Contributors: Esther Nelson, Kate Cornish, Jenny Sinclair, Ian Harkin, Katrina Nissen, Georgia Doyle, Clinton Bradbury, Aliesha Vicars, Danny Dalton, May Bailey
GIANTS Netball 68 d Sunshine Coast Lightning 65 (19-15, 20-12, 13-19, 16-19)
West Coast Fever 68 d Adelaide Thunderbirds 57 (20-15, 10-13, 19-12, 19-17)
NSW Swifts 63 d Queensland Firebirds 61 (17-14, 13-19, 18-13, 15-15)
Melbourne Vixens 56 d Collingwood Magpies 54 (16-15, 16-12, 14-12, 10-15)
The battle for spots in the Suncorp Super Netball finals went right down to the final game of the regular season. And what a finish it was. Vixens and Fever had sealed first and second on the ladder in round 13, and then on Saturday, GIANTS clinched third position. That left the final three games to decide the fourth and final spot in the playoffs.
In the first of those matches, Thunderbirds bowed out when they went down to Fever. Then, Swifts knocked Firebirds out of contention with an exciting 2-goal win in Sydney. So, it all came down to the Queen’s Birthday Monday clash between Magpies and Vixens. The Magpies needed a win, or a close loss to take fourth spot. Otherwise, Swifts would take it.
Vixens were on top for most of the game, but Magpies surged in the last quarter. Finally, with time up, and Vixens leading by just two, they were awarded a penalty in the super shot zone. The players seemed unaware at the time, but if Mwai Kumwenda had nailed the shot, Magpies were out. But the shot rimmed out, and they were in. That’s how close it was. The last spot in the playoffs wasn’t decided until the final shot in the final game of the regular season.
It was a tremendous effort from a brave Collingwood team, who were missing some big names in the match. The players who were brought in, all did their jobs. That included former Australian Diamond, Renae Ingles, who filled in despite very little recent netball. She looked like she’d never been away. It must also be remembered that Swifts lost Sam Wallace in the first round of the season. For them to even be in contention come the last round, shows what a fighting team they are.
News of the Australian team to travel to Birmingham broke a day earlier than the scheduled Commonwealth Games Association announcement. Stacey Marinkovich said, “It’s disappointing to have it released early because it’s been a very long build up for players to have their moment, and for the sake of a day, it would have been nice if they’d got the peak of the announcement”.
The English squad will be named on Monday, while New Zealand today named 27 players to take part in trials.
Stacey Francis-Bayman played in her 100th national league game in Australia and New Zealand, while Jhaniele Fowler broke her own scoring record, and Maddy Proud broke the record for most feeds in a season. Congratulations ladies.
In terrible news for Karin Burger and the Silver Ferns, Burger will need foot surgery for a fractured navicular. Burger, one of the Ferns’ best, will miss the Commonwealth Games. Best wishes to Karin for her recovery.
Most goals – 46/47 Shimona Nelson (Collingwood v Vixens)
Most supershots – 6/7 Sasha Glasgow (Fever v Thunderbirds)
Most intercepts – 4 Shamera Sterling (Fever v Thunderbirds)
Most deflections – 11 Courtney Bruce (Fever v Thunderbirds)
Most goal assists – 31 Maddy Proud (Swifts v Firebirds)
Most feeds – 49 Maddie Hay (GIANTS v Lightning)
Most gains – 7 Shamera Sterling (Fever v Thunderbirds)
Most turnovers – 9 Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS v Lightning)
Most penalties – 21 Geva Mentor (Collingwood v Vixens)
Matilda Garrett (Thunderbirds) – calf
Break out performance of the round
She’s not a rookie, but it was a breakout performance considering that Renae Ingles has barely touched a netball in three years. With the Magpies missing three players due to Covid and their finals hopes on the line, Ingles was recruited at the last minute, having been back in Australia for just a short time.
Ingles came onto court in the second quarter and showed that she’s lost none of her skills. Her ability to shut down her opponent and drive into attack were as immaculate as ever. Welcome back, Renae!
GIANTS Netball 68 def Sunshine Coast Lightning 65
By Esther Nelson
There was a members’ guard of honour for the GIANTS when they took the court for their last game of the regular season at Ken Rosewall arena. The home team played the first half feeling positive after being up 6 to 0 in the first four minutes. In the second half the Lightning pushed
back hard. In a thrilling final five minutes Steph Wood and Reilley Batcheldor nailed five super shots between them. It was not enough as the GIANTS were able to hold on to the lead, playing calm and safe netball under the guidance of captain, Jo Harten.
