Contributors: Cara Gledhill, Andrew Kennedy, Katrina Nissen, Georgia Doyle, Jenny Sinclair
Photographers: May Bailey (due to the midweek round, we only had one photographer at a match – for Giants/Firebirds fans, enjoy a feast of their images!)
Melbourne Vixens 75 def West Coast Fever 66 (23-17, 19-18, 16-13, 18-17)
Queensland Firebirds 72 def GIANTS Netball 59 (15-13, 20-18, 18-10, 19-18)
Collingwood Magpies 74 def Sunshine Coast Lightning 64 (20-27, 19-8, 17-17, 18-22)
NSW Swifts 45 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 44 (13-10, 10-10, 11-11, 11-13)
With the Diamonds 2022/2023 squad to be named next Thursday night on Centre Circle, it is becoming clearer which of the athletes have secured their sports and who are fighting for those final places. One big question mark, as we see it, is the shooting roster. Clearly, Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood have all but booked flights to Birmingham.
Kiera Austin’s Rounds 3 & 4 form was reminiscent of her pre-injury impact which is promising for her. Sophie Garbin, however, is having a tough season so far. Her accuracy and volume have been down and she is yet to run out an entire game. When Garbin shifted to goal shooter in Round 3, she was far more comfortable so her fans will be hoping that is enough for national selectors to give her a ticket. As for the extended squad, surely Sophie Dwyer will be there but what about others who have shown promise this year: Sasha Glasgow, Georgie Horjus, Donnell Wallam and Rahni Samason?
The defence end looks to be almost sewn up with Courtney Bruce, Sarah Klau and Jo Weston likely to be in the Commonwealth Games squad. That leaves Sunday Aryang and Maddy Turner fighting for the final defensive spot. Both athletes offer versatility with their ability to swing between goal defence and wing defence, similar international experience with Turner having one extra test cap, combinations with existing team members. So it may come down to who is having the better season and who performs best at the pre tournament training camp. Turner, however, will need to address her penalty count if she is to make the final step.
Matilda McDonnell, Tara Hinchliffe, Emily Mannix and Kim Jenner have been in the Diamonds extended squad for a couple of years. Mannix has been having a good season so far, so may be elevated into the regular squad. And, after Olivia Lewis’ game winning performance against Jhaniele Fowler in Round 4, it would not surprise us to see her named in the extended 2022/2023 squad as a vital option when playing Jamaica. Ruby Bakewell-Doran is a name on everyone’s lips, and early indicators could see her break into the development squad.
The midcourt is where most of the headaches are likely to come for selectors. The only safe bet is Liz Watson. And with so many athletes like Kate Moloney, Jamie-Lee Price, Maddy Proud, Ash Brazill, Kim Ravaillion and many more having standout seasons, it will be a hard choice. In a competition like the Commonwealth Games versatility will be essential, this is where athletes who have only been playing one position may be at a disadvantage. Existing combinations, low turnover rate and tidy penalty counts may also be on the selectors essentials list. If this is the case, high penalties may go against Price (23 over 3 matches), Ravaillion (37 over 4 matches) and Brazill (30 over 3 matches).
Thunderbirds are owners of an interesting statistic – they have the lowest total goals in both for and against tallies. In 2022, Adelaide has played in the lowest scoring match in each of the first four rounds, all at their home court of Netball SA Stadium. Despite their promising two wins to start, they’ve now lost by one goal to Lightning, who is in last place, and to Swifts, in fifth. The only way to read this is that their defenders, lead by Sharmera Sterling, are playing exceptionally, including restricting GIANTS to only 43 goals in round two, the worst of all teams this season.
However, their attackers are struggling, especially the accuracy of imposing South African goaler Lenize Potgieter, which has dropped well below her 95% average in 2021. Thunderbirds highest score of 54 in round one is the lowest for all eight teams this year. Interestingly, in the space of just three days, Thunderbirds have now lost two games where they had more successful shots than their opponents; being brought undone by the super shot on each occasion.
