Briony Carlyon, Thursday, 12 July 2012.
The regular season is over and the votes are in on who we thought were some of the most outstanding young players in the ANZ Championship for 2012. For some of these young guns the year is all but a memory, but for others the excitement of finals netball is at a fever pitch.
Storm Purvis (Southern Steel)
Signing on for the Southern Steel this year, 19 year-old Storm Purvis is the youngest athlete to be nominated as Best Young Player in the ANZ Championship. Having excelled as a junior through secondary school programs and part of the New Zealand Under 21 side for since 2010, she has been on the radar of coaches as a potential Silver Fern of the future.
The exponential rise of Purvis in the game of netball has been exciting for the rookie. Having only picked up a netball five years ago, she missed taking the court just once in her ANZ Championship debut year, partnering the experienced Demelza McCloud and with injuries to defender Sheryl Scanlan, the youngster stood up and delivered more than expected in her maiden season with the club.
Julianna Naoupu (Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic)
At just 22 years of age it is hard to believe that Julianna Naopu has been with the ANZ Championship since its inception 5 years ago. Having started off with the Southern Steel in more of an impact role, she was offered the opportunity to partner Silver Fern legend Irene van Dyk at the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic. Moving from the deep South to the North in 2011 has helped push Naoupu into consistently delivering her best performance for a team that would stand for nothing less. Magic coach Noeline Taurua has described her as the most complete goal attack that she has ever had at the franchise, a big wrap for such a young player.
In the opening matches of the 2012 season the Magic side looked unsettled and nervous on court. But a healthy win in Round 5 over the Canterbury Tactix has set the ball rolling and Naoupu has been at the forefront of this success. Exceptional ball skills, precision timing and deceptively quick footwork, her work rate at the front has lifted and so too, the Magic winning streak, now on 10 games straight.
Amorette Wild (NSW Swifts)
In her fourth season with the NSW Swifts, Amorette Wild has learnt her craft from two of the best shooters Australia has to offer. Having limited court time since her debut in 2009, the NSW state age and Australian Under 21 representative has made the most of the changes bought about in an exciting 2012 for the ANZ Championship. The loss of Catherine Cox to Perth was a major blow for the Swifts, but Wild has stepped into the action and taken on the goal attack role as her own.
Wild has taken the court on a more regular basis this year and has proven a goal defenders nightmare. Her speed in attack and ability to read space has been a feature of her game, as well as combining with Susan Pratley, the Swifts provided a unique shooting circle in the ANZ Championship - small, fast, accurate and heavily based on quick movement to get rid of the defense. After a strong year, Wild will be hoping to etch her name into the Swifts starting seven for next year and look to provide a consistency that will see her run out entire games.
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit (Central Pulse)
Another player to begin her netball career with the Southern Steel in 2008, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit made the move to the Central Pulse with the drawcard of her former coach Robyn Broughton taking the reigns at the Wellington based franchise. In a move that paid dividends for the Pulse, the defensive combination of Selby-Ricket and captain Katrina Grant proved to be a match made in heaven. Running out at goal defence, with 28 intercepts to her name, they combined for a season total of 60 intercepts - the most by any defensive duo in the 2012 ANZ Championship season. The Pulse have exceeded expectations this year, with one of their more impressive records to date, and with the inclusion of Selby-Rickit the offensive lineup is looking very strong for the future.
Kayla Cullen (Northern Mystics)
A star at netball, basketball and athletics throughout her high school career, Kayla Cullen is an all-round athlete. A member of the New Zealand Under 21 team in 2008, her talent was obvious and the Northern Mystics offered Cullen her chance to play elite netball in 2010. She played 5 matches for her side that year and earn herself a nomination for the Best Young Player award at the age of 18. Also selected as part of the Fastnet Ferns in the 2010 World Netball Series in England, Cullen was able to hone her skills as a defender and push the boundaries of her netball career. Having played almost every position on the court, she has settled into defense, a testament of her ability to read the game and instinct to get the ball.
In 2011, the Mystics made their first finals series and Cullen played an important role in the success of the franchise. In an outstanding season she was named in the ANZ Championship All Star team at wing defense and also won the Best Young Player award. The Mystics are hoping that 2012 will see them go one step further and become the first New Zealand side to win the ANZ Championship trophy, something that Cullen will play an enormous role in achieving if they are able to do it. She has been part of netball controversy with the Harrison 'lift' and become an intricate role in the Mystics defensive lineup. At the tender age of 20, there is a lot of pressure on Cullen to perform but so far she has been able to answer her critics and get the job done.