Courtney Bruce wins Liz Ellis Diamond award on her birthday

West Coast Fever’s Courtney Bruce has been granted the highest individual accolade in Australian netball, the Liz Ellis Diamond award.

The Diamond’s goal keeper, who happens to turn 28 today, has been recognised at the 2021 Australian Netball Awards as the best player across Super Netball and the national side this year.

Bruce was awarded the ultimate birthday gift, a one-carat white diamond, after a stand-out Constellation Cup series that was played across the ditch back in March.

She topped the stats for intercepts (6), defensive rebounds (9) and deflections (26), playing a full 60 minutes in each of the four matches she played. 

Bruce was also instrumental for West Coast in the Super Netball, guiding the team all the way to the preliminary final where they narrowly missed out on a chance to play back-to-back grand finals after a 64-61 loss to the Giants.

The team were already up against it from the very first whistle of the season after copping a 12-point penalty for breaching the salary cap, but Bruce managed to keep the green army’s motivation high as they went on to start the first eight rounds of the competition undefeated.

Courtney Bruce steals a rebound from Maia Wilson during the Constellation Cup.(AAP: John Davidson)

Her efforts from the back of the court inspired her teammates, often helping them out of trouble in games and lifting the intensity up a notch.

It’s, therefore, no surprise that she finished the year as the league’s best goal keeper, leading the stats for overall deflections (97) and gains (97). She was also equal first for defensive rebounds (26) and second for intercepts (48).

International Player of the Year

Meanwhile, new Diamonds captain Liz Watson was named as the International Player of the Year.

Watson was sidelined for the Super Netball competition after discovering she needed urgent foot surgery on her way home from the Constellation Cup tour.

A smiling netballer walks out onto court ahead of her team before a Test match.
Diamonds skipper Liz Watson is the International Player of the Year(AAP: John Davidson)

Watson is widely regarded as the best wing attack in the world game, living up to that hype during that Australia and New Zealand series.

Just like Bruce, Watson played every minute of all four games, finishing as the leading goal feeder (126), with a whopping 42 feeds in the third match.

Super Netball Player of the Year

Jamaican shooter Jhaniele Fowler has won the Super Netball Player of the Year award for a fourth straight season.

The tall timber has been dominating the competition ever since her debut with the West Coast Fever in 2018 and is extremely difficult to stop at 1.96m.

Fowler finished the season with a tally of 883 goals at 96 per cent.

Jamaican player claps hands together after game with smile on face to thank fans
Jhaniele Fowler has been the most successful goal shooter in the history of the Super Netball league.(AAP: Richard Wainwright)

Rising Star Award

Sophie Dwyer was the obvious choice for the Rising Star award, as the best young player who started the season under the age of 23.

Dwyer was just 19 years old playing on her first full-time contract when she had to step up from being a bench player to a starting player in a matter of 20 minutes, after Giants goal attack Kiera Austin ruptured her ACL in the team’s first 2021 game.

She wasn’t one bit fazed, instead making the transition look easy and finishing the year as the leading goal attack for both regular goals (337) and super shots (52).

Joyce Brown Coach of the Year

The Joyce Brown Coach of the Year was awarded to Briony Akle, after she took the NSW Swifts to their second Super Netball title in three seasons.

Briony Akle talks in the NSW Swifts huddle
Briony Akle has been named as the Super Netball Coach of the Year for a second time. She previously won the award in 2019.(AAP: Matt Turner)

Akle made a lot of sacrifices in 2021, including the decision to split her family up and bring her youngest two sons on the road as the Swifts made last-minute dashes across state borders to hub in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

Despite the disruptions to their week-to-week preparations and Akle having to juggle home schooling and her netball commitments, the side finished the regular season in second and beat the Giants 63-59 in the grand final.

Super Netball Team of the Year

Courtney Bruce picked up her second award for the night when she was named at goal keeper in the 2021 Super Netball Team of the Year.

Sam Wallace catches a netball in one hand as Courtney Bruce stretches one hand up next to her
Both Sam Wallace and Courtney Bruce made the Team of the Year.(AAP: Darren England)

Jhaniele Fowler also scored the double, making it into the side as the starting goal shooter.

The team is picked based on the best player in each position and determined by a voting based system, with players, coaches and high-performance staff submitting their 3, 2 and 1 votes after each match.

At the end of the season, these are then tallied up and allocated by weighting, with players and coaches votes counting each for 40 per cent, and the Netball Australia High Performance Coaches getting a 20 per cent say.

Jo Harten looks down and holds the ball in her left hand as sun floods half of her face in a dark stadium
Jo Harten was picked out of position for the 2021 Super Netball Team of the Year.(AAP: James Gourley)

Despite the transparency around the system, there were still some questionable choices for the team.

English shooter and Giants captain Jo Harten was named out of position at goal attack. Despite starting every match in goal shooter and mostly occupying that position.

Fans and pundits will also be trying to work out how Amy Parmenter missed out on a spot at wing defence, after earning her first call-up to the Diamonds squad for her incredible ability to win back ball.

The team line-up

GK – Courtney Bruce

GD – Sunday Aryang

WD – Gabi Simpson

C – Kim Ravaillion

WA – Maddie Hay

GA – Jo Harten

GS – Jhaniele Fowler

SUB – Shamera Sterling

SUB – Jamie-Lee Price

SUB – Sam Wallace

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