Australia's Super Netball: New 'Super Shot' rule and other talking points for season

By Denise EvansBBC Sport
Helen Housby
England shooter Helen Housby (right) helped the NSW Swifts to the 2019 Super Netball title

The Super Netball 2020 season in Australia finally begins on 1 August.

The league - widely recognised as the best in the world - had been due to start on 2 March but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the introduction of a controversial new rule and all eight teams relocating to Queensland, the 2020 season looks a little different.

Here's what you need to know.

The competition format

Queensland in the north-east of Australia will be the base for the 2020 season, because of a surge in coronavirus cases in other states.

The full 14 rounds of fixtures and finals play-offs - provisionally in September - will be completed, but over a shorter period of time, with some games just 72 hours apart. Only the first six rounds have been released so far.external-link

The opening game on 1 August is the Queensland Firebirds hosting two-time Super Netball winners the Sunshine Coast Lightning, with defending champions the New South Wales Swifts facing the Adelaide Thunderbirds in the final fixture of the weekend on 2 August.

Geva Mentor in quarantine
England defender Geva Mentor is among the Melbourne-based players currently in quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Queensland

Contentious new rule

The late introduction of the two-point 'Super Shot' rule has been one of the biggest talking points in pre-season.

It allows players to score two points from a 1.9-metre designated zone inside the circle - but it will only be 'active' during the final five minutes of each quarter.

Teams and coaches have only had a few weeks to work on tactics and drills to utilise the rule, and Vixens and Australia shooter Caitlin Thwaites says she has been putting in "lots of extra shooting practice".

"[The rule] is here and we've got to try and embrace that," Thwaites told BBC World Service.

"I'm going to try and light it up in those last five minutes."

On Tuesday - just four days before the season starts - Super Netball announced they were suspending the introduction of extra time and the bonus-point system - following concerns for player welfare.

Teams can also select from a 12-player squad instead of the usual 10 on match days.

The favourites

Last season's runners-up Lightning start the season with a new head coach after Noeline Taurua, who guided them to back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, left to concentrate on the New Zealand national team.

They do have world champion Laura Langman and the 2019 Netball World Cup MVP Karla Pretorius in their ranks, though, and should be a threat.

The NSW Swifts are expected to challenge again and the return of captain Maddy Proud from injury could be key.

The Collingwood Magpies have a wealth of international talent including stalwart England goal keeper Geva Mentor and Australia's Ash Brazill in their ranks.

The relatively unchanged West Coast Fever, Giants and Melbourne Vixens should compete for a top-four spot once again, while the Queensland Firebirds may struggle without shooter Gretel Bueta, who is pregnant.

England Roses in bloom

Jo Harten
Roses shooter Jo Harten joined the Sydney-based Giants in 2017 from New Zealand side Magic

There are eight England internationals based in Australia for the domestic season to look out for.

Helen Housby is joined by shooting partner Natalie Haythornthwaite at Swifts as the pair aim to retain their crown.

Layla Guscoth, who has returned to Australia after working as an NHS doctor on the frontline in the UK, fellow defender Kate Shimmin and wing attack Chelsea Pitman all play for the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

At 35, Mentor is entering her 11th top-flight season in Australia and is Magpies co-captain with Madi Browne.

Defender Stacey Francis has played for West Coast Fever since 2016 while shooter Jo Harten heads into her ninth season at a Trans-Tasman team and her fourth for Sydney-based Giants.