• Sharni Layton defends against Magic for NSW Swifts (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Which ANZ Championship player went wild with her teammates during pre-season? We take a look at the season ahead and the players who will make it lighter and brighter.
By
Sarah Leach

31 Mar 2016 - 10:10 AM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2016 - 10:31 AM

Get ready to see the best of the best forge their way to having their best netball season yet. 

For players, the hard-yards are all but done. The hard-core fitness and skills training, practice matches, meeting new teammates and the like, has wrapped up and the wait is finally over. Let the season begin.

The Queensland Firebirds host the Mainland Tactix in Brisbane and the Mystics meet Southern Steel in Auckland.

Round 1 continues in Perth on Sunday when West Coast Fever hosts the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

An opening weekend of blockbusters also includes a NSW Swifts-Melbourne Vixens showdown in Sydney on Sunday, and the new-look Central Pulse against Cold Power Magic on Monday.

After an exceptional and thrilling grand final last year (won by the QLD Firebirds in the dying seconds) and the Diamonds winning the world cup, it’s predicted netball will reach greater heights in 2016.

“After what the grand final did for the game (last year), it exposed the game to a different audience,” said Firebirds and Australia Diamonds captain Laura Geitz.

The 2015 runners up, NSW Swifts, secured the biggest off-season scoop with the signing of dynamic and New Zealand Silverfern mid-court extraordinaire Laura Langman. Start Langman in the mid-court with Kimberlee Green and fellow Diamond representative Paige Hadley, and it will no doubt make for one of the best and most formidable mid-court combinations to grace the court.

NSW Swift Sharni Layton had this to say about last year’s grand final loss and the season ahead:

“We’ve actually let it go (grand final loss) to be honest,” Layton said.

“We’ve got a whole new team this year, five new girls on board so the whole pre-season we’ve been concentrating on learning from, not the grand final in particular, but learning from what brought us to the grand final, what we can continue to improve on as a group and just working really hard.

"It’s about what can we create with 2016 as a competitive group and culture to what we had in 2015.” 

And on teams to watch for this season?

“Definitely the Firebirds and Fever just from the fact that the Firebirds haven’t had any changes to the starting seven. They've got the same team, culture, same everything so they can continue to build on what they already have which is pretty good to be honest. Firebirds are definitely going to be the team to beat.

"Fever are quite similar as well. Only one real change in their starting seven, with Verity Simmons who’s come in and she’s a great inclusion for them. They made the finals last year and they’ll want to go even further this year. So for me it would be Firebirds, Fever and Magic from New Zealand," Layton said.

Adelaide Thunderbirds

Emily Beaton, Erin Bell, Carla Borrego, Jade Clarke (England), Sarah Klau, Cody Lange, Hannah Petty, Samantha Poolman, Madeleine Proud, Kate Shimmin, Amy Steel, Khao Watts. Coach: Michelle den Dekker (new)

In: Jade Clarke (Swifts), Sarah Klau, Hannah Petty, Khao Watts (Fever). Out: Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Nicola Gray, Renae Ingles (nee Hallinan, pregnant), Leigh Waddington (retired).

Captain: Erin Bell

Follow Erin Bell on social:

Adelaide Thunderbirds' new team captain. Loves her netball and wearing pink!

Twitter: @Erin_Bell77 Instagram: @erinbell77

Central Pulse

Jodi Brown, Katrina Grant, Phoenix Karaka, Blaze Leslie, Chelsea Locke (nee Pitman), Jacinta Messer Australia), Samon Nathan, Elias Scheres (nee Shadrock), Whitney Souness, Ameliaranne Wells, Kate Wells, Maia Wilson. Coach: Tanya Dearns (new)

In: Phoenix Karaka (Steel), Blaze Leslie, Chelsea Locke (nee Pitman, Manchester Thunder), Jacinta Messer, Samon Nathan, Kate Wells, Maia Wilson. Out: Ama Agbeze, Jess Bourke, Joline Henry, Liana Leota, Hannah Poff, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit (Steel), Irene van Dyk.

Captain: Katrina Grant

Follow Chelsea Locke (nee Pitman) on social:

The Australian born, former Diamond representative living in Wellington. Back playing in the ANZ Championships after a sabbatical in the UK Superleague.

Twitter: @ChelseaPitman Instagram: @chelsea_locke1

Melbourne Vixens

Karyn Bailey, Kelsey Browne , Emily Mannix, Kate Moloney, Geva Mentor (England), Tegan Philip, Madi Robinson, Emma Ryde, Alice Teague-Neeld, Chloe Watson, Liz Watson, Jo Weston. Coach: Simone McKinnis

In: Kelsey, Browne, Emma Ryde. Out: Bianca Chatfield (retired), Carla Dziwoki (retired).

Captain: Madi Robinson

Follow Liz Watson on social:

Her instagram is compete with plenty of netball inspo! She made her debut in the ANZ Championship for the Vixens in 2014 and in the same year was a key part of the Vixens’ title-winning team, cementing herself an integral part of their starting seven. A powerful and hard-working centre court player, Watson has earned selection in her first Australian team for the tour of England in January, 2016. 

Twitter: @watson_lizzy Instagram: @lizwatto

NSW Swifts

Kaitlyn Bryce, Kimberlee Green, Paige Hadley, Laura Langman (New Zealand), Sharni Layton, Abbey McCulloch, Lauren Moore, Susan Pettitt, Amy Sommerville, Caitlin Thwaites, Maddy Turner , Stephanie Wood. Coach: Rob Wright

In: Kaitlyn Bryce, Laura Langman (Mystics), Lauren Moore, Amy Sommerville, Maddy Turner.  Out: Jade Clarke (Thunderbirds), Julie Corletto (retired), Taylah Davies, Erin Hoare (study), Micaela Wilson.

