special event

M1 Nations Cup 2019

A review of the 2019 M1 Nations Cup in Singapore

Rankings? rankings?

With six teams engaged in 18 games over six days in Singapore, the 2019 M1 Nations Cup was destined to be a netball-lovers dream.  Compared to many of the regional events around the world in the international netball calendar, the M1 Nations Cup is a reasonably unique tournament in that there were teams representing all but one of the international Netball regions: Botswana and Namibia from Netball Africa, Ireland from Netball Europe, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea from Netball Oceania and of course Singapore from Netball Asia.  Adding to this was the intrigue around the current world rankings, with regions like Africa on the rise and others like Oceania fighting to maintain their place in the netball pecking order.
 
Cook Islands came into the tournament as the top ranked team, currently sitting at 12th in the world having overtaken their Pacific rivals Fiji and Samoa in the recent update.  They were also the defending champions, taking out the trophy in the 2017 edition of the tournament.  Their Oceania neighbours Papua New Guinea were the next highest ranked team at 20th.  PNG were clearly looking ahead to the 2021 World Youth Cup as they brought a very young team to the Nations Cup including a number of teenagers, the youngest of which was shooter Alexandria Ligo at just 14 years old!  PNG are hosting the Oceania World Youth Cup qualifiers next year, so this experience will be invaluable for their young players.  Ireland, Botswana and hosts Singapore were all grouped closely together in the current rankings at 25th, 26th and 28th respectively.  Ireland have had a busy few months, recently competing in the Netball Europe Open Championships in place of Scotland who decided to rest their players.  Singapore have also had a busy year, with a series against Fiji, followed by the 2019 World Cup where they finished 16th.  Botswana missed out to Uganda and Zimbabwe for a place at the 2019 World Cup, and they were on the back foot from the start at this tournament with only 9 players and a late arrival on the day of the first game.  Namibia were the lowest ranked team coming to the 2019 Nations Cup, placed at 33rd, however they have recently appointed a new head coach in Julene Meyer who will be looking for her team to climb the rankings and aiming to achieve a place at the 2023 World Cup in South Africa.
 
So, did the current rankings reflect the results at this tournament?  In a word….no!  Not at all!  Namibia, the lowest ranked team coming in, blew away all the opposition to go through the tournament undefeated in their path to take out the title.  Singapore, the second lowest ranked team, were their opponents in the final playoff for 1st and 2nd!  Top ranked Cook Islands finished 3rd, relegated to the 3rd/4th playoff against Botswana after losing to both Namibia and Singapore in pool play.  PNG and Ireland, the 2nd and 3rd highest ranked teams respectively coming in, played off for 5th and 6th, with Ireland taking out the higher placing.  
 
We tracked all of the teams throughout the tournament and analysed every game.  As well as our usual measures we decided to get a little creative, so we also took an in depth look at the shooting patterns of all the teams as well as the aerial preferences of each of the attacking ends, or as we termed it, the ‘vertical pass distribution’. 
 
Take a look at what we found!

Offensive Efficiency is a measure of how well a team was able to score from their own possession, while Defensive Efficiency looks at how well they were able to stop the opposition from scoring.

This is the easiest way to see how well the units have done their jobs.

• Ireland and PNG were definitely a tier below the other teams in terms of offensive capability.
•  Surprisingly given their 5th placing, Ireland had the best defensive numbers – this was potentially a combination of (a) a strong defensive end [not matched by the attacking end] and (b) playing PNG twice, another weaker attacking team.
• Namibia and Singapore were the strongest attacking teams, but of the two Namibia had the stronger defence.

Efficiency Rates

Conversions

• Singapore were very strong on their CP, but dropped significantly when trying to convert turnover ball.

• Ireland and PNG were a little behind the other teams in getting ball into their circle on both CP and Gain, but lower shooting percentages meant they dropped significantly in the ‘to Score’ categories.

• Namibia and Cook Islands were the best at converting Gained ball – combined with a strong defensive end this was a big contributor to Namibia’s first place.

Own Conversion Rates

Stopping the Conversions

• Ireland were very effective on CPD – their defence end seemed to be much stronger than their attack end.

• The other teams were all reasonably similar in CP defence, while Namibia and Cook Islands were the most effective on Turnover defence.

