– by Heath Brown
If the Super Netball commentary was anything to go by on the weekend, the Super Shot was all the talk and rage as Channel Nine’s experts hollered to the rooftops every time a shooter sunk a long bomb.
But elsewhere, the ears of the Suncorp Super Netball rule makers would have been burning as traditionalists cursed the Super Shot as meddling with the purity of our great game.
Were you throwing shade at it, or fist pumping the resurgence of the long bomb?
I’ll admit I did a complete 360 after watching Round 1, and I’m now an early fan of the new rule after being a little shady on it during pre-season.
Talls show range
Not to be rendered obsolete by a rule change that threatened to blunt their biggest weapons, the talls were out in force to show they have far more range than simply under the post.
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We expected it from Harten, but the bombs were flying off the hands of fellow ‘talls camp’ members Wallace, Fowler-Reid and Thwaites to name a few. Teams even substituted shooters who don’t have range, with Proscovia, Aitken and C-Bass all sitting on the pine during the ‘super shot’ phases of each quarter.
If the rule remains beyond 2020, it’s something recruiters will almost certainly consider.
Aerial ping pong is out
Every franchise was forced to find a tall timber to be competitive in Super Netball, but that has often meant games resemble aerial ping pong as the playmaking was all about end-to-end sky balls to find a tall under the post.
Put simply, it became repetitive to watch and didn’t showcase the more spectacular parts of our game from yesteryear.
The good news is if this strategy was your go-to, your gameplan needs a facelift as ping pong is out!
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And pleasingly, it also means we can throw out that ridiculous measuring stick many coaches use that says, “You’re too small to be a shooter, we are going to have to move you out to the midcourt”. The small, long-range shooter is now as punishing as the seven-foot beanpole under the post. Could you imagine the type of score Folau and Ekenasio could amass?
More than anything, who doesn’t love seeing a shooter of any height sink a long-ranger under pressure, showing the true art and skill of shooting!
Young talent time
One of the saddest parts of our game in recent years is the lack of local talent being blooded. The above point around preferences for height have sent clubs shopping in international waters to find the next tall timber to pop under post.
Australian drinking water doesn’t seem to produce as many talls as other countries, so it risked becoming a dead-end pathway for our mid-height and small shooting talent. Seeing Tippah Dwan, Sophie Dwyer, Alice Teague-Neeld, Kiera Austin and Sam Gooden all show their craft was the most important thing from the weekend. The two-point rule, in conjunction with rolling subs, puts this type of talent on the court more and more.
Preparing world beaters
In the last two big competitions, the Diamonds have lost their world beater status.
The team that has always found a way to win at the business end of competitions, no matter what situation they find themselves in, has gone MIA. Part of our reputation as a game-stealer in the past has always been our boldness to go to post in any situation. For those with longer memories, think Jenny Borlase circa 1999.
The Super Shot in our domestic league is bringing back a much-needed skill that has gone missing in the green and gold dress – the clutch long ranger under any pressure or game stage. The Silver Ferns and Roses had this weapon in both starting shooters to topple the Diamonds at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, so it is a much-needed area we need to catch up on.
Old school defence
The modern game of aerial ping pong has also meant the role of a defender has changed. A tall shooter needs a tall defensive line, so smaller utility style defenders have been off-trend. But the Super Shot requires a tagger to work the contest on the floorboards and not just in the air.
It has bought back a good old-fashioned lean, which was almost dead because it’s barely possible to lean over a shot under post. It has bought back the art of all-round defence, and as an old school defender, seeing the grittiness of a mobile tag and the grace of a well-held lean over a shot was a treat to watch back in our game.
Like any new rule, it also comes with its challenges. The main one for me is the fact the best team over 60 minutes may not win the game. A team that has a purple patch to end quarters may win, which will frustrate many netball traditionalists. The Firebirds’ loss was a good example of this. A 10-goal lead in the first half of the game would have been much easier to maintain and build, had it not been smashed by a five-minute blitz of two-pointers from Steph Wood. Blink and you would’ve missed that well-earned lead eaten away in minutes.
Overall, the jury will still be out for many of us as we wait to see how the Super Shot makes or breaks games. We have to remember it’s a trial innovation for our game and, like anything new, needs to be received with an open mind.
Whilst the traditionalist in me wanted to see it gone as soon as it was announced, after thinking about the bigger picture for our game I am now sitting on the fence. My trepidation has been replaced with excitement to see what the rule does for the sport in a year where we need to mix things up, experiment and make sure we come out the other end of COVID with new ideas and opportunities for the game.
Over to you, netball fans!
Heath Brown is an elite coach and former captains of the Australian and Victorian Men’s teams.