Vitality Superleague 2021: Tamsin Greenway examines the skillsets on show this season | Netball News


Towera Vinkhumbo has made a huge impact for Sirens this year (Image: Ben Lumley)

Towera Vinkhumbo has made a huge impact for Sirens this year (Image: Ben Lumley)

They say styles make fights, well in this week’s column styles make netball teams. In any sport different players in the same position have wide-ranging skillsets and those skills allow for many different ways of playing. Tamsin Greenway casts an eye over some of the names who have impressed in all three areas of the court so far this season and picks out the contrasts in skills on show.

Having watched every game – several times some of them – it’s been great to see the different styles and the different structures that teams are playing, but also how key players are fitting into that.

What we are starting to see is that while principles remain the same, whether that is defensively keeping players out of the middle or off the edge, tactics in the structures bring out the very best in individuals.

Whether it’s flying intercepts, one-on-one defence or ‘bodying up’ – there are differences in styles in the same position and it’s throwing around questions we haven’t really asked in netball before.

People are talking about what they like and why they like it, and it’s beginning to bring about comparisons of players, almost like ‘would you rather player x or player y?’ With England selections coming next month and other international coaches watching, it starts to ask questions about how players perform, how they are encouraged to play and more importantly what style you like?

“It’s not a case of choosing one player or the other, it’s that we can now show in analysis and with stats what different players are doing.

“What the best teams do is find a style that fits their players or vice versa.”

Tamsin Greenway

There is massive variety across this league, mainly due to the levels of experience and the range of countries and talented imports teams have brought in. We have players from the Caribbean and African nations as well as all the Home Nations plus we have Australians and New Zealanders playing in the league – it’s created so many different ways of playing the game.

The players I have picked out are all performing incredibly well in their chosen position, but do it in varied styles and with stats to back things up makes it an interesting conversation we can start to have.

Shooters

Two stand-outs this season have been Kim Borger (Team Bath) and Mary Cholhok (Loughborough Lightning) and they are so different in how they do things.

Mary Cholhok tops the goalscoring charts after a brilliant start to the season (Image: Ben Lumley)

Mary Cholhok tops the goalscoring charts after a brilliant start to the season (Image: Ben Lumley)

Vitality Superleague 2021 – Leading Goalscorers

262 Mary Cholhok Loughborough Lightning
198 Karyn Bailey Surrey Storm
184 Kim Borger Team Bath
172 Rachel Dunn Wasps
168 Joyce Mvula Manchester Thunder

Cholhok is a 6ft 7in holding shooter who is adding more and more layers to her game, she’s really agile, will pop out of the circle, loves a lay-up but is very much a dominant shooter that Loughborough can lay the ball off to her from anywhere in the end third.

To play in any team she needs the feeders to understand how to work the ball into her. She’s on 262 goals, averaging 37 goals a game – she is lethal under the posts – 37 goals in 48 minutes is amazing.

In contrast, Borger doesn’t have the height of Cholhok and prefers a rotating circle. Her favourite move is to drive through the middle, set up play and then re-enter. Once in the circle her footwork to get around defenders, and open up the baseline is incredible.

I love her timing, it’s not easy to know when to exit to open up the space for the rest of her team.

Kim Borger's partnership with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has been key to Bath's perfect start (Image: Ben Lumley)

Kim Borger’s partnership with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis has been key to Bath’s perfect start (Image: Ben Lumley)

She hasn’t scored as many goals, she’s sitting at 184 but her percentage is ridiculously high at 93 per cent including a 100 per cent showing against Thunder.

Both players are performing consistently and will be the reason these two teams are challenging for the title, but they both offer completely different tactical approaches for coaches to handle.

Lightning know they always have the outlet of Cholhok, but have to keep perfecting the feed, and the pull of defenders while Bath have to play with pace and intensity and rely on the Borger partnership with Sophie Drakeford-Lewis to help bring out the best in each other.

Vitality Netball Superleague – Round Eight Fixtures

Sunday at 12pm Manchester Thunder vs Leeds Rhinos Netball Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 2pm London Pulse vs Team Bath Netball Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 4pm Loughborough Lightning vs Strathclyde Sirens Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Sunday at 6pm Wasps vs Celtic Dragons Streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Monday at 5.15pm Saracens Mavericks vs Severn Stars Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, plus streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel
Monday at 7.15pm London Pulse vs Leeds Rhinos Netball Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Mix, plus streamed on the Sky Sports YouTube channel

Goalkeepers

I’ve been so impressed with the goalkeepers in the league so far this season and I have left loads of this list but I’ve chosen Alice Harvey (Loughborough Lightning) and Towera Vinkhumbo (Strathclyde Sirens)

There is not much between their teams in terms of average goals conceded (Lightning 39, Sirens 38) but intercepts have been a huge difference and where people would probably pick out Vinkumbo with the edge over Harvey at 30-17.