Opposition Conversion Rates

Shooting

• Namibia were by far the most accurate team in the tournament for shooting, and were the only team to average over 90%. Singapore and Botswana were the other two teams to average over 80, while the others were in the 70s or 60s. PNG was the least accurate team, on 66%. Note that for top tier nations we would expect to see shooting accuracy well over 85%, often over 90.

• PNG defenders also had the least effect on the opposition shot, with teams averaging 83% against them.

• Defensively the other teams were reasonably similar in their effect on the opposition shot.

Shooting Accuracy

See further down in this report for an in depth investigation of shooting patterns for each team

• On attack, Namibia’s shooters were the best rebounders, followed by Botswana. Ireland, PNG and Singapore were all quite poor on Offensive rebounding – averaging in the 30s, meaning they lost possession on significantly more than half of their missed shots

• On defence, Namibia were also the strongest team for rebounding, significantly ahead of the other teams. PNG had the lowest results for defensive rebounding.

• Namibia clearly had the most effective circles, with the best shooting and rebounding at both ends among all the teams. They were obviously helped by their height compared to the other teams, but their good performance in these measures was a big contributor to their tournament win.

Rebounding

• Surprisingly (given their 5th place finish), Ireland returned the best defensive numbers. As we’ve already mentioned, this was possibly partially due to playing PNG twice but also evidence of having a very strong defence end. They just coudn’t convert this gained ball very well. Also see next section – they had significantly more losses than any other team.

• Ireland and Cook Islands picked up the most ball through intercept/tips, while Ireland also picked up a significant amount of ball through Opposition Error.

• Singapore had the lowest gain rate among the 6 teams – if they were able to get their defence end to match their attack end they would be very dangerous!

Gains

• Ireland had the highest loss rate for the tournament, significantly higher than the other teams. Passing in particular was an issue for them, averaging 6 passing errors per quarter (so 24 per game). Note that the top tier teams aim for around 20 losses in total across all categories per game.

• As mentioned, Singapore were very effective on attack, and this is reflected in them having the lowest loss rate among the 6 teams.

• Cook Islands were also very tidy, and had the lowest number of passing errors on average.

• Namibia had quite a high number of offensive penalties compared to some of the other teams. There could be multiple explanations for this – they were one of the only teams to have a truly tall shooter and so played the holding game a bit more than the other teams, a style of play which often results in offensive penalties. In addition, there was one particular umpire (Joan Yuliani) who called more offensive penalties than others, so potentially Namibia may have had this umpire more often.  Interestingly, Joan Yuliani went on the following week to umpire the final Constellation Cup match between Australia and New Zealand.  There was a high level of controversy following that match over some of her interpretations – perhaps if those teams had watched some of these games they could have prepared for her style of umpiring a little better.

Losses

• Bubble sizes are the number of successful feeds per quarter, which in this case mainly shows that PNG weren’t able to get the ball into their shooters very often. They also had the lowest accuracy but the highest efficiency, meaning their placement into the circle wasn’t great but their shooters were the most willing to shoot when they did get the ball in the circle.

• Singapore were the most accurate team, and also high in efficiency, meaning their ball placement was good and their shooters were willing to go to the post.

• Ireland had the second lowest accuracy and were also the least efficient, so it was taking them multiple feeds to get the ball to a point where the shooters were willing to shoot. Because their accuracy was low it’s likely they were losing a lot of ball around the circle.

• Namibia, Cook Islands and Botswana were all quite similar in terms of their feeding results

Feeding

Distribution

Bringing together teams from the differing regions in a tournament like this provides a great opportunity to compare the different playing styles. We were struck by the differences in the way each team approached the game, particularly in the attacking third. It was also a great opportunity to watch teams of such different sizes, as the top teams in world netball all seem to be dominated by tall shooters and defence. Given the contrasting sizes and styles of play, we decided to do a little investigation into how the ball was moved around the attacking third and into the circle – but instead of the usual spatial investigation looking at where players are on the court in relation to each other and the path of the ball, we decided to look at the vertical element of their play. We classified each pass received in the attacking third as low (a bounce or underarm pass below hip height), mid (hip to arm extension height) or high (over arm extension height).

What did we find? Well as expected, all teams used a mid-height pass most often, but the distribution of low and high passes differed from team to team depending on their style of play. In particular, the two African teams stood out from the rest, but were also very different to each other!

