2019 Season Preview: Stars top up on experience
The addition of no-nonsense defender Leana de Bruin and mercurial midcourter Temepara Bailey to their make-up has bolstered the Northern Stars’ experience factor for the 2019 season.
During 2018, the Stars played in seven games, the most of any team, where the end difference was less than five goals, but were on the losing side in five of them. A lack of experience was identified, the inclusion of de Bruin and Bailey seen as the perfect fit to help maximise the team’s blend of youth and experience.
A foundation member at the Stars in 2017, de Bruin returns from a season with the Adelaide Thunderbirds while assistant coach Bailey has come out of retirement late in the piece to fill the experience void left by Grace Kara, who is expecting her first baby.
“We needed some people who believe in themselves and can deliver in those moments of stress. That’s an area where we lacked a little last year, someone to direct the traffic and call the shots,” Stars coach Kiri Wills said.
“There’s a real difference between thriving and surviving in those pressure situations and we need players on court who can lead the young ones through those tough patches. We didn’t have that in 2018, so that was a big gap that we were looking to fill and it was about selecting players with attitude, in terms of training as well as what they bring on court.”
The Stars have also added experienced defender Storm Purvis, who has shifted across town from the Mystics, exciting young Australian shooter Charlee Hodges, who played for the Thunderbirds over the last two seasons and talented midcourter Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, who makes the move north from the Pulse.
The selection of Bailey at 43, who enjoyed a decorated international career, and last played elite level netball in 2014, could be seen as a gamble but Wills didn’t need to think twice about asking “if she would have a crack, one more time.”
“Temepara wants to maintain her reputation so there’s a lot on her plate in terms of getting out there and doing what she’s always done really well,” Wills said.
“For me, I’m trying to keep her just focusing on her job on court. She’s not here to save everybody. Everyone has to contribute to this but in terms of her ability to do that, I absolutely have no doubts. Physically she is still highly capable and I can tell you she still has the ability to entertain.
“All of our players are so excited about the season ahead because of what she brings and what she can teach them on court. It’s a great formula.”
Defender Kate Burley, who made a strong impression last season, joins a solid and reliable core in shooters Ellen Halpenny and Maia Wilson and midcourt/defensive utilities Holly Fowler and Kayla Cullen returning for the Stars in 2019, giving Wills an exciting mix.
“I would be disappointed if we didn’t make the top three in 2019,” Wills said.
“If we can nail top three, the rest will take care of itself but we’ve just got to get there first.”
Temepara Bailey, Kate Burley, Kayla Cullen, Leana de Bruin, Holly Fowler, Ellen Halpenny, Charlee Hodges, Storm Purvis, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, Maia Wilson.