Most goals 57 Shimona Nelson (Magpies v Lightning)
Most gains 8 Eboni Usoro-Brown (Firebirds v Giants) & Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds v Swifts)
Most intercepts 4 Amy Parmenter (Giants v Firebirds)
Most assists 29 Kelsey Brown (Magpies v Lightning)
Most feeds 42 Liz Watson (Vixens v Fever)
Most turnovers 7 Maddy Proud (Swifts v Thunderbirds)
Break out performance of the round
Has Nyah Allen sparked the Magpies into winning ways? Her injection onto the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball court provided much needed connection to a fumbling front line. She had the laid-back confidence of a more seasoned campaigner as she sunk 14/19 at 74% including three early, consecutive supershots. Her second phase connection with Kelsey Browne was quick and elusive and her feeds into Shimona Nelson were perfectly weighted, as he found her under the post 23 times.
MELBOURNE VIXENS 75 def WEST COAST FEVER 66
By Cara Gledhill
The Melbourne Vixens rained supershots to continue their strong form in season 2022 by powering over the previously undefeated West Coast Fever in front of a delighted Melbourne crowd.
These were the only two unbeaten teams in the league and it showed in the quality of the game. With a combined eight turnovers to halftime, both teams treasured the ball and had to make the most of limited opportunities to score off an opposition centre pass.
The teams were evenly matched for much of the contest, with the supershot and low scoring from the Fever in the third quarter spelling the end of their unbeaten run. The Vixens were slick in attack and took advantage of the gains they got, scoring off 82% to the Fever’s 56%.
Some purple patches from the Fever defence saw them able to claw back deficits throughout the game. A change in the Fever defence in the second quarter had the intended effect with the Fever able to pick up more defensive ball and transition out of defence to great effect. As commentator Madi Browne explained, the Fever “enjoy playing at a frenetic pace” and they looked at their best when they used their speed.
With the Fever noticeably tiring in the second half of the game, the Vixens continued their slick attack. Kiera Austin was particularly impressive as she puts her hand up for Commonwealth Games selection, continuing her return to form from Round 3. She finished on 29 goals from 35 attempts, 16 feeds, 20 centre pass receives and one gain.
MVP Liz Watson also provided a strong presence in attack with 42 circle feeds. The work of Kate Eddy had a grinding game at wing defence, and was crucial in cutting off the dynamic Alice Teague-Neeld particularly in the latter part of the game.
The Vixens were able to overrun a fatigued Fever in the final half with Vixens coach Simone McKinnis commenting after the game that she was “really pleased we were able to maintain the work rate for four quarters.”
BATTLE OF THE BENCHIES
With the tight turnaround between games, the use of arguably two of the strongest benches in the competition was interesting. Neither coach was afraid to ring the changes, with all but one player used at various points. Stacey Francis-Bayman and Olivia Lewis were particularly impressive in defence for their teams when brought on at goal defence and goal keeper respectively, and made themselves impossible to bench with strong performances. Rahni Samason was also impressive in her cameos off the bench..
HOME AND AWAY
The Fever have always had a raw deal with the amount of travel they have to do compared with other teams. Between Rounds 3 and 4, the Fever travelled 7695km and played two games in three days. This showed in the final two quarters with the fatigued looking side scoring just 30 goals in the second half compared to 36 in the first, despite four supershots to end the game. As coach Dan Ryan stated “we’ve had a pretty hectic week leading into [the game], but certainly we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be”.
The supershot made its presence known in this game, with the Vixens using all three shooters to advantage in supershot periods. In the supershot period of the second quarter, the Vixens sank four to go out to a five-goal lead. With the game all but gone in the fourth quarter, the Fever found their accuracy on the supershot, nailing four in the final five minutes, but it was too little too late.
Mwai Kumwenda 32/36 88.9%
Kiera Austin 29/35 92.9%
Rahni Samason 6/6 100%
West Coast Fever
Jhaniele Fowler 48/53 90.6%
Sasha Glasgow 9/14 64.3%
Alice Teague-Neeld 1/1 100%
Emma Cosh 1/1 100%
MVP: Liz Watson (Vixens)
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 72 def GIANTS NETBALL 59
By Andrew Kennedy
Entering round four with one win apiece both teams were on the precipice of their season being over before it began. Firebirds had only 48 hours between games, and GIANTS one extra day but struggled with illnesses and COVID recoveries. The visitors had an elegant and simple plan on attack, using the athleticism of Gretel Bueta as a pivot to feed the ever-improving Donnell Wallam.
