Netball Scoop – Suncorp Super Netball – Semifinals, 2020
Melbourne Vixens 63 defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning 47 (18-13, 16-7, 16-10, 13-17)
West Coast Fever 67 defeated New South Wales Swifts 62 (15-17, 14-19, 19-12, 19-14)
Kate Eddy (Vixens) was left out of the team for the major semi final due to a lower limb injury. Seen at the game in a moon boot and crutches, Eddy will be hoping to make her way back for the grand final. Having missed the Swifts victory last year through injury, it would be a cruel blow to miss out on the big game two years running.
Kate Moloney rolled her left ankle in the second quarter of the Vixens-Lightning clash, but after a quick rest and treatment appeared to be fighting fit.
It was a double milestone for West Coast Fever superstar Jhaniele Fowler who played her 100th national league match, and recorded her 5000th national league goal.
Congratulations to Helen Housby for playing in her 50th national league game.
ROOKIE OF THE ROUND
West Coast Fever training partner, Sunday Aryang, played one of the best individual halves of the season by any player. With the Fever trailing by seven goals at half time, Aryang entered the game at goal defence, with immediate impact. Staying slightly off the body, and with instinctive positioning, she picked off 6 gains, which included 5 intercepts, 3 deflections and 3 pickups, for just one penalty.
It was her two intercepts late in the last quarter, when the Swifts were motoring into attack, that turned the tide for the Fever. Staring down the barrel of ejection from the finals, against the super-shot specialists Sam Wallace and Helen Housby, it was Aryang’s heroics that made her a worthy MVP winner.
An honorable mention goes to Allie Smith (Vixens), who replaced the injured Kate Eddy at wing defence. While official stats show that Smith had just the one intercept, she picked up four loose balls, and harried her opponent, Laura Scherian, into a game high nine turnovers.
PLAY OF THE ROUND
There were some emotional scenes after the major semi-final, with teams presenting their opponent’s retiring players with flowers. Jacqui Russell (Lightning), Tegan Phillip (Vixens) and Caitlin Thwaites (Vixens) are all moving on at the end of the season, and the mark of affection and respect showed much of what is great about netball.
TEAM OF THE ROUND
We can’t split the points, so are nominating both Vixens and Fever for this award.
The Vixens took out the major semi-final by 16 goals, and were dominant all over the court. They ambushed Lightning from the opening whistle, and with stifling defence and impeccable attack, the Vixens were quite simply too good.
With the Swifts ascendent and 9 goals up, the Fever’s 2020 season looked done and dusted. But if there’s been an area of growth for the Fever this season, it’s been their ability to fight to the end. A Sunday Aryang sparked comeback saw them produce a remarkable 14 goal turnaround in just 15 minutes of netball.
The Vixens played an amazing game on Saturday, but the Lightning also made it more difficult for themselves, playing an error-ridden game. Laura Scherian played the game for 60 minutes and finished on negative Nissan Netpoints. The Lightning also turned over the ball 31 times with the front four players particularly costly. If the Lightning are to have any chance of challenging the Fever in next week’s preliminary final, they will need to clean up these errors.
The Swifts will rue a lost chance to defend their 2019 title, after controlling more than half of the match. It was their inability to convert gains to goals which hurt in the end, with a conversion rate of just 33% to the Fever’s 73%. In the third quarter they scored off all three of their gains, but scored off just one of their other 11 gains, in quarters one, two and four.
Giants’ season finished last week, with a sixth placing. It has been a tough season for them – they lost three matches by two or less goals, and they had two draws. If those results were all changed to wins, they would have finished in second place.
TALKING POINT OF THE ROUND
With teams eyeing off 2021 and the recruiting period in action, there is still no official confirmation of whether the two point shot will be in existence next year, and whether the benches will consist of 10 or 12 players. While the teams might be aware of what’s happening, fans don’t, and are waiting in some angst to see what will be revealed.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
There were some pearlers this week, so here’s the best of them.
