Contributors: Andrew Kennedy, Katrina Nissen, Jenny Sinclair.
Photographers: Clinton Bradbury, Danny Dalton, Simon Leonard.
Sunshine Coast Lightning 71 def Melbourne Vixens 58 (16-18, 17-13, 24-14, 14-13)
GIANTS Netball 76 def Collingwood Magpies 61 (21-13, 16-18, 19-15, 20-15)
West Coast Fever 76 def NSW Swifts 58 (20-19, 20-17, 14-11, 22-11)
Queensland Firebirds 60 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 50 (17-11, 15-12, 10-17, 18-10)
The call we were dreading came on Saturday morning, as the Collingwood Magpies had another two athletes confirmed with Covid. This time it was the league’s most experienced athlete, Geva Mentor and midcourt dynamo Molly Jovic who tested positive. They joined goal attack duo Sophie Garbin and Gabbi Sinclair in isolation. And, despite Magpies management petitioning the league for a reschedule, they were denied. The next battle, how do you replace 327 caps of experience?
Once again Magpies drew on Nyah Allen to fill the goal attack void left by Garbin. They also called in training partner Zoe Davis to replace Jovic, and Melbourne Vixens’ training partner Gabby Coffey to replace Mentor. Both athletes got court time with Davies getting 25 mins against English international, Jo Harten.
Round 5 was also memorable for other reasons – the 8th placed team beating the first, all four matches being won by a margin of ten or more goals, and Swifts potting 12 supershots, as Helen Housby equalled the league record for the highest individual number of supershots.
When she stepped onto the court in the third quarter of Saturday night’s match, Gabby Coffey become the third First Nations player in Suncorp Super Netball. Despite not representing her own club (on loan to Collingwood Magpies from Melbourne Vixens) Coffey relished the opportunity and will be hoping for more opportunities in this Covid ridden season.
Most goals – Jhaniele Fowler 60/63 (95%), Jo Harten 50/50 (100%)
Most intercepts – Shamera Sterling (6), Courtney Bruce (5), Kate Walsh (4)
Most feeds – Kim Ravaillion (38, with 23 goal assists), Laura Scherian (36)
Most turnovers – Verity Simmons (8), Ravaillion, Dwan, Browne, all on 7
Adelaide Thunderbirds were looking to stay in the top four, but lead in a regrettable statistic. With 11 turnovers in the first quarter and 30 for the match, their errant plays marked the highest for any team for any quarter and any game this year. Their troubles were due to their centre position, as missed connections on passes, catches, and feeds failed to reward the ample twelve gains from Shamera Sterling, also a season-high tally.
The next most turnovers is ten by Collingwood Magpies in round one and Sunshine Coast Lightning in round four. In contrast, Lightning strode back to their winning ways, with zero turnovers in the third quarter this round, which is the unique best for 2022, dominating that quarter 24-14.
Break out performance of the round
Round five saw one of the greatest shooting performances in Suncorp Super Netball history, with Jo Harten nailing 48/48 in regular time and 2/2 supershots for 100% accuracy. Sadly this led to her normally outstanding rebound stat sitting at zero, as her teammate Sophie Dwyer only obliged with three misses herself! At 96.1%, they have the best combined team shooting in one match for season 2022, with a close second the Magpies at 93.3% in round three. It’s worth noting GIANTS also have the poorest shooting for a match, 61.8% in round 2, due to hitting 9/20 supershots.
The only other goaler with perfect stats this year is Rahni Samason with 15/15 in round one, but playing only 30 minutes. Several other athletes have managed 98-100% in one-point play but not overall – notably Jhaniele Fowler with 64/64 in round one, and Mwai Kumwenda, Shimona Nelson, Sophie Garbin and Gretel Bueta. However it was the poise over an entire 60 minutes that made us notice that the England Roses stalwart Harten has come back to her best form.
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 71 def MELBOURNE VIXENS 58
In a David vs Goliath upset, 8th placed Sunshine Coast Lightning outplayed ladder leaders Melbourne Vixens in a stunning victory for the home side. It was a lack lustre outing from the Vixens, with even their supershot queens, who only hit 6/12, failing to save them from defeat.
Lightning coach Kylee Bryne ran with an unchanged line up throughout, with individual winners all over the court. As a result the team looked far more settled than previous efforts, where a ‘bibs in the air’ approach was in play as Lightning looked to nail down their new look team.
Australian goal attacks have been posting some big numbers this season, and Steph Wood didn’t disappoint. Looking to have finally thrown off the impact of Covid, she put through 21 goals at 87%, and was busy around the attacking third as she helped to set up play.
Where was the match won and lost?
While the Vixens took the first quarter, it was their only significant win of the game. Once Sunshine Coast Lightning adjusted to their new look line, they took control of the match, particularly in their high scoring third quarter.
