Just who was the best netballer in the world in 2017?

The popular poll from 2016 is back, but what a difference a year makes.

The voting commitee this year comprised of members of the international netball world – Liz Ellis, Sue Gaudion, Jenny Woods and Anita Navin, along with Junior Levi (arguably the world’s best male netballer), Erin Delahunty (freelance journalist and self-confessed netball nerd) and Netball Scoop’s Ian Harkin, Rona Hunnisett, Jenny Sinclair and Michael Hutchinson.

Each voted for five players on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis. Votes were spread across 16 players in all, from six different countries. Four players dominated this year, finishing comfortably ahead of the rest and all receiving at least one top vote from the judges.

 

Photo: Marcela Massey

4. CAITLIN BASSETT

Make no mistake. 2017 was another huge year for star shooter Caitlin Bassett. After 12 fruitless seasons in Perth, this year Bassett made the bold move to join the new Sunshine Coast Lightning team in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball season.

The result was a tremendous season as the focal point of the attack end, resulting in 589 goals at 94% accuracy, and a first-ever premiership title for Bassett. Things only got better for her from then on as she was elevated to the position of Australian Diamonds captain.

After a rocky start in the Quad Series in August, she regained form and led Australia to a 4-0 whitewash of New Zealand in the Constellation Cup.

Bassett can now look forward with some confidence to 2018 and leading her country in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Sue Gaudion
“Caitlin Bassett’s move to the Sunshine Coast to challenge herself, improve her game and win a Championship can by no means be underestimated. She continued to be an unstoppable force upfront for the Lightning. Internationally, she is continually targeted by every opposition and has added a Diamonds captaincy to her resume.”

Erin Delahunty
“My vote quite simply has to be CBass. She was the most accurate shooter in the premiership team in the best league in the world. In international matches that mattered, the Constellation Cup in early October most notably, it was Bassett that national coach Lisa Alexander turned to and she delivered on the big stage, shooting above 90% in the first three matches to lock away the trophy.”

 

Photo: Simon Leonard

3. LIZ WATSON

Stepping out of the shadows of Madi Robinson, firstly for the Melbourne Vixens and then for the Diamonds, Liz Watson had such an incredible year in the wing attack position that she also took Robinson’s spot at number three in our poll.

Some people had feared for the Vixens this year, with no Robinson and no Geva Mentor, but thanks in no small part to Watson’s dynamic play, the club had a tremendous season, falling just short of the Super Netball Grand Final.

Even better was to come for Watson in October as she starred for the Diamonds in their 4-0 Constellation Cup win over the Silver Ferns. Her tireless performance in attack and defence over all four games saw her dominate the series, picking up two Player of the Match awards and was no doubt close in the other two matches as well.

Liz Ellis
“Liz Watson is a standout performer who now has a game to match her muscles. She has shown outstanding form this year by way of superior pass selection and circle edge positioning, set up by great speed on her drive to the circle edge. She is clearly enjoying her netball.”

 

Photo: Marcela Massey

2. LAURA LANGMAN

For the second straight year, Laura Langman finishes runner-up in our poll. Only she will know, but 2017 must have been both incredibly satisfying and yet harrowing at the same time.

With Netball New Zealand’s hard line stance on Silver Ferns playing in the ANZ Premiership, Langman’s decision to play for the Sunshine Coast Lightning put an end to her amazing 141-test run in the black dress.

As it turned out, the Lightning took out the title and Langman was outstanding – starring at both wing defence and centre, but perhaps more importantly, supporting her much less experienced team mates in the midcourt.

In her absence, New Zealand finished the year losing four straight matches to Australia by ever-increasing margins. Her recent decision to pull out of the 2018 Lightning team has lead some to believe she will make a return to the Ferns, maybe even as early as April.

Junior Levi
“Laura Langman is a netball deity, pushing the boundaries of the human body on the netball court. She’s the only pure midcourter on an international stage with the ability to play all three positions well and will most likely go down in history as the greatest midcourter to ever play the game.”

Michael Hutchinson
“To think that 2017 was the best we’ve seen yet from Langman. She was a vital cog in the Lightning’s Super Netball title – cruised through the middle of the court in attack and nullified her opposition in defence. There is no doubt she’s in the peak form of her career and it would be a shame if she didn’t play netball at all next year.”

Photo: Simon Leonard

1. GEVA MENTOR

England’s star goal keeper, Geva Mentor, had an incredible year and came out on top fairly comfortably in our poll, with top votes from five of the judges.

In some ways, 2017 was almost like a comeback year for Mentor. In recent seasons, she has been troubled by a knee injury, somewhat limiting her effectiveness, but this year she was back to her best. As captain of the winning Lightning side, she led the way brilliantly from the back, regularly picking up possession for her team and forcing opposition shooters into error.

On the international stage, Mentor was as reliable as ever, a vital player for an ever-improving England team. The Roses defeated New Zealand twice this year and pushed Australia hard. They’re building towards the Commonwealth Games and if they manage to snare that elusive gold, it’s a fair bet that Geva Mentor will play a very big part in it.

Jenny Woods
“Geva Mentor led the Sunshine Coast Lightning to victory in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball league and her personal form was some of her best ever. She was just as influential while playing for a resurgent England side. It looked a couple of years ago, as though Mentor may have been in the twilight of her career, but 2017 suggests otherwise.”

Rona Hunnisett
“Rejuvenated after a move to Lightning, Mentor must be the first name on the team sheet for any side she plays for. Still ultra-reliable to bring a much needed interception to her team, she added even more dynamic footwork and clever body positioning to her game this year. England fans will be hoping she keeps that form up in a Commonwealth Games year.”

Anita Navin
“Up against the world class shooters in Super Netball, Mentor has shown great strength and tactical acumen to outwit and deceive in her defensive GK role. Her ability to move around the strongest of holding shooters has been incredible and she’s not afraid to fly for the intercept. Geva has influenced the players around her in both the England and Lightning squads and she has been an inspirational leader.”

Jenny Sinclair
“The English defender wound back the clock this season, and was in scintillating form both domestically and internationally. As a player, leader and role model, Geva Mentor was simply inspirational.”

FINAL POLL RESULTS

41 votes – Geva Mentor (England)
31 votes – Laura Langman (New Zealand)
21 votes – Liz Watson (Australia)
16 votes – Caitlin Bassett (Australia)
7 votes – Serena Guthrie (England) & Gabi Simpson (Australia)
5 votes – Steph Wood (Australia)
4 votes – Susan Pettitt (Australia) & Karla Pretorius (Mostert) (South Africa)
3 votes – Courtney Bruce (Australia), Jo Harten (England) & Caitlin Thwaites (Australia)
2 votes – Mwai Kumwenda (Malawi)
1 vote – Temalisi Fakahokotau (New Zealand), Jhaniele Fowler (Jamaica) & Bongiwe Msomi (South Africa)

 

Photo: Simon Leonard

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