STAND OUT STATISTICS
Jhaniele Fowler (Fever) – 125
Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) – 106
Emily Mannix (Vixens) – 8 (4 intercepts, 1 deflection with gain, 3 rebounds)
Sunday Aryang (Fever. In 30 minutes of play) – 6 (5 intercepts, 1 deflection with gain)
Sam Wallace (Swifts) – 6/9 67%
Caitlin Thwaites (Vixens) – 5/7 71%
Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) – 28
Liz Watson (Vixens) – 26
Centre Pass Receives
Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) – 28
Laura Scherian (Lightning) – 27
Laura Scherian (Lightning) – 9
Laura Langman (Lightning) – 6
Phumza Maweni (Lightning) – 21
Courtney Bruce (Fever) – 17
Melbourne Vixens 63 defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning 47
By Andrew Kennedy
Melbourne have thrown down the gauntlet, peaking at precisely the right time to have one hand on the championship trophy. The loss in round 13 gave them the scare and motivation they needed, and the Sunshine Coast were the hapless victims of this renewed passion. While Vixens will benefit greatly from time to rest two ankle injuries to star midcourters, and to further incorporate a new wing defence with the extra week off, Lightning will have a lot to achieve before facing West Coast in the preliminary final next week.
The entire Vixens team put on an exceptional display, so singling out one player is a tough call. Emily Mannix took control of the defence end, doing her homework to block the typical baseline moves of Cara Koenen time after time, whilst also restricting her deceptive pops to the front. She also had some of her best numbers of the year, with four intercepts, three rebounds, and five further gains.
Meanwhile, Liz Watson worked through her recent ankle injury soreness to continue her sizzling connection to the shooters, especially Mwai Kumwenda. Watson had 27 out of the Vixens’ 51 goal assists, and was untouchable in both the middle corridor and the pocket. Her timing and placement of the feed was outstanding as usual, and she only gave away possession four times.
It was a supreme team performance from Vixens. Caitlin Thwaites, playing her second last match of her career, demonstrated her evolution to a classic goal attack. She was able to calmly assist in through-court play, then take the front space and shoot accurately, resulting in 5/7 2-pointers in addition to 20/21 1-pointers. The first quarter in particular showed a very nice balance of shooting with Kumwenda. The Malawian goal shooter was also phenomenal, taking passes right under the ring in between two flat-footed defenders, shooting 31 goals at 97%.
The Melbourne defence line was on top the entire match. Their ability to cover their own player on the first move and still come off to cover another player was spectacular. Weston’s lean over the shot of Wood provided intense pressure, and they dominated pickups with 14 compared to Sunshine Coast’s four.
WHAT needs improvement?
Lightning need to start fully switched on – they lost the first three quarters heavily, and won the fourth by four. The defenders were out of play too much in the opening, but in the balance of the game they did retrieve enough possession to keep in the game. Surprisingly, Laura Langman had no gains or intercepts for the entire match.
It was the Sunshine Coast frontline that simply couldn’t gel, and couldn’t penetrate for goal attempts as they usually do. The only patch they were truly competitive was the first ten minutes of the third quarter – otherwise, their attack lacked confidence and a system. Laura Scherian had a particularly disappointing output, with fewer goal assists than both Langman and Wood, eight turnovers, and three intercepted passes thrown. This was due to pressure from Smith, but also symptomatic of the dysfunction of the front four.
Next week facing West Coast Fever will be an incredibly tough task for Lightning, since the Perth team have won by 24 and 20 in the two previous showdowns. They need an all-out effort by McAuliffe and Langman to stifle the midcourt feeders, and an awareness to block Teague-Neeld’s approach to the circle. Sunshine Coast is in real danger of bowing out under a flogging.
So what needs improvement for 2021? Key would be developing an alternative wing attack – when Scherian fails to fire, typically Lightning needed Wood, taking away their key goal attack. More work can be done on the vertical jump of Maweni and her ability to spot a player on the move and still turn her head to track the ball. And Koenen can develop her conditioning to provide the option of holding a mark, or taking off faster and harder.
WHERE was it won?
Vixens’ defenders all worked to eliminate the key strengths of their opponents, and managed to alternately push Lightning attack too close together, then force them too far apart. The transition to attack was sensational, and Kumwenda was an unstoppable beacon at the post.
WHERE was it lost?