Queensland then skilfully mixed up clear defensive structures and applied themselves relentlessly to blocking space and options. In their first home game for the year, GIANTS couldn’t get free, had limited channels for crisp short passes, struggled to slow down the Firebirds transition, and languished on supershots, going down badly again by 13 goals.
Queensland proved that simple traditional defence done well can fluster and suffocate any opponent. They moved from a tight centre pass wall to a sliding zone defence, causing the GIANTS attack to hesitate and be forced into backwards passes or riskier options on the third second. Once Firebirds caused the turnover, they were scintillating in their rapid transition using smart preliminary moves and quick release passes – they converted 74% of their gains and opposition turnovers, while the GIANTS converted a measly 43%.
The hosts did have an improved defensive effort compared to recent matches. Tilly McDonnell had an impressive and energetic six gains and Amy Parmenter four, and it was good to see the in-circle tracking and switches of McDonell and April Brandley. At times, Brandley forced Bueta into very small spaces where it was impossible to take a feed. Unfortunately, Brandley’s recent illness meant she only managed 42 minutes and was utterly spent.
Where the match was won and lost?
Jo Harten was at her best for the season, showing a cool head, handy accuracy, rebounding four misses, and reducing her usual 12 turnovers a game to only three. The contrast was bleak with her partner Sophie Dwyer’s performance, who had a shabby 1/8 supershots and six turnovers. It seems that only one of the GIANTS shooters can be firing at once in 2022, and they could seriously consider benching the supershot for good.
The wheels are truly wobbling for normally outstanding GIANTS players. Not only did Queensland stymie and disrupt their forward passing options, they avoided the traditional strengths of the GIANTS defensive midcourt. Jamie-Lee Price has averaged one gain per match, and in this fixture came up empty. Wing attack Maddie Hay is also struggling, in this game her 10 goal assists were less than half her tallies in 2021, and five turnovers more than double the average last year. This can in part be due to COVID issues depleting their roster and having lingering effects, but it cannot continue much longer – nine wins in a season are needed to be sure of a finals berth, so last year’s grand finalists can only allow two more losses before their season is all but done and dusted.
Which players/combinations stood out?
MVP Kim Ravaillion was her usual calm and reliable self with a tidy three turnovers, and more goal assists than both her wing attacks combined. However the standout statistic was her six pickups, rarely seen in Super Netball. It was illustrative of the dogged approach and backing up of the team defence of Firebirds.
Bueta was a close second best for the match, showcasing her athleticism and fluid movements and pass execution. Her height, strength, and mobility meant that even when GIANTS flooded their transverse line, the Firebirds midcourt didn’t need to fret about passing the blockade, as Wallam stayed well back and allowed Bueta to offer a solid target in the goal third. From there the natural basketballing instincts of the two shooters were lovely to watch, with layups from Wallam and sizzling drives to the post from Bueta. Queensland weren’t tempted or forced into using the supershot, with 2/4 in total for the team.
Kudos must also be given to astute coaching and adjustments by the Queensland defence. Eboni Usoro-Brown in particular had a radical turnaround in form from round three against Fever, lowering penalties from 20 to 14 this match, and grabbing eight gains rather than just one on Sunday. It’s clear that she is more suited to a slighter shooter, and she has a lot of inside knowledge of playing with Harten for England for a decade.
There is also an interesting selection battle between the two goal defenders, rookie Ruby Bakewell-Doran and incumbent Kimberley Jenner. This week they got similar gains, but with Jenner true to form on 15 penalties compared to the youngster’s three. Each of them looks set to be used throughout the year as a point of difference, and it will be interesting to see how the combinations with Usoro-Brown develop.
Donnell Wallam 45/53 (85%)
Gretel Bueta 23/24 (96%)
Mia Stower 2/2 (100%)
Jo Harten 34/40 (85%)
Sophie Dwyer 19/30 (63%)
MVP: Kim Ravaillion (Firebirds)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 74 def SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 64
By Katrina Nissen
Collingwood Magpies’ fans have a new hero and her name is Nyah Allen!
