The Netball World Cup is almost upon us, but who will be the key players in Liverpool?
From stylish shooters to tough defenders, inexperienced youngsters to seasoned campaigners, we’ve got all positions covered as the 16 teams – including big guns Australia and England – prepare to battle it out.
Gretel Tippett (Australia)
Age: 26 Height: 1.91m Position: Goal shooter/goal attack International debut: 2018
As if parting with her beloved chow chow dog Winnie was not hard enough, Tippett also had two more cute bundles to leave behind when she boarded her pre-tournament flight from Brisbane to Manchester.
The former basketball player recently became an aunt to twins – Louie and Isabel. She says she “didn’t want to give them back” after first meeting the pair but ultimately had to prise herself away – she is needed in the shooting circle for Australia, after all.
The Queensland Firebird has become a regular starter for coach Lisa Alexander, and is shooting at 96 per cent so far this season in Super Netball.
And her popularity extends beyond the court, with Diamonds media manager Jenna Handreck saying: “Everyone loves Gretel. We’ve had so many requests to interview her.”
Shamera Sterling (Jamaica)
Age: 23 Height: 1.83m Position: Goalkeeper/goal defence International debut: 2016
Sterling was a virtual unknown before her breakout season for Loughborough Lightning in 2018, when her performances were key to the team reaching the grand final.
A year on, she’s the player everyone is talking about after starring for Adelaide Thunderbirds in her debut Super Netball season.
Known as ‘Sunshine Sammy’, Sterling is a real character in the dressing room – she’s flamboyant and always smiling – as well as focused, agile and athletic on the court.
Sterling has bossed the defensive stats in the domestic season – producing 42 intercepts, 21 rebounds and 77 deflections.
Layla Guscoth (England)
Age: 27 Height: 1.83m Positions: Wing defence/goal defence International debut: 2015
Guscoth surrendered a potential place in the Commonwealth gold medal-winning Roses side in 2018 to qualify as a doctor.
But she has regained a spot in the team, in part because of her consistently solid performances for Superleague side Team Bath and should run veteran Jade Clarke close for the wing defence berth when England face Uganda in their World Cup opener.
Guscoth is tenacious, versatile and tough and has impressed so far in Super Netball for Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Her full-time netball commitments mean she is not currently practising medicine, but she is taking a research fellowship at Adelaide University.
Ameliaranne Ekenasio (New Zealand)
Age: 28 Height: 1.86m Positions: Goal attack/goal shooter International debut: 2014
A stylish and slick player who can operate in both shooting positions, Ekenasio will be one of the first names on coach Noeline Taurua’s teamsheet.
Known for her speed and unwavering ability to shoot accurately from anywhere in the circle, don’t be surprised to see her leaving her marker two paces behind.
Australia-born Ekenasio comes to the World Cup on the back of a stellar season in New Zealand with Central Pulse, who won the ANZ Championship.
A humanitarian and environmentalist, she took time out from the game in 2017 to have her first child, Ocean.
Peace Proscovia (Uganda)
Age: 29 Height: 1.93m Position: Goal shooter International debut: 2013
Born into extreme poverty, as a child Proscovia had to walk an hour to get fresh water and survived being poisoned by a stranger on a bus.
The moment she discovered netball, her life changed. She moved to Kampala, attended school and honed her skills. She now captains her country and is one of the most feared shooters in the world game.
Now at Sunshine Coast Lightning in Australia, Proscovia had a successful stint at Loughborough Lighting in the Superleague.
Shadine van der Merwe (South Africa)
Age: 26 Height: 1.78m Positions: Wing defence/centre International debut: 2018
Van der Merwe has a twin brother called Dwayne
Van der Merwe thinks big. “I want to be an icon,” she says, noting the impact England’s players have made since winning Commonwealth gold.
The 26-year-old thought her domestic season was over when she played her last league game for Surrey Storm in May – but the Adelaide Thunderbirds had other ideas, drafting her in to replace the injured Beth Cobden.
She may not be flashy, but she’s reliable, can carry, and is a commanding presence on court.
Her move to England was a culture shock – she saw snow for the first time in her first winter in Surrey.
Claire Maxwell (Scotland)
Age: 30 Height: 1.75m Position: Wing defence/centre International debut: 2009
Scotland and Strathclyde Sirens skipper Maxwell is strong and takes no messing – on and off court.
An inspirational leader as well as being tough and technically sound, Maxwell does the simple things right – the Thistles are simply not as solid without her.
Having played 97 times for her country, she is likely to reach the century mark in Liverpool.
She was once quoted as saying she will do “whatever it takes to win”.
Sam Wallace (Trinidad and Tobago)
Age: 25 Height: 1.94m Position: Goal shooter International debut: 2015
Wallace is the joker in the Trinidad and Tobago pack, but when it comes to game-time, she has a poker face.
She’s only 25, but the Calypso Girl is one of the senior members of the squad, and heads to Liverpool as vice-captain.
During a lucrative season in Super Netball, Wallace clicked with team-mate Helen Housby, and boasts some of the best shooting stats in a league that is littered with world-class attackers.