Sunshine Coast had limited mojo in attack, and no solution to the strangling defence of Melbourne. Lightning didn’t have the quick adjustments needed and also no viable options off the bench, so they had to suffer through too many turnovers.
WHEN was the game won and lost?
Melbourne led from the start and kept pushing out the whole match, relaxing just slightly at the end, allowing Lightning to win the last quarter by four.
HOW did she do that?!
At the end of the third, rookie Allie Smith received the ball coming through in defence. Spying only eight seconds on the clock, hurled the ball from the centre circle to Kumwenda right underneath the post.
MVP – Emily Mannix (Vixens)
West Coast Fever 67 defeated NSW Swifts 62
By Andrew Kennedy
The sudden-death minor semi final was a battle royale, with a fascinating contrast of team styles. Fever defence are very fleet footed and expert at covering space and tapping the ball to their advantage. Swifts are very focused on muscling up and dictating where their opponent can go. In attack, West Coast try to play the ball very fast and feed their target shooter from anywhere. New South Wales have a variety of attacking structures, with speedy midcourters aiming for circle edge, followed by the options of a neat lob to backspace or use of the goal attack rolling around circle edge.
The whole match was a battle of goal shooters versus goal keepers, with Jhaniele Fowler (55/56 at 98%) yet again proving herself the world’s best. Still, in the first half it seemed like Sarah Klau was going to pull off the unimaginable and outplay the Jamaican star, with one intercept, five gains, and even a cunning sandwiching of the shooter against the post.
In the second half there was a surprise package in Sunday Aryang, named MVP, who at goal defence for Fever gave her team a massive shot of inspiration with five intercepts in only 30 minutes.
The changes made by Stacey Marinkovich at half time were pivotal. Having been down 36-29, West Coast won the second half 38-26, thanks to the defensive magic from Aryang but also to the reduction in turnovers in the forward line. With starting wing attack Emily Cosh stuttering under the pressure of finals and making uncharacteristic errors, the new lineup of Charles in wing attack and Anstiss at centre was far more steady – those two players gave away no intercepts or turnovers at all in the final quarter. Anstiss was her usual dogged self, getting smashed repeatedly but always coming up with the ball and getting back to her feet.
Credit also has to be paid to captain Courtney Bruce, regularly spoiling the Swifts flow, with two intercepts and five gains. Also, Alice Teague-Neeld was solid, taking on longer shots when Fowler was double teamed, and dominating goal assists with 28. She was safe with the ball, throwing only 1 intercepted ball and giving away two turnovers.
For Swifts, their defensive intensity and switching from one-on-one to offline was brilliant throughout. Sarah Klau muscled up on Fowler very well and anticipated any low-flying feeds, finishing with ten deflections. Many of those deflections came when she and Turner chose to have a double-teamed but open circle which fooled the feeders. Sam Wallace was also dynamite, hitting 34/35 1-pointers and 6/9 supershots, impressing with her one-handed takes in the backspace when front marked by Bruce.
WHAT needs improvement?
Looking ahead to the match with Sunshine Coast Lightning, the Fever should be confident, as they have walloped the Queenslanders by 24 and 20 goals previously in 2020. A key is to start more composed, and be able to make tactical changes to slow the ball down in attack whether the personnel are changed or not. Once a few calm plays have succeeded, the speed can be gradually reintroduced.
WHERE was it won?
The change of pace in midcourt and feeding in the second half showed us the Fever we know from the second half of the season. The right ball at the right time to Fowler, especially from Teague-Neeld, could not be stopped.
WHERE was it lost?
Swifts took four fewer intercepts and committed four more turnovers than Fever. The main culprits losing possession were Hadley, Proud, Wallace, and Turner, while Klau and Housby did not lose the ball at all.
The Swifts will also regret their inability to convert gains to goals, sitting at just a 33% conversion rate, compared to the Fever’s 73%.
WHEN was the game won and lost?
During the second half, Fever lit the fire and simply ground NSW down. The Swifts didn’t cave under pressure, but Fever simply rode a wave of confidence and backed each other. They went back to their usual brand of netball and didn’t get ahead of themselves, and only looked to have won the game with about two minutes to go, holding a six goal lead.
HOW did she do that?!
