After going down to the Collingwood Magpies in the first round of the Suncorp Super Netball, the Sunshine Coast Lightning needed to bring nothing short of their A game to this hotly anticipated round eight clash.
Round eight is the Suncorp Super Netball Indigenous round, designed to recognise the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages. After a friendly welcome to country from the local Kabi Kabi tribe, it was game on. And while the parochial crowd surprised the Magpies with a heartfelt cheer for former Lightning champions Kelsey Browne and Geva Mentor, that was where the warm fuzzies ended. If Sunshine Coast Lightning were intimidated by the punishing round one loss to the Magpies, they didn’t show it as both teams made a strong and confident start to the match.
Playing only the final quarter in last week’s win against Adelaide Thunderbirds, Peace Proscovia was back to her dazzling best. Up against arguably the game’s best goal keeper in Geva Mentor, Proscovia outshone her formidable opponent from the start. Moving and positioning her body, Proscovia made it extremely difficult for Mentor to defend her. The Lightning goal shooter was well supported by Laura Langman and Laura Scherian, who rocketed precision passes into the circle. Proscovia managed to pull these balls in away from Mentor with her incredibly long reach and showed she’s not afraid to offload to her circle edge to better position herself under the post, where she is more likely to score.
Proscovia’s growing confidence revealed itself as she received the ball alone in the circle, only to pass it to the post, re-gather it and shoot for goal, much to the astonishment of defenders Mentor and April Brandley, but not such a surprise for coach Noeline Taurua. “We’ve seen [her do] that in pre-season … It’s one of those things she does – it’s ‘X’ factor and it’s amazing when it comes off”, Taurua said after the match.
The Magpies shooting combination of Jamaican import Shimona Nelson and veteran Natalie Medhurst battled hard against a determined defence unit of Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretorius. The Lightning duo started the game strongly, applying suffocating pressure on the shooters, with Pretorius coming away with three intercepts for the quarter. The connection between Maweni and Pretorius is improving each week and it was evident that they are developing a strong understanding of each other’s game. Magpies managed to stick close to the Lightning, but the home side took the first quarter 15-13.
Both teams returned from the break offering super-tight defence, forcing each other to continually pass around until finding their lucky break into the circle. In her 100th League game, centre Kim Ravaillion enjoyed a physical match-up with Laura Langman, with neither willing to yield. Ravaillion and wing attack Kelsey Browne worked tirelessly through the mid-court, struggling at times to offload the ball in their goal third as players laboured to find space, resulting in several overthrows and Lightning intercepts.
Where the Lightning appeared calm and patient passing the ball around, the Magpies appeared pressured and hassled. Collingwood hung on, passing the ball around, but tight defence by Langman and wing defence Maddie McAuliffe prevented the ball getting into the circle.
As the league’s second highest scoring shooter, Nelson struggled with the relentless attention of Maweni and occasionally strained to take passes cleanly. Although capitalising when she did receive the ball, shooting 90% for the quarter, the double defence by Maweni and Pretorius at times left Nelson labouring to find space. This left Medhurst free to roam out along the circle edge, but Pretorius’s uncanny ability to read the play resulted in three gains for the quarter, proved a massive headache for Medhurst. This resulted in a pressured Medhurst, who at times was forced into shooting long range and had only 50% success for the quarter. The ever-reliable and speedy Browne worked hard to open up space, but she was well shadowed by an equally super-fit McAuliffe.
Both teams had moments where they struggled to get the ball into their shooting circles, but the disciplined and controlled patience of the Lightning to keep passing the ball around their goal third and circle edge until space opened up allowed them to position themselves under the post. Lightning pulled away to lead at half time 31-25
The third-quarter saw the Lightning put the foot on the accelerator and pull away from Collingwood. Although Magpies Kim Ravaillion and Ash Brazill worked tirelessly in defence through the mid court, both were pulled up repeatedly for contact around the circle edge with Brazill having 11 contacts for the game and Ravaillion seven. This allowed for super quick feeds by Langman and Scherian into Wood and Proscovia, allowing them to edge closer to the post and capitalise.
