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2012 ANZ Championship season preview

Published: 12:00PM Friday March 30, 2012 Source: AAP

  • Mystics' Kayla Cullen in action (Source: Photosport)
    Mystics' Kayla Cullen in action - Source: Photosport

How the teams shape up in the 2012 ANZ Championship starting tomorrow: -

ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS
Based: Adelaide
Last season: Sixth
Coach: Jane Woodlands-Thompson.
Co-captains: Natalie von Bertouch, Sharni Layton.

In: Rebecca Bulley, Renae Hallinan, Melissa Rowland.
Out: Georgia Beaton, Bianca Giteau, Kara Richards, Joanne Sutton.

The recruitment of internationals Bec Bulley and Renae Hallinan adds further quality to a squad already containing superstars Natalie von Bertouch and Carla Borrego. A lack of height down back is perhaps the only question mark against a side with the talent to return to the top four.

Best team: Carla Borrego, Erin Bell, Emily Beaton, Natalie von Bertouch, Renae Hallinan, Rebecca Bulley, Kate Shimmin

CANTERBURY TACTIX
Based: Christchurch, NZ
Last season: 10th
Coach: Leigh Gibbs.
Captain: Maree Bowden.

In: Sophia Fenwick, Stacey Francis, Keshia Grant, Jo Harten, Bessie Manu.
Out: Kasey Evering, Phillipa Finch, Charlotte Kight, Hannah Poff, Donna Wilkins.

After last year's tough, earthquake-affected season, the Tactix received hand up from the league and have acquired English internationals Jo Harten and Stacey Francis to add experience and ability at both ends of the court, while Anna Thompson and Maree Bowden bring plenty of know-how to the midcourt. A new-look team with a new mentor in former New Zealand captain and coach Leigh Gibbs.

Best team: Jo Harten, Anna Thompson, Maree Bowden, Keshia Grant, Finau Pulu, Stacey Francis, Anna Galvan.

CENTRAL PULSE
Based: Wellington
Last season: Eighth.
Coach: Robyn Broughton.
Captain: Katrina Grant.

In: Katarina Cooper, Paula Griffin, Jamilah Gupwell, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Joline Henry.
Out: Te Amo Amaru-Tibble, Alanah Cassidy, Cushla Lichtwark, Bessie Manu, Jade Topia.

Once the easy-beats with only four wins in four years, the Pulse have gradually edged their way up to the giddy heights of eighth in 2011. This year, with redoubtable former Steel coach Robyn Broughton at the helm, they've made useful acquisitions including uncompromising Silver Ferns defender Joline Henry and goal attack Paula Griffin. They won't feature in the playoffs, but the Pulse have a real capacity to upset.

Best team: Caitlin Thwaites, Paula Griffin, Camilla Lees, Katarina Cooper, Joline Henry, Katrina Grant, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.

MELBOURNE VIXENS
Based: Melbourne
Finish last season: Fifth
Coach: Julie Hoornweg.
Captain: Bianca Chatfield.

In: Karyn Howarth, Kara Richards.
Out: Renae Hallinan, Kathleen Knott, Sharelle McMahon.

Vixens will be looking for a return to the finals after missing out the last two years. The combination of Chatfield, Mentor and Corletto again gives Melbourne plenty of clout down back, but it remains to be seen how well they cope with the loss of Renae Hallinan to Adelaide and the unavailability of the pregnant Sharelle McMahon.

Best team: Kate Beveridge, Tegan Caldwell, Chelsey Tregear, Madison Browne, Julie Corletto, Geva Mentor, Bianca Chatfield.

NORTHERN MYSTICS
Based: Auckland
Last season: Second.
Coach: Debbie Fuller.
Captain: Temepara George.

In: Jade Clarke, Charlotte Kight, Portia Woodman.
Out: Megan Dehn, Joline Henry, Kayla McAlister.

The Mystics have kept the nucleus of last season's successful team, and that continuity could prove key as they look to go one better. Coach Debbie Fuller has taken on ex-Australian international Megan Dehn as technical adviser for a better understanding of the Australian game. Key to their chances is the management of influential midcourter Temepara George and her ongoing ankle problems.

Best team: Cathrine Latu, Maria Tutaia, Temepara George, Jade Clarke, Charlotte Kight, Kayla Cullen, Anna Scarlett.

