Netball Expert & Columnist
Vitality Nations Cup: Positives and lessons to take away for all four nations
Last Updated: 28/01/20 1:55pm
Tamsin Greenway takes a look back at the Vitality Nations Cup and gives her assessment on the four nations' work, including positives and the lessons they will take back with them following the four matchdays.
Overall, I think it was a really successful first Vitality Nations Cup. Although some of the games did blow-out on the scoreboard, all of the teams showed progression through the week and their match-ups against each other were fascinating to watch.
What I found really interesting was looking at how the different teams coped with different styles, the combinations the coaches played across the week and how each team approached the competition.
Nations Cup over. what a week it’s been. Loved being back amongst the action watching the teams progress & stars emerge. Congrats to NZ & welcome back Jamaica. As for England, I think we found our C, our 4th shooter arrived and our captain was well just fantastic. @SkyNetball pic.twitter.com/uzEQD2CSwx— Tamsin Greenway (@tamsingreenway) January 26, 2020
The overall winners, and the reigning world champions, New Zealand impressed me. They ended up being very dominant despite playing most of their games with only 10 players after Michaela Sokolich-Beatson's ruptured ACL and Bailey Mes' knee niggle.
What struck me was the level of players that you'd have previously called their 'bench or emerging players', coming through.
Individuals like Kimiora Poi, Whitney Souness and Maia Wilson stepped up and delivered. Although they have had some exposure to international netball before, they all looked a step above some similar players from other nations.
With their off-marking and their defensive zone, the Kiwis style of play really disrupted other teams but it also highlighted what happened when sides met them for a second time. In the final, Jamaica were able to break down the zone far more effectively and that will have been a massive learning curve for head coach, Dame Noeline Tauara.
New Zealand's style of defence is excellent but with so many new players in that defensive end, they are going to have to look at what happens when teams go goal-for-goal with them. How do they start to win more ball during those moments and more importantly stick to task?
I don't believe there's anything wrong with the style though, I just think that there were a few players who were exposed playing that way without Katrina Rore and Casey Kopau within their ranks. Karin Burger and Jane Watson were standouts for the Silver Ferns but it's about developing everyone else around them too.
Shannon Saunders ended up having to play WD and I think it would have been a little bit different if Michaela Sokolich-Beatson had been there. But, players like Phoenix Karaka, Poi and Saunders to an extent too, are going to have to work on that defensive unit so that all within it are in tune for the whole time.
From an attacking point of view, Tauara will be really pleased with Wilson and if she remains at that level, that's going to strengthen them going forward. They had to find another shooter now that Maria Folau has retired, and they will be pleased with the outcome this week.
Overall, it was a successful tour for them. Not only, did they win but they stuck to task. Noeline clearly had a plan; to get people out on court and then go out and win the final. She did just that and it again showed why she is the best coach in the world.
Well, I said that Jamaica were back and other than their little blip against New Zealand in their first meeting, they are.
Connie Francis really earned her coaching stripes being able to turn around a 26-goal loss on Wednesday to the point of them drawing with the Kiwis at half-time in the final on Sunday. Her ability to do that shows exactly what she has brought to the group.
On court, we saw the feisty and physical Jamaica that we know and love. You can't get away from it, their range, athleticism and fight. They also had their culture and ethos back. It was really good to see.
I think that Khadijah Williams and Shanice Beckford got better as the week went on and Nicole Dixon too. Dixon, I think, has cemented that Centre position now.
Sunshine Girls show positive signs
Despite suffering disappointment in the final of the Vitality Nations Cup, the signs are there that Jamaica are back in the game ,which is great for world netball.
I was impressed with how they developed in attack but I still think that they need to find other options they can revert to. When it did go to pieces against New Zealand, they didn't have a WA, GA or a Centre change which was effective. For me, that's an issue and one they need to look at.
Defensively, there were question marks about Shamera Sterling playing out at GD, but I thought that she did a good job. What I'm excited about also, is seeing Latanya Wilson this year in the Superleague [at Celtic Dragons] because every time that she took to court, she had a great partnership with Sterling.
