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Vitality Nations Cup top performers

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The Silver Ferns secured title on Sunday with 67-56 victory over Jamaica in final at Copper Box Arena

By Emma Thurston

Last Updated: 27/01/20 4:27pm

The Silver Ferns' work was led by standout players at both ends of the court The Silver Ferns' work was led by standout players at both ends of the court

The Silver Ferns’ work was led by standout players at both ends of the court

After an enthralling Vitality Nations Cup competition between England, South Africa, Jamaica and New Zealand, we take a look back at some of the individuals who excelled over the course of the four matchdays.

From day one in Nottingham to the final weekend in London, the tournament provided fascinating insights into all four nations’ development as they commence new international cycles.

Across the week, the world champions highlighted their considerable strength in depth and were rewarded with a clean sweep of victories and the title.

Jamaica, under new head coach Connie Francis, looked much more like themselves and started to put to bed the memories of their disappointing Netball World Cup.

England’s Vitality Roses relished playing on home soil with head coach Jess Thirlby seeing players step up, while SPAR Proteas built as the competition went on.

Here we take a look at some of the individuals who drove their team’s work…

Jane Watson (New Zealand)

Watson showing her exceptional reach against Jhaniele Fowler Watson showing her exceptional reach against Jhaniele Fowler

Watson showing her exceptional reach against Jhaniele Fowler

Let’s start with the official player of the tournament, the Silver Ferns’ 29-year-old defender.

From start to finish, Watson was prolific in New Zealand’s defensive end and her partnership with Phoenix Karaka built as the competition went on.

The vice-captain’s exceptional elevation played havoc with all of the attackers around her, as did her considerable wingspan.

The two key elements resulted in jaw-dropping intercepts, both inside and outside of the ‘D’, and her fitness ensured that her tips were not wasted either.

Tamsin Greenway’s Verdict

Jane Watson got the ball when her team needed it. New Zealand’s defensive unit has been built around her and I think that she’s been impresive. Consistently she stood out and was involved in all of the big moments when New Zealand turned matches.

Stacey Francis (England)

The experienced international defender had a series to remember The experienced international defender had a series to remember

The experienced international defender had a series to remember

Another defender who stood up for her team over the course of the Vitality Nations Cup was housed within England’s defensive end.

Stacey Francis’ performances marked her first outings back on home soil since she decided to return into the international set-up, and she thrived on home courts.

The 32-year-old played across both the GD and GK positions and had the experience and knowledge to seamlessly adapt to her different defensive partners.

In the Roses’ third-place play-off, it was Francis’ final interception which swung the goal-for-goal match. The moment was just-reward for a series of performances that had been built on hard work.

Lisa Alexander’s Verdict

The interception was very Stacey Francis-like, that’s all I can say. She’s able to make something out of nothing. She was ready for it. She’d probably seen it a couple of times, had rehearsed it and went for it.

Nicole Dixon (Jamaica)

The Sunshine Girls’ Centre was appointed as their vice-captain ahead of the competition and she immediately made her presence known during their first match.

Her player of the match performance against South Africa in Nottingham set her tone and she went on to be a constant presence in their mid-court.

Her seemingly endless energy ensured strong transition from defence into attack and alongside Khadijah Williams, she fed Jhaniele Fowler well.

Ama Agbeze’s Verdict

Nicole Dixon has flair but she also knows how to control the game and pace things for Jamaica, including re-setting and going again in attack. She comes through for interceptions at key times too.

Maia Wilson (New Zealand)

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Hear the thoughts of Maia Wilson and Dame Noeline Taurua after their victory in the final

Hear the thoughts of Maia Wilson and Dame Noeline Taurua after their victory in the final

At just 22-years-old, Maia Wilson’s international career is still in its infancy and after Maria Folau’s retirement, she has firmly stuck her hand in the air to spend a considerable amount of time in New Zealand’s shooting circle.

Wilson actually made her international debut in 2016 but after that, missed out on selection for Commonwealth Games and last year’s World Cup.

Over the last 12 months, she’s worked incredibly hard on her conditioning and fitness and the rewards were clear throughout this tournament.

Wilson’s Shooting Accuracy

Match One – England 27/29 93%
Match Two – Jamaica 42/45 93%
Match Three – South Africa 24/30 80%
Final – Jamaica 44/47 94%
Total Accuracy 137/151 91%

The shooter, who scored 151 of New Zealand’s 250 goals, took home two player of the match awards in total.

The second came from the final, and the competition-deciding match was her first full 60-minute game for the Silver Ferns.

Dame Noeline Taurua’s Verdict

I think Maia has cemented herself and got her own confidence out there. Her numbers are sublime and I’m really happy. It’s just reward for the work that she’s done.

Khanyisa Chawane (South Africa)

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Enjoy this lovely behind-the-back pass from the mid-court player for South Africa

Enjoy this lovely behind-the-back pass from the mid-court player for South Africa

The SPAR Proteas’ competition perhaps was not as positive as they’d have liked when it came to their results, but the outfit will take plenty away anyway.

Within their mid-court, Khanyisa Chawane’s energy was a talking point. Whenever she was on the court Chawane didn’t let her foot off the gas for a moment.

Her flair was epitomised by a beautiful behind-the-back pass against the Silver Ferns and a greater knowledge of when to use it (or not) will come as she develops this season at Team Bath Netball.

Sky Sports is your home of netball and is back on your screens next month when the new Vitality Superleague season gets underway with all 10 teams in action at the Season Opener from Arena Birmingham on Saturday, February 22.

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