Harvey is fourth in the intercepts table which shows the impact that Vinkhumbo is having with her total but it’s not always about the obvious – both styles are very effective for their teams.

Towera loves to come out hunting, her reactive movement coming onto the ball is incredible both in the circle and the end third. And that is the stuff that everyone loves to see, those flying intercepts from nowhere with the combination of reading the game and athleticism is such an art form.

She’s still developing her tighter one-on-one and seamless switches in the circle, as she loves to be front and further off the body always looking for ball to win.

Goalkeepers vs Kim Borger

Borger shots and attempts vs Alice Harvey 26/29
Borger shots and attempts vs Towera Vinkumbo 29/32
Alice Harvey has made the goal keeper bib her own this season (Image: Ben Lumley)

Alice Harvey has made the goal keeper bib her own this season (Image: Ben Lumley)

Harvey is a young English goalkeeper who has made the position her own at Loughborough.

She prefers to stay in the circle, she is structured and has a tighter one-on-one game using her footwork and her range to come around players which has caused loads of problems for teams so far.

These two styles have to fit into the wider structure. For Loughborough Nat Panagarry and Beth Cobden hustle so much that it gives Harvey time to get around her player, while for Sirens Gia Abernethy and Taylor Cullen allow their players to run in behind which gives Vinkumbo the opportunity to come out and take the ball.

Goal Defence

Next are two England internationals in Layla Guscoth (Team Bath) and Fran Williams (Wasps) who are both pushing for the starting England spot, but who both play it in their own way.

How can you have two exceptionally good players in the same position, doing it so differently but still being so good?

Fran Williams will be hoping to make the England full-time programme next month (Image: Ben Lumley)

Fran Williams will be hoping to make the England full-time programme next month (Image: Ben Lumley)

vs Sirens Goal Attack

Intercepts Turnovers Deflections
Layla Guscoth (Three quarters) 1 4 5
Fran Williams (Full game) 3 7 5

Layla is much tighter through the court, she’ll go wide with you, she’ll pick you up hard in the circle and run you out just as hard, constantly challenging on the ball. In the circle she’s happy to sit tight and in behind as she loves to come in over the top for ball.

Fran is much looser, she won’t let the player run riot but she’ll sit off a little bit more because that’s her strength. She will angle off through the court to read the game and set up, challenging when she thinks it the right time. She works her footwork hard in the circle to get around the player as she prefers front position.

Layla is a reactive player and far more in your face whereas Fran is a bit more subtle picking and choosing, but if you look at both players’ performances against the same 2 GAs for Sirens there is really not much difference in the outcome.

Mid Court

Nat Panagarry (Loughborough Lightning) and Serena Guthrie (Team Bath) are my final picks, the intensity and determination matched up against the effortless flair.

Serena is one of the all-time greats, the plays she makes for her team in both attack and defence are world-class, but if you have Nat in your squad she is the first person down on the team sheet.

Both are incredible leaders and will give everything right until the bitter end, both are supremely fit and equal in terms of what they add to the attack and defence of their teams but in their own way.

Season so far

Turnovers Unforced errors
Serena Guthrie 19 11
Nat Panagarry 5 10

Nat will hustle, grind you down and track alongside Beth Cobden while Guthrie and Imogen Allison will stand off a little more and tempt the opposition into things that allow them room to intercept

Nat Panagarry's leadership stands out for Loughborough (Image: Ben Lumley)

Nat Panagarry’s leadership stands out for Loughborough (Image: Ben Lumley)

Both have worked hard on their attacking games as they are naturally more centre/wing defence. Serena prefers a flatter quick ball to a shooter who presents forward like a Borger and Drakeford-Lewis, whilst Nat has worked hard on getting a high percentage, consistent pass to Cholhok.

With both players comes fight and a winner that every team needs, the decision – like all we’ve highlighted – depends on how they fit best into your defensive and attacking units.

Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Sunday with Round Eight and four matches back-to-back streamed live on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm.





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