Nations Cup to deliver new twist on competition

Roses shooter Eleanor Cardwell (left) will resume her battle with Silver Ferns defender Kelly...
Roses shooter Eleanor Cardwell (left) will resume her battle with Silver Ferns defender Kelly Jury this weekend. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
International netball returns with a bang when the inaugural Netball Nations Cup starts on Sunday.

The Nations Cup, involving the Silver Ferns, Australia, England and Uganda - who switch in for South Africa from the old Quad Series - provides more depth and another challenge for the top teams.

Netball writer Kayla Hodge explains how the competition works and examines how the four teams stack up.


The Nations Cup adds something new to the start of the netball year and is a nice reward for Uganda, who finished fifth at the Netball World Cup last year. All four teams play each other once at the Nations Cup - being played across two weekends in London and Leeds. The top two make the final and the bottom two play off for third. The Silver Ferns will face the Diamonds in the first game and Uganda the next day. They then play England the following weekend (January 27) and depending on their results, either play in the final or for third.


Strap in, Silver Ferns fans, we could be in for an interesting ride. Noeline Taurua’s hand has been forced to take only three shooters after Maia Wilson and Tiana Metuarau failed fitness standards. It has left one of the lightest shooting ends in recent memory, with Grace Nweke, Amelia Walmsley and debutant Amorangi Malesala carrying the load. Nweke has also been given a bigger role this series, named as vice-captain alongside Southern Steel midcourter Kate Heffernan. They will support new captain Phoenix Karaka, who has earned her elevation in the absence of Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who is on leave this series. She will be joined by Karin Burger, Kelly Jury and the returning Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, who has been sensational for the Mystics since returning from two Achilles injuries. They form a strong defensive end, providing depth across the back for Taurua to work with. Jane Watson is unavailable this series. The midcourt remains unchanged from the Constellation Cup. It could also be Taurua’s last series in charge if she decides against extending her contract.


Diamonds midcourter Kate Malony (left) and defender Jo Weston could be vital for Australia.
Diamonds midcourter Kate Malony (left) and defender Jo Weston could be vital for Australia.
Unlike New Zealand, Australia has taken a punt, including five shooters in their squad. Donnell Wallam and Sophie Dwyer join the ranks, following the retirement of Steph Wood after the World Cup, and add something different to the squad. Wallam is a traditional holding goal shoot, while Dwyer is calm and never afraid of a long bomb. Kate Malony gets the nod ahead of Amy Parmenter as Ash Brazil’s replacement, who retired after the World Cup. She could be crucial to their depth in an otherwise unchanged midcourt. The defensive line is also unchanged, but Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston are sure to cause headaches for shooters.


The big guns in Nat Metcalf, Helen Housby and Eleanor Cardwell return to the Roses for this series. They join a similar side to the Roses for the Taini Jamieson series. Housby, who was named player of the World Cup, is the best goal attack in the world and will punish from anywhere, as will Cardwell. Cardwell’s combination with Australian Sasha Glasgow will be one to watch. They both recently signed with the Melbourne Mavericks and are the future of the Roses attack line if they fire. Fran Williams - who recently signed with the West Coast Fever -and Funmi Fadoju also return and are proven ball getters. Fresh from playing South Africa last month.


Star shooter Peace Proscovia has re-joined the She Cranes after withdrawing from the World Cup - but this time on the sidelines.

Proscovia, who led Uganda at two World Cups and has played in England and Australia, has signed on as assistant coach for the series and her knowledge will be key in helping the She Cranes flourish. They have been on the rise in recent years, only losing by 10 goals to the Silver Ferns at the World Cup. Shooter Mary Cholhok is the linchpin at the back for the side. Also fresh after playing Wales last weekend.


She Cranes shooter Mary Cholhok is the key to Uganda’s attack.
She Cranes shooter Mary Cholhok is the key to Uganda’s attack.
As mentioned the Silver Ferns are only taking three shooters, but with Malesala’s limited experience and Nweke and Walmsley standing at 193cm and 192cm respectively, it is a big ask. Malesala has proven herself at ANZ Premiership and is the only player in that group who is an experienced goal attack. Walmsley has been spotted training at goal attack with no other options, but that does not give fans a whole lot of confidence.


Australia and Uganda will meet for the first time this series. It is almost unheard of for countries not to have played each other, but it is true. They have not met during pool play at the World Cup or the Commonwealth Games and it will be a big moment for the She Cranes playing the world No 1.


New year means new rules for international netball. World Netball signalled the changes last year and this will be the first time they are rolled out.

Let’s see how the tactical changes, return of the short pass, no longer waiting for all players to be on court for a throw in, and all the other adjustments go.