A dominant start led to confident shooting by consummate captain Harten and goal attack Sophie Dwyer. Harten finished with a sublime 98% shooting percentage. Unlike other games this season, Harten and Dwyer were not overly reliant on the super shot as they maintained the
lead throughout the entire game. This confidence gave licence to the defensive combination of April Brandley, Matilda McDonell, and Amy Parmenter to attack the ball with remarkable success. The trio finished the game with a total of sixteen deflections, six intercepts and four rebounds between them.
Where was the match won and lost?
The home side finished the first half leading 39 to 27. The Lightning made positional swaps to fight back, including moving Wood into wing attack, Cara Koenen out to goal attack and bringing Batcheldor into goal shooter. Better feeds into the circle meant that the visitors were able to capitalise on opportunities that presented themselves in the second half. In one passage of play coming out of a time out Hinchliffe tipped the ball out of the circle for a turnover and Batcheldore finished off with a super shot.
The ongoing issue of having a terrific start and fading off in the third quarter continues to plague the GIANTS and it is something they will need to work on for finals, something Coach Julie Fitzgerald acknowledged after the game. “We did let (the Lightning) back in a lot and they came out with such energy and determination…I think we will need to lift our game in finals. Finals is a whole new game, and it is a very, very different match that you play.”
The Lightning having had a rough season bedding down new player combinations. They were keen to finish out the season well, despite being bottom of the ladder. Losing their first three centre passes at the start did not help their cause and it left their run at the end a bit late despite Batcheldore’s super shot prowess.
Mahalia Cassidy, Tara Hinchliffe, and Kate Walsh in defence did not have the same impact as their rivals, finishing the game with a total of three intercepts and nine deflections. The combination has had the season to develop but has sorely missed Karla Pretorius (currently on parental leave) for her experience, guidance, and ball-winning ability in clutch moments. Walsh’s rejection on the shot in the third quarter and two intercepts by Hinchliffe shows there is opportunity to build, especially if Pretorius is back in the side next season.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The positional swap of Laura Scherian into centre in the second half and Koenan out to goal attack gave superior flow to the shooters. Playmaker Wood continues to show her versatility, moving between goal attack and wing attack as needed.
Harten and Dwyer have built a solid shooting combination and Dwyer continues to expand her game defensively, including picking up three rebounds. The understanding between the defence end (McDonell, Brandley, Parmenter and Jamie-Lee Price) meant that deflections were picked up quickly and converted down the court. Price was on negative points at the end of the first quarter but managed to pick up the pace during the game, finishing with 26 feeds and 19 goal assists. With nine general play turnovers overall, it is something for her to watch moving into finals.
The quiet achiever, Maddie Hay, worked hard for her team, finishing with 20 goal assists, 49 feeds. Hay even managed an intercept at the end of the first quarter when the ball was passed back to Walsh who tried to lob it over Hay to Cassidy.
Jo Harten 44/45 (98%)
Sophie Dwyer 20/25 (80%)
Reilley Batcheldor 11/14 (79%)
Steph Wood 3/5 (60%)
Cara Koenan 39/39 (100%)
MVP: Jo Harten (GIANTS)
West Coast Fever 68 defeated Adelaide Thunderbirds 57
By Georgia Doyle (originally published for Fox Netball)
West Coast Fever have secured a 11 point win in the final round of Suncorp Super Netball, giving their confidence a massive boost leading into their fourth finals campaign. In celebrating Stacey Francis-Bayman’s 100th national league match, they overcame an Adelaide Thunderbirds side who put up a tough fight for 30 minutes, but dropped off after half time, allowing Fever to dominate their way to the final whistle.
Fever, who have been ravaged by COVID and injury for much of the season, welcomed back their contracted 10 for the first time since Round Seven. Vice captain Jess Anstiss played three quarters after missing several weeks, with a tough job to shut down Thunderbirds play maker Georgie Horjus and limit her ability to deliver ball to her shooters.
The league’s best defenders were on show, with Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang from Fever and Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson from Thunderbirds wreaking havoc for their opposition attackers. It was accuracy on the super shot from eventual MVP Sasha Glasgow, including an after the buzzer shot that gave Fever a five goal advantage early.
Despite her heroics at the end of the first, Glasgow was rattled in the second with four early misses that Thunderbirds defenders pounced on to convert and push out the lead by one. Fowler was kept remarkably quiet by her compatriots, scoring only 16 goals in the first half when she averages 59 per game.
The aerial prowess of the Thunderbirds defenders was recognised, with Fever assistant coach Belinda Reynolds imploring her team “to get the ball to the edge of the circle to get [Fowler] the ball” in the second half. This patience saw them take a nine goal lead at the final break, putting the pressure on Thunderbirds to save their season in 15 minutes.
