29 Oct 2016

2016 Fast5 World Series anyone's to take

2:56 pm on 29 October 2016

New Zealand might be the defending champions and Australia the in-form team, but it's the unpredictability of Fast 5 netball which could see any of the six nations competing take out the title in Melbourne this weekend.

New Zealand's Maria Tutaia takes a shot in the Fast5 Netball World Series against Australia at Vector Arena, Auckland, Friday 8th November 2013. Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / photosport.co.nz

New Zealand's Maria Tutaia takes a shot in the Fast5 Netball World Series against Australia Photo: Photosport

Vying to overcome the traditional trans-Tasman powerhouses are England, South Africa, Jamaica and underdogs Malawi in netball's version of T20 cricket.

New Zealand has won five out of the last six tournaments, with England the only other nation to come away with the trophy in 2011.

Hosts Australia are determined to make history in Melbourne and come away with the only trophy missing from their impressive silverware cabinet.

Captains from all sides were in agreeance that the 24-minute, five-a-side matches with hybrid rules levelled the playing field, with long- range multiple point shots and power plays often proving the difference.

Australian Fast5 Diamonds captain Susan Pettitt said her side was boosted by the inclusion of shooters Gretel Tippet and Caitlin Thwaites, fresh from a winning Constellation Cup campaign against the Silver Ferns.

She playfully nominated New Zealand's Fast5 Ferns captain Maria Tutaia's skill in nailing the long shots as a reason why Australia is yet to claim a win the fast and furious tournament.

"Fast 5s is built for Maria Tutaia, she's a great long-bomb shooter but we've got some shooters in our team this year who have been really practising that and they're looking good so we're hopefully going to come out on the weekend and do well," Pettitt said.

Australia's Susan Pettitt playing for the NSW Swifts.

Australia's Susan Pettitt playing for the NSW Swifts. Photo: Photosport

England, champions in 2011 and runners-up in 2010 and 2012, boast a strong side which features the likes of Geva Mentor, Jo Harten and Ama Agbeze, while South Africa's Helen Housby will be keen to impress on Australian soil ahead of her debut with the NSW Swifts in the new National Netball League next year.

Jamaica is without their all-conquering shooter Romelda Aiken, but captain Althea Byfield confidently said her side has what it takes to win.

"To me, it's just regular netball, the rules are a little bit different, but it's five of us and five of them. It's anybody's game," Byfield said.

"It's challenging in the sense that in normal netball you want to protect the post, but in this situation, you want to give them the post because it's just one point."

Malawi captain Grace Mwafulirwa bravely shook off the underdog tag and said the Queens, featuring Melbourne Vixens new signing Mwai Kumwenda, would be competitive due to the nature of the game.

"We're ready. We're going to go out there with all our heart to do our best. (Fast5s) is unpredictable."

The tournament gets underway in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon, with the final set to be played on Sunday night.