Treasuring the ball is an age old cliche in sport, but for Lightning, it worked. They were able to convert 82% of their gains into goals, while the Vixens’ abysmal rate of just 33% hurt their chances.
The Vixens ran through their bench to try and stem Lightning’s flood into attack, making so many changes that by the end of the game they had just one player – Kiera Austin – in the same position as the first quarter.
What players/combinations stood out?
Mahalia Cassidy was immensely influential, limiting supremo Liz Watson’s influence to just 25 feeds and 15 centre pass receives, well down on her season average of 39 and 25 respectively.
She was helped by the strong defensive efforts of Maddie Hinchliffe, who ran at centre all day, was immense in applying arms over pressure, and put in 34 circle feeds on attack.
Cara Koenen and Steph Wood collectively had their best games in some time, but the star of the show was Laura Scherian. Given far too much room to move, she used her speed around court to control play, put beautifully weighted passes into her shooters, and was far too elusive for either of her opponents.
Jo Weston came away with three gains for the Vixens, but like most of her side, didn’t win the battle for ascendancy over her opponent.
Cara Koenen 45/49 (92%)
Steph Wood 21/24 (87%)
Mwai Kumwenda 31/33 (94%)
Kiera Austin 17/22 (77%)
Rahni Samason 4/7 (57%)
MVP: Steph Wood (Lightning)
GIANTS NETBALL 76 def COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 61
By Andrew Kennedy
It was do or die for both teams, desperate to resuscitate their season from the bottom half of the ladder. Magpies were faltering even before the first whistle, with Garbin, Sinclair, Jovic, and worst of all Geva Mentor, all out due to COVID protocols. GIANTS piled pressure on the Collingwood rookies, exposing gaps in timing, height, and experience, and dictating play throughout the match. While captain Jo Harten gave a career-best 50/50, her cool demeanor and leadership added extra cream to the thorough performance.
Harten built on her solid performance last week with only two turnovers, and confining herself to her main job of sinking goals. She stayed in the circle and was brilliantly calm, finding space with dazzling ease – all due to patience and holding of space against less experienced opposition. This in turn created room for Sophie Dwyer and Maddie Hay to mix up angles, confusing the Magpies defence, and slicing through huge spaces left by novices Zoe Davies and Gabi Coffey.
The GIANTS team defence and transition was a feature, with two or more intercepts from Dwyer, Hay, Amy Parmenter, and Tilly McDonell. They doubled the Magpies’ total gains, and converted any possession at a smart 76%, from turnovers, centre passes, and gains. Reminiscent of 2021, each player was switched on for the entire match, working in both attack and defence, always pouncing on confused moments of their opponents. This was due equally to their players strengthening after COVID and to good coaching with simplified game plans delivering the goods. Jamie-Lee Price in particular showed a return to form with her casual flair making a welcome reappearance.
Where the match was won and lost?
Collingwood were stuck between a rock and a hard place, wondering how to best place their midcourt without the steady head of youngster Molly Jovic. Unfortunately, the start of Maggie Lind at wing attack was unfruitful. She dominated centre pass receives, but then failed to penetrate at all on second and third phase, being very slow to change direction and drive to circle edge. She not only turned the ball over too often, but took star feeder Kelsey Browne away from the circle whilst playing centre. The third quarter was just as fuzzy, with Brazill in centre and Browne in wing attack, simply not firing. Browne was not without sin, beating all players on court with seven turnovers.
Equal problems rested with the shooters. Nyah Allen at times positioned herself well and released the ball quickly to Shimon Nelson, but on the whole the damage was done with the poor hands on the take from both players. Nelson has taken years and not yet learned to dictate space against much smaller opponents, and victory was handed over too easily to McDonell.
Magpies also suffered without Geva Mentor at goal keeper. Jacqui Newton has been a ball-winner at goal defence coming off the bench in seasons 2021 and 2022, but in this game was left wanting against the massive experience and intelligence of Harten. Swapping on junior players made matters easier for the Roses goal shooter, showing how vital Mentor is as an anchor for Collingwood, and how badly they need to develop options at the back. Coach Richardson will need more work on making her goal keepers more sticky and better with covering the baseline to cover Mentor’s cunning.
Which players/combinations stood out?
GIANTS’ captain Jo Harten was the perfect balance of electricity and calm. Building from last week, her holding of space was far too secure for her rookie opponents to read, as she hit 50/50 and made only two turnovers. With Harten staying well back in the circle, there was ample space for goal attack and MVP Sophie Dwyer to change angles and feed. Their beautiful combination from 2021 suddenly woke up from hibernation in this match, as the young veteran found the English superstar on 19 goal assists. Their consistency will be vital to bringing their team back into contention for another grand final appearance.
