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Opinion

Collingwood Magpies season preview

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29th April, 2021
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Last season the Collingwood Magpies finished eighth on the Super Netball table.

In 2019 they made the semi-finals. In 2020 there were a lot of experienced players missing from that finals-making side. Kim Ravaillion, Nat Medhurst and April Brandley all experienced the joy of giving birth – although due to the late start of the season because of COVID-19 Brandley was a late signing with the Giants – and Ash Brazill missed the entire season with an ACL. Kelsey and Madi Browne were both also impacted in 2020 by knee injuries.

In 2020 Collingwood finished last after winning only one match and subsequently parted ways with their coach Rob Wright. Based on these facts, you would think that 2020 for the Magpies was downright horrible.

But that is not entirely the case. The unavailability of the above players resulted in players like Molly Jovic receiving an opportunity she would not have otherwise received. Jovic took the opportunity with both hands and was runner-up in Colllingwood’s best and fairest award. Jovic has been promoted to Collingwood’s full-time squad this season and is likely to start in the centre bib but will also spend time at wing attack.

Captain Geva Mentor will again be leading from the front – or, given she is a goalkeeper, I should say from the back. The English star is like a fine bottle of wine and seems to get better with age. Mentor has won back-to-back best and fairests for the Magpies. In 2020 she had the most deflections in the league, with 108, and was third in the league for defensive rebounds, with 25.

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Jamaican Sunshine Girl Jodi-Ann Ward returns for a second season to partner with Mentor in the defensive circle. Ward was a wonderful addition to Super Netball in 2020. She was fifth in the league for intercepts with 29 and also had 48 deflections. Ward can also play at wing defence.

Jacqui Newton joins the Magpies after three seasons as a training partner with the Melbourne Vixens. The 24-year-old has gained valuable experience learning from players like Emily Mannix and Jo Weston. Newton was a member of the winning 2019 Australian Netball League team. I am looking forward to watching Newton to continue to develop in front of our eyes.

In great news for all netball fans, Ash Brazill will return after missing all of the 2020 season with an ACL injury. Brazill returned to the football field during the recent AFLW season and it didn’t look like her mobility was impacted by the injury. She has predominantly played at wing defence but towards the end of the 2019 season she spent time in the centre bib and starred there as well. Brazill was runner-up in Collingwood’s 2019 best and fairest and was recently appointed vice-captain.

Melissa Bragg is another player who benefited from opportunities in 2020. Bragg played in all 14 games for the Magpies in 2020 and should see plenty of time on the court at wing defence in 2021 as new coach Nicole Richardson rotates players through the midcourt.

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(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Kelsey Browne, a dual premiership player with the Sunshine Coast Lightning and an Aussie Diamond, returned to court in Collingwood’s last practice match. Browne suffered an ACL injury towards the end of the 2019 season and played only eight games in 2020 before suffering another knee injury. Fingers crossed that Browne has an injury-free 2021.

Another Jamaican, Shimona Nelson, will spend her third season at the Magpies after playing with the Adelaide Thunderbirds. The 22-year-old shooter will continue to improve and no doubt will be working hard on certain aspects of her game, such as having soft hands when catching high passes into the circle. Nelson’s combination with Gabby Sinclair will continue to develop.

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Goal attack Sinclair won an ANL premiership with the Tasmanian Magpies in 2018. She made her debut for Collingwood in 2019 and in 2020 became an integral member of the team. Sinclair hit the second most super shots in the competition during 2020 with 57.

Collingwood have added some more international flavour to their shooting circle with the recruitment of Kalifa McCollin. McCollin played in the 2015 and 2019 Netball World Cup for Trinidad and Tobago. She shot at 84 per cent for the Southern Steel in the 2020 Premiership League in New Zealand. McCollin has also previously played in the UK Superleague.

Collingwood have plenty of shooting ability in their training partners as well with Nyah Allen and Emma Ryde. Allen and Ryde were both part of Collingwood’s extended match-day squad of 12 in 2020. Wing attack or centre Maggie Lind is also one of Collingwood’s training partners.

Likely starting 7: Mentor, Ward, Brazill, Jovic, Browne, Sinclair and Nelson.

Prediction
The return from injury of Ash Brazill and Kelsey Browne, the development of players like Molly Jovic and Melissa Bragg in 2020, a very good defensive circle of Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward and the recruitment of Kalifa McCollin should see improvement from Collingwood in 2021.

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Predicted finish: 6th.

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