During the third quarter power five, Bruce contacted Housby and the Swifts goal attack lined up a simple shot. However Aryang thwarted the shot with a brilliant jump, and retrieved possession. West Coast then were able to send the ball the whole length of the court and Teague-Neeld finished the passage with her first supershot of the game.
MVP – Sunday Aryang (Fever)
SEASON IN REVIEW
Collingwood Magpies – Placed 8th in 2020
By Jenny Sinclair
It was always going to be a challenging season for the Magpies, losing Nat Medhurst, Kim Ravaillion and April Brandley to pregnancies, and Ash Brazill to a serious knee injury. But their woes were compounded with further injuries to Kelsey and Madi Browne from the mid point of the season onwards. It forced the Magpies to play with a youthful blend of their regular team, training partners, and even a South Australian, Tyler Orr, who was co-opted midseason.
While the Magpies won just one match, they were competitive for most of their games, with an average losing margin of eight goals. Three games blew out to 14 or 15 goals, which coincided with the loss of the Browne sisters, but they were by no means the biggest margins of the season. The Magpies were also unlucky, losing five games by four goals or less.
It took the new look defensive line of Geva Mentor, Jodi-Ann Ward, Matilda Garrett and Mel Bragg a little while to click into gear, but once they did they were formidable. Mentor finished the regular season 1st for the number of deflections, and 3rd for rebounds, while Ward finished 5th for the highest number of intercepts.
The Magpies got out to a strong start in most of their games, ranked fourth for the most first quarters won. Molly Jovic picked up most of the midcourt leadership in the Browne sister’s absence, playing across three positions, and it was an impressive feat from the young training partner.
The defensive end were strong for most of the season, time and again providing turnover ball for their teammates.
At just 21 years of age, Shimona Nelson has the potential and athleticism to be a formidable target in goals, if the Magpies keep faith in her. While soft hands blighted her game at times, she also struggled with inexperienced midcourters who were learning where and how to feed her.
What can be Improved?
Turnovers killed the Magpies in 2020, with Jovic, Kelly Altmann, Shimona Nelson and Gabby Sinclair far too often squandering chances given to them by their defensive end. However, given their youth, and a season under their belt, the Magpies will look to improve on this in the future.
While they started strongly in most games, 3rd and 4th quarter fadeouts were a concern, and the Magpies were ranked last in the number of quarters won during these periods. Once again, they should only improve with court time, as the intensity of a game is vastly different to the training track.
Where to for 2021?
Fans will be hoping that the only way is up, and a stronger season will be crucial for the Magpies when they assess whether to renew their license past 2021.
Mentor and Ward have both re-signed, an important piece of the puzzle. Hopefully Kelsey Browne and Ash Brazill will both return from injury, and while the playing future of Ravaillion is currently unknown, she would also add much needed fire power to the midcourt. There is also the need for a wise head at goal attack following Medhurst’s retirement, to provide Nelson with the support she needs, but experienced goal attacks are thin on the ground.
The biggest question mark remains over the coaching staff, after Rob Wright’s contract wasn’t renewed. If a new coach comes in, will they bring new management along with them, or will Nic Richardson and Kate Upton retain their positions?
Adelaide Thunderbirds – Placed 7th in 2020
By Bethany Slaughter
Despite finishing in seventh position on the ladder, the Adelaide Thunderbirds’ 2020 campaign should be viewed as a positive step for the club. This season saw the team win five games—including major scalps against the minor premiers and the West Coast Fever— their highest tally in Suncorp Super Netball history. The Thunderbirds’ young, South Australian talent stepped up against experienced opposition players, while Sasha Glasgow and Layla Guscoth successfully returned to the court after season-ending injuries in 2020.
Adelaide will rue a few missed opportunities to climb up the ladder—namely two close losses to the Queensland Firebirds and a narrow defeat by the NSW Swifts—but there was a visible on-court shift in belief, fluidity, and excitement amongst the team, which indicated that the Thunderbirds may have stepped out of their rebuilding phase.