Captain: Kimberlee Green

Follow Sharni Layton on social:

You'll get some laughs from Sharni! She's a champion off the court as much as she is on. Last year's MVP and Diamonds vice-captain, Layton is a big supporter of fellow athletes, she's inspirational, funny, and will get you going with motivational posts. Layton also loves her cats!

Twitter: @Sharni_Layton Intsagram: @sharni_layton

Northern Mystics

Megan Craig , Kayla Cullen, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Holly Fowler, Serena Guthrie (England), Anna Harrison, Fa’amu Ioane, Nadia Loveday, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, Sulu Tone-Fitzpatrick, Cathrine Tuivaiti (nee Latu), Maria Tutaia. Coach: Debbie Fuller

In: Megan Craig, Holly Fowler, Anna Harrison, Fa’amu Ioane, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson. Out:Elsa Brown, Katherine Coffin, Paula Griffin, Laura Langman (Swifts), Camilla Lees (UK).

Captain: Maria Tutaia

Follow Maria Tutaia on social:

This self-professed pie eating champion of 2015 is also a New Zealand Silver Fern regular and captain of the Northern Mystics. The GA and GS brings her A-game every week.

Twitter: @MariaTutaia Instagram: @mariatutaia

Queensland Firebirds

Romelda Aiken (Jamaica), Mahalia Cassidy, Laura Clemesha, Laura Geitz, Beryl Friday, Hulita Haukinima, Chelsea Lemke, Clare McMeniman, Caitlyn Nevins, Kim Ravaillion, Gabi Simpson, Gretel Tippett. Coach: Roselee Jencke

In: Mahalia Cassidy, Hulita Haukinima, Chelsea Lemke. Out:Rebecca Bulley (retired), Verity Simmons (Fever), Amorette Wild.

Captain: Laura Geitz

Follow Kim Ravaillion on social:

She’s fun, fab and super fit. Be inspired to be fit, healthy and play like a champion. “Rav’s” is one of Australia’s best mid-courters and enjoys her time away from the court just as much as she does on!

Twitter: @kimberley138 Instagram: @kimmyrav

Southern Steel

Gina Crampton, Abby Erwood, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (Jamaica), Shannon Francois, Wendy Frew, Jamie Hume, Brooke Leaver, Stacey Peeters, Storm Purvis, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Jane Watson. Coach: Noeline Taurua (new)

In: Abby Erwood, Jamie Hume, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit (Pulse). Out: Katarina Cooper, Sophia Fenwick, Phoenix Karaka (Pulse).

Captain: Wendy Frew

Follow Storm Purvis on social:

This tall defender made her ANZ Championship debut in 2012 against Silver Ferns stalwart Irene Van Dyk. She’s brings positivity and fun to her social mediums. She’s the regular down to earth gal who loves her netball.

Twitter:@storm_purvis Instagram: @storm_purvis

Tactix

Olivia Coughlan, Charlotte Elley, Gemma Hazeldine, Mwai Kumwenda (Malawi), Nicola Mackle, Bailey Mes, Jess Moulds, Erikana Pedersen, Hayley Saunders, Louise Thayer, Anna Thompson, Zoe Walker. Coach:Sue Hawkins

In: Olivia Coughlan, Charlotte Elley, Nicola Mackle. Out: Demelza Fellowes (retired), Keshia Grant, Chloe Williamson.

Captain: Anna Thompson

Follow Bailey Mes on social:

Go behind the scenes of this New Zealand Silver Fern. The GS, GA and WA has been part of the national side since 2012, and leaves her Tatix teammates in the dust for social media presence!

Twitter: @baileymes Instagram: @baileymes

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic 

Aisha Bower, Leana de Bruin, Ellen Halpenny, Joanne Harten (England), Kelly Jury, Kristiana Manu’a, Malia Paseka, Jamie-Lee Price, Grace Rasmussen, Samantha Sinclair, Courtney Tairi. Coach: Julie Fitzgerald.

In: Aisha Bower, *12th player unknown at this stage. Out:Casey Kopua (pregnant), Jo Trip (overseas).

Captain: Leana De Bruin

Follow Courtney Tairi on social:

Sydney born New Zealander who has clearly had a great off-season! The former NSW Swift has become a regular starter for Magic and has made herself a home at Waikato Bay of Plenty.

Twitter: @CourtneyTairi Instagram: @cocotairi

West Coast Fever

Caitlin Bassett, Kate Beveridge, April Brandley (nee Letton), Ashleigh Brazill, Shae Brown, Courtney Bruce, Ingrid Colyer, Josie Janz-Dawson, Natalie Medhurst, Erena Mikaere (New Zealand), Verity Simmons, Kaylia Stanton. Coach: Stacey Rosman.

In: Verity Simmons (Firebirds). Out: Khao Watts (Thunderbirds).

Captain: Ashleigh Brazil

Follow Caitlin Basset on social:

Her Twitter bio tells all: “Australian Diamonds & West Coast Fever Goal Shooter - coffee connoisseur, lover of polaroid photography & the colour green.” 

Twitter: @Cbassnetball Instagram: @c_bass_netball

ANZ Championships on TV

All 2016 games will be broadcast live on SKY Sport in New Zealand and Fox Sports in Australia, with Network 10 to show the Sunday match of the round live, starting with the NSW Swifts against Melbourne Vixens from noon (local time).