Contributors: Jenny Sinclair, Drew Kennedy, Kate Cornish, Ariane Virgona
Photographers: Sue McKay, Danny Dalton, Simon Leonard, Clinton Bradbury
I love netball, I play netball because I love it, and I’ve worked so hard to get to this level, so why not just enjoy it. That takes the pressure off. Sasha Glasgow
Adelaide Thunderbirds defeated Collingwood Magpies 54-50 (16-13, 12-14, 13-11, 13-12)
GIANTS Netball defeated NSW Swifts 57-55 (12-14, 20-15, 13-15, 12-11)
Melbourne Vixens defeated Queensland Firebirds 70-65 (15-18, 17-12, 25-14, 13-21)
West Coast Fever defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning 82-62 (26-18, 20-15, 24-11, 12-18)
Is there a curse on Round 1? Superstitious fans might think so, with Sam Wallace (Swifts) going down with a nasty looking knee injury, in similar circumstances to Kiera Austin last year. It’s been confirmed that Wallace has ruptured her ACL and will sadly miss the remainder of the SSN season and the Commonwealth Games. Netball Scoop extends our best wishes to Sam for her recovery.
In a sign of the times, the Fever-Lightning game was commentated from Fox Netball’s Eastern States studio, with only Nat Medhurst present for sideline comments. While the cost saving is understandable, studio commentators only see what is on their screen, losing both atmosphere and their ability to analyse what is happening off the ball. Netball Scoop understands that there is no in-house coverage of Fever home games planned for the rest of the season.
161. That’s the combined penalties the Firebirds and Vixens gave away in Round 1 – 91 by the Firebirds and 70 by the Vixens. Kim Jenner was the main culprit for the Firebirds on 28, but few of the midcourters were much better. Kate Moloney (17), Jo Weston (16), Kate Eddy (15), Kim Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson (13 each), and Lara Dunkley and Liv Lewis (10 each) all hit double digits too. As a result the stop-start nature of the match wasn’t easy viewing or a good advertisement for the league, and at what point do the players and coaches have to take responsibility for tidying their actions up.
The league released it’s Covid protocols during the week, to support the wellbeing of teams and umpires. Included in plans are the ability for travelling teams to take two training partners with them, a list of supplementary players in each state if needed, a larger casual pool of umpires, teams to travel with at least two coaches, and if neither is available, a league approved replacement coach will be assigned.
Cancellation or postponement of matches will be considered on a case by case basis if five or more squad players, or three players from one area of the court, are impacted by Covid.
Most goals – 65 – Jhaniele Fowler (Fever)
Most feeds – 38 – Liz Watson (Vixens)
Most centre pass receives – 28 – Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) and Maddy Hay (Giants)
Most Gains – 9 – Courtney Bruce (Fever)
Most Penalties – 28 Kim Jenner (Firebirds)
Most Turnovers – 8 – Georgie Horjus (Thunderbirds)
Least turnovers – 13 – Fever
Most penalties – 91 – Firebirds
It’s been confirmed that Sam Wallace (Swifts) has ruptured her ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Our thoughts are with Sam for the challenging road ahead.
Break out performance of the round
After a taste of her skill at the Team Girls Cup, it came as no surprise that Donnell Wallam (replacement player for Romelda Aiken-George) showed great strength, poise, and athleticism on her debut for the Queensland Firebirds on Sunday. Shooting at 89.6% (41/43, 2/5) and scoring a clincher supershot in the dying minutes of the final quarter to shorten the deficit, Wallam looked natural out alongside Bueta. A formidable option with strong hands and solid body positioning, she was a target in the circle for the Firebirds feeders, pulling in high balls that bypassed the defence. This made her difficult to cover in the first half of the game. Her enthusiasm and confidence to demand the ball and create space complemented Bueta’s style of dynamic and creative play. Wallam also showed her strength in defence with 4 rebounds, one deflection and one pickup for the game. Only after a short time training and playing with the team, Wallam is quickly showing how integral she will be to the Firebird’s outfit, as they strive for finals in 2022.
An honorable mention goes to Madi Browne in commentary, whose insightful analysis is rapidly becoming a favourite with fans. After covering a few games at the Team Girls Cup, she starred in expert commentary at the Thunderbirds-Magpies game. It’s been a fairly “safe” (read “nice”) commentary team so far, and for women’s sport to be taken seriously the good, the bad and the ugly needs to be discussed. Browne was able to highlight strengths and weaknesses for both teams, but in a respectful and proactive manner.