Marquee signing Lenize Potgieter provided an athletic target to anchor the attacking end, which has been Adelaide’s Achilles heel in previous seasons. However, it was the emergence of training partner Georgie Horjus which impressed fans and commentators alike. Horjus was a strong link between Potgieter and the midcourt, and fearless on the Super Shot (with accuracy to match).
Without her in Goal Attack, the Thunderbirds struggled to cut through to the circle edge. If Adelaide can retain Potgieter, Horjus, and Glasgow—with a proper pre-season together—on multi-year contracts, that goal circle will be flexible and fearsome in years to come. Particularly if the Super Shot rule remains, having two shooters in Horjus and Glasgow with long-range confidence is a huge asset, as the Thunderbirds relied heavily on Super Shots to claw back margins in several matches.
Defensively, the introduction of rolling substitutions benefited the Thunderbirds by allowing all three of their stars—Guscoth, Kate Shimmin and Shamera Sterling—ample time on court. It became a routine for Guscoth and Sterling to wear down the opposition over the first ten minutes of the quarter, before renown shot-blocker Shimmin came on for the Super Shot period. All three defenders were capable of winning ball and, like the goal circle, the Thunderbirds will be hoping to hold onto the trio going forward. Sterling’s signature will be the most sought after—she led the competition for defensive rebounds (37), and was second-placed for intercepts (37) and deflections (104).
The midcourt was the area of the court where the Thunderbirds could not settle on a preferred combination, but also where they unearthed another young star. After making the most of limited court time in 2019, Maisie Nankivell was the standout midcourter in pink this season. She switched between the three midcourt bibs with ease, picking up plenty of defensive gains while driving the ball forward in attack. Shadine van der Merwe was a workhorse in Wing Defence, while training partner Tayla Williams showed promise in her opportunities on court.
How Adelaide will structure its midcourt next year is currently a mystery, after announcing that co-captain Chelsea Pitman will not be offered a contract. Pitman has been a fixture in the Wing Attack bib for the Thunderbirds in Suncorp Super Netball, and leaves after what was arguably her best season with the club, where her attacking connection with Horjus and Potgieter shone. It begs the question—do Adelaide have a midcourt signing in the works? Or are they looking to develop the emerging South Australian midcourt talent?
After proving that they can match it with the top teams, 2021 will be a test for the Thunderbirds. If they can back up the promise they showed in 2020 and build on those patches of potential, a future finals berth is certainly within reach.
Giants Netball – Placed 6th in 2020
By Andrew Kennedy
The Giants campaign struggled to get off the ground this year. They had issues with new rules, combinations and controversy, and slumped to their worst ever finish in Super Netball. It was a tough season in many ways, not just because of the relocation to Brisbane – they lost three matches by two or less goals, and they had two draws. If those results were all changed to wins, they would have finished in second place.
Caitlin Bassett, Diamonds captain, was all but dropped from the team. In the first half of the season she played only 226 minutes (out of 420), and in the second half just 62 minutes (one match injured). At times it seemed like she was the victim of poor feeding and massive amounts of turnovers rather than any drop in her own form, but she definitely was seen as a liability in the power five, since she missed her only supershot attempt for the season. It would have to be a professionally and emotionally tough time for one of the greatest shooters in world netball, as well as for her coaches.
They were also involved in one of the biggest uproars in netball in years. In round five, Kristiana Manu’a was warned by one umpire for contact in the second quarter. The next quarter, she was sent from the court for two minutes by the other umpire for another late heavy contact. Coming back on, in the fourth she was suspended for the final eight minutes for the same infringement. A lot of observers thought that only one of the contacts was actually too far outside the rules, but the umpires have an excellent view and understanding of the play and were supported. Finishing the game with no goal defence, they lost a good lead and went down by one goal to Lightning.
Jamie-Lee Price was the most consistent and reliable performer of the year, playing almost every minute at centre. She frequently had the most goal assists, while reducing her turnover rate compared to previous years. Her intimidating physical presence and anticipation made her a lynchpin in a team that was struggling.
Strong mention should be given to Amy Parmenter who was a fixture at wing defence, and led her team for intercepts (25) and deflections (62). She had a quieter mid-season, but got back into good form in the end. Maddie Hay also played a good hand when given the chance, not quite as razor-sharp and flashy, but much more safe with the ball.