Penalties were high across the court, with Bruce and Wilson in particular trying to rattle their opposition. Lenize Potgieter stood up well in the first half, but as the game progressed became visibility frustrated with Bruce’s constant pressure.
Thunderbirds left themselves an almost insurmountable task heading into the final quarter, and despite a mammoth effort from their defenders were unable to overcome Fever, falling 11 goals short of a finals appearance, while giving Fever a confidence boost as they travel east to face Melbourne Vixens in the major semi final next week.
Fever head coach Dan Ryan acknowledged the pressure Thunderbirds defenders were applying to Fowler post game, commenting that “we haven’t seen a defensive duo be so dominant against [Fowler], and she actually loved the challenge…even the best in the world will get challenged and the champions are the ones who will rise to those challenges”.
West Coast Fever will feature in their fourth Suncorp Super Netball finals series in 2022, but are hoping to secure the premiership for the first time. With two narrow grand final defeats, and the most dominant goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, for the last five years spearheading the side they will be hoping that new coach Dan Ryan will be the spark they need to push them over the line and secure their maiden title.
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GONE
Thunderbirds may have had their best Suncorp Super Netball season this year, but it still wasn’t enough to put them in finals contention. Despite having the best defensive record, their inconsistency has yet again seen them slip out of the premiership race. Changes to players or coaching staff must be looked at if Thunderbirds hope to be real finals contenders in 2023.
Six years into the Suncorp Super Netball and Jamaican superstars have led their teams to some incredible records. Shamera Sterling and Latanya Wilson spearheaded the Thunderbirds defensive end to haul in the best ever 133 intercepts across the season. Fever sharp shooter Jhaniele Fowler continues to raise the bar, outscoring her previous best of 760 goals with 839 in 2022, while all four Fever shooters have contributed to the team breaking the overall scoring record of 887, with a whopping 992.
Fowler 44/45 (98%)
Glasgow 18/25 (72%)
Cosh 0/1 (0%)
Potgieter 41/43 (95%)
Horjus 6/8 (75%)
Dwan 6/9 (67%)
MVP: Sasha Glasgow (Fever)
NSW Swifts 63 defeated Queensland Firebird 61
By Katrina Nissen (originally published for Fox Netball)
In the closest Suncorp Super Netball season of all time, it was the NSW Swifts who have potentially etched their names into the history books as they claim a two point victory over the Queensland Firebirds to move one step closer to a finals berth.
The Swifts will now have an anxious 24-hour wait for the result of the Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies match. For the Swifts to make the finals, they need the Magpies to lose by 2 or more.
Swifts assistant coach, Bec Bulley knows that it will be an anxious wait. “It is now out of our control. We have done what we were able to do. We would have liked to have won by more but we got the win.”
In the worst possible timing, the Swifts had another bout of Covid run through the squad, taking out two athletes and coach, Briony Akle. Fortunately, they had depth on the bench and were able to make a slight adjustment to their starting 7.
After the match, captain Maddy Proud acknowledged the disruption, “One thing the last two years have taught us is to be adaptable and be resilient and have an answer to everything. I think everyone stepped up and showed the wheel-oiled machined we have. This week it literally took a village.”
The speed of ball movement of the Swifts attacking line left the Firebirds stunned. Often the defence was burned by the slick drives and superior footwork of a team who had the ball on a string.
That coupled with a series of nervous errors by the Firebirds let the Swifts sneak out to a 7-0 lead early in the match.
Firebirds made an attacking change at the start of the second quarter, introducing experienced wing attack Lara Dunkley in for Jemma Mi Mi who had three errors in the first quarter.
The wing attack change is a compliment to Swifts wing defence Allie Smith who kept Mi Mi quiet in the first quarter. Smith collected one intercept and one deflection in the first quarter and went on to finish the game with two intercepts.
The connections between Firebirds shooting duo, Gretel Bueta and Donnell Wallam seemed to improve as the match went on, starting with Bueta’s improved impact in the second quarter. The Diamonds’ goal attack finished the game with 23/24 after another standout game.
The match was starting to become a blowout in Firebirds’ favour in the third term, when a late timeout and position switch sparked a comeback from the Swifts, setting up a thrilling final quarter.
The Swifts utilised every ounce of experience and smarts they had to withstand a physical charge from the Firebirds. But ultimately, their big-game players – including match MVP Proud – got them over the line by two goals.
