Giants composed themselves after a slow start to beat the Collingwood Magpies by three goals in Sydney. The win sees the Giants hold their place in the top four, while the Magpies remain trapped in the bottom two, making a finals comeback appear even more dubious.
Magpies coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell started Shae Brown in centre, backing up her recent good form at the expense of Australian Diamond Kim Ravaillion. The Giants also made a change in their starting line-up, giving Diamonds training partner Kristiana Manu’a her first start in Suncorp Super Netball at goal keeper.
Collingwood came out strong, determined to prove their encouraging win against the Queensland Firebirds in the previous round was no fluke. April Brandley picked up two intercepts, while fellow defenders Sharni Layton and Ash Brazill chipped in to halt the Giants’ speedy ball delivery and gather crucial early gains.
This disrupted the usually slick Giants attack, although the odd sparks of their ingenious playmaking were still there, such as a perfectly faked pass from Harten which found Pettitt on the baseline. Serena Guthrie was the Giants’ early stand out, gluing their connections together across the thirds.
The Magpies were wasteful in their attacking play, losing the ball through overcooked long passes or silly handling errors, which allowed the Giants to stay with them. Both teams had shown patches of brilliance and of silliness, with the Magpies arguably controlling the play to take a two-goal lead.
It took the Giants a couple more error-riddled minutes to get into the groove of the second quarter. A Guthrie held ball, stepping call against Kim Green, and misstep by Jamie-Lee Price juxtaposed the confident Magpies.
Collingwood were playing a game of long, fluid passes, which were utilising angles and varying in height. The Giants’ full court pressure kept the margin at bay, and eventually clawed it back to just two goals again, prompting the Magpies to call a timeout.
Green had worked herself into the game, establishing direct passage to goal where Pettitt and Harten were sharing the goaling spread with confidence from long range. Pettitt, in particular, flourished against an unusually quiet Layton, who was drawing the highest penalty count on court.
The Magpies had caught unforced error fever, counteracting the Giants’ mistakes with their own bad passes, costly contact calls, or unfollowed rebounds. A poorly directed pass fell straight into Manu’a’s waiting arms, and allowed the Giants to even up the scores. The Magpies called another time out, as Madi Robinson implored her team to “take a breath, set the penalty.”
Their earlier grip on the match had given way to slight stumbles on the take, and passes that ran too close to the lines and were thrown on the run. The Magpies needed to steady, and capitalise on their turnover ball. Robinson and Brown drove the ball forward to Caitlin Thwaites on the baseline, but the Giants finished the quarter with their noses two goals in front.
Collingwood were leading in intercepts and gains, but the Giants’ full court pressure was starting to prove more effective than any individual statistics.
Ravaillion replaced Brown in the third quarter, while Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald brought Sam Poolman into GK to try something different against Thwaites. Without Brown charging through court, the Magpies attacking urgency changed. Their attackers stopped coming forward for the ball, leaving the defenders to bring it down with no clear options, wasting early deflections and pick-ups.
Green was thriving, jetting bullet passes directly to the post with her trademark flair, while Rebecca Bulley had blocked Erin Bell out of the game and picked up an intercept. Rather than passing on instinct, or only just letting the ball go in time, the Giants’ leads were opening up.
The Magpies called another time out to bring Brandley to the bench in favour of youngster Matilda Garrett. The Giants had now pulled out to a seven-goal lead. Garrett won the ball in an early confidence booster, which sparked Collingwood to score seven of the next nine goals.
Some fantastic cross court passes zig zagged the court to find Thwaites and Bell, and now it was the Giants who were calling a time out. They refocused, and returned with clever, precise attacking play – particularly Guthrie and Green; even when they were flying through the air, ball in hand, they had composure and effective ball release.
Keppich-Birrell swung another defensive change for the final quarter, benching Layton, switching Garrett to GK, and bringing Brandley back to GD. Garrett was doing well – with two rebounds and an intercept – while Brazill forced pressure down the court.
Basic skill errors continued to let Collingwood down, with an offside call against Ravaillion and a held ball against Brazill the most obvious. Brazill chased up and won her own held ball, but as she searched for someone to pass to, her only options were orange.
A timeout saw Harten go to the bench, and Kristina Brice enter the game at GS. Having a holding target in the circle meant the Giants’ feeders could wait patiently for Brice to open up, and send the high ball in with poise.
The Magpies needed players to win the ball, but there was a sense of resignation in their play. They seemed unaware of the ticking clock, until the last few minutes, where they rallied to pull ahead for the quarter and collect a bonus point. The Magpies timed their runs with the Giants’ lapses, but it wasn’t enough to get them over the line.
The Giants had the opportunity to clinch top spot if they had snagged all four bonus points, but a six-point haul puts them in second. In comparison, the Magpies remain stuck in seventh. In a tight competition, they remain a mathematical chance, but Collingwood cannot rely on bonus points and patches of brilliance to make the finals.
