Netball Scoop – Suncorp Super Netball – Grand final, 2020
Congratulations to the MELBOURNE VIXENS on the 2020 Premiership
Melbourne Vixens 66 defeated West Coast Fever 64 (15-16, 17-17, 18-14, 16-17)
Mwai Kumwenda 47/50 (94%)
Caitlin Thwaites 10/10, supershots 3/7 (76%)
Tegan Phillip 3/3 (100%)
Jhaniele Fowler 54/55, supershots 1/1 (98%)
Alice Teague-Neeld 4/5 supershots 2/5 (60%)
Ingrid Colyer (Fever) was unable to play in the match due an ACL injury earlier in the season, and watched from home following surgery a few weeks ago.
Kim Ravaillion is returning to where it all started, signing with the Queensland Firebirds for the 2021 season. The former Collingwood Magpies midcourter, sat out the 2020 season following the birth of her daughter, Georgie. Ravaillion will relocate to Queensland for the season, and will be joined by her mum for support. Fiance Adam Treloar will remain in Melbourne, where he currently is listed with the Collingwood AFL team.
Mahalia Cassidy has told the Queensland Firebirds she will be signing with another team for the 2021 season.
South African Ine-Mari Venter has elected to leave Australia and try her options in other overseas tournaments. She spent two years in Australia playing for the Vixens in 2019 and the Firebirds in 2020. We wish Ine all the best in her new adventure.
Sam Gooden and Lenize Potgeiter have both re-signed with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Swifts favourites Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley, Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau have all re-committed to the club for the 2021 season.
Stay tuned to Netball Scoop for updates of all the player movements and signings for the 2021 Suncorp Super Netball Season.
PLAY OF THE ROUND
Game MVP Mwai Kumwenda somehow managed to keep the ball in play on an overcooked feed where anyone else would have gone out of court. Kumwenda took the ball in the air, landed on one leg just inside the line and proceeded to balance herself by doing an arabesque of sorts before putting the shot away.
Jo Weston’s rebound on a missed shot from Alice Teague-Neeld in the final parts of the game was crucial in shaping the final result. With the Fever usually sorted for rebounds with the prolific Fowler under the post, this was positively game-changing.
It’s hard to argue with the impact that Jess Anstiss had in shutting down the world’s best wing attack, Liz Watson. In the first half against Anstiss, Watson had just 12 goal assists and 16 centre pass receives. In the second half against Stacey Francis, Watson cut loose with 26 goal assists, and 16 centre pass receives. That included a game high 15 goal assists in the third quarter, perhaps not coincidentally the only quarter the Vixens won.
It was incredible to see both teams finishing the game on just 11 turnovers apiece. For such a high intensity game at the end of season, plus the inevitable grand final nerves, the low turnover rate was seriously impressive and part of the reason this final was one of the best we’ve seen.
TALKING POINTS OF THE ROUND
There is still no official word on whether the 2 point shot will be part of the competition next year, which is seriously unimpressive given that teams are currently sorting their 2021 rosters and looking to sign players.
While Suncorp Super Netball CEO, Chris Symington, said that support is currently running at a 50/50 split for the rule, it’s hard to believe given the pasting it’s received on social media.
It was also fitting that it didn’t influence the result of a grand final that went down to the wire. One of the best games that the competition has ever seen, it was proof that gimmicks aren’t needed to make a game exciting.
Once again, print media made the ultimate gaffe. With two Melbourne based teams hoping to make the AFL grand final, their players were featured on the front page of the Herald Sun. They completely overlooked the Melbourne Vixens, who were about to play off for their maiden Suncorp Super Netball title, after being the consistently best team of the season.
The Vixens’ media department, who’ve been in sterling form all season, rightfully called them out.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
Well done and on-point, netball fans.
STAND OUT STATISTICS
Jhaniele Fowler (Fever) – 99.5
Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens) – 92
Jhaniele Fowler (Fever) – 54/55 98.2% (incl 1 supershot)
Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens) – 47/50 94%
Liz Watson (Vixens) – 38
Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) – 28
Centre Pass Receives
Liz Watson (Vixens) – 32
Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) – 27
Courtney Bruce (Fever) – 4 (2 intercepts, 1 deflection with gain, 1 rebound)
Emily Mannix (Vixens) – 2 (1 deflection with gain 1 rebound)
Jo Weston (Vixens) – 2 (1 intercept, 1 rebound)
Emma Cosh (Fever) – 4
Jo Weston (Vixens) – 3
Liz Watson (Vixens) – 5
Jhaniele Fowler (Fever) – 3
Jo Weston (Vixens) – 20
Courtney Bruce (Fever) – 19
Melbourne Vixens 66 defeated West Coast Fever 64
by Jane Edwards
Jhaniele Fowler dominated the Vixens defenders with 56 goals – the only shot she missed she rebounded and slotted anyway. It was a flawless performance in the grand final, and included a supershot at the end of the first quarter to take the lead for her team. But it is worth scrutinising what this dominance meant for Fever. It meant that the attacking approach to goal was entirely predictable – every ball was going to Fowler.
