Contributors: Jenny Sinclair, Katrina Nissen, Georgia Doyle, Ian Harkin, Andrew Kennedy
Photographers: Kirsten Daley, Sue McKay, Danny Dalton, Simon Leonard, May Bailey
Melbourne Vixens 64 def GIANTS Netball 52 (17-16, 16-11, 13-13, 18-12)
NSW Swifts 75 def Collingwood Magpies 64 (17-19, 20-11, 23-17, 15-17)
West Coast Fever 77 def Queensland Firebirds 69 (18-18, 16-18, 23-24, 20-19)
Sunshine Coast Lightning 52 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 51 (11-13, 15-11, 12-15, 14-12)
Who knew that Will McCloy was comedy gold? If you haven’t seen them already, check out his round previews posted on social media. A few gems include “Broken Ankle” (Briony Akle), the need to visit a pub in a Queensland town called “WallamFowler” and the “Gabi Simpson Desert”. Keep your eyes peeled for more.
There are several teams celebrating Heritage Round over the next few weeks, including the Swifts, Thunderbirds, Firebirds and Fever all clocking up 25 years in existence. The Swifts have had the most successful era – with six titles, while the Fever are still on a maiden voyage for their first.
At home, Swifts celebrated by inviting many of their past players back, as youngsters held up placards for all 102 athletes who’ve worn the yellow or red dress.
Covid continues to throw up challenges this season, although Alice Teague-Neeld was the only player missing in action this round after the Fever took extra precautions with her health. After the struggles the GIANTS had last week, it raises the interesting question of what impact it could have come finals time. While people can catch Covid more than once, they do also build up a certain level of immunity so are less likely to be reinfected, or to have as severe symptoms. It could potentially be an advantage for the Firebirds (preseason) and Giants (Round 2) who have already been swept with the illness.
The Fox Netball coverage has been well received – other than a few missing commentators – but new fans to the game are calling for a small rolling footer that explains some of the rules. While it may not come to fruition this season, Fox is listening to what people want, and integrating ideas in their broadcasts.
Laura Scherian (Lightning) and Helen Housby (Swifts) celebrated their 100th national league matches.
Sasha Glasgow (Fever) celebrated her 50th national league match.
Congratulations to all.
Most intercepts: 5 Courtney Bruce (Fever)
Most feeds : 52 Maddy Proud (Swifts)
Most centre pass receives: 28 Gretel Bueta (Firebirds)
Most gains: 7 Em Mannix (Vixens), Geva Mentor (Magpies) and Courtney Bruce (Fever)
Most turnovers: 7 Maddie Hinchliffe (Lightning)
Most penalties: 20 Eboni Usoro-Brown
Break out performance of the round
She may not be new, but she is new to the Vixens. Of course, we are talking about Kiera Austin who showed glimpses of her pre-injury self on Saturday’s match against her former club, GIANTS Netball. She finished the game with 24/27 including two super shots. It was the first match of the season where Austin played a full 60 minutes and she didn’t show any signs of slowing. Welcome back, Kiera!
MELBOURNE VIXENS 64 def GIANTS NETBALL 52
by Georgia Doyle
GIANTS welcomed back three of their starting seven players, Sophie Dwyer, Amy Parmenter & Jamie-Lee Price, following a week out with COVID-19 and the experience they brought throughout the court shone through early. They had a strong first and third quarter, but the intensity and tenacity brought by the Vixens for the entire 60 minutes couldn’t be matched by the team in orange.
The Vixens stuck with the same seven for the entire 60 minutes, for the first time this season – and it paid dividends. Austin and Mwai Kumwenda are growing in their combination each week, with Austin in particular gaining confidence with each minute she is on court.
Jo Harten looked much more comfortable with Dwyer and Price alongside her, and was able to focus more on playing her role rather than helping those around her. Parmenter barely skipped a beat, matching up on Liz Watson and also taking any opportunity for a hard contest against former team mate and good friend Kiera Austin. Price was strong for the most part, but faded in the final 15 minutes meaning Amy Sligar made a small cameo at the end of the game.
The Vixens shooting circle was one of the most hotly anticipated parts of Season 2022, with the capacity to rotate three strong players through all positions. This is what the team tried for the first two games, and it saw them fade off in the second half, unable to maintain their intensity.
Kiera Austin played her first full 60 minutes since returning from her ACL injury, and playing against her old side seemed to spark something special because she put out her best performance of the season. Her combination with Mwai Kumwenda and Diamonds mid-court duo Liz Watson and Kate Moloney appeared to have finally show the potential it promised – but still with plenty of room for improvement.
Where the match was won and lost?