Next week sees their all-Victorian clash against the Melbourne Vixens. After the Vixens’ convincing display against ladder leaders West Coast Fever on Saturday, the Magpies will go in as underdogs – although, the same could be said about their Round 6 match against the Firebirds.
The Giants will travel to face the Sunshine Coast Lightning, who sit in a similar position to the Magpies: low on the ladder with only three wins. The Giants only just got over the line against the Lightning in the first round, and should prepare for another close grand final rematch against a home side desperate to win.
Giants 63 def Collingwood Magpies 60
(14-16, 30-28, 48-42, 63-60)
Player of the Match: Rebecca Bulley (Giants)
Pettitt 29/31 94%
Harten 25/28 89%
Brice 9/11 82%
Thwaites 38/40 95%
Bell 22/26 85%
Serena Guthrie (Giants) 3
Ash Brazill (Magpies) 4
April Brandley (Magpies) 2
Ash Brazill (Magpies) 7
April Brandley (Magpies) 3
Serena Guthrie (Giants) 3
Sharni Layton (Magpies) 2
Matilda Garrett (Magpies) 2
Jo Harten (Giants) 2
Kristiana Manu’a (Giants) 2
Madi Robinson (Magpies) 27
Kim Green (Giants) 22
Serena Guthrie (Giants) 17
Susan Pettitt (Giants) 13
Shae Brown (Magpies) 11
Starting line ups
GS Susan Pettitt
GA Jo Harten
WA Kim Green
C Serena Guthrie
WD Jamie Lee-Price
GD Rebecca Bulley
GK Kristiana Manu’a
Changes: Q3 GK Poolman, Q4 GS Brice GA Pettitt
GS Caitlin Thwaites
GA Erin Bell
WA Madi Robinson
C Shae Brown
WD Ash Brazill
GD April Brandley
GK Sharni Layton
Changes: Q3 C Ravaillion GD Garrett, Q4 GD Brandley GK Garrett
What they said…
Susan Pettitt, Giants
How do you feel after that one?
“Not too bad. We probably had a bit of a rusty end to the game, so we won’t be happy about that, but overall not to bad dealing against Magpies.”
At what point the Giants felt like they had control over the match
“First quarter I think … we looked a bit stressed out there. We were a bit hesitant to give the ball and things like that, so in the second quarter it was about just relaxing and having a bit of fun and playing our game. So I think we just relaxed into it and you could see that on court.”
On Sharni Layton being benched
“We don’t notice it … I mean, obviously I was playing against her, so I was just trying to keep her as busy as possible so she couldn’t come out for those speccies that she likes to do, so my job today was just to keep her busy, use that baseline, and get the dodges working.”
On the unbelievable passes coming into the circle from Kim Green and Jo Harten
“Yeah, they really were (unbelievable). I think we used our fakes really well today to get the defenders moving, and I think the connection between us today was spot on. I think we timed the dodge back to the post really well, for both Jo and I, so it’s nice to see.”
Is creativity something that the Giants are encouraging?
“Totally. It’s a license to play, I think, and just be able to see what’s out there on court. Obviously, we have structures, but if you see something, play it.”
In the first quarter, Kim (Green) was behind on the goal assists but then she fired up in the next three quarters … maybe (Ash) Brazill was a bit on top of her in the beginning?
“I think they just did some really good defence on us against that second phase of centre pass. I think we got over the line pretty easily, and the next pass was really shut down by both Braz and Shae (Brown), so credit to them for that. And then we just opened up the court a little bit and got our dodges working.”
You and Jo (Harten) have heaps of goal assists – about three times as much as the opposition shooters – but it’s very creative and very hard to defend
“Yeah, when Jo and I are looking for each other, it’s really on. I think the more we play together, the more the connection comes. Sometimes we run to the same spot, but it’s starting to come really nicely, today it connected really nicely.”
Julie Fitzgerald, Giants coach
About the creativity in the goal circle
“I think we want to be different. We don’t want to be predictable. We want to be able to make things happen. I think we’ve got some very talented players out there and we’ve got a lot of players who read the game really well, so we have that ability to be creative. Sometimes it doesn’t quite come off, and coaches get very anxious, but I think that’s something we need to keep building on.”
About Jo Harten growing into the goal attack role
“I think she’s getting a lot better at it, and we were a little disappointed last week because we thought we lacked a bit of movement there, but it worked really well today, and I thought Prats (Pettitt) also backed her up really well at the back.”
About the Giants’ attacking passes
“Some of it was tremendous. If we can keep building on that, and keep improving on that, then I think it will be hard to get on top of us.”
Report: @Bethany Slaughter
Images: Danny Dalton