Dream team: Who rates highest in the Sapphire Series
There are plenty of big names in the Hart Sapphire Series competition this year - we take a look at the top performers for each position.
Netball Queensland's High Performance Manager helped compile the list of the top players to watch in this year's series.
Annabelle Lawrie - USC Thunder
At just 20-years-old Gold Coast talent Annabelle Lawrie has already made her mark on the netball court.
Lawrie a talented goal attack and shooter, is a Sunshine Coast Lightning Training Partner.
She started out in the Ruby Series playing for QUT Wildcats where she earned a call up to the Sapphire Series during the side's finals campaign. Lawrie impressed and went on to help the side win the premiership in 2019.
Lawrie has also represented Northern Territory as an import player in the U19s Nationals and trained with the Territory Storm Australian National League.
Charlie Bell - USQ Jets
At 197cm tall, 20-year-old Charlie Bell is certainly not a player you'd want to come across in the circle.
The Jets talent has been going from strength to strength since her acceptance in Queensland's U17 team.
Since then, coach Tracey Jeanes-Fraser says Bell "hasn't looked back", making a host of rep sides including Australia's U21 squad.
"I think she is really one to watch in the future," Jeanes-Fraser said.
"One of the things we have really been polishing with Charlie is those moments to stand up and take the ball and when to be strategic and pull the defence out of the way."
With good variety in her shot, strength in the air and her towering height, she certainly has a presence in the circle.
Mia Stower - Cougars
Firebirds Training Partner Mia Stower's sharp shooting earned her a call up to the Suncorp Super Netball League in 2020. She was elevated to the Queensland Firebirds playing squad as part of the league's modified competition rules, allowing 12 players to appear on the team sheet.
Stower is in the under-21 Australian World Cup Youth Squad.
The dynamic shooter was named Cougars Players' Player after the 2020 Hart Sapphire Series.
Reilley Batcheldor - QUT
Reilley Batchelor is well and truly back after rupturing her ACL during a Vicki Wilson Cup game for Helensvale State School in 2019.
Batchelor played for the Tigers in the Ruby Series in 2020 after recovering and went on to be named MVP of the Grand Final.
The 18-year-old has also been named in the Australian 21/U squad.
Batchelor is lining for QUT this year and has also been named as a Firebirds Training Partner.
Leesa Mi Mi - Cougars
Leesa Mi Mi made the move from the QUT Wildcats to the Cougars for the 2021 Sapphire Series.
Mi Mi, the sister of Firebirds player Jemma Mi Mi, is a Carmel College graduate.
As a junior she earned her spot in many state-age and national teams.
She was named MVP of Queensland Independent Secondary Schools Netball competition in 2017 and 2018.
Mi Mi represented Queensland at Under-17s and 19s in the Australian Netball League and is a current training partner for the Australian under-21 side.
In her spare time she plays touch football for Queensland.
Keshia Grant - QUT
Keshia is an accomplished netballer and athlete having played in the ANZ Championship from 2008-2015. Grant has also represented New Zealand in athletics and Rugby Sevens.
The highly respected mid-court player is playing for QUT in this year's Sapphire Series. Her speed and agility no doubt make her one to watch.
Hulita Veve - QUT
The Netball Queensland 2020 Hart Sapphire Series MVP and 2016 Firebirds title-winning squad member Hulita Veve has it all: passion, speed, aggression and ability.
Logan prodigy Veve brings more than a decade's-worth of experience to the centre court for debut outfit QUT Netball in the 2021 Hart Sapphire Series.
Macy Gardner - Cougars
The All Hallows graduate joined the Firebirds squad as a training partner in 2018 as the youngest member. She made her on court debut for the Firebirds in 2019 and also got plenty of court time last year.
Gardner has once again been named as a Firebirds Training Partner for the 2021 season.
The speedy centre is no stranger to success having previously been selected in the Queensland U17 teams, the Australian Development Squad in 2016 and the U17, U19 teams in following years.
In 2019 she was named the Under-19 MVP at the National Netball Championships.
Alice Mauga - Tigers
Mauga, dominates as either a centre or wing defence, simply won't be beaten, says Tigers head coach Erin Byrnes.
"She doesn't like anyone to get the better of her," Byrnes said.
Mauga is entering her second season in the Sapphire Series, with last year's debut coming off the back of her vital role in the Tigers' 2019 Ruby Series championship win.
Ava Black - Bond Bull Sharks
Black was named the Katie Walker Medallist in the Sapphire Series in 2020 and will be looking to build on that form in 2021.
Originally from Toowoomba, Black, 18, moved to the Gold Coast full-time this year to study a Bachelor of Sports Marketing at Bond University.
Bond University director of netball and club sport Stuart Allen said now that Black was relieved of the burden of the thrice-weekly commute from the Darling Downs, "we are excited to see what another year's experience brings for Ava on the court this year".
One of the most dynamic players in the series, Black's speed belies her length, standing just more than 180cm tall.
Maddi Ridley - Bond Bull Sharks
Defender Ridley is a member of the Australian U21 and Queensland U19 squads who spent time training with the Firebirds earlier in the year in preparation for the National Camp. Ridley moved to the Gold Coast to study at Bond University as the recipient of ADCO Sports Excellence Scholarship and is an outstanding student as well as a netball talent on the rise.
At 184cm, Maddi is one of the new generation of athletic, defensive talls. Her brother, Jordan, plays AFL for Essendon.
Ruby Bakewell-Doran - Cougars
A vital part of the Cougars defence Ruby Bakewell-Doran is no stranger to playing high level netball.
Bakewell-Doran played for the Queensland Fusion in 2018 and 2019.
She was part of the Cougars' premiership winning Sapphire Series team last year and was named MVP of the grand final.
Bakewell-Doran was called up as a Queensland Firebirds squad member in 2020 and has this year been named as a training partner.
Ash Ervin - Bond Bullsharks
A towering defensive presence at 191cm, 18-year-old Ashleigh Ervin is expected to quickly establish herself as one of the premier defenders in the competition.
After making her Ruby Series debut last year, her rapid progression has seen her selected as part of the Qld 19U squad and the Netball Australia Talent Squad. Having spent much of her youth playing on the attacking end, Ash is revelling in the challenge of her defensive assignments and with exceptional length and anticipation, the Bull Sharks are expecting big things.
Abi Houston - USQ Jets
The 19-year-old circle defender is undertaking her first season at the Jets and already coach Tracey Jeanes-Fraser is impressed.
"She's an absolute delight in regards to coaching - she just drinks in everything and goes out of her way to apply what you ask of her," Jeanes-Fraser said.
Biomedical science student brings her smarts into the game and has a good eye for body language and play-reading.
Her observation and tactical skills, accompanied by her "very unassuming" presentation, combine readily with her increasing ability to take risks and get in front of her opposition - making her a Jets secret weapon.
"She's got great movement around her player ... but now she's getting that confidence to get out and get the ball," Jeanes-Fraser said.
Originally published as Dream team: Who rates highest for every position in the Sapphire Series