Despite having three players returning from COVID, GIANTS were able to match the intensity of the Vixens for the first 45 minutes of the game. It was in the final 15 minutes; however, that fatigue and a lack of game time last week showed. There was a drop in intensity, and poor passing choices were made. Vixens were able to capitalise on these, with a gain to goal rate of 79%, compared to GIANTS 33%.
GIANTS continue to show their reliance on the super shot when caught behind towards the end of a match and while it gives them the opportunity to bring back the scoreline, smarter play earlier in the match would instead allow them to apply scoreboard pressure to the opposition, as opposed to being stuck in chase mode.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The Vixens defensive end of Emily Mannix, Jo Weston & Eddy showed glimpses of their 2020 Premiership winning form for the first time in a while. Weston set the tone early, collecting two gains within the first 10 minutes, and continued her form for the remainder of the match being named eventual MVP. Mannix also dominated Jo Harten, in particular picking up four rebounds and six gains.
Kate Eddy also had a stand out game, collecting four gains, while also only recording four penalties for the entire 60 minutes. This ability to stay in play went a long way in giving Weston and Mannix the protection to come up with gains of their own, of which they managed 13 between them.
Mwai Kumwenda 37/41 (90%)
Kiera Austin 24/27 (89%)
Jo Harten 25/34 (74%)
Sophie Dwyer 18/21 (86%)
MVP: Jo Weston (Vixens)
NSW SWIFTS 75 def COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 64
By Jenny Sinclair
The NSW Swifts claimed a trifecta in Round 3, celebrating Heritage Round, Helen Housby’s 100th national league game and an 11 goal win over the Collingwood Magpies.
The Magpies would have fancied their chances, defeated by ladder leaders West Coast Fever and Adelaide Thunderbirds in the past two rounds, but after a strong start, succumbed to their fired-up opponents.
With 10 current and former internationals littered across the court, and both teams fighting for their first win of the season, the match was always going to be a titanic encounter. Despite a good showing last week, temporary replacement player Sophie Fawns started on the bench for the Swifts..
Two distinct playing styles emerged: the Magpies’ speed versus the Swifts’ patience. Magpies’ go-to plan was clear – all eyes were on goal shooter Shimona Nelson in the circle, with the connection between her and Kelsey Browne a highlight.
After the Magpies jumped out to an early lead, the Swifts pulled changes galore in the second quarter, with just two players keeping their original positions. The added height of second-gamer, Teigan O’Shannassy, in the defensive circle alongside 190cm Sarah Klau, stymied the Magpies’ shooters.
Collingwood’s star recruit, Sophie Garbin, playing out of position and for the first time against her former club, again looked uncomfortable at goal attack, scoring just two goals in the first half. While she was far better when moved to goal shooter, it was a puzzling decision to haul the dominant Nelson from the court.
The two speedy midcourts battled for supremacy, and MVP Maddy Proud, matched up against one of the games toughest opponents, Ash Brazill, had an outstanding game. She finished with a whopping 52 feeds.
Both defensive ends made life difficult for their opponents, although the Magpies experimented with combinations to quell the Swifts’ moving circle, with minimal success.
Gains to goals again proved costly for both teams, and the Magpies will particularly rue their lost opportunities. While they picked up 15 gains to the Swifts eight, they were only able to convert 60% of them.
Co-captain Paige Hadley made a successful return to court after a mild dose of Covid, playing 42 minutes of the game. She said, “I continued to do some running and strength work in isolation, and was closely monitored by our medical staff to make sure I was healthy enough to play.”
In an outstanding performance, English international Helen Housby led from the front as she racked up her 100th national league game. The Magpies struggled to match her speed and agility in attack, as Housby drove the baseline and swept the front of the circle. She finished with a phenomenal 43 goals at 90%.
BEAMING FAWNS NO DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS
First year training partner, Sophie Fawns, stepped into the Swifts’ line in round two, after a season ending injury to their superstar shooter, Sam Wallace. She shot a respectable 15/18 (83%) in 37 minutes and followed it up with 24 in this round. While a dominant shooter is the most difficult team member to replace, the Swifts have switched up their game plan and are giving it a red hot crack.
After round two, the Swifts and Magpies were the most penalised teams in the league. Swifts tidied up significantly in this game with just 46, but the Magpies’ 66 was costly.
Helen Housby 43/48 (90%)
Sophie Fawns 24/27 (89%)
Kelly Singleton 4/4 (100%)
Shimona Nelson 26/26 (100%)
Sophie Garbin 20/21 (95%)
Gabi Sinclair 10/13 (77%)
MVP: Maddy Proud (Swifts)
WEST COAST FEVER 77 def QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 69
By Andrew Kennedy
Shaping up to be a battle of the big birds, the teams boasted the top two goal-scoring machines entering round three. Donnell Wallam had rapidly been thrust into a starting role for Firebirds, needing to demonstrate full 60-minute performances. She now was to face an agile Australian Diamonds defence line who had trained for years against Jamaica star Jhaniele Fowler. With Alice Teague-Neeld out due to COVID protocols, coach Dan Ryan surprised many with his starting line not including Verity Simmons, although it was later revealed that she’d been unwell throughout the week.