The side would have been demoralised heading into Wednesday night’s match, with no wins to their name and key goal attacks Sophie Garbin and Gabi Sinclair both out for Round 4 and 5 with Covid. But they needn’t have worried as Nyah Allen was up for the challenge, helping the side to a 10 goal win against Sunshine Coast Lightning
The loss will be a major concern for the Lightning who are not used to losing this many games at the beginning of a season.
Allen has been in the Magpies’ environment for a few seasons, albeit with minimal court time, so she relished the opportunity handed to her tonight. Seemingly unphased by the weight on her shoulders, Allen calmly went about her business, and ended the game with 14/19 at 74% accuracy.
Uncharacteristic ball handling errors plagued Lightning throughout the match with every attacking team member notching a turnover. Magpies seized these opportunities scoring 79% of the gains they snatched.
The interplay between Allen and Magpies’ wing attack and MVP Kelsey Browne was often left undefended as they worked the ball into the safety of Shimona Nelson’s hands. Lightning did not have an answer for Nelson’s aerial style of game which allowed her to claim the place under the post more often than not.
At the 3/4 break, Lightning captain, Steph Wood spoke to the umpires seeking clarification on a few calls. Fox Netball sideline reporter, Kiera Trompf, noted that Wood was unhappy with some decisions and asked for extra attention to be paid in the goal circle.
During the final super shot period, Lightning introduced rookie, Reilley Batcheldor with the specific instruction to go for the 2 point goals. She drained 4/5 to cut the deficit and help her side to win one-quarter of the match.
With this loss, the Lightning now slump to an unfamiliar position at the bottom of the ladder with the worst goal percentage in the league of 80.6.
Heading into Round 4 Lightning and Magpies sit in positions 1 and 2 respectively on the negative stats chart. On average Lightning is guilty of 30 turnovers per match, followed by Magpies on 29.7. Each of these squandered opportunities will need to be addressed quickly if either team hopes to travel further up the ladder.
With the Diamonds squad to be named next week, all eyes have turned to Cara Koenan and Sophie Garbin. Both are more comfortable at goal shooter and both are having less than stellar seasons.
While both are still likely to be named in the full 2022/2023 squad, their positions in the final team headed to Commonwealth Games may be in jeopardy with head coach Stacey Marinkovich using Firebird Gretel Bueta at goal shooter in the January Quad Series.
HOW DO YOU FIX A PROBLEM LIKE THE MAGPIES?
On paper, Collingwood Magpies have all the ingredients of a premiership-winning side. They have ball winning, international talent all over the court and yet are unable to turn that into consecutive wins.
Looking at the stats, they sit third on the ladder for intercepts and second for deflections, so we can assume that the problem is not in winning the ball, but is somewhere further down the court. They’ve averaged 24 turnovers in the matches they’ve lost this year, yet in tonight’s win they only coughed up 12.
Shimona Nelswon 57/61 (93.4%)
Nyah Allen 14/19 73.7%
Sunshine Coast Lightning
Cara Koenen 32/33 97%
Steph Wood 15/24 62.5%
Reilley Batcheldor 9/12 75%
MVP – Kelsey Brown (Magpies)
NSW SWIFTS 45 def ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 44
By Georgia Doyle
Adelaide Thunderbirds came into this game looking to bounce back from their dramatic one goal loss to Lightning three days prior, while NSW Swifts were hoping to put together back to back wins after recording their first premiership points against the Magpies on Saturday. Thunderbirds reverted back to their starting seven from the beginning of the season, while Sophie Fawns earned her first start at goal shooter for Swifts.
Fawns struggled against Shamera Sterling, getting stuck behind asking for the high ball which got picked off with ease. Down the other end Sarah Klau was frustrating Lenize Potgieter, causing three offensive contacts and some missed shots under the post. The introduction of Kelly Singleton, pushing Helen Housby back to goal shooter part way through the second quarter kept Sterling quiet. Latanya Wilson’s entry to the game at goal defence sparked some excitement, but the attackers were unable to capitalise meaning Swifts had the lead by three at the main break.
The second half saw a lift in defensive intensity from both teams, with bodies flying all over the floor. It was the Swifts who possessed more composure and were able to hang on to the ball in clutch moments, keeping their noses in front the whole way. Their trademark possession netball yet again secured Swifts another win, but no doubt coach Briony Akle will be looking for a more comfortable margin when they come up against Fever next week.
