narrowly losing by four goals. The Proteas impressed against England and New Zealand too, losing both closely contested games only by five goals.
The same twelve who competed at the Quad Series has been selected for the Games. Within that squad there are some players with prior Commonwealth Games experience. Bongiwe Msomi, Erin Burger, Maryka Holtzhausen, Zanele Vimbela and Lenize Potgieter were all at Glasgow 2014. Potgieter was South Africa’s top goal scorer with 132 goals in Glasgow.
South Africa have one of the most experienced coaches around in Norma Plummer. Norma has been on the podium before at a Games when she led the Australian Diamonds to two silver medals in 2006 and in 2010.
The hosts of the last Commonwealth Games, Scotland, embark on their second ever netball appearance having finished 9th in their inaugural appearance last time out.
The Thistles have been putting some impressive performances recently especially at the Netball World Cup 2019 Regional Qualifier – Europe. Scotland defeated Wales and Northern Ireland en route to qualify for Liverpool next year.
Five of the twelve athletes were present four years ago in Glasgow. Captain Claire Brownie, Lynsey Gallagher, Hayley Mulheron, Samantha Murphy, Fiona Fowler (nee Themann) and Jo Pettitt will all be making their second Commonwealth Games appearance.
Elsewhere in the squad are three players aged twenty or younger. Bethany Sutherland captained the Thistles under 21 side during last year’s Netball World Youth Cup in which the team finished eighth. Niamh McCall became the first player born in the 2000s to receive a senior cap for the Thistles and is also included in the squad.
Scotland have opted to go for the same squad who successfully qualified in first place at the Netball World Cup 2019 Regional Qualifier – Europe.
Uganda are the only debutantes at this years netball competition at the Commonwealth Games. Now ranked 7th in the INF World Rankings, Uganda have enjoyed a seismic rise up the international ladder.
In August 2014, Uganda were ranked 15th in the INF World Rankings. Last year Uganda won the African Netball Championships which saw them move into the top 10.
The She Cranes are captained by Peace Proscovia, who won the Vitality Super League Player of The Year for last season in England. The shooter scored 812 goals throughout the season for her club side Loughborough Lightning, which was the most in the league.
Uganda recently traveled to Barbados for a three match test series in which the She Cranes were victorious 2-1. The first two matches were very close with Uganda taking the first game and Barbados leveling the series up in the second game. The series decider was a little bit more clear cut as Uganda secured a comfortable victory. For the full story on that particular series click here.
Captain Peace Proscovia is one of netball most recognisable role models. Read more about how her life has changed through netball here. On International Women’s Day, GC.com featured eleven inspirational women of the Commonwealth Games, in which Peace featured. Read more about that here.
Captain of the Under 21s squad at last years Netball World Youth Cup, Joan Nampungu, is called up to the senior squad. Nampungu led her side to a 7th placed finish last summer in Botswana.
Ruth Meme has also been selected in the squad after missing last years African Netball Championship.
Wales have been present at all but one netball competition at the Commonwealth Games, only missing out in Delhi 2010. On two occasions (Melbourne 2006 & Glasgow 2014) Wales finished 8th overall, which still remains their highest finish at a Games.
At Glasgow 2014, Wales scored 235 goals throughout the tournament which was the 8th highest, reflecting their 8th placed finish. Chelsea Lewis scored 118 of those goals, which was the 9th highest of any individual player four years ago.
It has been a difficult start to 2018 for Wales. In January, they failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup following defeats to Northern Ireland and Scotland at the Netball Netball World Cup 2019 Regional Qualifier – Europe. However, Wales now have a new Interim Head Coach in Julie Hoornweg who will lead the side into the Commonwealth Games in her home country of Australia.
Wales have experience among the ranks, with several players already with a Commonwealth Games appearances under their belt.
Captain Suzy Drane will be making her third appearance at the Commonwealth Games, following appearances in Melbourne 2006 and Glasgow 2014.
Chelsea Lewis returns to the squad following a brief hiatus from the national side. She was Wales’s top goal scorer at Glasgow 2014.
Elsewhere in the squad, there are five other athletes that were present at Glasgow 2014. Bethan Dyke, Kyra Jones, Nia Jones, Kelly Morgan and Cara Lea Moseley will all embark on their second appearance at the Games.