For the first time since 2019, thanks to Covid, the Team Girls Cup was essential viewing for netball starved fans. Netball Scoop contributors ran their eyes over the three preliminary rounds.
Contributors: Cara Gledhill, Katrina Nissen
FRIDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2022
NSW Swifts 43 drew with Sunshine Coast Lightning 43 (11-7, 12-7, 8-19, 12-10)
West Coast Fever 47 def. GIANTS Netball 41 (8-10, 12-9, 13-12, 14-10)
Melbourne Vixens 45 def. Queensland Firebirds 37 (13-6, 10-10, 8-12, 14-9)
Adelaide Thunderbird 45 def. Collingwood Magpies 30 (11-7, 12-6, 13-6, 9-11)
- Briony Akle (Swfits coach) out due to Covid close contact
- Kylee Byrne (Lightning coach) missed her side’s first two matches due to isolating as a Covid close contact
- Sam Wallace (Swifts shooter) sat out this weekend as she continues to rehab a knee injury.
- Most Swifts training partners also out due to Covid close contact
- Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens shooter) out due to Covid close contact
- Maddy Hay (GIANTS midcourter) out with Covid
- April Brandley (GIANTS defender) sat out the weekend to recover from an injury
ROOKIES WHO IMPRESSED
The first match saw two rookie goal shooters go head-to-head for the title of rookie who impressed. Newly signed Reilley Batcheldor for the Lightning and training partner Kelly Singleton for the Swifts both took to the court for 20 minutes each.
Batcheldor had the confidence to dictate play and a hot hand at the post. Her combination with Steph Wood was fast-paced and fluid. The youngster finished with 16/17 including 4/4 supershots.
Singleton combined well with Helen Housby, coming out when needing to create space and feeding Housby under the post. The rookie was seemingly unfazed by the aerial stylings of Lightning defence Kate Shimmin and Kadie-Ann Dehaney as she calmly went about her business finishing with 11/16 and 5 feeds.
Rahni Samason was a rock for the Vixens in attack in the absence of Mwai Kumwenda. She used her strong holding skills under the post to help the Vixens to a handy lead and was accurate from range regardless of when in the quarter she shot. She finished the game on 33/39 including 4/7 supershots. The Vixens look to have spades of talent in the shooting end, with Kiera Austin set to return from an ACL injury early in the season.
Though not new to the Firebirds, wing defence Hulita Veve is still new to Suncorp Super Netball. The young mum came on strongly at half time, being a tagging menace against Diamonds captain, Liz Watson. She reduced Watson’s impact on the circle edge and even minimised her centre receives. Veve finished the game with 1 intercept and 1 pickup, and only 1 penalty.
Due to load management, each match of the Team Girls Cup will be 40 minutes long (4 x 10 min quarters). The Super Shot is still in play, albeit reduced to the last 3 mins of each quarter
The Swifts are at a disadvantage this weekend with a number of their squad, including coach Briony Akle, not able to travel with the side, due to Covid. They are also without their starting goal shooter, Sam Wallace (recovering from knee surgery). So, while most teams are utilising their full roster of athletes and training partners, the Swifts will need to make do with the same 10 athletes throughout the tournament.
The new league ‘signing’ Sabco mop got a good run on day one of the tournament, featuring at least once each match. When it took to the court during the first, 90 seconds of the first match, it received rousing applause and a laugh from fans and athletes.
Stacey Francis-Bayman once again impressed off court as well as on. The English Rose and Fever defender is known for her game day braids, and is sporting some impressive green braids.
Chelsea Pitman‘s international career has been under threat since her shock axing from the Thunderbirds at the end of 2020. Unable to find a netball home the following year, Fever have snapped her up as a training partner for 2022. Given the ongoing threat of Covid, she’s likely to make an appearance during the season, and her return to court during the Team Girls Cup was met with delight by fans. Pitman showed few signs of rust in the limited amount of court time she received.
Fox Netball and Cluch Radio commentators all made an impressive start to the series, although many fans mourned the absence of former stalwarts Liz Ellis, Sue Gaudion and Annie Sargeant.
SATURDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2022
RESULTS – MORNING SESSION
West Coast Fever 40 def. Adelaide Thunderbird (8-8, 9-8, 11-5, 12-7)
Collingwood Magpies 48 def. GIANTS Netball 38 (10-10, 12-7, 13-8, 13-13)
Sunshine Coast Lightning 50 def. Queensland Firebirds 45 (9-17, 14-7, 10-10, 17-11)
Melbourne Vixens 32 def. NSW Swifts 26 (11-6, 7-13, 6-5, 8-2)
RESULTS – AFTERNOON SESSION
Adelaide Thunderbirds 38 def. GIANTS Netball 37 (6-9, 9-8, 11-13, 12-7)
West Coast Fever 50 def. Collingwood Magpies 40 (14-9, 11-8, 9-13, 16-10)
Queensland Firebirds 42 def. NSW Swifts 41 (8-9, 9-13, 14-9, 11-10)
Melbourne Vixens 44 def. Sunshine Coast Lightning 38 (14-9, 9-9, 13-8, 8-12)
GIANTS defender Lauren Moore left the court 30 seconds before the end of the third match, looking in all sorts of pain. Earlier in the match she was signalling to the bench that she needed water and she looked to be sipping some sort of electrolyte drink during the brea. We hope that she was only suffering cramping after two days of tough contests, and that she will be back for finals tomorrow.
Geva Mentor left the court at the end of the first quarter of the third match with a right ankle complaint. She was seen on the sideline icing and elevating her ankle. In commentary, Nicole Richardson said that they were playing it safe and not going to put Mentor out again, hoping that she will be right to play tomorrow. But, during the quarter-time break, commentator Sharni Norder advised that it was a bit more serious than first thought and Mentor will likely not take part in the rest of the tournament.
During the first match of the day, Helen Housby experienced some calf cramping. In order to load manage, she sat out the Swifts’ second match of the day.
Steph Wood was another casualty, potentially tweaking one of her troublesome knees, and took no part in the afternoon session.
ROOKIES WHO IMPRESSED
GIANTS midcourter, Eliza Burton only played 13 minutes of her side’s second match, however she made an impact. She was solid on the feed and hit circle edge relatively easy. She was also dogged in defence, getting her hands to two loose balls which is impressive given that for much of her time, she was in a foot race with Magpies star, Ash Brazill.
The much anticipated debut of Donnell Wallam did not disappoint. The newly anointed Firebird put the first three goals up of the Firebirds’ second outing. And, when the first supershot period started, she was the first to sink two long-range shots. Her partnership with Gretel Bueta was also on show, with Bueta seemingly having the ball on the string into her and sighting her brilliantly from the well off the circle edge on many occasions. When Wallam came on for the Firebirds in the third quarter of their game against the Swifts, she was similarly impressive nailing a shot while falling out of court, along with two supershots.
Interestingly, during the broadcast, Sharon Finnan-White mentioned that she had been mentoring Wallam since her return to Australian shores. She noted she gave her guidance around securing a Suncorp Super Netball contract and ensured she was ready to take the next step in her career. However, when Firebirds coach Megan Anderson was interviewed, she confirmed that nothing has been locked in with Wallam for the full home and away season.
Ruby Bakewell-Doran showed why she earned a Firebirds contract this year. Her defensive combination with Kim Jenner was very mobile, while her aerial game was also impressive, particularly when she blocked a Steph Wood supershot attempt. The youngster finished the second match with six gains (two deflections with gain, four intercepts) and one pickup while only conceding six penalties.
Zoe Davies was introduced at wing defence for the Magpies in their match against the Fever and put on a strong showing, nailing two feeds into the circle including one goal assist and picking up a circle edge intercept in the fourth quarter. She was also instrumental on the Magpies’ centre pass, picking up four centre pass receives in her two quarters on court.
Playing with a squad of just nine and missing Helen Housby in their Round 3 match, the Swifts’ shooting combination of Kelly Singleton and Laura Towell held their own, despite their relative inexperience. While the Swifts eventually went down by a single goal, the shooters combined well with 19 and 18 goals respectively including supershots.
Maddie Hinchliffe had a strong game at wing defence for the Lightning, running against arguably the best wing attack in the world in Liz Watson. Hinchliffe was a constant pest with four deflections and two pickups.
The Tie Dye Project has teamed up with the Confident Girls Foundation across the Team Girls Cup, to raise money for breast cancer research. A set of bibs have been tie-dyed in each team’s colours – with a rainbow design for Collingwood, with fans that donate being entered into the competition. It’s been great to see teams like West Coast Fever publicising the fundraiser, although Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Tik Tok has taken it to the next level.
The last minute announcement of streaming available for international fans proved to be too good to be true. There were numerous issues with the feed, and on Saturday morning it was announced that there would be no further service for the weekend. Overseas viewers will be hoping the issue will be sorted before the Suncorp Super Netball season commences.
The Sunshine Coast Lightning had a slow start to their game for the second time in as many rounds. Echoing an issue they’ve had across many seasons, they struggled to find their shooters and looked slow off the mark to start their game against the Firebirds, leaving them with a eight-goal deficit at quarter time before going on to win the game. They clearly have the personnel and the connections on court to run with the best teams, so will no doubt look to address their slow starts in future rounds.
Having recently announced her retirement from netball, former Australian captain Caitlin Bassett was presented with flowers during an interview.