It meant that Teague-Neeld was not asked to shoot for most of the game; instead she led the goal assists for Fever and scored only 8 goals, four of them coming from two supershots. And when she was required to shoot, the pressure was immense. For most of the game she stood up to it. But with two minutes to go and and a two-point shot required to take the lead, the miss came, and Fowler was not optimally positioned to rebound.
Down the other end, the Vixens were employing an attacking strategy that was less usual for them. All season they have benefitted from sharing the shooting load. In the grand final, the shooting burden was squarely on Mwai Kumwenda, who scored 47 from 50 conventional shots. This represented 71% of the Vixens’ total score, an unusual shooting approach for them, and particularly brave against Diamonds GK Courtney Bruce.
Kumwenda at GS scored more than 70% of her team’s total in only three other games this season: twice against last year’s premiers Swifts in rounds 8 and 11, and once against the second placed Lightning in round 14. The Vixens never gave the Fever a look at this attacking setup all season.
What it meant on court was that Thwaites was drawing the vigorous Francis out of the circle, and she and Watson were focused on putting early balls into the space Kumwenda was holding against Bruce. Bruce was consequently not available to take her trademark intercepts outside the circle – she was completely entranced wondering which way Kumwenda was going to go.
Because Thwaites is such a strong shooter herself, Francis was occupied in tagging her and not available to double-team Kumwenda or disrupt space in the goal circle. This enabled Kumwenda to dominate the Vixens’ shooting, and keep Bruce to a very modest tally of four defensive gains for the match.
Kumwenda was present at every key moment. Three times she pulled in balls at the goal post that would have bypassed lesser players. Late in the fourth quarter, when Stacey Francis turned desperately at the lapse of three seconds to pass the ball back to her captain in the goal third, it was Kumwenda who cut it off neatly, demonstrating to Bruce where she should have been backing up on the transverse line, then rebounded Thwaites’ missed shot to seal the turnover goal in the following passage of play.
Kumwenda’s ambition for netball success is selflessly harnessed to the team processes, but she provided every moment of inspiration that they needed to win today.
Both teams played with purpose and determination – there was little evidence of big game nerves, with each team having only 11 turnovers for the game. Compare this with last week’s preliminary final when Lightning had 28 turnovers and Fever 16, and the high quality of this match is apparent. A couple of times early in the first quarter the Vixens panicked in their rush to scoop up loose balls, and missed opportunities to force a turnover.
But it was a largely nerveless performance from both teams until the final two minutes, when Teague-Neeld’s long-range shot for two points to take the lead failed to drop. Even then, blame should not be attributed to her miss, but to the brilliant maneuvering of Emily Mannix and Jo Weston who ensured that Fowler, the second-highest offensive rebounder this season, was pinned right under the post and not there for the drop of the ball.
What the Vixens did brilliantly, all game, was to lead sharply forward to the ball carrier in bursts that escaped their opponent and created an easy outlet for the pass. Every passage of play down court was characterised by this clockwork, centre corridor timing. There were few lateral moves leaving a defender to intercept the pass, no sideline-hugging passages inviting tips and deflections, and above all, no floaty passes to the pocket attracting Courtney Bruce’s attention.
This discipline was particularly valuable in the final quarter, when Fever picked up not a single deflection, and the Vixens’ steady ball movement mesmerised the Fever defenders into static positions around the goal circle.
WHAT needed improvement?
All season, the Vixens’ bench-depth has been extolled, and while coach Simone McKinnis did not need to reconsider her options for any great length in the grand final, Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich must have yearned for some substitutes that would bring greater disruption in the second half. A well-rehearsed switch up of Anstiss to Centre, Charles to WA and Francis to WD in the third quarter added nothing, for it was here that the Vixens effectively won the game.
They outscored Fever 18-14 and took a three-goal lead to the final quarter. Both teams retreated to the bunker of good old-fashioned, conventional netball in the championship third quarter, with the Goal Shooters doing all the scoring: Caitlin Thwaites had only one goal, and Teague-Neeld zero in this period. The Fever GA was blanketed by an increasingly dominant Jo Weston, who came up with two defensive gains from an intercept and deflection, and caused a third turnover by pressuring Teague-Neeld into a footwork infringement.