Vertical Pass Distribution

  • Botswana and Namibia both used a mid-height pass in the attacking third just over 50% of the time, which was significantly less than the average over all teams of 62%. That was where the similarity between them ended however! Botswana did use the high pass slightly more (31%) than the overall average (28%), but they were also the team that used the low pass more than any other – low passes accounted for 17% of all passes received in their attacking third, compared to the overall average of just 10%. This suggests Botswana played an extremely varied height game in their attacking third, but that there was a lot of low ball, especially around their shooting circle. Opposition defence would be wise to take this into account when preparing their defensive gameplan. In complete contrast, Namibia, who were clearly one of the taller teams in the tournament, used a low pass in their attacking third just 6% of the time (the lowest of all the teams) while they used a high pass a massive 41% of the time. Namibia obviously played a very aerial game which the shorter defence definitely struggled against. 

 

  • Among the other teams Ireland had the least variation in their height of pass, using mid-height passes 73% of the time, high passes just 20% and low passes 7%.  Playing a dominantly mid-height game requires speed, fitness and movement as players need to get free in open space to clear the ball of the defender.  Suprisingly, Papua New Guinea were the team to use the high pass the most after the African teams.  We only say surprising because they didn’t have the tallest shooters!  If we had looked at length of pass we think Papua New Guinea would have been right up there as they often looked long down the court and directly into the circle from the middle third.  Cook Islands and Singapore were very similar in their pass height distribution, with the only real difference being that Singapore used a low pass a little more often.  

 

  • What is fascinating about this data is the clear difference in playing styles from team to team, although how much of this is determined by physical characteristics (eg shooter height) of the team is unclear.  It would be interesting to gather data across more teams from each region to see if these differences are apparent at a regional level or if it is an individual team pattern.  What is clear is the value that good opposition analysis can provide to teams when preparing to play unfamiliar opposition.  We hope that tournaments like this will continue to be streamed or broadcast to the global audience in the quest to make the game more competitive across all regions and levels of team.

When we break down shooting data into where shots are taken from, there are two main aspects we consider – volume (how many shots taken from each area of the circle), and accuracy (how many of the shots were successful in each part of the circle).  We recorded the position and success of every shot for each team and produced the following shot charts.  The volume heat maps show the areas of the circle used most by each team for their shots, while the accuracy charts show the areas they were most accurate from.  We have gridded the circle up into 5 angles and 5 lengths, giving 25 different sections of the circle.  The results show significant differences across the teams.

All Teams

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

Looking at the results across all 6 teams combined, volume patterns are as expected with most shots taken from short range and very few shots taken from the edges of the circle in Long 2 range.  The baselines and middle of the circle were the most populated areas, with the two ‘wedges’ sitting slightly lower for volume.  In terms of accuracy, again the results were as expected with the longer the shot range the less accurate it was likely to be.  The baseline shots were generally more accurate, and interestingly the ‘wedge’ shots were the least accurate, particularly on the right side of the circle. 

Breaking down the data by team provides several interesting insights.

Botswana

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

  • Had great ability to get the ball close to the post, with 64% of their shots taken from short range.  
  • A slight preference for the left side of the circle?
  • Even though the vast majority of their shots came from short range, they were actually slightly below average on their short range accuracy, although they were able to rebound most of those misses.
  • Accuracy dropped significantly from Mid 2 range and longer
  • No Long 2 shots taken at all over the whole tournament

Cook Islands

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

  • Good ability to get close to the post, with 54% of shots taken from short range. 
  • Definite preference for the left side of the circle – the Left baseline was the most common angle of shot, closely followed by front of post.
  • While short range accuracy was very good (89%), accuracy from all other lengths except Long 1 was well below the overall average among all teams.  
  • Mid 2 shots in particular were poor, averaging just 54% from this range

Ireland

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

  • Struggled to get shots close to the post, with Mid 2 range the most common length of shot.
  • Slightly different pattern in angle of shot, with Front of post and Right Wedge shots the most commonly taken. A definite preference for the right side of the circle.
  • Overall lower accuracy for Ireland reflects the higher proportion of longer range shots taken, as within each length category they were too far off the average accuracy for that range.
  • Interestingly, the angles and areas of the circle they tended to shoot from the most were their least accurate zones – were they shooting from here as a preference, or because they were forced to?