After the match, Firebirds midcourter Gabi Simpson wasn’t shy in sharing her side’s devastation. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking. It feels like … when finals are so close and in your grasp .. the Swifts played really well at the end there. Good on them. We had to learn how to stay calm under pressure. I think today was another learning in that.”
Housby 38/42 (91%)
Fawns 14/17 (82%)
Singleton 8/12 (67%)
Wallam 35/40 (88%)
Bueta 23/24 (96%)
Stower 1/3 (33%)
MVP – Maddy Proud (Swifts)
Melbourne Vixens 56 defeated Collingwood Magpies 54
By Megan Maurice (originally published for Fox Netball)
Chaos reigned supreme in the final game of the regular season, as the Collingwood Magpies lost 56-54 to the minor premiers the Melbourne Vixens in front of a passionate crowd in Melbourne, but kept the margin close enough to hold on to their position in the top four.
It was a very different Magpies team that took the court, with co-captain Ash Brazill, star defender Jodi-Ann Ward and mid-courter Maggie Lind all ruled out of the match due to Covid protocols, along with coach Nicole Richardson.
While training partner Casey Adamson got the start to make her debut in wing defence, it was the bench that drew the most interest with retired Australian Diamond Renae Ingles a surprise inclusion for the Magpies.
The Vixens had already secured the minor premiership and a home semi final regardless of the result of this match, but it was a different story for the Magpies, who needed a win or a very close loss to hold on to their position in the top four.
Despite the additional pressure and an unsettled line up, the Magpies made a solid start to the match, keeping pace with the Vixens and going into the first break down by just one goal.
The second quarter reflected the frenetic nature of the contest, with the Vixens giving away two free passes for footwork infringements in consecutive attacking passages of play.
However the minor premiers eventually settled into their rhythm through strong full court defence, which prompted the Magpies to pull their trump card and bring Ingles onto the court.
Liz Watson and Mwai Kumwenda pushed the Vixens forward through their formidable connection in attack and the Magpies were presented with a steep uphill battle to keep their finals hopes alive.
The Vixens continued to stamp their dominance on the second half of the match as Rahni Samason took the court at goal shooter in her return from a knee injury and showed no signs of having been away from the court.
The Magpies came out firing in the final quarter, knowing their season was on the line and with just 15 minutes to keep it alive.
It was a scrappy finish, but the emotion pulled the Magpies over the line and they kept the margin to just two goals to secure a place in the minor semi final next weekend.
The inclusion of Renae Ingles was the biggest talking point in a round full of talking points. During a whirlwind trip to Australia from her home in Utah, Ingles picked up a game in the Victorian Netball League during the week, before getting a surprise call up to the Magpies squad. Despite retiring from netball in 2019, Ingles showed no signs that she’d lost any fitness or nouse – the task of matching up on the Australian Diamonds’ captain Liz Watson was a tough one, but the 35-year-old performed admirably.
Nelson 46/47 (98%)
Garbin 7/11 (64%)
Sinclair 0/2 (0%)
Kumwenda 24/26 (92%)
Austin 19/23 (83%)
Samason 10/11 (91%)
MVP: Liz Watson (Vixens)
Coach Julie Fitzgerald talking about the GIANTS’ defence: “They are really developing as a unit. Tilly (McDonell) is 21 in her first season. The defence end takes a while to grow so hopefully it will continue to develop over the next few weeks but certainly it is very exciting for the future.”
What are you going to do when you get to quarter three and it gets hard again when you are against teams like Vixens and the Fever?
I think for us we can’t afford to do that against such quality teams in the top four. So we are just going to have to really talk about it, come together and concentrate on our warm up and switch on a bit more…keep pushing through and all having the same mindset of what we have in the first half.
Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS)
(Team. Pld. W. L. Pts. %)
Melbourne Vixens . 14 . 12 . 2 . 48 . 104.98%
West Coast Fever . 14 . 10 . 4 . 40 . 109.3%
GIANTS Netball . 14 . 8 . 6 . 32 . 101.02%
Collingwood Magpies . 14 . 6 . 8 . 24 . 97.56%
NSW Swifts . 14 . 6 . 8 . 24 . 97.37%
Queensland Firebirds . 14 . 5 . 9 . 20 . 100.43%
Adelaide Thunderbirds . 14 . 5 . 9 . 20 . 96.92%
Sunshine Coast Lightning . 14 . 4 . 10 . 16 . 92.22%
SSN Finals Week 1
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
Saturday June 18th Major semi-final: Vixens v Fever at 7pm, John Cain Arena
Sunday June 19th Minor semi-final: Giants v Magpies at 4pm, Ken Rosewall Arena