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Netball news from around the globe by Rona Hunnisett
England's netballers made history this week, taking a clean sweep of a series against Australia for the first time. Australian coach Lisa Alexander tinkered with her line up once more, starting with captain Catherine Cox and Erin Bell up front, and the accuracy and creativity of the visitors' front line pushed them out to an early 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The gap stretched to eight goals midway through the second half, with the visitors determined to celebrate Australia Day with a morale boosting victory. But England were not to be denied and closed the gap to one goal at half time, trailing 26-25. The introduction of Kadeen Corbin to the England attack, alongside her sister Sasha, gave the home side more momentum, and they drew level, before pulling away to a 58-51 final victory.
Instead of travelling to the Northern Hemisphere to face the Australians and English as was originally mooted, New Zealand's Silver Ferns took part in a ten day training camp in Auckland which was intended to simulate the conditions the players will face over a major championships like the Commonwealth Games or World Championships. The 22 Silver Ferns and Accelerant Squad members, minus Joline Henry who recently gave birth to her first child, along with the 24 from the Under-21s and Emerging Talent Group, took part in seven matches at the camp, as well as undertaking fitness testing and intensive skills training.
Netball South Africa (NSA) selectors have announced a strong U21 squad which will undertake a short tour to Singapore as part of their preparations for the U21 World Youth Championships in Glasgow later this year. Following a training camp in Pretoria, the team leaves on Monday for a tour which will include three matches against the Singapore U21 team, two against Singapore's open squad and one against Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS). The full squad to travel to Singapore, which will be coached by Dorette Badenhorst, is: Mukozo Fortunate Bagula, Melanie von Gunten, Mari-Lena Joubert, Nontuthuko Khomo, Zandré Kruger, Rochelle Lawson, Izette Lubbe, Nothando Mhlongo, Bhongolethu Ngubeni, Nobulele Phuza, Deancke Rohde, Juline Rossouw, Simphiwe Sithebe, Shadine van der Merwe, Danellé Willemse.
NSA president Mimi Mthethwa has announced further details of the country's planned professional league - the Netball Pro League, which is set to launch in April 2013. Trials for the 12 provincial teams to take part in the competition will be held in February and March, with matches being played in a dedicated season from April to June. South Africa's junior and senior national championships have been scheduled for July and August, alongside the first ever mens' national championships, while the second Diamond Challenge is set to be staged in August, with the Proteas welcoming overseas teams to contest an international series.
In domestic competitions, the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Sunshine Open League's stand out game of the week is between Tivoli Gardens A and Cable Pro. The Tivoli side, coached by Sylvester Campbell, last won the title in 2008 and are currently in fourth place in the competition's Elite Group standings. Waulgrovians, who are unbeaten this season, top the table. Former Sunshine Girl Kasey Evering will spearhead the Tivoli defence, alongside Cleopatra grant, Tamara Hylton and Peter-Gay Thomas, while national representatives Ann-Kay Griffiths and Tracey-Ann Robinson will lead the Cable-Pro challenge. Across the Caribbean, the Bermuda Netball Association's league season continues to prove popular with games being played at U12 and U15 levels as well as in the senior league. The week's most hotly contested match was the fixture between Signworx Netts and the SS Tigers which saw the lead see-sawing in each quarter, before the Netts edged the Tigers 34-33.
Looking towards the UK's Netball Superleague season, Welsh side Celtic Dragons have made two big signings ahead of their season opener against Team Bath on 7 February. Lottysha Cato, the 6ft 6" shooter from Grenada returns to South Wales for her third season, while the Dragons have also snapped up the services of Kiwi Jenna Murie. Meanwhile, Northern Thunder has confirmed the re-signing of Australian shooter Janelle Lawson, who joined the squad in training for the first time this week.