NSW SWIFTS
Based: Sydney
Last season: Fourth
Coach: Lisa Beehag.
Co-captains: Mo'onia Gerrard, Kimberlee Green.

In: Kimberly Borger, Kristy Guthrie, April Letton, Samantha May, Joanne Sutton.
Out: Ashleigh Brazill, Rebecca Bulley, Catherine Cox, Kimberley Smith, Courtney Tairi.

Internationals Catherine Cox and Bec Bulley have headed to West Coast and Adelaide respectively and Lisa Beehag replaces foundation coach Julie Fitzgerald. The Swifts expect to finish top four despite the losses, but plenty of other sides will be snapping at their heels and, with no one over 186cms, they may struggle against taller teams.

Best team: Carla Dziwoki, Susan Pratley, Vanessa Ware, Kimberlee Green, Joanne Sutton, Mo'onia Gerrard, Sonia Mkoloma.

QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS
Based: Brisbane
Last season: champions
Coach: Roselee Jencke.
Captain: Lauren Nourse.

In: Shannon England, Jacinta Messer.
Out: Clare McMeniman. Jacqui Russell.

No reigning champion has ever made the finals the following season, but the Firebirds look likely to buck the trend. They have held on to all their stars and with captain Lauren Nourse back from the knee injury which sidelined her late last season, Firebirds possess the talent to make a strong title defence.

Best team: Romelda, Aiken, Natalie Medhurst, Chelsea Pitman, Lauren Nourse, Keirra Trompf, Amy Steel, Laura Geitz.

SOUTHERN STEEL
Based: Invercargill
Last season: Seventh.
Co-coaches: Natalie Avellino and Janine Southby.
Captain: Jodi Brown.

In: Jodi Brown, Shannon Francois, Demelza McCloud, Storm Purvis, Ashleigh Smith, Courtney Tairi, Louise Thayer, Donna Wilkins.
Out: Erika Burgess, Natasha Chokljat, Leana de Bruin, Sophia Fenwick, Paula Griffin, Liana Leota, Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Daneka Wipiiti.

The Steel will struggle after losing coach Robyn Broughton and eight players in the off-season. There is plenty of experience in the shooting circle with ex-Silver Ferns Donna Wilkins and Jodi Brown, but the flow of ball into them could be problematic with a largely untested midcourt. Apart from Australian Demelza McCloud, the Steel also look light in defence and need former Sheryl Scanlan to stay injury-free or improving Louise Thayer to kick on.

Best team: Jodi Brown, Donna Wilkins, Phillipa Finch, Courtney Tairi, Hayley Saunders, Sheryl Scanlan, Demelza McCloud.

WAIKATO-BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC
Based: Hamilton
Last season: Third
Coach: Noeline Taurua.
Captain: Laura Langman.

In: Leana de Bruin, Elias Shadrock, Jess Waitapu, Khao Watts.
Out: Jamilah Gupwell, Peta Scholz, Frances Solia, Jodi Tod.

The Magic have made the play-offs every year but have never delivered a championship-winning finals effort. With five Silver Ferns including the formidable defensive combination of Leana de Bruin and New Zealand captain Casey Williams, they will have no difficulty again making top four. Jess Tuki is improving steadily as she settles into wing attack, while the performance of rookie Australian Khao Watts, a robust and versatile midcourter, adds intrigue.

Best team: Irene van Dyk, Julianna Naoupu, Laura Langman, Jess Tuki, Khao Watts, Leana de Bruin, Casey Williams.

WEST COAST FEVER
Based: Perth
Last season: Ninth.
Coach: Norma Plummer.
Captain: Catherine Cox.

In: Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Ashleigh Brazill, Catherine Cox, Sarah East, Chanel Gomes, Verity Simmons, Nikala Smith.
Out: Ama Agbeze, Courtney Bruce, Johannah Curran, Sarah Ebbott, Ashlee Howard, Alicia Janz, Leah Shoard.

Traditionally the straggler among the Australian franchises, West Coast should be a big improver. They have their strongest roster yet, assembled under their new mentor, dual world-title winning coach Norma Plummer. The recruitment of Catherine Cox and Eboni Beckford-Chambers gives Fever four internationals in the two circles, but their level of improvement could depend on the work of their relatively unsung midcourt.

Best team: Caitlin Bassett, Catherine Cox, Shae Bolton, Verity Simmons, Andrea Gilmore, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Susan Fuhrmann.

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