WHERE was it won?
For all the focus on the two shooting ends, the momentum for Vixens’ final surge to the lead came from one passage of play in the centre third – and in the end, isn’t the dance through the midcourt the part of the game that makes netball unique? Verity Charles has been rampant all season, and Simone McKinnis pulled off a brilliant coaching move to contain her, substituting Allie Smith into the match at WD with five minutes to go.
On Fever’s 13th centre pass they were ahead 61-60, and Vixens needed to win the ball to regain the lead. Smith channelled Charles onto Fever’s left sideline for the centre pass receive, and Thwaites moved down swiftly to force her next passing option back to Stacey Francis at WD.
The Fever pair were forced to repeat these passes until Francis was caught in the same position, hard against the sideline, with all her passing options bunched behind Vixens defenders. She turned helplessly back to Bruce at GK as the three seconds ticked down, but Bruce was not as actively stationed on the transverse line as she might have been, and Kumwenda nipped in for an easy intercept.
WHERE was it lost?
It’s a shame to observe this, and no reflection on the players is intended, but Fever’s GA strategy does not seem to be a victorious one. Vixens had 48 goal assists from their midcourters in this game, shared between Watson at WA with 38 and Moloney at C with 10.
Fever had an identical number of goal assists shared between two players: Verity Charles at C and WA and Teague-Neeld at GA, with 20 and 28 respectively. Thwaites and Philip had 10 goal assists between them at GA and Emma Cosh, playing WA for half the game, had 9. Anstiss contributed zero goal assists in her 21 minutes at Centre.
The demand for Teague-Neeld to be a mere ball-carrier to Fowler results in her being a part-time shooter in the game. She has few easy shots close to the post, and she doesn’t get her eye in. It’s a huge ask for any player to shoot goals accurately when it is suddenly required of them, and the added pressure of long-range supershots exacerbates the situation. Having Fowler at the post to rebound must be some comfort, but in a tight contest like this, one miscalculation handed over the match-winning lead.
Fowler is the greatest GS in the world, and the best this season, but the game is more than one player. Fever have pursued a strategy of Fowler-centred scoring through several seasons, using former Diamond Natalie Medhurst and now Alice Teague-Neeld as the sacrificial feeding GA. They should have collected enough evidence by now to prove that the outcome is, at best, the runner-up trophy.
WHEN was the game won and lost?
Fever had this game in the final quarter. They fought back from a two goal deficit to lead 59-57 going into the last five minute supershot period, and hung on to this lead for six centre passes. But Thwaites, in her final game, landed a sensational long shot to take the lead, and Fever were suddenly in chase position, forced to abandon the Fowler-focused game plan they had followed for 58 minutes.
Teague-Neeld sank her next two-point attempt to level at 63-63, but with one minute remaining her next shot bounced out and into the hands of Mannix and Weston, brilliantly positioned for the rebound. The Vixens spent the next 60 seconds carefully conveying the ball to Kumwenda at the post, with only one suspiciously short pass between Weston and Moloney revealing any alarm as the game reached its conclusion.
“We played out all of these scenarios, we knew exactly what to do,” Thwaites said after the game, and this must be the true benefit of winning the first semi final and having a spare week to plot and plan. The match was won in the final 60 seconds, as befits an epic grand final encounter – extra time with endless two-point options is a horror deferred for another season.
HOW did she do that?!
In a game as controlled and strategic as this there were few moments of spectacle, but fittingly it was Mwai Kumwenda who provided the breath-catching athleticism. Ten minutes into the second quarter, Watson delivered a ball that was clearly going over the baseline. Kumwenda dragged it down to ground level, balancing delicately on the tiptoes of one foot to avoid going out of court, then turned and slotted the goal, all within three seconds.
Images: Simon Leonard
MVP Mwai Kumwenda
NETBALL SCOOP PODCAST
Please tune into the Netball Scoop Podcast on Monday as co-hosts Alexia Mitchell and Phoebe Doyle cover the latest Suncorp Super Netball news, and dissect the grand final.
Netball Scoop is run by a team of hardworking and dedicated volunteers. This season has been especially difficult as we have relied on a small group of talented photographers who were able to be on the ground in Queensland and South Australia. These photographers have worked tirelessly to cover 90% of the games this season so that our fans can enjoy reports and social media accounts full of gorgeous images. So, please join us in thanking, Marcela Massey, Simon Leonard, Sue McKay, Nick Bleeker and Luke Topp for the dedication to netball.