For netballers the world over, the highest acclaim is to win a title for your team - individual accolades come as a bonus, a reward on top of the hard work and dedication. But this year, six of the finest have truly stood out in the 2012 ANZ Championship, a year filled with high drama, individual brilliance and unexpected outcomes.
Laura Langman (Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic)
Always a smile, wispy blonde locks and a pair of high white socks. It is the signature style of one of New Zealand's favourite netballers and a Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic team is incomplete without the control and precision passing of co-captain Laura Langman. From a season start as all but a write-off facing 0 for 4 games, the Magic have now strung together 10 successive victories with the help of their dynamic centre, a team on a mission for Finals glory.
Langman’s experience as a Silver Fern since 2005, maturity beyond her years and exceptional ability to control ball has previously helped to guide the Magic across the line to five consecutive ANZ Championship Finals appearances. An outstanding year with 212 goal assists, Langman's work ethic on court and her ability to read the game has been crucial for Noeline Taurua's side to get back on top.
Susan Pratley (NSW Swifts)
The NSW Swifts almost snuck into the ANZ Championship finals series but fell short towards the end of the season. 2012 signaled a complete change for Susan Pratley. After spending four years in the circle partnering Catherine Cox in the goal attack role, she found herself slotting back into goal shooter, a position she has made her own.
With 70 ANZ Championship caps to her name, Pratley knows the ins-and-outs of the competition and maintained an outstanding season for the NSW side. Pratley’s shooting was strong all season at 85%, she was able to work all combinations thrown her way. She has been the focal point of the Swifts attacking end this season and delivered for her club when the pressure was on – no surprise that she has 45 previous test caps for the Australian Diamonds under her belt.
Madison Browne (Melbourne Vixens)
Madison Browne has been second to none for the Melbourne Vixens 2012 ANZ Championship campaign with her consistency and work rate at wing attack. In her first Finals Series appearance for her beloved Melbourne club, a win has secured a home Grand Final and Browne looks set to continue her dominant form in the frontline. Browne has been efficient and dynamic at wing attack as player combinations rotated around her.
Leading the ANZ Championship with 239 goal assists and 278 centre pass receives, she has been the go-to-player with a cool head under pressure. The Vixens won three games this year at Hisense Arena from behind by one goal, Browne often found leading charge by doing the simple things well. All eyes will be on the youngster in the Grand Final, a game changer throughout the season Browne will be pushing for her first ANZ Championship silverware.
Caitlin Thwaites (Central Pulse)
Thwaites made the move across the Tasman to join Haier Pulse in 2011. She provided the stability they needed in their frontline and teaming up with Paula Griffin this year, the two have worked well under coach Robyn Broughton to help the Pulse secure five wins, their best result in the history of the ANZ Championship.
Thwaites netted 402 goals this year, shooting at 85.7% and was the presence on court that her side was after. A strong holding shooter, she has demanded the ball from her teammates and delivered with consistent shooting performances though out the year and must surely be back on the radar of Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander with her outstanding year.
Irene van Dyk (Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic)
Irene van Dyk continues to rewrite the record books and pass milestones; this season her 40th birthday and 4 100% shooting games on court. A leader in every sense of the word, van Dyk has been the dominant shooter in the game for the past decade as she finishes off her 10th season with the Magic.
That van Dyk has been able to sustain such high quality netball and gets better with each season is nearly unbelievable. 2nd on the table for goals scored with 441 and just behind fellow Silver Fern and Northern Mystics goaler Catherine Latu as the most accurate shooter in the competition at 95.7%. Now with momentum on their side, the Magic will be looking to their towering goal shooter to bring home the ANZ Championship trophy for the first time.
Temepara George (Northern Mystics)
Northern Mystics general Temepara George declared this to be her last season in the ANZ Championships, but what a year of netball she has delivered. The ever-reliable midcourter has been the backbone of the Mystics side, leading by example in everything she does. Her attack on the ball generated 172 goal assists for the season and when it comes to a player controlling the tempo of a game, look no further than George.
She has an uncanny ability to get the best out of her teammates, striving for one more intercept or goal, never giving up until the final whistle is blown. A complete netballer, there is only one thing that has eluded George in her career - an ANZ Championship trophy - and now is the last opportunity for Bubbs to come away with some silverware and see in retirement on a high.