In a year loaded with World Cups, next on the cards is the 2019 Netball World Cup hosted in Liverpool from 12 to 21 July.
Reigning Champions, Australia Diamonds will look to defend their title, with strong opposition expected from 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallists and tournament hosts England Roses.
The Roses have slipped to third in the International Netball Federation world rankings but that should not take away anything from them being tournament favourites.
The Aussies remain top of the pile closely followed by Jamaica with New Zealand and South Africa completing the top five in the world.
We thought it would be good to look at the top five and how they rate ahead of the global showpiece along with players that should stand out for each of their nations.
The eleven-time World Cup winners will hope to go one better than their silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but will struggle for good competition in the group stages, which could hamper them in gaining experience for when it comes to tight games later in the tournament when it matters most.
The Diamonds Coach, Lisa Alexander’s biggest concern is to make sure her players can get through matches without the numerous tactical breaks so many of them are used to when playing the Super Netball competition. On top of this she has nine players making their World Cup debut, thus making the Diamonds the least experienced team of the top five in the tournament. All 12 team members however take part in the world’s premier domestic competition and this gives the Aussies a great advantage.
Liz Watson will be a key player for the Diamonds as she leads an inexperienced midcourt and will have to use her ability to transition the ball down court to give her team a shot at glory.
Having placed third on three previous occasions and coming agonisingly close to beating eventual winners England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games still fresh in their minds the ladies from Jamaica are looking to show the world they can be the best.
One of Jamaica’s few concerns are their lack of combinations amongst key players and they will have to be at the very best when and if they face the Roses or Diamonds.
Shamera Sterling, who is one of four Jamaicans playing in Australia’s Super Netball competition, will be key to her nation’s dreams with her ability to pull off vital intercepts at crucial times.
The best the hosts have done in this tournament was in 1975 when they were runners-up to Australia.
2018 was their crowning moment in the sport when they won gold at the Commonwealth Games and what makes this good for them is that as now they were rated underdogs back then to the Aussies. On paper this Roses team looks like the real deal with a great balance of experience and youth.
Their toughest task will be when they face teams like Jamaica and South Africa in the cross-over matches and even tougher will be to remain calm and focused in front of their home fans who only expect the best from the Roses.
Geva Mentor, who is getting better as she gets older, will be their most vital player as she looks to play on the shooters of the five top nations, which will be priceless to the Roses hopes of winning the crown for the first time ever.
Four-time World Cup winners, New Zealand are no newcomers to golden circle so-to-speak.
This team has seen hardly any changes to the squad that was at the 2015 showpiece and this will be very closely watched as the tournament progresses. In their favour has been a very kind draw, which sees them likely to not play South Africa, however they will have to front up to neighbours Australia and a much weakend Malawi and is almost guaranteed a semi-final placing. Their biggest struggle will be to medal and therefore this team will have to give it their all from day one.
Key to the Kiwis success will be Laura Langman who can turn her team’s form around. Once she gets control of the game this team will stand a great chance of going far in this tournament.
The 1995 runners-up are heading to Liverpool with great vigour and passion even though they find themselves in a tough situation some might say. They would need to beat either England or Jamaica if they want to make the semi-finals thanks to a very unlucky draw.
Coach Norma Plummer will have some great tactics to fall back on as well as the confidence of beating England in January when they faced-off in the Quad Series. Add on to this the South Africans have six players that play in Australia’s Super Netball competition, which includes their defensive combination who play for Sunshine Coast Lightning.
One of the best players in the world currently is Karla Pretorius and a lot of South Africa’s hope rests on her to be the difference.
This is South Africa’s best chance to medal in 25 years.
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