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Adelaide Thunderbirds season preview

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29th April, 2021

The Thunderbirds finished last year in seventh.

The biggest surprise to come out of the Thunderbirds camp in the offseason was that co-captain and former Aussie Diamond and English Rose Chelsea Pitman was not offered a new contract. Another key loss for the Thunderbirds is the return of the doctor Layla Guscoth to England to re-join Team Bath Netball, be closer to family and friends and to further her medical career. Adelaide also did not re-sign the experienced Kate Shimmin.

Jamaican Sunshine Girl Shamera Sterling athletically patrols the Thunderbirds defensive circle. In 2020, Sterling led the league in defensive rebounds with 37, was second in the league for deflections with 104 and third in the league for intercepts with 37. Sterling was crowned the joint winner of the Thunderbirds Club Champion in 2020 with Maisie Nankivell. It is apt that Sterling’s initials are SS because she is a Super Star. Watching Sterling’s defensive prowess and athleticism is worth the price of admission alone.

The Thunderbirds recruited Sterling’s fellow Jamaican Latanya Wilson to replace Guscoth in defence. 20-year-old Wilson joins Adelaide from the Celtic Dragons in the UK Superleague. Wilson first represented Jamaica at the Netball World Youth Cup in 2017 and she made her senior international debut during the Netball Nations Cup in January 2020. Wilson will need to consider her discipline after being sent off during one match for Celtic Dragons.

Matilda Garrett, who debuted for the Collingwood Magpies in 2018, moves from the Magpies to the Thunderbirds for the 2021 season. Garrett is an emerging defender who was a member of Australia’s World Youth Cup team in 2017. Garrett played every game for the Magpies in 2020 and was named in the 2020/2021 Australian Development Squad.

South African Shadine Van Der Merwe debuted with the Thunderbirds in 2019 as a temporary replacement player before becoming a full-time squad member. Van Der Merwe was awarded the UK Superleague Best and Fairest while playing with the Surrey Storm and was also named the Player of the Series in the 2019 SPAR Challenge International Series. Van Der Merwe has been named in the Thunderbirds’ 2020 leadership group.

Captain Hannah Petty takes on the captaincy role by herself after being co-captain with Pitman in 2020. Petty is a South Australian product that joined the Thunderbirds in 2016. Petty was previously a member of the Australian Under-21 team. In 2020, Petty had 66 goal assists.

Hannah Petty of the Thunderbirds

Hannah Petty of the Thunderbirds passes the ball. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Joint 2020 Club Champion Maisie Nankivell debuted for the Thunderbirds in 2019 as an injury replacement player and in the ANL she won the Southern Force’s MVP and Players’ Awards. Nankivell is able to play in all three midcourt positions. In 2020, Nankivell had 157 goal assists, 29 deflections and 16 intercepts. Nankivell is the third member of Adelaide’s leadership group. Expect Nankivell and Petty to both spend time at centre and at wing attack.


Elle McDonald was signed as a training partner by the Melbourne Vixens in 2020. McDonald was then included in the squad that went into the hub. McDonald impressed with her limited opportunities in the Vixens midcourt. Despite the quality of other players in the Thunderbirds’ midcourt, expect McDonald to receive plenty of court time.

Georgie Horjus was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the extended 12 player squads in the 2020 hub season. The Kangaroo Island product scored 174 goals and 41 super shots and certainly took her opportunities with both hands. Horjus made it almost impossible for Tania Obst not to include her in the ten-player squad in 2021.

Experienced South African shooter Lenize Potgieter returns for her second season with the Thunderbirds. Potgieter has previously played with Team Bath, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, Southern Steel and Queensland Firebirds. In 2020, Potgieter was fifth in the competition for gaols with 437 and fourth for offensive rebounds with 32.

After spending time at Collingwood and the Melbourne Vixens Samantha Gooden joined the Thunderbirds in 2020. Gooden previously represented Victoria’s 19-and-under and 21-and-under teams. In Round 1 2020, Gooden shot at 9 from 10 from super shot range.

Adelaide Thunderbirds training partners are defenders Molly Watson and Chelsea Blackman, midcourters Tayla Williams and Tyler Orr and shooter Lucy Austin.


Likely starting seven: Sterling, Wilson, Van Der Merwe, Petty, Nankivell, Horjus, Potgieter

The Thunderbirds have lost a lot of experience with Pitman, Guscoth and Shimmin heading for the departures lounge. Adelaide heading down the youth path may create a tough team to defeat in three or four years, but may result in some short-term pain.

Predicted finish: eighth.