It was all about Jhaniele Fowler in the West Coast Fever’s dominant win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Fever took the game 74-56 after winning all four quarters and proving they will be a strong force in season two of Suncorp Super Netball.
Before today’s match, Caitlin Thwaites and Caitlin Bassett shared the record of goals scored in Super Netball at 50 goals. After scoring 66 of 68 at 97 per cent, Fowler didn’t just beat that record, she smashed through it.
She even topped her previous record of 65, which she achieved twice in 2013 in the ANZ Championship.
The 198cm Jamaican was next to unbeatable at the post, showcasing her strength and athleticism against the experience of Thunderbirds captain Leana De Bruin.
Her scoring power meant Fever’s goal attacks in Nat Medhurst and Kaylia Stanton only put up eight goals between them.
Despite the scoreline, it wasn’t all bad for the Thunderbirds who, after the first quarter, gave the crowd a lot to cheer about.
Going down 22-14 in the first term meant the Thunderbirds needed an almighty comeback to take the game and while they didn’t get there, all three remaining quarters were far more competitive.
Shimona Nelson gave the fans something to get excited about after shooting 37 of 42 at 88% in her debut to Super Netball, winning her the Vivian Bullwinkel Medal.
The 195cm Jamaican may not have the strength of Fowler but she was not missing the athleticism and power in the air, despite coming up against Australian Diamonds goal keeper Courtney Bruce.
In the circle with her, temporary replacement player Charlee Hodges was impressive early, showing confidence at the post, before she was replaced by former Queensland Firebirds rookie Abigail Latu-Meafou in the third term.
Latu-Meafou had an immediate impact with a good return of 5/5 in her first nine minutes of play.
South African Bongi Msomi brought immense speed into the middle for the home side when she came on in the second term, and combined well with vice-captain Chelsea Pitman who was in good form.
Fever centre Verity Charles took the bench early in the final quarter with a serious ankle injury that took her out of the match.
Returning Thunderbird defender Kate Shimmin had the job of standing Fowler in the final quarter and did her best to confuse the space.
A stepping call against Latu-Meafou with 30 seconds to go, followed by a long bomb on the buzzer from Fowler, meant Fever took the last quarter 15-14 for a clean sweep.
However, it being the closest quarter margin of the match meant the Thunderbirds showed good fight in the final term. Similar to last year, it was unforced errors and some poor decision making that stopped them from producing a consistent four quarters of netball.
Sadly for Adelaide fans, the girls could not cut off the Fever’s line to Fowler, but some good, clean passages of play gives hope for what they can produce in the coming weeks.
Thunderbirds coach Dan Ryan said he was really happy with how his team played.
“Yes, we were beaten quite convincingly but to be honest, the West Coast Fever are going to be incredibly hard to stop against every single team,” he said.
“For us to post 56 goals with three 19 and 20 year old kids in the goal circle at 86 per cent, I’m really hopeful that can be produced again.”
Ryan said he could not have been more impressed with Shimona Nelson.
“She was terrified before the game but 37 goals at 88 per cent for a kid that’s been playing netball for less than 12 months is an incredible debut performance and she’s only going to get better,” he said.
He said he was also impressed by Msomi’s entrance to the game and said it was a great opportunity for the side’s younger players to experience game day.
After a season away with the Queensland Firebirds, Adelaide girl Kate Shimmin said she was thrilled to back representing her hometown.
“I love it, Adelaide will always be my home so I’m so happy to be here,” she said.
She felt the disappointing score line did not reflect the team’s tenacity.
“To have Shimona win the Vivian Bullwinkel Medal in her first game of Suncorp Super Netball you can see the potential this team has so it’s a working progress,” she said.
The Fever however are looking dangerous early and will be ones to watch as the season progresses.
Veteran goal attack Nat Medhurst said her side had expected Fowler to score a large bulk of the goals.
“That’s why we got her,” she said.
“Our job (the attackers) is to make sure we supply to ball well and executing our feeds well to make her job easier.”
“I’m not a shooter that really cares about stats in terms of how many goals I score, as long as I’m delivering and doing my job in another capacity I’m happy with that.”
Looking to next week, Medhurst said the side would aim to improve on their decision-making and the placement of their feeds into Fowler.
She said there were always ways to improve but at the end of the day it was also important to enjoy a “bloody good win”.
The Fever head into round two against the Magpies with eight points under the belt while the Thunderbirds will be looking to redeem themselves against the Giants.
West Coast Fever 74 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 56
(22-14, 39-27, 59-42, 74-56)
Player of the match: Jhaniele Fowler (Fever)
West Coast Fever
Fowler 66/68 98%
Medhurst 5/6 83%
Stanton 3/3 100%
Nelson 37/42 88%
Hodges 9/10 90%
Latu-Meafou 10/13 77%
Starting line ups
GK de Bruin
West Coast Fever
Cover image: Liam Hughes