The supershot was of great help to Giants in quite a few games, through both Harten and Austin, but their form was unreliable. In the round two loss to Thunderbirds, Austin only managed 2/9 from the 2-point zone. Meanwhile, in round 14 then managed a heroic draw with the Swifts, scoring 17/23 supershots. In general, there was an over-reliance on this tactic to catch up when regular time play was not working.
What can be Improved?
It’s hard to pinpoint one player or area of the court, because in each particular game there was a different wheel falling off. After having heavily reduced court time, it seems likely that Caitlin Bassett will leave the club, breaking her contract. There is an opportunity to restructure the attack, and reduce the amount of risk taken, cutting down on flair and therefore also on turnovers. This will be especially important if super shots are not continued in 2021, because Giants have relied on that rule to keep in the game.
It could well be time to make some decisive changes in defence personnel. Julie Fitzgerald seemed to lack confidence in her bench players, while the athletes on court also weren’t firing. This points to replacing one of the incumbents, Sam Poolman or Kristiana Manu’a, or taking the risk in youngsters as has succeeded in other clubs.
Remember though! “Giants lost three matches by two or less goals, and they had two draws. If those results were all changed to wins, they would have finished in second place.” So perhaps all that is needed is a few tweaks and they will be back in the winner’s circle – as long as they focus on their regular time play and not just on supershots.
Where to for 2021?
As Giants keep sliding down the ladder each season, there need to be some genuine changes, whether that be in the athletes habits and attitudes, the squad makeup, the tactics, or indeed some of the coaching and conditioning staff. They cannot simply write it off as a bad year – a club like Giants will definitely be thoroughly analysing their issues and come back fortified for next year.
Queensland Firebirds – Placed 5th in 2020
By Katrina Nissen
The Queensland Firebirds were the surprise packet of the 2020 season. After losing, arguably, the best goal attack in the competition right before the season commenced, many punters wrote them off as wooden spoon contenders for the second year running. But the side rallied their dogged resilience and showed why they aren’t a team to be underestimated.
If you had to name one player, it would be Kim Jenner. The young defender utilised the extended off-season, to build her fitness and hone her reflexes. The extra effort saw her spend less time out of play this season and produced a better defensive return for her side. Jenner’s game smarts and timing combined with the pressure applied by her defensive partners, Tara Hinchliffe and Gabi Simpson, was humming by the end of the season.
The Firebirds are a side who apply vice-like defensive pressure extremely well. Nine times this season they blew their opposition out of the water with that pressure in the opening quarter. This produced an average first quarter win rate of 6 goals. In the opening rounds, they were unable to maintain that intensity and often dropped the last quarter or half. But at the back end of the season, they were able to build on that first quarter press to produce more frequent wins.
What can be Improved?
The ability to treasure possession was a problem for the Firebirds in 2020. In the first half of the season they turned over ball, on average, 24 times a game. Though this did improve over the season, to a more respectable 20 turnovers on average, per match. Most of that lost possession came from the attacking end with ill placed feeds or too many passes in-and-out of the circle.
The Firebirds could be forgiven for these attacking turnovers given they were trialling a new combination at the start of the season. And, tinkering of their feeders didn’t help. Once they lock-in on those combinations and get a solid pre-season under their belts, the error rate should reduce.
Where to for 2021?
2020 was just a preview of what’s to come. If the Firebirds maintain their core group and reintroduce Gretel Bueta in 2021, they will be a side to be feared.
We know their defence is getting better and better. Now imagine the side with the explosive power of Bueta in attack, combined with the slick court smarts of Tippah Dwan or the rebounding ability of Romelda Aiken.
There is unpredictability across every third which is going to be a headache for opposition.
Sunday 11 October Lightning v Fever 12pm AEST USC Stadium Channel 9 / Netball Live
NETBALL SCOOP PODCAST
Please tune into the Netball Scoop Podcast on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball Season. Co-hosts Alexia Mitchell and Phoebe Doyle cover the latest Suncorp Super Netball news, including post-match discussions and analysis, coach and player interviews, and have a special focus on the rookies of the competition. Just like the netball, the episodes are short and sharp – perfect for listeners on the go!