Unlike in previous weeks for the Swifts, the shift of Housby back to goal shooter increased the efficiency of their attacking end. She was able to keep Sterling busy and not get caught behind as Fawns was in the first quarter. While Swifts may have thought they would miss her defensive prowess through the court, Fawns came up with an intercept in the final quarter that allowed them to maintain their lead and push on.
Both Wilson and Georgie Horjus were pulled from the court in the final quarter, when the game was in the balance. While it may have looked like an unusual move, the chance for the players to re-compose and look at the game from a different angle gave them the opportunity to re-enter the game with a spark for the final minutes. Unfortunately it was other players around them who handed the ball back to the Swifts, and the two super shots from Horjust weren’t enough to get Thunderbirds over the line.
Where the match was won and lost?
As happened for the previous week for Thunderbirds, it came down to the final moments but in this game they had been behind for the majority of the match. In the final quarter they brought a significant lift in defensive intensity which had the Swifts on edge initially but knowing they were in control of the game they stuck to their possession game that has almost become synonymous with their name.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Wilson was phenomenal at goal defence, playing against all three shooting options for Swifts collecting four gains plus 11 deflections while also only committing eight penalties. She has previously been a short term impact player, coming on for short periods to mix up the play but this season has shown her ability to play bigger minutes and get better stats.
Another strong impact player was Tayla Fraser for the Swifts, coming on the relieve co-captain Maddy Proud at wing attack who had accrued six turnovers in 30 minutes before then moving to centre for the final quarter. She brings speed, but steadiness in the attacking line and still has the ability to find prime space on the top of the circle to feed the shooters with ease. The fresh legs were also useful against a fatiguing and increasingly physical Thunderbirds defensive end.
Lenize Potgieter 32/35 (91%)
Tippah Dwan 5/9 (56%)
Georgie Horjus 5/7 (71%)
Helen Housby 23/29 (79%)
Kelly Singleton 4/6 (67%)
Sophie Fawns 8/11 (74%)
MVP: Maddy Turner (Swifts)
Nicole Richardson, Collingwood Magpies’ Head Coach
On Nyah Allen’s performance.
“She filled a massive hole. I rang her this morning to tell her she would get a starting role and to tell her to make the most of every opportunity. She definitely did that. For a young player in her first start, she stayed composed. I was a little concerned about whether she would be able to run out a full game at goal attack and she did. Super impressive. She had a good connection with Shimona. And, to have the courage to go to post on the 2 point shot in that first quarter. Just courageous.”
Tania Obst, Adelaide Thunderbirds Head Coach
On the parallels between this game and the last
“I suppose it’s probably more disappointment for the girls because they’re busting their boiler at training and in the games and it’s really disappointing that we just shoot ourselves in the foot early in the game which then makes it get really tight at the end”
On how to bounce back from the two losses after a strong start
“I don’t think our form has wavered too much, we’ve actually played some pretty good netball and our statistics, while some of them aren’t great, the majority are around the mark. This is a world class netball competition and no game is a given and every game is gonna be played on its merits. It’s about us going back and seeing how we can keep improving and make it easier for ourselves towards the end of the game rather than having to slog it out like that”
Briony Akle, NSW Swifts Head Coach
On how the game played out
“I just said to my team we can grind this out, it’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be messy but whatever that feels like just embrace it”
On her new look shooting end
“Helen showed really amazing leadership out there…to be able to have our babies [Sophie Fawns & Kelly Singleton] out there and to do what they did, with Sophie getting that little tip at the end well that turned out to be kinda crucial. I’m just happy with them”
(Team / Pld / Pts / %)
Melbourne Vixens. 4. 16. 113.42%
West Coast Fever. 4. 12. 113.46%
Queensland Firebirds. 4. 8. 110.77%
Adelaide Thunderbirds. 4. 8. 107.9%
NSW Swifts. 4.8. 102.3%
Collingwood Magpies. 4. 4. 91.63%
GIANTS Netball. 4. 4, 85.43%
Sunshine Coast Lightning. 4. 4. 80.62%
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
Sat 16 April 5pm – Lightning v Vixens
Sat 16 April 7pm – GIANTS v Magpies
Sun 17 April 12pm – Fever v Swifts (2pm AEST)
Sun 17 April 4pm – Firebirds v Thunderbirds