Tamsin Greenway explains intricacies of Commonwealth Games squad selection | Netball News

England's Vitality Roses are six months out from a home Commonwealth Games

England’s Vitality Roses are six months out from a home Commonwealth Games

Six months out from the Commonwealth Games, Tamsin Greenway discusses why there is so much more that goes into the selection of a Commonwealth Games squad than is seen on the surface.

It’s fair to say that Sara Francis-Bayman and I caused quite a healthy debate when we shared our Commonwealth Games selection thoughts during the recent Netball Quad Series, and honestly, I loved the conversation that it created.

The fact that England have so many players in the mix for the Commonwealth Games really goes to show the depth that they’ve built over the last few years.

The fact that we’re having this discussion so far away from the start of the Commonwealth Games is incredible too because there’s still so much more to come. Six months is a long time in netball and a lot can happen before the first match of the 2022 competition at the NEC Arena in Birmingham.

Tamsin Greenway's England 12-player squad for the Commonwealth Games

Tamsin Greenway’s England 12-player squad for the Commonwealth Games

Some players in contention will undertake their domestic seasons overseas in Australia and New Zealand and others will be at the heart of the Vitality Netball Superleague in England.

Over the next six months, it’s going to be about consistency and form, but also what positions those players are put in at their clubs, what combinations develop over the season, and whether a new standout individual bursts on the scene.

What happens if a new youngster has an exceptional season, like the one we saw Funmi Fadoju have in Superleague last year? Will Jess Thirlby be tempted to take her in the final squad?

What Quad Series revealed about top nations in Commonwealth Games year

Six months out from Commonwealth Games, the Netball Quad Series provided coaches with vital insights to key questions.

When it comes to selecting a Commonwealth Games squad, there are a number of different factors and elements to consider in order to come up with the final blend of 12 players.

First, you need to think about the shape of the squad as a whole. Most coaches would want to go with a four-four-four split; having four defenders, four mid-courters and four attackers is a fairly standard and normal approach.

However, depending on who your crossover players are, coaches can take a risk and stack one area of the court, for example taking five mid-courters and sacrificing one of the ends.

Sara Francis-Bayman's England 12-player squad for the Commonwealth Games

Sara Francis-Bayman’s England 12-player squad for the Commonwealth Games

The issue with this is what happens if an injury occurs like the one Layla Guscoth picked up early in the competition at the 2019 Netball World Cup. With injury replacements not being allowed once the competition starts, it’s a big ask on the two other players to see out the whole tournament.

For England in particular, I think there would be two areas of concern if they decided to stack the middle. The defensive-end, as it stands, is an older and more experienced group, and a Commonwealth Games schedule is gruelling on the body and tests you against totally different styles back-to-back. So it’s whether they feel that the three of them could manage that.

Likewise, down the other end, if they only take three shooters, the question would be whether England would have enough variety in their choices to mix it up and put out different styles against all the other teams.

England's shooting-end is an area that's prompting plenty of discussion

England’s shooting-end is an area that’s prompting plenty of discussion

Next, you need to consider the pools and anticipate the way the draw will work.

During a Superleague season, and particularly when it comes to the final rounds and knockout stages, you’ll have heard me talk a lot about matchups.

2022 Commonwealth Games

Group A Group B
Australia New Zealand
Jamaica England
South Africa Malawi
TBC – Qualifier TBC – Qualifier
TBC – Qualifier TBC – Qualifier
TBC – Qualifier TBC – Qualifier

As a head coach, I was always looking at what might be ahead of us and which opponents we might meet in the knockout rounds. Exactly the same must be done with a Commonwealth Games draw and schedule.

Looking at England’s draw at the moment, they know that they have got New Zealand and Malawi in their group, with the opposite group having Jamaica, South Africa and Australia in it. If your aim is to try and win the competition, then you need to think about who you’re going to meet in the semi-finals before you even get to Birmingham.

England's Vitality Roses will face the Silver Ferns in the pool stage of the Commonwealth Games

England’s Vitality Roses will face the Silver Ferns in the pool stage of the Commonwealth Games

Nothing is guaranteed, but you’d presume England will need to beat New Zealand in the pool to avoid the Australians in the semi-finals. If you want to do that, then you need to have a squad and a line-up that’s capable of defeating the Kiwis. You need to look at who matches up best against the Silver Ferns and that starts to sway the players you pick.

Then, if you think about playing the Aussie Diamonds, you really want to have your players that are playing out in Australia prepared for that contest. After all, they are the ones with the greatest insights about that Diamonds team, because the likes of Jo Harten and Helen Housby face off on a weekly basis against their defenders.

That’s all before England start to look at how they both won and lost to Jamaica late last year, whilst keeping an eye closely on the African nations.

In short, there’s so much more to a Commonwealth Games squad than perhaps is seen on the surface.

The wing attack position and back-up for Natalie Metcalf is something the Roses must think about

The wing attack position and back-up for Natalie Metcalf is something the Roses must think about

At this point, six months out from the competition, England have got themselves into a position where I believe there are still question marks about their back-up players. You’d say that they’ve pretty much got their starting line-up sorted, but in key positions like wing attack, you need a back-up because Nat Metcalf cannot play every minute of the competition.

So, do you take a back-up mid-courter that covers all three positions, or do you take a real impact reserve? Do you take a younger player for the matches that you know you’re going to win, or do you take someone who is really going to push Metcalf for that starting bib? All of these questions come into play and will need to be answered.

The Quad Series showed England what they are up against this summer. The Roses got to see them, but they also got to see the Roses.

During the competition, England were good, sharp and solid. However, I do think that there’s room for further spark and injection… and perhaps a risk to be taken?

If you’ve got a rotating circle in there with Housby, Harten and Eleanor Cardwell, do you need a target shooter, or are you happy with what they offer? Have you got a different kind of goal attack in the squad who is going to cut, drive and pull defenders apart when people are tired?

In the mid-court, when Serena Guthrie needs a break, do you want an attacking injection or a defensive hassler? And what about that defensive-end – at the moment, probably the most secure on selection – but is that playing it safe? Is a new spark needed there?

I always like to have all my bases covered – to have someone in the squad who is going to be able to change it up and be able to introduce that different style and implement that tactic when you just might need it.

It’s a tough job ahead, especially with the amount of talent on offer. I genuinely think that there will be some players left out of the squad that from a performance point of view should be in there. I know when I was picking mine to share, I really struggled leaving certain players out!

The crazy thing about selection is, as discussed, you’ve got to think about your combinations, opposition, and the impact players will have on all matches. When you put all of those things together, it’s always about the team as a whole and not just about the individual.

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