There were a number of players with limited minutes in the opening two rounds. Lara Dunkley has yet to make it on court over the tournament, and her steady hands were missed during the Firebirds games. Jo Weston was on the bench but didn’t play in Round 2 – though she did play the whole match in Round 1. Magpies centre Molly Jovic has only had minimal court time and completely sat out the third match, while GIANTS shooter Matisse Letherbarrow has also received limited time.
TWEETS OF THE WEEKEND
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH TEAM
Adelaide Thunderbirds midcourt seemed a little more settled with captain Hannah Petty slipping back and playing the majority of the tournament at wing defence. Coach Tanya Obst still tinkered with centre switching between Maisie Nankivell and newcomer Tayla Williams. And, as predicted we did see Georgie Horjus at wing attack as well as goal attack. But with the majority of the midcourt now having spent a few years together, they definitely looked more confident and had nice transition.
The midcourt for the Collingwood Magpies still seems to be up in the air, with various combinations on show throughout the tournament. Both Molly Jovic and Kelsey Browne played minutes at centre and wing attack, while Ash Brazill played primarily at wing defence, but had a strong showing in centre in their game against the Fever. Their newest contracted player Maggie Lind had minutes at wing attack only. It still remains to be seen what the preferred line-up is going forward, with three of their ten contracted players playing across wing attack and centre, with Jodi Ann Ward also able to swing into wing defence.
In 2021 the NSW Swifts had the luxury of a highly experienced bench. With three of their athletes signings elsewhere in 2022, many questioned whether they would still have that versatility. In match 3 they answered that question. Without Helen Housby and despite losing the match by one goal, it was their two young shooters who really impressed with their composure. Their new defensive signing, Teigan O’Shannassy also showed that she was worthy of her contract, combining nicely with Sarah Klau.
The Queensland Firebirds still have many questions hanging over their head. After three matches, they still were unable to find a nice flow through their midcourt, conceding many turnovers and being guilty of playing too fast and lacking communication. With Eboni Usoro-Brown only joining the side in early February, their defensive combination still needs to find its rhythm. And, so does the shooting end. But the good news for Firebirds fans is, they have ballwinners all over the court and can only improve from here.
Having been together for just 10 days the West Coast Fever looked a little rusty to start with, but soon picked up where they left off in 2021, with the side being dominant throughout the Team Girls Cup. Coach Dan Ryan admitted that he had it ‘easy’ with the side being so well consolidated and only requiring a few tweaks. With former Firebird, Rudi Ellis slotting in seamlessly in the defensive end with Courtney Bruce, the side now has the luxury of a very tall, very mobile defensive unit. So, I guess the thing we learned from this tournament is that they will be a force in 2022.
The Melbourne Vixens were without Mwai Kumwenda who was out through health and safety protocols. Rahni Samason was brilliant in her absence, holding strongly against some hard defence throughout the tournament and shooting from everywhere regardless of power time. The Vixens were also able to run some different combinations across the games, but the preferred line-up besides the shooters is clearly still Liz Watson, Kate Moloney, Kate Eddy, Jo Weston and Emily Mannix. It remains to be seen whether Samason, who is a natural goal shooter will play in the goal attack role on Kumwenda’s return, or whether Kiera Austin, who should return in the early rounds of the season, will be the preferred option
The Sunshine Coast Lightning need to fix their slow starts. In all three matches so far this weekend, they have had to dig themselves out of significant deficits. It’s not for lack of talent, with them having international stars scattered across the court. But with a near new defensive end needing to find a rhythm and combine with some new midcourters, it will take time. The good news for coach Kylee Byrne is that her side were able to fight back in two of those matches, so once they fix those slow starts, they should be able to build. Reilley Batcheldor has proved to be a handy off-season pickup, performing strongly whenever given the opportunity.
With April Brandley and Maddy Hay unavailable this weekend, GIANTS Netball used the Team Girls Cup as an opportunity to blood their elevated training partners. While not securing a win in the first three matches, GIANTS will be happy with the development of their new players. Tilly McDonell and Lauren Moore were very impressive in defence, with McDonnell all but securing the starting GK bib. Amy Sligar was solid in all three matches, playing across both wings. Her circle feeds were accurate and her ability to open up space assisted her shooters in gaining easy access to the circle.
SUNDAY’S FINAL’S DRAW (AEDT time)
The finals will play out like this:
7th v 8th: 1pm – GIANTS Netball v NSW Swifts
5th v 6th: 2pm – Collingwood Magpies v Queensland Firebirds
3rd v 4th: 3pm – Adelaide Thunderbirds v Sunshine Coast Lightning
1st v 2nd: 4:30pm West Coast Fever v Melbourne Vixens
All matches will be available to watch on Fox Netball or Kayo Sport, or to listen to on Cluch Radio.