Sophpie Garbin achieved a milestone of 50 games in Suncorp Super Netball, in her debut for Magpies, while Tara Hinchliffe did the same during her debut for the Lightning.
Lenize Potgeiter scored her 1,000th Suncorp Super Netball goal.
ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 54 def COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 50
By Andrew Kennedy
Both teams were keen to show their best colours in the season opener, but the past was against Collingwood, with only one previous round-one victory in five years. Even the present was a problem, with their coach Nicole Richardson out due to COVID protocols, leader Ash Brazill suffering concussion during training, and English import Geva Mentor declared fit at the last moment after an injury cloud over her ankle. There were a slew of positional changes throughout, eleven for the home side and eight for the visiting Victorians, trying to find attacking flow and minimise errors. This resulted in multiple changes in momentum, and neither team could truly break away. Even though Thunderbirds had more turnovers, it was the brilliance of their Jamaican defenders that got them over the line to start 2022 with the win.
Whilst the Thunderbirds didn’t win decisively, there were three areas that gave them the advantage. Second-half changes saw more reliable and accurate moves to space and flat passes in attack, the key being Elle MacDonald at wing attack and Georgie Horjus moving to goal attack. They also did better on supershots overall – with both teams having good accuracy, Adelaide shot 5/9 but Collingwood didn’t use Gabi Sinclair from range enough. And even surpassing the regular uncanny aerial gains and intercepts of Shamera Sterling, Latanya Wilson showed her skill with a lot more speed and groundwork. The Jamaican back line should continue to gel and push their team towards finals.
Where the match was won and lost?
With Shimona Nelson in her fourth year at Magpies, it was frustrating to see the number of bad choices and poor execution of pass on the feed to such a good target. The problem lay with the absence of Brazill at wing defence, requiring Maggie Lind at wing attack, pushing other players out of position in the first half, and leading to turnovers and rushed passes from the midcourter. The Jamaican shooter simply could not make errant passes look good, while in contrast, Lenize Potgieter pulled in difficult passes and reset with less errors. Meanwhile, Mentor was given 60 minutes this match despite lingering injuries, and even though she did force Potgeiter away from the post, she was outdone on gains and intercepts by Jodi-Ann Ward and Jacqui Newton. The other concern for the visitors was that Sophie Garbin nailed only 5/8 in her 33 minutes in both shooting positions, with Sinclair the same stats, albeit including supershots.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The combination of Wilson and Sterling with captain Hannah Petty out the front for the home side was an effective and confusing wall for Thunderbirds, and in the second half it was pleasing to see crisp movement and flat passing to space by Maisie Nankivell, Horjus, and McDonald. For Magpies, Molly Jovic was the quiet achiever. From wing defence in the first half she had an excellent three gains and two intercepts; in the second half at centre she had more goal assists and fewer turnovers than usually solid Kelsey Browne.
Lenize Potgieter 29/34 (85%)
Tippah Dwan 10/13 (77%)
Georgie Horjus 10/11 (91%)
Shimona Nelson 38/42 (91%)
Sophie Garbin 5/8 (63%)
Gabi Sinclair 5/8 (63%)
MVP: Georgie Horjus
GIANTS NETBALL 57 def NSW SWIFTS 55
(Giants win the Carole Sykes Memorial Trophy)
By Kate Cornish
Neither of these teams had a particularly flashy pre-season due to Covid-19 and injuries. At the Team Girls Cup they were placed as the bottom two teams; a world away from their Grand Final appearance at the end of the 2021 season. A derby to start the season for these cross-town rivals would not only draw first blood, but would give the winner a mountain of confidence to kick off the season.
Both teams were dealt a blow even before the first whistle, with Giants new recruit Lauren Moore and mid-court speedster Amy Sligar ruled out in line with health and safety protocols while the Swifts found themselves without young defender Teigan O’Shannassy, the announcement coming only 40 minutes before the start of the game.
It was a derby that did not disappoint; it was physical, it was fierce and it went down to the wire. Sadly, the game was marred when Swifts goal shooter, Sam Wallace went down with a serious knee injury in the final term. It was later confirmed that Wallace has ruptured her ACL and will sit out the rest of the season as she recovers.
Speaking to Netball Scoop earlier in the week, Giants captain Jo Harten said that fast starts were key for the Giants this year and that they did not want to be playing catch-up-netball. An intercept on the first centre pass to Amy Parmenter set the scene for an early 4-0 lead to the team in orange, and while the score would see-saw throughout the game, the Giants always seemed to be in control.