It turned out to be a smart tactic, as when she and Chelsea Pitman were introduced in the third quarter the ball sizzled in Fever attack and they romped out to win the period by nine goals. Fowler missed only one goal in the whole match, and Firebirds would rue their lapse – despite steadying the ship they never got close to West Coast again.
It was a great captain’s knock from Courtney Bruce, who three times injected her lion-like defence to turn the tide of the game. In the first and second quarters when Firebirds drew to a five or six-goal lead, she responded with intercepts and rebounds to claw Fever back. Then in the final quarter when Verity Simmons and Jess Anstiss applied their suffocating midcourt defence on the centre pass and across the transverse line, Bruce was able to easily read passes to a retreating Bueta and close out the game.
An effective feature of Firebirds defence was their wall on the centre pass, which at times eliminated the effectiveness of Sasha Glasgow and Emma Cosh, forcing Sunday Aryang to rescue her teammates from behind. The midcourters also aimed to crowd the circle edge during the supershot periods, so that refeeding to Sasha Glasgow was hindered.
Where the match was won and lost?
Jhaniele Fowler was outstanding in negating the variety of tactics used by Firebirds. Double-teaming by the Queensland defence briefly caused faltering long shots by Glasgow, but once she got her radar back on the defenders had to split again. The blatant and deliberate pushing, burrowing under, and holding of arms by Eboni Usoro-Brown was heavily penalised, with 18 contacts in the match and no intercepts. Fowler exclaimed to the umpire “Aaahh EVERY TIME!” in the first quarter, and addressed the officials in the break to some effect. However she responded even better by simply outclassing Usoro-Brown, in particular pulling in balls using one vertically outstretched hand.
Sasha Glasgow had a field day again on feeding, leading all players with 27 goal assists, as well as an admirable 7/12 supershots. Her opposite number Gretel Bueta was well down on one-point accuracy at 67%, but nailed 5/5 two-pointers.
For Firebirds, Donell Wallam had a wonderful first half, scoring 22/24 single goals and 2/5 supershots, and her connection to fellow-basketballer Bueta is a delight to watch develop. However, the goal shooter was caught out by relentless pressure, lesser match-fitness, and the huge experience advantage of Bruce, with five fewer goals in the second half.
Firebirds were often chasing in defence and earned 18 more penalties overall, with seven from Lara Dunkley. Even though the wing attack had a marvellous match, best for her team in Nissan Net Points, she gave away two attacking contacts at critical times to reduce her team’s momentum.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The biggest lift came with Dan Ryan’s substitutions to start the second half, with Chelsea Pitman returning for Fever after the better part of a decade at wing attack. Simmons moved into centre despite illness during the week, and Anstiss pushed back to her favoured wing defence. Sasha Glasgow hung far back in the attack third and allowed massive space for her teammates to carve through in transition. The Pitman-Simmons combination was much more natural at feeding, made even more spectacular when Kimberly Jenner was chasing intercepts and well out of position.
THE TELLING STATS
Fever are yet to hit their straps this season. This time last year Fever had converted 84.5% of their gains to Firebirds 57.5%. So far this year, the tables have turned with Fever converting just 65% of gains in the first two rounds, compared to the Firebirds 72%, a significant differential. However, in Round 3 Firebirds struggled to capitalise on their gains, sinking just 33% of them, while Fever’s 80% conversion rate proved to be the match winning difference.
Gains to goals can be a strong indicator of the match result – Fever will want to elevate theirs to last year’s levels, while the Firebirds will need to find a way to safely transition through court.
West Coast Fever
Janiele Fowler 52/53 (98%)
Sasha Glasgow 17/26 (65%)
Donnell Wallam 43/54 (84%)
Gretel Bueta 17/23 (74%)
MVP: Courtney Bruce (Fever)
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 52 def ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 51
by Georgia Doyle
Both teams were starting this game in somewhat unfamiliar positions, with the Thunderbirds undefeated after the first two rounds and the Lightning yet to record a win. Given their two meetings in 2021 were decided by one goal, with one win apiece the game was set to be big with both teams wanting to stamp their authority by recording a win.
It was a messy start for both teams, each having made some changes to their starting seven from previous games. Thunderbirds also made several changes throughout the first, reminiscent of their 2021 rotations. Some had more impact than others, Matilda Garrett entered the game and had a gain within 60 seconds, while Sterling heading to the bench for a portion of the second quarter gave Lightning feeders much easier access to the shooters.
