2024 Workforce Women Cup fast hits — Mavs cop double harm blow, Lightning exhibit stacked Diamonds ability, and crowd numbers are up however may just they be higher?

It’s almost that time of year again, as we inch closer to a ninth season of Super Netball and the world’s best league held its pre-season tournament in Sydney for the first time over the weekend to give us a glimpse into how each of the eight teams are shaping up for 2024.

There’s a brand-new side to keep an eye on, as the Melbourne Mavericks officially fill the defunct Collingwood Magpies’ spot, while last year’s runners-up the NSW Swifts showed – as the team with the least amount of changes – how advantageous a consistent line-up with cemented combinations can be as they clinched their first Team Girls Cup trophy.

Just as we will do every Monday afternoon of the Super Netball season, we’re here to bring you the biggest talking points of the round/weekend. So, let’s see what we learnt during an action-packed three-day netball festival at Ken Rosewall Arena.

Double blow for the Mavs

Tracey Neville and assistant Nicole Richardson sit on the bench as they watch their team play

New coaching team Tracey Neville and assistant Nicole Richardson will guide the Melbourne Mavericks in their inaugural season.(Getty: Jenny Evans)

As the new kids on the block, the Mavericks have already won over the netball community with the signings of former England 2018 Commonwealth Games-winning head coach Tracey Neville, as well as a bunch of much-loved stars like Amy Parmenter and Eleanor Cardwell.

But the side has already been hit hard with injuries before it has even been able to take the court for its inaugural Super Netball game. During a pre-season friendly, shooter Sasha Glasgow went down with a compound leg fracture that is likely to rule her out for the season and at the Team Girls Cup we saw defender Lauren Moore helped off the court after she suffered a knee injury.

Moore will go for scans on Monday and many are hoping she will avoid the dreaded season-ending ACL injury that is unfortunately so common in our sport, but if that is to be the case, that’ll be two senior players wiped out for the Mavs.

The team was already up against it as a start-up franchise thanks to the quick turnaround Super Netball required to fill Collingwood’s spot when it was announced it would no longer continue in the league last May, as well as the drawn-out pay negotiations that meant nobody could officially be signed until December.

Streutker stretches her arms up as she holds the ball to shoot

South African shooter Rolene Streutker was rushed into the Mavs line-up as a potential replacement for Glasgow, despite only touching down in Australia last week.(Getty: Jenny Evans)

Factoring in Christmas and the involvement of some of its players at January’s Nations Cup overseas, the side has only had a couple of months at best to prepare. Unfortunately, that context coupled with these major injuries will have people questioning if their side is perhaps a little under-conditioned, to no fault of its own.

Despite a pretty good first hit-out at the Team Girls Cup, where it registered a draw and suffered two tight losses before battling against the Giants in the last-place play-off, the team was unable to avoid the bottom of the ladder in the pre-season tournament.

There were patches of brilliance and Neville has done an incredible job pulling this team together in such a short time. But in the wake of those injuries, there is worry about how it will perform come the season start on April 13.

As we know from the Pies example, early success is key to building a fan base and longevity in a city already occupied by a foundation club like the Melbourne Vixens.

Will Lightning live up to the hype?

Liz Watson chases after a ball while playing wing attack

Liz Watson has embraced her new Super Netball colours after moving to the Lightning.(Getty: Jenny Evans)

Maybe it was the drawn-out pay negotiations that left players sitting on their hands without pay for 11 weeks, with too much time to think about their future. Maybe there was just something in the air? But this off-season has been the most interesting in Super Netball’s history with some shock movement and big-name signings.

The Sunshine Coast Lightning was the biggest winner, managing to nab Australian captain Liz Watson from the Vixens, before luring Diamonds goalkeeper Courtney Bruce across the country from the West Coast Fever.

Both are late into their careers, debuted for their home clubs, spent the past 10 years representing those teams as one-club players and made their way into a captaincy position. Their faces not only felt synonymous with those franchises and the colours they wear but also their respective state pathways. It was a surprise to see them move on and watching them in yellow this weekend felt a bit strange.

However, their signings have brought a sense of hope and excitement to a team that wowed everyone when it won back-to-back premierships in the first two years of Super Netball (2017/18) but has now missed the finals two years straight.

Courtney Bruce shows a shocked face as she questions a call from the umpire

Courtney Bruce showed some sharp from at the Team Girls Cup.(Getty: Jenny Evans)

At Lightning, Watson and Bruce will link up with their Netball World Cup-winning teammates Steph Fretwell (née Wood) and Cara Koenen at a domestic level, so there was plenty of curiosity around how this side stacked with Diamonds talent is gelling in club land.

It was entertaining watching Watson match up directly against her former co-captain Kate Moloney in the midcourt when Lightning played against the Vixens, where plenty of bumps between their bodies made for a bruising encounter. Same goes for Bruce’s encounter against her old teammate, Jamaican goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard in the circle on the final day, as Lightning and Fever played off for fifth place.

Bruce looked sharp (13 gains) across the weekend and was the difference in this particular match, as her hold over Shanice Beckford’s two-point shot put off the goal attack’s chance to steal the lead in the final 30 seconds, before Bruce pounced on the missed attempt to send possession back up the Lightning’s end to seal a two-goal win.

Watson’s connections in the midcourt still need some work (12 general play turnovers), as there were moments over the three days where there was a breakdown in communication, or she was caught in the same hole as another player. Either way, the team many have tipped as “favourites” this season is tracking nicely and should be better placed come the season start.

Can the Team Girls Cup become a destination event?


Team Girls Cup champions the NSW Swifts were treated like rockstars at their home venue and enjoyed the most crowd support of all eight teams.(Getty: Mark Metcalfe)

Netball Australia was happy with the 7,707 total attendance for the Team Girls Cup, as it managed to get its best result at the event since the pandemic and doubled the previous crowd at last year’s tournament on the Gold Coast. But there’s certainly room for growth, as a similar pre-season tournament in basketball for the 2023 NBL Blitz last September saw more than 20,000 fans attend.

The Team Girls Cup is finding it tough to lure people interstate and although the NSW clubs generally do a good job at filling the stands, Sydneysiders may have been put off attending with the annual Easter Show on and limited parking available at Homebush.

The event served its purpose though for this year, allowing teams to trial a whole range of combinations and expose their training partners with such limited preparation for teams in a short pre-season. But as a result, it was difficult for many fans to get a proper gauge on who might be in the running this year, with vastly different line-ups run from quarter to quarter and fatigue management meaning some of the biggest stars sat out games.

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