Leading into the 2022 season there was a question mark over the Giants defensive end after losing stalwart Sam Poolman to retirement and fellow defender Kristiana Manu’a who decided to ply her trade in in the ANZ League. April Brandley has also been under an injury cloud and while she managed an impressive 30 minutes on court in this game, it was youngster Matilda McDonell who stood up to be counted. Getting hand to ball early against a seasoned shooting duo in Wallace and Helen Housby, McDonell went a long way to silencing critics as to whether she could be more than just an impact player.
Where the match was won and lost?
The Swifts struggled to get out of second gear in this clash. Their usually slick and sharp game was marred by uncharacteristic errors and frustration. Ending the game on 22 general play turnovers compared to the Giants 14 was a clear indication they were not firing on all cylinders. In defense they looked a step behind, often caught chasing their opponent and in attack they were more hesitant than usual, which was playing into the game plan of McDonell. If there is a positive to take from this game for the Swifts, it is that, even after playing what they will consider a sub-par performance, they only lost by 2 goals.
Maddie Hay missed a lot of the Giants preseason as she was quite unwell with Covid-19, and speaking after the game coach Julie Fitzgerald remarked on how important it was for the Giants to have Hay back in their attacking line-up. Fitzgerald used the word calm to describe the wing-defense turned wing-attack, who finished the game with 32 feeds and who, for most of the game, had control of both the circle edge and second phase play on their centre pass. In a short time, Hay has positioned herself as one of the most reliable and valuable players the Giants have at their disposal. The dominant combination that Hay has formed with Diamond and newly appointed Giants vice-captain, Jamie-Lee Price was also impressive with Price having one of her best games in the orange dress to date. Under the watchful eye of the Australian coach, Stacey Marinkovich who was on the sideline, Price did no harm to her chances of being named in the Commonwealth Games squad that will be announced in the next few weeks.
At the start of the fourth quarter the Giants went on a mini run and took a handy lead of 8 goals before Wallace went down clutching her knee. To the Swifts credit, in what must have been a terrible 10 minutes for the team, they stuck in there and grinded back the score line to come within two by the final whistle. It is hard to say what would have happened had Wallace not been injured, but the wind was definitely taken out of the Swifts sails after that moment.
The Giants won through sheer determination and physical accountability. They frustrated the Swifts and did not let them ever get comfortable enough to play the brand of netball that has seen dominant possession and led them to two premierships in three seasons.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The backline for the Giants looked solid, and that was without Lauren Moore. When April Brandley went off for the second half, it would have been easy for McDonell to be overwhelmed and falter. Not only did that not happen, but she ended up being the most experienced defender in the circle as young Giants Academy player Jemma Donoghue stepped in and with Amy Parmenter providing cover out in front at wing defense, dominating with seven deflections and two gains, the Swifts could not find the answers to outsmart the Giants defensive line up.
Shooting duo for the Giants Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer picked up where they left off in 2021. In what presents as a seamless combination we were reminded just how they made their way to last year’s grand final. Harten was valuable on the baseline and the deceptive speed of Dwyer had both Maddy Turner and Allie Smith in chase mode for most of the game.
Sam Wallace 33/37 (89.2%)
Helen Housby 15/20 (75%)
Kelly Singleton 1/4 (25%)
Jo Harten 26/34 (76.5%)
Sophie Dwyer 28/33 (84.8%)
MVP: Jamie-Lee Price (Giants)
MELBOURNE VIXENS 70 def QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 65
By Ariane Virgona
The beginning of the match saw some loose balls and inconsistent footwork from both teams, with seven general play turnovers in the first quarter. Teams worked on settling the nerves and looking to work the ball in before heading to post, with predominantly strong shooting accuracy across the court helping to bring confidence. The defensive pressure of the Firebirds dropped after the first half and the injection of Olivia Lewis into the circle, and Jo Weston’s relentless one-on-one tagging, paid off with five gains and four intercepts across the game. They were assisted by the tight defensive pressure of Kate Eddy at wing defence, who also collected two gains, two intercepts and one deflection.
