QSNL 2017 preview: Brisbane North Cougars, Whitsunday Sharks

Brisbane North Cougars

Squad: Tiata Baldwin, Bianca Cattelini, Chanel Dyer, Alex Feggans, Claudia Fitzpatrick, Jada Gafa, Maddison Hinchliffe, Tara Hinchliffe, Rylie Holland, Remi Kamo, Ally McLeod, Sarah Morton, Jemmason Power, Jessica Price, Dominique Scott, Matilda Sinclair, Annabella Sorby, Loren Todd, Kate Underwood, Kate Lister.

Division 1

Coach: Elizabeth White.

2016 finish: First (champions).

2016 season snapshot: Brisbane North Cougars capped a dominant 9-1 regular season with a well-earned grand final victory over Carina Leagues Club Tigers. The side featured competition MVP Laura Scherian and also proved a breakout year for the likes of Lorna Jane Queensland Firebirds training partner Tara Hinchliffe.

Key players: Tara Hinchliffe (GD): “She turns over a tremendous amount of ball and is very calm and cool,” said coach Elizabeth White. “She does her job and comes up with the ball right where you need it.”

Dominque Scott (WA): “Dom’s incredibly talented. She’s working the Lightning which is a great thing for here and we’re looking at giving her the opportunity to continue to build her game and take a leadership role in the attack end,” White said.

What to expect in 2017: “I think the competition has improved a lot and the teams have improved a lot this season, so it’s difficult to predict where the challenges are going to come from,” White said. “We’ll continue to work on our game plan and develop to meet those challenges. We’re up for it and we’re looking forward to it.”

First five fixtures: Tigers, Jaguars, Wildcats, Lynx, Lions.

Division 2

Coach: Amanda Vanderwal.

2016 finish: First (City) and Division 2 champions.

2016 season snapshot: Brisbane North Cougars capped a perfect 12-0 regular season with a 49-45 grand final win over Brisbane West Lions. They’ll look to maintain their momentum this year, but will have a target on their backs as the benchmark of the competition.

Key players: Loren Todd (GA): “Loren has been with Cougars for a number of years and has worked her way through state teams as a younger player,” coach Amanda Vanderwal said. “She’s an accurate goaler who holds up her attack end with her maturity, composure and responsibility on court.

Ally Mcleod (WD/C/WA): “Ally was a member of the City representative team last year and is a former state player,” Vanderwal said. “Her versatility for us in the centre court will be a real asset for us this season. She can play across all three positions. She’s had a great pre-season, has come in fit and strong and is doing what she needs to put herself in the best position possible for the season.”

What to expect in 2017: “We treat every year as different and reset our goals as a group because we always have such a high turnover of players progressing through,” Vanderwal said. “We really invest in teaching the right culture in the club, doing all our own jobs and with that we know success will follow. We’ve got a good mix of youth and experience across the squad and have high expectations of ourselves.”

Whitsunday Sharks

Squad: Sophie Arnold, Kelly Beckingham, Zarnia Bell, Shar Bunting, Jemma Carey, Fiona Forrest, Bridget Franettovich, Danae Gardner, Samantha Grimsey, Jessica Seymour, Danica Szepanowski, Rebecca Thompson.

Coach: Margie Sugars.

2016 finish: Third (Country).

2016 season snapshot: Whitsunday Sharks gave a good account of themselves in 2016, finishing third and posting a win over second placed rivals Magnetic North Steelcats and coming close to knocking off ladder leaders Capricorn Claws. With new coach Margie Sugars at the helm they’ll be aiming to crack finals.

Key players: Shar Bunting (WA/C): “Shar brings so much more than skill on court – her leadership qualities are exemplary,” coach Margie Sugars said. “She’s been really good in terms of shaping our culture and elevating it.  Her court awareness and ability to blend the team together are excellent.”

Jemma Carey (WD): “Jemma was selected in our centre court, but is also extremely valuable in the defensive circle,” Sugars said. “She’s specialising at wing defence at the moment. She has grit and determination to get the job done. There’s no fluff – just a great, determined athlete.”

What to expect in 2017: “It’s a new line-up,” Sugars said. “While we have some returning players, the positions are different and the culture is changing. All the players are bringing a high level of discipline. The playing group wanted a step up and there’s a great vibe. We want to be a tough, hard, never-give-up team.”