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Well the international season is over and I've absolutely loved every single second of it. Thanks to everyone for all your support over #nationscup it has been amazing as always! I'll be sad to say goodbye to this group for a while but excited to get stuck into #vnsl2020 ...Its been an honour 😘❤🌹👊🏽 . . . #netball #netballteam #internationalnetball #englandnetball #nationscup2020 #englandroses #netballsquad #squadgoals #team #teamgoals
Now onto England, the home side. I guess it was a bit of a roller-coaster week for them. They'll be happy that they got the final win against South Africa and looking across the board at the teams, England definitely have the most strength to come back into their squad.
They have probably got at least six players, who haven't said they're retiring or who are returning form injury, to come back in their mix and they are in key positions too like GA, GK and C. I think there were also some great success stories from the players.
The first was definitely Stacey Francis. She was a game-changer and she should be a key part of England's defensive line-up moving forward.
Also, Amy Carter stood out. I would have liked to have seen her on court a little bit more at the start, because I think she could have played in every single game and have been really effective for long periods.
However, I do think that she got enough exposure at the end of the competition and her partnership developed really well with Nat Haythornthwaite.
Captain's competition for Haythornthwaite
Natalie Haythornthwaite celebrated her 50th international appearance against South Africa and capped a stellar competition as the Roses' captain.
Carter will have learnt a lot over the course of the week. The key for her now is getting back to Manchester Thunder and getting on the court. I know they have Caroline O'Hanlon there and Laura Malcolm, but with the departure of Liana Leota I hope she will still get the right amount of court-time to develop.
I also have to mention Ellie Cardwell. There are always question marks about shooters when they come into the mix and I think she was exceptional over the course of the week. Until players are tested properly internationally (across a series) you don't truly know about them.
Cardwell shot well, was always available and was solid in both positions. I prefer her at GS, because I think that she needs a little bit more court-craft at GA, but overall I was very impressed with her. Her calm presence when England were under real pressure was exactly what they needed too.
However, moving forward this group needs to address individual players' error-rates. When you look at the Kiwis, if they had a scrappy moment, they don't have three or four in a row.
In England's case, they got themselves in trouble at times because they compounded errors. They let teams back in because of it and the rate has to be lowered, players have to cut down on their individual mistakes.
Also, I think they need to look at their style defensively. It got very man-on and a hassling style at times, however I think that you can be more creative than that with the likes of Fran Williams and Razia Quashie in your squad. Those players can do some exceptional things, but they need to work within a unit that works for them. I'm sure with more time together this will come.
Overall, from an English perspective, I think there are a lot of positive things to have come out of the tournament and Jess Thirlby will have learnt a lot about her side as a result of it.
Finally, let's look at South Africa. After disappointing me so much during the first part of the week, they came storming back and took it to New Zealand. That performance showed why I was so frustrated with them, because they are much more capable than they were showing early on.
It was the attack-end that I had reservations about, and I thought that Bongwie Msomi grew during the week and was back to the Bongi that I know.
At times, Khanyisa Chawane's impact was good too and she's going to be one to watch at Team Bath this year and finally Lefebre Rademan, she was absolutely brilliant. I will imagine that you'll see her pop-up playing over this side of the world, if she doesn't go to Suncorp, at some time over the next couple of years.
My only question when it comes to South Africa is how do they resolve their issues when it comes to tackling the mental pressures of Test netball?
They now have a squad that can physically match-up with their opponents, and that matches up when it comes to their skills too, but when are they going to learn to take and keep the lead in Test matches?
It's something they have to work out how to do. Whether it's individual players who need help with their psychology or the team as a whole, they need to find the answer. South Africa are so close to taking teams and I just can't understand how they let matches slide?
Like all of the teams coming out of this Nations Cup, they will have learnt a lot about themselves but at some point, that key factor, around their psychology, has to change in order for them to press forward.
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