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Star West Coast Fever goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler says international players have given the Super Netball competition more flavour and flair, while playing in Australia has helped her develop as a player and arguably become the best goal shooter in the world.
While there has been some debate in recent years around whether the Super Netball should have a cap on international players – they currently make up 17.5 per cent of all players – Fowler, a five-time league MVP, said the competition should remain open.
Lift off: West Coast Fever star Jhaniele Fowler in action during the Super Netball season.Credit: Getty Images
While AFL/AFLW and the A-Leagues don’t have any official caps on international players, with the caveat that salary caps can limit star imports, the WNBL limits it to two per team, with that capped at three in the NBL.
“International players do come in and make the competition rounded and exciting … We do bring a little bit of different flavour, a bit of flair. But just more talents and more skill set.”
Fowler is one of seven Jamaican players in Super Netball, including Thunderbirds defensive duo Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson and Collingwood’s Shimona Nelson.
Fowler said moving to Australia has made her a more well-rounded player, as she’s improved under elite coaches and is playing against the best in the world each week. But it’s also a two-way street, as the Jamaican players have made the game more exciting.
Latanya Wilson defends for the Thunderbirds.Credit: Getty Images
“They’re amazing, they’re so athletic,” said Fowler.
“Just week in, week out, when you see the Jamaican players go out there, the commentators, everyone, has to talk about them because they have made such an impact in this league in their teams.”
Netball legend and Hall of Famer Jill McIntosh praised the strength of the league but pushed for a cap on the number of international players allowed in the competition.
McIntosh, who captained Australia to their 1983 World Cup win, said that while imports have been good for the league, she worried that without a limit, it could result in benching potential Diamonds players.
“We’re not in the Olympics, so our World Cup is our pinnacle,” McIntosh said. “I want to see the sport survive and thrive.”
Veteran netballer Ash Brazill said she’d like to see more teams added to the competition to give more opportunities for local players, given the spots taken up by international players.
“I can’t wait to see extra teams added to our league because in the end there are only 80 spots, and we have 25 internationals,” said Brazill.
“It’s pretty hard as Australians to get one of those 55 spots that are left. I think we definitely need some more teams for the Australian pool.”
Fowler said that international players also improve world netball by affording more opportunities for players in countries that don’t have avenues to develop or play.
“I reckon it should just stay open because, if you look, there are still teams in the league that do not really have an international player on their team yet. I reckon I can safely say that, and if anything, some teams just maybe have one international player,” said Fowler.
“But I reckon, yeah, bring the international players in, also give them the experience because other countries who don’t have the competition back home to develop players, it would be good for netball on a whole because then you will see that the competition is not just Australia or New Zealand or England or Jamaica in top four – other countries are putting out and delivering as well.
“And then netball is just going to be even more exciting. You just don’t want to see the same countries winning all the time.”
That international rivalry will be put on show at the World Cup in Cape Town in next month, but first Fowler has a Super Netball semi-final to win.
Fowler said despite West Coast having an inconsistent season with “ups and downs”, they are proud to have finished in third spot, meaning they take on Melbourne Vixens in a knockout grand final rematch.
“Definitely it will be pretty good coming up against the Vixens … They’re going to be a really tough team to beat, but we know that we have what it takes to win”.
The Fever will also have the home-court advantage.
“The green army, they’re really loud, and they also always help to get us over the line, so we’re going to make sure to capitalise on having the home court.”
With Carla Jaeger
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