The connection between Donnell Wallam and Gretal Bueta saw the Firebirds take confidence alongside the consistent work of the midcourt of Ravillian, Dunkley and Simpson, and the defensive pressure of Dunkley and Simpson was impressive. The Melbourne Vixens were excellent in utilising possession of the ball and provided several options down the court, with only 37% possession for the game. The presence of Liz Watson with centre partner, Kate Moloney, was noticed with increased ease bringing the ball to the centre top and finding the touch on the circle feeds. Netball fans were overjoyed to have Kiera Austin return to the court and her role in the Vixens will solidify as she increases her confidence in high-intensity match play alongside the new attacking group.
The feed from the wing attack into Wallam at times was exceptional, as it utilised the goal shooter’s strong hold inside the circle. The defensive force of the Firebirds caused the Vixens difficulty bringing the ball into the circle in the first half of the match, which forced them to second-guess the pass.
However, the one-on-one style of defence from the Vixens wore the Firebirds down as the game progressed and their experience across the court meant that they remained calm and collected to maintain the lead until the final whistle.
Where the match was won and lost?
After an initially strong defensive game from the Firebirds, the second half of the match saw limited defence over the passes, allowing Kumwenda and Samason easy access to the circle and to pass between them. The defensive pressure of the Vixens increased across the game and the injection of Olivia Lewis saw long high passes to Wallam challenged. The high penalty count of the Firebirds, at 91 penalties, particularly in the defensive circle, meant that the pressure of the passes was relieved across the court as the defenders were often out of play.
The Vixens’ defensive pressure across the court was rewarded in the second half of the match with six gains and five intercepts. Turnovers were also where the game was lost for the Firebirds with 15 unforced turnovers (compared to 13 for the Vixens), 7 turnovers from missed goals (compared to 2) and 26 possession changes (compared to 20).
Which players/combinations stood out?
The defensive effort of Jo Weston and the work rate of Liz Watson, with 38 feeds and 26 centre passes were outstanding and highlighted the dominance of the attacking and defensive line for the Vixens. Rahni Samason and Mwai Kumwenda showcased their ongoing connection with agile and short sharp passing in the goal circle and intuitive knowledge of each other’s positioning. Mwai Kumwenda, as player of the match, showed her experience under pressure and her exceptional ability to position into space and take the ball in the air.
Ruby Bakewell-Doran showed some promising passages of play, where she was able to challenge and come up with an intercept. Lara Dunkley also did a massive amount of work out the front with 18 goal assists, the most for the Firebirds, and 17 centre pass receives, only two shy of Bueta. Dunkley’s defensive game was strong with an intercept and a deflection and significant challenge to the ball, making her presence known as the Vixens transitioned the ball to their attacking end.
Donnell Wallam 43/48 (89.6%)
Gretel Bueta 15/20 (75%)
Mia Stower 1/2 (50%)
Mwai Kumwenda 43/48 (89.6%)
Rahni Samason 15/15 (100%)
Kiera Austin 9/14 (64%)
MVP: Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens)
WEST COAST FEVER 82 def SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 63
By Jenny Sinclair
West Coast Fever have thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the league with a ruthless 19 goal victory over the Lightning. Leading by as much as 26 goals at one point, only a quieter fourth term held them back from smashing a number of league records, although they still managed the highest score in SSN history.
Facing the longest road trip in the competition, and with five new players, it was always going to be a difficult game for Lightning. And while disappointed with the overall result, coach Kylee Byrne was pleased with the performance of her two SSN debutantes, Annie Miller and Reilly Batcheldor, who were among her team’s best.
Swarm, smother and speed. In both attack and defence Fever were like bees to a hive – swarming their opposition, smothering their play, and using speed throughout court. There was no easy pass for Lightning as they encountered fierce opposition, strong hands over pressure, and multiple defenders attacking each pass. In attack, and particularly transitioning out of defence, Fever moved the ball with speed with forwards, lateral and rear options for the pass.
The “S” tactics were so effective that Fever picked up 18 gains, while with few easy pickings Lightning managed just two – one intercept and one rebound.
Fever topped a number of team statistics last season, and started 2022 with a similar flourish. They recorded a 81% success rate of goals from centre passes, 78% gains to goals, and an exceptional 91% success rate in scoring goals from turnovers. These markers spoke volumes about the security of their ball handling.
A new statistic recorded by Champion Data this season is who receives second phase from centre pass. Centres Verity Simmons and Kim Ravaillion topped second phase this week with 17 each. In the Fever’s case, and combined with 28 centre pass receives and 37 feeds by Alice Teague-Neeld, it was a clear indicator of their strategy on attack. The one-two-three punch of Teague-Neeld on centre pass, Simmons on second phase and Teague-Neeld’s deft touch in feeding the circle, proved to be a match winner.
