2018 Final Ladder Position – 3rd

Head Coach – Julie Fitzgerald

2019 Gains

Caitlin Bassett (Sunshine Coast Lightning)

Matilda McDonell (Canberra Giants, ANL)

Teigan O’Shannassy (Canberra Giants, ANL)

Amy Parmenter (Canberra Giants, ANL)

2019 Losses

Rebecca Bulley (retired)

Serena Guthrie (Team Bath, UK Superleague)

Susan Pettitt (retired)

Kristina Brice (Northern Mystics, ANZ Premiership)

2019 Full Team: Kiera Austin (GS, GA, WA), Caitlin Bassett (GS), Kim Green (captain, WA, C), Jo Harten (GS, GA), Kristiana Manu’a (GD, GK, WD), Matilda McDonell (GD, GK), Teigan O’Shannassy (GK, GD), Amy Parmenter (WD, C), Sam Poolman (GK, GD), Jamie-Lee Price (WD, C)

2019 Training Partners: Toni Anderson, Maddie Hay, Georgia Marshall, Latika Tombs

Giants Netball will be famished for success after finishing Suncorp Super Netball runners up in their inaugural year, and third in 2018 after finishing minor premiers. While there have been off-season injury concerns and losses of several marquee players, the team will use shrewd coaching, new signings, and the rapid development of youthful athletes to make them definite finals contenders again. There will also be wildcard elements to plan for – the Netball World Cup and totally revamped opposing teams.

Perennial favourites and Diamonds legends Rebecca Bulley and Susan Pettitt retired as expected at the end of 2018, but the sudden departure of scintillating centre Serena Guthrie back to England was cause for minor alarm in some Giants fans. In addition, a key shooting option in Kristina Brice headed across to play for the Northern Mystics in the New Zealand league, seeking more regular court time. However, head coach Julie Fitzgerald had a star signing in the wings. Who else to bolster the shooting end than the spearhead of Sunshine Coast Lightning, the team bundling Giants out of finals both previous years? The Australian captain, Caitlin Bassett, of course.

With Bassett, Jo Harten, and flourishing Kiera Austin, the western Sydney team continue to have incredible versatility in goals. Bassett’s potency is undeniable, as she finished most accurate shooter for 2018, playing in the championship winning team. Harten is outstanding at goal shooter, too, but has proven that at goal attack her defensive effort is punishing, and her sighting of either a tall target or a slick mover is exceptional. And Austin, while playing at wing attack often last year, was included as a bench player for one international test in England this year. She had remarkable performances in Fast Five and the pre-season, and her elusiveness, timing, and versatility will be a trump card for Giants. The main concern here is the fractured forearm the Australia captain received in England in January – the injury has curtailed her fitness and her time forging links with the front end in her new club.

Captain and wing attack specialist Kim Green returns to the Giants. Photo: Marcela Massey

Julie Fitzgerald’s midcourt charges, although not as thoroughly proven, will be able to compete ably with the best opposition. The club has chosen only three specialist midcourters, and only one true wing attack in Kim Green. The veteran Giants captain will play potentially the last year of her illustrious career, pegging in dizzying feeds through tiny gaps from all angles. Austin is a completely different option on the wing, fully eight to ten centimetres taller than most wing defenders. The goaler was placed there several times in 2018 with Green in centre. One head-scratcher is which of Amy Parmenter, a debutant, and Jamie-Lee Price, a rookie in the national team, will sit at centre, and which at wing defence. These young players are defensive-style midcourters, and both have brilliance and backfires on the feed. It will come down to maturity, coaching, and selections in the value and balance of the two, and whether the shorter circle defender, Matilda McDonell, has a look in as wing defence cover.

Former training partner Amy Parmenter has been elevated into the Giants’ 2019 team. Photo: Marcela Massey

At the back is where Giants have a potential struggle – the selection of four defenders instead of three is acknowledgement of this, and of a tactic used by Fitzgerald to rotate and freshen defenders in 2018. Sam Poolman and Kristiana Manu’a have sniffed around Diamonds selection, but not really dominated at international level. Poolman is growing each season, but is less mobile, meaning Manu’a is set to push out to goal defence on a more permanent basis. They have very different styles, Poolman strong over the shot and rebound, and Manu’a underming positioning using core strength while hunting ball.

This creates opportunity for one of the debutants to take out substantial minutes – either McDonell, or Teigan O’Shannassy. The future is uncertain for O’Shannassy, who injured her achilles tendon in mid-2018, and is still on the road to regaining full fitness. She has at times over summer been replaced by Toni Anderson, a Giants training partner, who should be seen in early rounds.

A few spicy bites are ready for the fans to taste and the coaches to manage in 2019 – firstly, how will teams recover from the Netball World Cup in Liverpool in July? Giants may actually fare very well, since the only players guaranteed to be on national duties are Bassett and Harten. There is a slim chance of Austin enjoying a call up to the Diamonds, and a slightly better one for Price. The squad otherwise will have time to relax, refresh, and have a mid-season revitalisation of tactics and conditioning. This will work in their favour as a harder stretch of three matches begins in late July – Magpies, Firebirds, Lightning.

In fact the draw for Giants is not too onerous at all. By virtue of having another team based in Sydney in the NSW Swifts, they have no more than two away games in a row this year. With their fiercest opponents likely to be Magpies, Vixens, Fever and Lightning, they will never have to play more than two of those tougher matches in a row, and these key fixtures are spread throughout, making the opening, middle, and end of season all equal in terms of difficulty.

Can Kristiana Manu’a claim the GD bib for the Giants in 2019? Photo: Marcela Massey

Another fascinating aspect of Super Netball 2019 will be the new matchups. Players will already know which are their particular bogey games. There will be an eye to Bassett facing Geva Mentor (Magpies) and Courtney Bruce (Fever), Harten facing Karla Pretorius (Lightning) and Jo Weston (Vixens), Price against Liz Watson (Vixens) and Kelsey Browne (Magpies), Manu’a tackling (not literally) Steph Wood and Tegan Phillip AND Nat Medhurst AND Gretel Tippett, and finally Poolman working hard on those towering shooters in essentially every team. Leave it to Fitzgerald and her team of coaches and statisticians to scour the matches every week, let the athletes’ mantra be to take one game at a time, and the Giants will surely feature in the top three at the end of the season.

And that, in the end, is the undeniable factor that will bring Giants success: the off-court team. Fitzgerald is the reigning legendary leader in Australian netball, with more than 20 years’ experience in national league coaching, multiple best coach awards, and proven ability to foster the careers of players the ilk of Liz Ellis, Catherine Cox, Susan Pettit, Megan Anderson, Mo’onia Gerrard, Rebecca Bulley, Kim Green, Selina Gilsenan, Casey Williams, Laura Langman, and more. Inventive, resourceful, caring, passionate, and astute, no team with her in charge can be taken lightly. Giants will continue to dominate the ladder and may well lift the 2019 Super Netball trophy.