Wood timed her moves from Brandley well and her connection and understanding with Proscovia was evident as they safely fed speedy passes to each other around the circle to get in better scoring positions. Wood played a strong supporting game with 13 goal assists and 19 feeds for the game.
Work horse Brazill tested the in-form Scherian and worked hard for her three gains and two intercepts for the game, but the in-form Scherian continued her impressive season with 37 feeds and 22 goal assists for the match.
The final quarter saw changes on both sides. With a commanding lead, the Lightning brought on Cara Koenen into goal attack and Jacqui Russell into wing defence, with McAuliffe moved into centre. For the Magpies, Matilda Garrett was bought on into goal defence and Gabrielle Sinclair to goal attack, moving the under-performing Brandley and Medhurst to the bench. But Medhurst returned five minutes later to sub off Nelson in goal shooter. But the changes did little to slow the momentum of the Lightning.
The battle between Proscovia and Mentor did not ease up. Mentor’s never-say-die attitude saw the two playing strong contested ball right up until the final siren. Koenen, fresh off the bench, quickly settled in well with Proscovia. Moving easily in and around the circle, Koenen was able to open up space, and shoot a respectable 80% for the quarter. Maintaining energy and enthusiasm, the Lightning capitalised on the fast transitions and speedy passage of play down the court, with McAuliffe appearing to relish the freedom of her move to centre.
The Magpies continued to struggle to get ball into their circle as Pretorius prowled around the goal circle, coming away with 12 gains and six intercepts for the game. Medhurst was kept out wide on the circle’s edge and in a frustrated attempt to score, missed the goal post altogether. It was an ominous sign for the Magpies.
With a crushing win now firmly in their sights the Lightning stormed away, maintaining an energetic and potent game. Their match fitness evident as they increased their lead, leaving a devastated Magpies in their wake. The Magpies came away with just six goals for the quarter and a record low 41 goals at the final whistle. But for the Lightning it was a win worth celebrating, coming away with four points for the win and all 4 bonus points.
Sunshine Coast Lightning 64 def Collingwood Magpies 41
(15-13, 16-12, 17-10, 16-6)
Player of the Match: Karla Pretorius
Congratulations to: Kim Ravaillion 100 National League Games
Peace Proscovia 45/50 90%
Steph Wood 15/22 68.2%
Cara Koenen 4/5 80%
Sunshine Coast Lightning 64/77 83.1%
Shimona Nelson 29/36 (80.6%)
Natalie Medhurst 8/14 (57%)
Gabrielle Sinclair 4/6 (67%)
Collingwood Magpies 41/56 73.2%
Karla Pretorius (Sunshine Coast Lightning) 6
Phumza Maweni (Sunshine Coast Lightning) 2
Ash Brazill (Collingwood Magpies) 2
Geva Mentor (Collingwood Magpies) 2
Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning) 22
Laura Langman (Sunshine Coast Lightning) 16
Kelsey Browne (Collingwood Magpies) 14
Kim Ravaillion (Collingwood Magpies) 12
Sunshine Coast Lightning
GS Peace Proscovia
GA Stephanie Wood
WA Laura Scherian
C Maddy McAuliffe
WD Laura Langman
GD Karla Pretorius
GK Phumza Maweni
Bench: Jacqui Russell, Cara Koenen, Annika Lee-Jones
Q4 Cara Koenen GA, Jacqui Russell WD, Maddie McAuliffe C
GS Shimona Nelson
GA Natalie Medhurst
WA Kelsey Browne
C Kim Ravaillion
WD Ash Brazill
GD April Brandley
GK Geva Mentor
Bench: Gabrielle Sinclair, Matilda Garrett, Kimiora Poi
Q4: Gabrielle Sinclair GA, Matilda Garrett GD, Nat Medhurst GS
Umpires: Helen George and Bronwen Adams
Sunshine Coast Lightning v West Coast Fever at USC Stadium
Collingwood Magpies v Queensland Firebirds at Melbourne Arena.
What they said:
Congratulations on a big victory, it all just seemed to click for the team today didn’t it?
“Yes, it was an awesome game by the team and I believe every individual player learnt the lessons from the first time we played the Magpies. Normally I have this slogan that “you never lose, you learn the lesson”, so we learnt the lesson and picked up four (bonus points).”