The second half was much tidier from across the board, with less turnovers and increased rate of scoring from turnover ball for both teams. This saw the game go down to the wire, with Lightning eventually coming out on top with seconds remaining on the clock.
The shift of Mahalia Cassidy to wing defence to start the game was very effective, in her three quarters she recorded three gains and three deflections. She also forced changes at wing attack for Thunderbirds who trialed three different players to try and dull her impact on the game. Cassidy also added extra protection for the circle defenders allowing them to get their hand to more ball.
For Thunderbirds the rotation between Latanya Wilson and Matilda Garrett at goal defence proved effective. It allowed both players the chance to look at the game from the sideline, and make a strong impact upon entering the court. Together they combined for eight gains, while Wilson also spent some time at goal keeper after Shamera Sterling was getting repeatedly stuck behind Cara Koenen and not able to contest the ball cleanly.
Where the match was won and lost?
Throughout the game, the lead never stretched beyond four goals, so it was very much a match that was decided in the final moments. Scores were level with three minutes remaining, when Kylee Byrne made the bold choice to bring on 19 year old shooter Reilley Batcheldor in place of Koenen. Both Thunderbirds defenders now had to focus on their own player, rather than double teaming Steph Wood.
The final 45 seconds saw Lightning play their trademark possession netball from seasons past, as Byrne urged them just to take the single goal knowing it was their centre pass to follow. A missed super shot from Batcheldor with nine seconds remaining wasn’t enough for Thunderbirds to get down court, giving Lightning their first win for the 2022 season.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Laura Scherian notched up her 100th game, and it was certainly one to remember. She played out the majority of the game, across both wing attack and centre for 31 feeds, 18 assists, two pickups and only three turnovers. This was mostly against Hannah Petty, who has started the season in phenomenal form after making the shift back to wing defense. Scherian’s ability to find circle edge and sight the shooters through the defenders is something to be marvelled at.
Lenize Potgieter 28/33 (85%)
Georgie Horjus 13/15 (87%)
Tippah Dwan 8/14 (57%)
Cara Koenen 34/41 (83%)
Steph Wood 8/12 (67%)
Reilley Batcheldor 5/7 (71%)
MVP: Laura Scherian (Lightning)
Tania Obst Adelaide Thunderbirds Coach
On the changes made through the game
“We’ve got a team of 10 that we can move things around, it was a little bit of cat and mouse out there obviously with what Lightning were putting out and what we would then put out against that… I thought early Mahalia Cassidy was really killing us at wing defence so we were trying to find someone that could control that area of the court…[Shamera] wasn’t playing the game plan, she was caught behind [Koenen] a lot of the time and that obviously wasn’t where we wanted her to be so she needed to come and have a look at that at a different angle”
On what they could’ve done to seal the win
“I actually thought we didn’t respond to the physicality and the different type of defence…I thought that sometimes we were a little bit wasteful with the ball in that we weren’t pulling it in strongly enough. It is a reminder that this is the big girls league and sometimes you’re not going to get the free [pass] that you expect and you need to just keep putting your body on the line to get the ball”
Kylee Byrne Sunshine Coast Lightning Coach
On finally getting their first win
“That was a bit of relief, I’m really proud of what they did. We haven’t panicked in the last two weeks, with the scorelines we’ve had it could mean throwing everything out but we knew we were building to something pretty good. It was more about performance, for us to put out 60 minutes and to be in the contest more. Even if it had ended in a loss, I still would’ve been proud of what we put out given the last two weeks but to have to perform and grind something out and still come away with the win I think that is the relief”
On Laura Scherian’s 100 game milestone
“We’re a team that doesn’t talk about milestones too much but we actually did this week, because for us Laura Scherian is what Lightning is. She took a massive risk to come to our club six years ago after missing out on so many teams. Anything you associate with Shez is about hard work and tenacity, so it was about doing it for her today. It was about what would Shez do, in those tough moments it was Laura Scherian would take the hard road and that’s what we had to do in every contest”
(Team. Pld. Pts. %)
Fever . 3 . 12 . 124%
Vixens . 3 . 12 . 113%
Thunderbirds . 3 . 8 . 111%
Firebirds . 3 . 4 . 107%
Swifts . 3 . 4 . 102%
Giants . 3 . 4 . 87%
Lightning . 3 . 4 . 79%
Magpies . 3 . 0 . 84%
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
Round 4 features the first of two mid-week rounds in Season 2022. All times are local.
TUESDAY 12 April – 6pm Vixens v Fever
TUESDAY 12 April – 8pm Giants v Firebirds
WEDNESDAY 13 April – 6pm Magpies v Lightning
WEDNESDAY 13 April – 7.30pm Thunderbirds v Swifts (8pm AEST)