NSW took the honours in the inaugural State of Origin tournament against the Queensland Suns, winning all three divisions of Open, Open A and Development over the June long week-end.
The re-branded Open A team won their first two games to secure the win, while the Development side dropped their first before coming home strong in the final two games. Joe Miller was the stand out amongst the feeder sides, winning best and fairest while also featuring prominently as a replacement player in Opens Division. Our Academy Development team also played some tough netball winning the series 2-1 coming back form a 1st game defeat and with support from a local player in game 2 due to injury.
“Each and every player that took the court over the weekend did us proud. The way they represented their state and showcased the talent in our pathway was exemplary. To see them back on the interstate court after 2 years off was pleasing to say the least.” President Clare McCabe said.
The Open division was a classic battle between the top two ranked sides in the country. The teams have owned the top two spots at nationals for the last five years, and this contest proved they will be hard to knock off that perch with world class netball output by both established and new talent. The MNNSW Opens team produced a stunning 27 goal turnaround in Game 3 of the State of Origin clash with arch rivals Queensland, to clinch the debut series 2-1. After struggling to a 33-43 defeat the night before, the boys in blue backed up with a 17 goal winning performance, emulating the form that has seen them win the last two of three national opens titles. The series win was redemption for the side, after giving up their title and number 1 ranking to Queensland in the 2019 nationals – the last nationals played due to the pandemic.
High Performance Coach Moira Gaha showed why she is regarded as one of the most successful state team coaches, curating a winning side with limited preparation. Gaha blooded several debutants at this level and formed new combinations right across the court that produced netball “like they have been playing together for a whole pre-season”. “Our capped players were just sensational after one of the most challenging pre seasons. They stood up when it counted and led the way for the debutants to work their way into the game”. Gaha said of the 6 players whom had already played at that level.
But it was the 6 debutants who took the court who turned heads, showing the depth of talent pumping through the MNNSW pathway. “Jack, Joe and Callum were thrown in the deep end this tournament, and looked like they had played at this level for years and have shown us they are ready. Add to that Dylan, Steve and Nick who earned their first cap in opens and played huge minutes and roles, we couldn’t be more pleased with our newest cohort of elite players”, Gaha said. All three games were headlined by strong defensive performance across the full court, with the Nexhip, Clarke, Price and Glassie combination ruthless in defence. “To hold a team to under 10 goals in most quarters is world class at this level particularly with super shot in play. QLD play such a smart and skilled game, so to disrupt their play we had to be taking a fly at the contested ball, while shutting down parts of the front court they like to own. It took huge work rate and skill to do this, but our line ups were able to do this quarter after quarter”. Gaha said.
The young attacking mid court also impressed, with Edwards, Vandervelde, Forcadilla and Miller forming new combinations that we could see on court for several years to come. “Our whole attacking mid court are in their early twenties, so to think of what performances they will be able to put out on court in years to come is an exciting prospect for us. They really did uphold what a Blues middie is all about – speed and smarts of hand and foot, and outrun and out position in dee.” Gaha said. The biggest rebuild come at the shooting end, where Catalano and Kelly stepped into the big shoes of the absent Vincent on day 1 to deliver the win. Vincent, standing at 7 foot, flew in for game 2 and 3 to bolster the shooting ranks for the blues. “We are so used to having a 7 footer under the post, so it was pleasing to see a mobile circle on show. The debutants went to post with confidence, Eugene really took control when the games were there to be won and Julian showed he is a big game player yet again”, Gaha said.
This competition is the NSW Open Teams only programming this year after it withdrew from nationals due to player unavailability and pandemic related risks. The state now turns its attention to 2022 trials which start in 3 months, with next years campaign positioning to be one of the states most contested trials. “This tournament and our local M-league are continuing to show us a level of depth we haven’t had since the 90s. Our selectors sat down and listed at least 25 athletes they think are opens-ready, so the fight for the 12 positions in our top side is going to be one of the toughest yet. It’s a good problem to have.” President Clare McCabe added.