Next crop of Aussie stars to begin 2016 action

2016 NNSW Waratahs Team Photo 830 x 477
The Netball NSW (NNSW) Waratahs’ 2016 Australian Netball League (ANL) season will commence this weekend when the team travels to Brisbane to face the QLD Fusion in a double-header opening round.

The NNSW Waratahs’ first appearance will be at Brisbane Entertainment Centre this Saturday 30 April following the highly anticipated NSW Swifts v QLD Firebirds Round 5 ANZ Championship fixture. The Blues will take to the court against the Fusion at 7:30pm, followed by their second match-up on Sunday 1 May at 12pm at Brisbane’s Ormiston College.

Having spent weeks on the training track, Head Coach Briony Akle says the team is excited to finally step on the court to open their 2016 campaign.

“I’m pretty excited that Round 1 is finally here, and I know the athletes are as well. They’ve been working really hard behind the scenes so we’re looking forward to putting the things we’ve been working on into action against QLD this weekend,” Akle stated.

“It will be a tough contest to open our season – QLD have plenty talent in their roster, and they’ve showed over the last few seasons that they continue to go from strength-to-strength so we won’t be underestimating their abilities.”

2015 was a historical season for NSW for all the wrong reasons, with the NNSW Waratahs missing the Finals Series for the first time since the competition began in 2008. The Blues missed out on a shot for the trophy by finishing in fifth place on goal percentage, with Victorian Fury eventually going on to claim their third consecutive ANL title.

Akle says the NNSW Waratahs aren’t dwelling on last year’s performance, and have their sights firmly set on reclaiming their place in the 2016 Finals Series.

“We’ve got a new team and excited to start 2016 on a fresh page, so we will be doing everything we can to be featuring in that final weekend,” Akle claimed.

“We’ve got a good balance of experience and youth in our roster and, despite some last minute roster shuffling, I’m excited to see what our NSW athletes can offer.”

There have been four changes to the NNSW Waratahs roster ahead of their opening weekend. NSW pair Kim Commane (Melbourne Vixens) and Toni Anderson (Adelaide Thunderbirds) have been withdrawn from the side following their elevation as ANZ Championship replacement players for 2016.

International defender Ama Agbeze has also withdrawn after being announced as England Captain ahead of their European tour in the next few weeks, while Emily Keenan has withdrawn for personal reasons.

In their place are promising young NSW athletes Georgia Marshall (Manly Warringah), Kara Styles (St George), Sophie Halpin (Eastwood Ryde) and Ashley Valeni (Sutherland Shire) who have been called into the 12-man roster as permanent replacements. All four have previous ANL experience, and according to Akle haven’t missed a beat after originally acting as training partners for the side.

Despite the roster shuffle, Akle is confident her side will be raring to go in Game 1 and have their sights firmly on returning to the Finals Series in 2016.

“The fact the Finals Series is being played at Netball Central gives us extra motivation to win the ANL Trophy in front of our home fans. That being said, we aren’t getting ahead of ourselves – we know there’s a lot of netball to be played, and there’s a lot of talent we’ll come up against,” Akle concluded.

Netball Australia announced in December 2015 the ANL competition would be re-structured to coincide with the 2016 ANZ Championship fixture. Entering its ninth season, Netball Australia is committed to ensuring the ANL remains a vital national pathway for athletes, coaches and umpires well into the future.

“We want to raise the profile of the competition and also allow ANZ Championship contracted athletes to come back and compete on a regular basis during the season,” Netball Australia’s Head of High Performance Andrew Collins said at the time.

“We want to continue to challenge our athletes, raise the standard of the ANL and ensure that it continues to be a greater feeder competition to the ANZ Championship. We are confident that the changes implemented for 2016 will do that.”

Click here to view the 2016 ANL draw.

Netball NSW has claimed just one ANL title since the competition began, with a Rob Wright-led NNSW Waratahs being crowned undefeated Champions in 2011.

2016 Netball NSW Waratahs ANL Fixtures
Round 1
Sat 30 April QLD Fusion v NNSW Waratahs Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Sun 1 May QLD Fusion v NNSW Waratahs Ormiston College, QLD
Round 2
Sat 7 May NNSW Waratahs v Canberra Darters Netball Central, NSW
Sun 8 May NNSW Waratahs v Canberra Darters Netball Central, NSW
Round 3
Sat 14 May VIC Fury v NNSW Waratahs State Netball & Hockey Centre, VIC
Sun 15 May VIC Fury v NNSW Waratahs Hisense Arena, VIC
Round 4
Sat 11 June NNSW Waratahs v Western Sting Newcastle Entertainment Centre, NSW
Sun 12 June NNSW Waratahs v Western Sting Netball Central, NSW
Round 4
Sat 18 June Southern Force v NNSW Waratahs Adelaide Arena, SA
Sun 19 June Southern Force v NNSW Waratahs Netball SA Stadium, SA
Finals Series
Sat 25 June Semi Finals Netball Central, NSW
Sun 26 June Grand Final Netball Central, NSW


2016 Netball NSW Waratahs
Keira Austin (Eastwood Ryde), Jessica Calderara (Eastwood Ryde), Taylah Davies (Eastwood Ryde), Sophie Halpin (Eastwood Ryde), Maddie Hay (Sutherland Shire), Georgia Marshall (Manly Warringah), Alison Miller (Ku-ring-gai), Vanessa Mullampy (Penrith District), Claire O’Brien (St George), Teigan O’Shannassy (Manly Warringah), Kara Styles (St George), Ashley Valeni (Sutherland Shire).
Head Coach: Briony Akle
Assistant Coach: Sonia Mkoloma
Manager: Mardi Aplin
Physiotherapists: Yves Silveira & Gemma Vale