Namibia

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

  • The most accurate team in the tournament, possibly reflecting their ability to get close to the post with 65% of their shots coming from short range.
  • They took very few shots from Mid 2 range and longer – just 15% of all shots coming from these lengths.
  • Combined with massive volume in the short range, they also had excellent accuracy on these shots – converting 95% of short range shots to goal.
  • They were also above average in accuracy on Mid 1 and Mid 2 shots, converting 89% and 80% from these lengths respectively.  Long 1 and Long 2 shots dropped to 50%, but there were too few of these attempts to have any impact on their overall accuracy.
  • Good accuracy over all angles of the circle, with no particular area of strength or weakness.

Papua New Guinea

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

  • The least accurate team in the competition, not helped by the fact that they were only able to secure short range shots 25% of the time.
  • Mid 2 and Mid 1 were the most common lengths, but they also took a high proportion (14%) of Long 1 shots.
  • Preference for the Left Baseline and Right Wedge, making them evenly balanced over both sides of the circle
  • Short and Mid 1 shots were only slightly below average for accuracy, but accuracy dropped off sharply from Mid 2 and beyond.  While Mid 2 was their most common range, they were only able to convert 56% of these to goal.

Singapore

Click images for more information

Click image for more information

  • The most unique team in the tournament in terms of their shooting patterns!
  • Just 13% of their shots were taken from short range – compare this to the tournament average of 42% and Namibia’s high of 65%
  • The most common length of shot was Long 1, followed closely by Mid 2.  They also took the most Long 2 shots with 23 attempts from the edge of the circle.
  • Despite taking such long shots they were the second most accurate team in the tournament!
  • Very good accuracy from all lengths, managing an impressive 75% from Long 1 and 65% from Long 2.  Potentially if they had worked the ball in to take closer shots their overall accuracy would have been up there with Namibia.
  • One area of weakness seems to be the shots from the front of the post, with accuracy from this angle (68%) much lower than the rest.

Parting

Overall this tournament was a fascinating watch for us, both as analysts and fans of the game. 

Namibia were deserving winners, but the competitiveness among the other teams with contrasting styles, strengths and weaknesses made for some great games. 

One major thought we had while watching is that these results raise some interesting questions around the world rankings, particularly among teams outside the top 6-8.  After spending so long working with the teams at the very top, working with some of the lower ranked teams over the past 12 months has certainly raised our awareness of how important these rankings actually are to these teams. 

While being ‘Number 1 in the world’ is a nice bragging right, being ranked 1st or 2nd (or even 3rd or 4th as NZ found out this year!) doesn’t really change much in terms of material effect.  The top teams are still guaranteed a place in the two international pinnacle events (World Cup and Commonwealth Games), and at the end of the day the only thing that really matters to the teams, the fans, the sponsors and the organisations are the trophies and colours of the medals in the trophy cabinet.  Liz Ellis alluded to this in her recent column during the 2019 Constellation Cup. 

For the lower ranked teams, however,  it is the rankings that determine entry to the Commonwealth Games and also contribute to the draw at World Cup where the top 8 are seeded and the next 8 are drawn randomly.  For these teams, entry to – and performance at – pinnacle events can often be directly linked to funding and sponsorship opportunities, but ironically lower teams attending a pinnacle event often take a ranking hit as they are up against better teams, resulting in a number of losses. 

For the sport as a whole to be truly global with a level of competitiveness that goes beyond the top 6 and across all regions, it would be great to see more tournaments like this that bring together teams from all over the world and give them exposure to truly international competition, while also offering a realistic opportunity to improve their ranking.

Disclaimers: 

Analysis: In order to preserve the integrity of team strategies, we have intentionally kept our analysis as high-level as possible. To do this, we have reduced the use of raw counts in team contexts, we have kept our narratives to the evidence presented and we have offered limited insight and/or strategy advice. 

Data: All data is reported on a per-quarter basis (unless otherwise stated), making all measures directly comparable.

Photos: We do not own any photos. All photo credits are available in the specific image description.

Game Footage: Is owned and managed by Netball Singapore. You may be able to access the stored feeds via their Facebook page, Netball Singapore.

Legal Stuff: As per our Copyright fine print, Point 9 Analytics Ltd owns, or has the rights to publish, all data, media and analysis published herein. As per our Terms and Conditions, all rights are reserved. Any data from our website may not be distributed, commercialised or monetised without our express consent.

LET'S connect

We'd love to hear your thoughts

Point 9 Logo V1 White