The Evolution of the Shooter….or Not

Over the years, I have had many people ask me what I look for in a shooter, and what dynamics I seek when looking at combinations for selection in a team. With all this down time, I have been going through a lot of old photos, and have been really interested in seeing the old photos shared by netball buddies on social media. It started me thinking about the players I played with, and players I have coached over the years, and how this has shaped my thought process when selecting shooting combinations.

As a general rule of thumb, I like a big. A tall, strong, holding target. I remember quite a few years ago, when I was coaching Regional Academy. I went down to a camp, and was quite firmly told that’s not what we are looking for. As I do, I argued the point as I always found so much value in having a big target. The argument back was body type and athleticism…big’s don’t have that apparently. I put it down to another fad in netball that would come and go, as I had seen time and time again. There are so many netball icons’ over the years that fit that mold of big, tall and strong, and were lethal teamed with feeders that could deliver a ball to under the post. Vicki Wilson and Irene van Dyk straight up were players as a kid I loved to watch, study and mimic. Nobody was going to tell me there was no place in the game for them! Fast forward to SSN last few years, well lo and behold….Romelda, C-Bass, Thwaites, Fowler are just to name a few. We have got some mighty tall kids coming through our ranks at the moment, so I will continue to get my pads out and teach them the art of holding. Don’t get me wrong, we teach them how to be mobile when they need to, how to roll out into space, set screens….but most importantly how to think for themselves when they come up against defenders who may have their measure.

Next, I love a true Goal Attack. A smart, efficient worker who can read play, set up play, work a circle and shoot good volume. I like my GA’s to do the work out the front, and have a great relationship with their WA. I like them strong, agile and hard to the ball. Do they need to be fast? I don’t believe they need to be speedy as such, but speed off the mark, efficiency, direction and purpose are all important to keep that step or two ahead of play. The GA’s I love to watch in SSN are Steph Wood and Nat Medhurst. My favourite GA to watch when I was young, was Nicole Cusack. They are intelligent and read play, they are play makers, often knowing what pass is going where next well before it’s happened. They shoot when they need to, and also know how to play the role of the third feeder. Some say they are boring and traditional……I say they are a vital piece of an attack end not necessarily with the showmanship, but doing their jobs.

Then I look for the girl who plays both. It gives me versatility in the circle if I want to change things up and have a moving circle. It can bring some different options into the game if we want to run a closed circle, or set some great screens for better rotation. Cara Koenen is a great example of a player who runs both well. She knows how to use her height in the circle, but also runs out at GA quite nicely.

In my early days, I played only GA. I have the fondest memories of my rep buddy and partner in crime Kirsty as my GS. We started together at around 12 or 13, and went through until about 19. Now I think about it, we were just show offs. I can’t even tell you how many hours we would have spent stuffing around on the courts down at Nell E Robinson working out set plays, practicing over and over fancy stuff that we got wrong more times than right and passing the ball to each other with our eyes closed so we always knew where each other was. Kirsty was tall, knew how to hold, but was also very mobile. We worked on being unpredictable. Kirsty and I played in rep teams together, State League, and a couple of State Teams before we both went our separate ways. To this day, I run into people from different associations from the old days and they remind me of our formidable combination.

My point is, that’s exactly what makes attack ends work. Combinations, relationships and trust. Working as a unit, not as individuals.