Where the match was won and lost?
Fever’s first 45 minutes were masterly as they extended their lead, culminating in a 24-11 third term. Changes were seamless, combinations clicked, and for the most part players worked the ball to the circle edge before feeding, rather than the hoik and prayer that’s been a little too common in the past.
In contrast, Lightning struggled across the board. The new look defensive end – missing Maddy McAuliffe, Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni – showed they are still very much a work in progress, while four different wing defences were trialed in a bid to stem Fever’s charge through court. However, it was the form of the Lighting veterans – Laura Scherian, Steph Wood, Cara Koenen and Mahalia Cassidy – that gave coach Kylee Byrne some concern.
She said, “They tried so hard – perhaps too hard – to give the incoming players a good experience, and I think that impacted their own games.”
Having looked frustrated in earlier parts of the game and shooting at just 69% accuracy, new captain Steph Wood rallied her troops in the final quarter. She added seven goals to her tally, Kate Walsh played with renewed energy, and rookies Reilley Batcheldor and Annie Miller showed zest for their work.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Jhaniele Fowler made goal scoring look easy throughout the match, scoring 65 goals with just two long range misses. However it was the combination of Sasha Glasgow and Teague-Neeld at goal attack and wing attack respectively that was a standout. The latter’s court craft was on point, finding room to move with little difficulty in hitting the circle edge. Glasgow, in easily her best game for the Fever, was crisp and incisive as she punched through the mess.
Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang continue to grow as a combination, with Aryang particularly adept in dropping back into the circle when Bruce flies for an intercept. However, it was the Fever’s full court offence and defence that were particularly impressive. Six of the ten players picked off gains, and were quick to move the ball through court to goal.
For Lightning, debutante Annie Miller spent just 26 minutes at wing attack, and came away with 16 feeds, 11 centre pass receives for just one error. Reilley Batcheldor was similarly influential, shooting 12/15 in her 22 minutes out on court.
Jhaniele Fowler 65/67 (97%)
Sasha Glasgow 12/15 (80%)
Alice Teague-Neeld ⅓ (33%)
Cara Koenen 25/28 (89%)
Steph Wood 18/26 (69%)
Reilley Batcheldor 12/15 (80%)
MVP: Jhaniele Fowler (Fever)
Of Sam Wallace’s injury: “To hear her scream like that brings back memories of when Mads (Maddy Proud) and I did (an ACL). It’s absolutely devastating,” Paige Hadley (Swifts)
It will take some time for Kippa to settle back in? “She wouldn’t be disappointed at all, that was actually a big step for her today, and as much as we have in our practice games she has been out on court, there is nothing that compares to actually stepping out in season real.. I am rapt.. it takes being brave to step in and say ‘I will start’ and being ready and that was an important step for her and I just think she is going to grow from here…” Simone McKinnis (Vixens coach)
Emily Mannix being taken off in that first quarter. “I think to change it, we were struggling to find the answers there… and Liv does have some great elevation so even if it is to bring in some hesitation to that ball, we did adjust slightly out the front, and we did get some touches and some pressure on there…it’s hard. It is the first time we have come up against Wallam..” Simone McKinnis (Vixens coach)
Of Alice Teague-Neeld’s performance at wing attack: She’s a beautiful mover, she creates a lot of space, she’s really easy for me to read off, and the feeds into me and J (Jhaniele) were fantastic. Sasha Glasgow (Fever)
On a strong personal performance: J is our biggest shooting threat, but for us it’s still having the confidence to alleviate the pressure on J, so creating good opportunities to get ourselves into shooting positions and sighting J at the right time as well. Sasha Glasgow (Fever)
Team / Pld / Pts / %
Fever . 1 . 4 . 130.2%
Thunderbirds . 1 . 4 . 108%
Vixens . 1 . 4 . 107.7%
Giants . 1 . 4 . 103.6%
Swifts . 1 . 0 . 96.5%
Firebirds . 1 . 0 . 92.9%
Magpies . 1 . 0 . 92.6%
Lightning . 1 . 0 . 76.8%
Sat 2nd April
5pm Swifts v Vixens at Ken Rosewall Arena
7pm Lightning v Firebirds at USC
Sun 3rd April
2pm Magpies v Fever at John Cain Arena
4pm Thunderbirds v GIANTS at Netball SA
All matches will be shown live on Fox Sport and Kayo Sports. Sunday matches will be available on Kayo Freebies for those who don’t have a subscription