Opens Team Announced
New head state coach Moira Gaha this week unveiled her open men’s state team, labelling her list “athletic from post to post”, and the team she foreshadows will set the state program up for near, mid and long term success.
The attack end will see the return of versatile shooter Stechiwskyj, man mountain Vincent and speedster Lee who have steered the shooting ship for this state on their rise back to top two rankings at the last three nationals. All players are still mid playing career, but feature a depth of experience having been at the elite level since being teenagers.
“These three boys have been shooting over the best defenders both domestically and internationally for many years. We are so lucky they have been blooded at such a young age, because now in their mid twenties we get these experienced heads beyond their years. They’ve been on court when the big games are up for grabs and are the types of players who want the ball when the game is on the line. They know how to take the hits, ride the bumps and go to post in any scenario. It is such a balanced and dynamic frontline.” Gaha said.
The mid court just keeps on getting better year on year, showing the depth built over many years. After a year off State team duties, rising star Liam Forcadilla and the dogged tagger Paki Jensen return to the Opens Team along with Jack Edwards who had a fabulous 2019 and this year sees the return of Tysan Allen after fighting his way back from injury in recent years.
“This mid court has speed to burn. At trials and in our mleague, these players exhibited exceptional power and speed which is the first ticket to the game for middies. Pair that with their court smarts and ball skills, I have no doubt they can outpace, outlast and outsmart anything opposition teams throw at them. I’ve always been a fan of specialists rather than generalists in mid court as each position has unique skills needed that work in unison, and these boys all have outstanding specialist skills in their preferred positions that will make for some classic old school netball that will be a treat to watch.” Gaha said.
The defensive end sees the return of Wetere and Glassie, the NZ born and raised ballers who bring the flair and hunt to this backline. They will be joined by giant killer Shane Clarke, and newcomer Jamie Hardy who’s dominated defensively in the 2020 mleague.
“NSW has always recruited for skill over size in the backline and been able to deliver success with that approach. These boys dominate the air and contests with menacing tags, athletic aerial ability and constant pressure on every play down court as a unit. We know we have some big targets to stop from other states but know we have the list to do that in the air and on the ground.” Gaha said
This year’s group of selectors undertook the process with the long term vision of previewing the future talent nipping at the heels of this side. “There are some players in our opens team in the first phase of their elite playing careers, while others are in their mid or last phase. We sprinkled the right mix of experience and youth in this side to ensure we keep our best talent at all ages growing and playing. Then there are athletes who very well could have made this side, but we felt needed to be blooded through the pathway to prepare them for this next level. What we hope we have achieved is a pipeline of talent that means when our late playing career phase players decide to hang up the boots, talent has already been prepared to step in.” Gaha added.
President Clare McCabe said the coaching group will also use the first phase of pre season to talent identify athletes from the squad who will get additional experience in the opens environment in preparation for future years. This includes access to specialised strength and conditioning and match play against the opens to test their bodies and skills against the best.
McCabe also heralded the side as the benchmark for our sport as we enter a critical year of growth for the men’s game. “It was important for us to come out of COVID as strong as we went in, if not stronger. The state and national bodies are targeting 2021 to be our breakout year as a sport with all eyes on us to see if we are up to the standard. With a world class coaching list to lead them, I feel very confident this playing group will absolutely represent the best possible NSW elite product for fans to see. Off court behaviour and attitude is just as important and this group of men have the right cultural traits which are critical to us.”