Tell us about why you threw the ball off the post – what was happening there?
“It was just one of those things, that I do once in a while in a game if there is nobody to play to. The post is also a player, so I just used that post, because most times it’s never used so I had to take that opportunity. I sometimes will do that if there is nobody there, I just use it. It’s just a thing that just happens once in a while.”
You had a strong game against Geva Mentor, one of the world’s best goal keepers – how did you prepare to play against her?
“The truth is, the few games I’ve played in England I’ve played up against Geva and I can’t undermine the strength of Geva. She is such a brilliant defender, but to play against her, you have to plan your game properly and I had to prepare properly to come into this game today.”
You played four full quarters today, after only playing the final quarter last week against Adelaide Thunderbirds, how did you prepare for this week?
“I’ve always trained hard, that is one truth, but in this Suncorp League where every player is good, you can never take it for granted that you’re going to start a game. Last week being given the last quarter meant the coach trusted that I could make a change in the game. I did not take it personal. I actually thanked the coach for giving me the last quarter and then trusting me today to play this game. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I’ll continue working hard.”
Do you think it was the most complete performance today by the team since you’ve been here?
“We’ve always played well, it’s just that this Suncorp Super Netball League is very interesting. It’s like almost every team keeps going up and down, but we also keep going up and down. The most important thing is that if you lost today, did you lose, or did you learn the lesson? You pick it up and go forward because all these players are all world-class stars and that is not to be undermined.”
To beat Collingwood by 23 goals after they beat the Vixens last weekend, does it show the competition is up and down or is it because the Lightning is in really good form?
“It’s just up and down, but the other thing I can say is Sunshine Coast Lightning players were on-form today, everybody came with their ‘A’ game. We call it the ‘A’ game, our ‘Z’ game is when everything is a mess. So, I can say today was an ‘A’ game for us and we came well prepared. We wanted that win and we’ve got it.”
Thoughts on today’s game?
“There was some really pleasing aspects, especially in our contesting of the ball. For a couple of weeks, we haven’t been able to do that, especially in the defence end – we’ve just been ushering players around, but today we were in the mindset that we need to contest the ball and when we do that we either turn it over or create pressure and I was really happy with that. I thought sporadically in the attacking end, when we kept to structure, that was also quite good. But I thought it was quite torrid out there, physically, as well. It was quite pleasing that they made those changes [in the 4th quarter] and I think it opened it up for us and then we got our back up and it was ‘closed shop’ by then.”
What were your thoughts on Peace Proscovia’s game today?
“She was really strong today and when she’s really strong and is in the circle and she stays in the circle instead of running around outside, then we’ve got a really strong foundation in the attacking end, but also somebody that we can let the ball go to. I thought she did that really well and when she was settled she was phenomenal.”
Did you think coming off the bench in the final quarter in last weeks game, put a rocket up Peace this week and see her play a sensational game for four quarters?
“I’m really clear about where Peace is at. I keep saying that it will take a while for her to get used to the high-performance way, the grind of everyday training, not just physically for her body to get used to it, but also mentally as well. She’s never come across all these massive or amazing defenders who are going to contest the ball one on one with her as well. It’s all about learning, but I think both her and Cara have a different style and I think it’s a strength for us when we do make that change up. I think she was strong underneath the post and did her job amazingly.”
She did so well on a great goal keeper, do you think she got the better of Geva today?
“Yes, I think she did. I’m also aware that the Magpies had a game on Monday, so for them to back up was always going to be a hard task, so that was one reason we needed to take their bodies on and get the balls lifted up to get them up in the air and hopefully they’d tire. I think we did that, especially coming into that last quarter, once we opened up. I think (credit to us) we did some amazing plays and it’s good to set us up for next week to finish this half of the season off.”
Thoughts on MVP Karla Pretorius?
“She was up against (Natalie) Medhurst, who’s a big player, not only for Australia, but also Collingwood as well, so I thought she did an awesome job and that showed in the stats where they cut the connections down and they didn’t get much ball to able to shoot. Karla did a good job – and I was really happy with Phumza in the back – I thought she created a lot and was able to contest in the air and I think that combination is starting to come along quite nicely.”