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Netball - 17. April 2014.

Netball News from around the globe by Rona Hunnisett

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Africa’s first semi-professional league launched this week and will be contested by ten teams from all nine provinces in South Africa over five weeks.  All matches will be staged at the University of Pretoria and televised live on SuperSport on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the competition.  The competition gets under way on 10 May, and has been championed by the country’s Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who is committed to a programme to involve more women in sport nationwide.  The intention is to inspire children to take up netball, as well as provide a strong performance development pathway to assist in improving national and international playing standards.  The ten teams taking part in the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup, which will feature all of the country’s leading and emerging talent are:  Eastern Aloes, Limpopo Baobabs, Free State Crinums, Diamonds, Golden Firebirds, North West Flames, Jaguars, Kingdom Stars, Southern Stings and Sunbirds.

Emerging midcourter Liz Watson is the surprise inclusion in the Australian Diamonds squad named by selectors this week, from which the country’s Commonwealth Games side will be selected.  Watson, 20, who was only called into the Melbourne Vixens squad at the start of the ANZ Championships pre-season tournament as replacement for the pregnant Elissa Kent, had only played seven championship games for the league leaders at the time of her international call up, but has impressed selectors with her speed and vision.  Susan Pratley has been recalled to the line up after some impressive performances for the NSW Swifts, while another familiar face, Julie Corletto, returns to contest for a place after recovering from long term injury.   The squad will attend a three-day selection camp in Canberra between 5-7 May, after which the Commonwealth Games team will be named.   The full Australian Diamonds squad for 2014 is:  Karyn Bailey, Caitlin Bassett, Erin Bell, Rebecca Bulley, Tegan Caldwell, Bianca Chatfield, Julie Corletto, Laura Geitz, Kimberlee Green, Renae Hallinan, Sharni Layton, Natalie Medhurst, Susan Pratley, Kim Ravaillion, Madi Robinson, Gabrielle Simpson, Caitlin Thwaites, Elizabeth Watson.

Veteran Australian coach Julie Hoornweg is set to return to the helm of the Fiji Pearls, the side which she coached in the 1990s, it was announced by Netball Fiji this week.  Hoornweg, who coached Fiji to its best ever world championship finish (6th) in 1999, has a wealth of experience gained with the English national side, as well as the Melbourne Phoenix in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy, and the Melbourne Vixens in the ANZ Championships.  Her appointment has been made possible through the Fiji Sports Commissions budget for national federations, which has enabled Netball Fiji to apply for an appoint an overseas coach.  Hoornweg’s first challenge with the Pearls will be preparing the side for a tri-series against Papua New Guinea and Northern Ireland in May, ahead of the world championships qualifier against the Cook Islands in June.

In the UK Superleague, Surrey Storm completed the regular season competition undefeated, finishing the league with a 69-43 win over Team Northumbria.  Having already secured a home semi-final against Mavericks, the Storm side was in no mood to lose its perfect record and led by 14 goals at the half-way interval.   The other semi-final will pit Manchester Thunder, who finished the league in second place, four points behind Storm, against reigning champions TeamBath.    The Grand Final of the competition will be held in Worcester on 26 April.

Jamaica’s Young Sunshine Girls dominated the 2014 Caribbean Netball Association Jean Pierre Youth Championships from start to finish, completing an undefeated path to the title with a 62-13 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines.  Barbados finished the competition in second place, five points behind Jamaica, with a 33-19 win over St Lucia.
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