Jo Harten 50/50 (100%)
Sophie Dwyer 23/26 (89%)
Shimona Nelson 48/51 (94%)
Nyah Allen 10/16 (63%)
MVP: Sophie Dwyer (GIANTS)
WEST COAST FEVER 76 def NSW SWIFTS 58
By Jenny Sinclair
*Originally published for Fox Netball
Three games, three states, a case of Covid and numerous frequent flyer points later – West Coast Fever returned to RAC Arena and the rapturous Green Army to grind down the defending premiers, NSW Swifts by 18.
With last round’s fatigue-driven defeat by the Vixens parked in the out tray – a file to review but not forget – it was an amped up, if messy, performance that saw them move back to the top of the ladder.
NSW Swifts swung a surprise selection with Teigan O’Shannassy in goal keeper and Sarah Klau at goal defence, adding height to manage the Jhaniele Fowler challenge.
Both defensive ends were on the hunt early, but it was Helen Housby’s hot hand with the supershot, and some uncharacteristic handling errors by Fever and particularly Fowler, that kept the Swifts in the game. By half time the visiting team had potted nine supershots, keeping them just four points adrift of Fever.
In a close checking game, both teams struggled for depth in transition, although when they were able to move the ball with blistering speed, goals dropped far more smoothly. Fever’s smothering defence was at its best in the second half, although the level of turnover ball handed to the opposition wouldn’t have pleased either coach.
Courtney Bruce played a magnificent captain’s game, single handedly coming up with 13 of Fever’s 21 gains, while it was one of Sunday Aryang’s best games in some time. Jess Anstiss had the unenviable job of covering both Paige Hadley and Maddy Proud at wing defence, and kept them each quieter than usual.
After a game to forget midweek, Swifts’ co-captain Maddy Proud fought to the end, while Maddy Turner played a strong shut down role at wing defence. Helen Housby finished with 10 supershots, although her eye deserted her in the second half.
ONLY IN THE WILD, WILD WEST
The Perth Orioles/West Coast Fever are celebrating 25 years in the business with Heritage Round, and now play at what many rate as the best netball stadium in Australia. However long time technical official Helen Robinson has vivid memories of less salubrious surroundings. Their time at the previous stadium included a leaking roof that caused a game to be abandoned, a dead animal found under one of the seats, and netball’s only streaker.
Copping the full monty at close range, former captain Caitlin Bassett said, “It was just after I shot a goal, so the camera was on my face saying, “What the f***” as he skipped past me, straight across the court, and out the back door.”
I’M STILL STANDING
Like Elton John’s anthem, Fever goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler is still on her feet and looking better than she ever did. Rated as the world’s best in her position, continuing to improve, and shooting at 97% accuracy this year, she’s an automatic target for goal keepers the world over. A range of physical – and some highly dubious – tactics have been tried against her, and coach Dan Ryan said pregame, while she is capable of handling it, there is a need to support her.
“She is essentially beaten up week to week with the strategies teams use to counteract her.
“We’ve made a slight shift with better engagement from our goal attacks, and better decision making around when to put the long ball in and when to work the pass to get closer to circle.”
THE DIFFERENCE IS IN THE DETAILS
Coming into Round 5, Fever had pulled in a total of 55 gains (average of 14 per match), compared to the Swifts 40 (10 per match). In today’s match Fever also led the way, with 22 gains to the Swift’s nine.
There was also a significant difference in conversion rate – with Fever sitting on a season average of just 67.3% gains to goals, while the Swifts are on a disappointing 55%. Once again, neither team made the most of their opportunities, with Fever converting just 68% to the Swifts’ poorly 33%.
Jhaniele Fowler 60/63 (95%)
Sasha Glasgow 9/17 (53%)
Helen Housby 29/40 (72%)
Kelly Singleton 12/16 (75%)
Sophie Fawns 5/7 (71%)
MVP: Courtney Bruce (Fever)
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 60 def ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 50
By Katrina Nissen
*originally published for Fox Netball
The Queensland Firebirds have claimed outright third position on the ladder with a hard-fought 10 goal win over the lively Adelaide Thunderbirds.
Despite being held to their lowest score of the season the Firebirds withstood a third-quarter charge from the Thunderbirds, who were handed their third straight loss of the season.
Any goal circle which has Shamera Sterling and MVP Gretel Bueta is going to have showmanship and entertainment and that was definitely the case throughout the match. It was messy and it was scrappy but that’s to be expected with tired bodies after playing 3 matches in 7 days.
The frenetic first half saw turnovers a-plenty. But it was the Thunderbirds who gave away nearly twice as many as the home side with their 15 unforced errors. But surprisingly the Firebirds didn’t capitalise on those easy opportunities, only scoring off 50% of them.
At halftime, former Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson said that her side talked about building pressure and creating turnovers. She promised ‘more of the same with a little more punch’ in the second half, but her side failed to deliver as they continued the trend of lacklustre third quarters.
Partway through the term, Firebirds introduced Kim Jenner to the match hoping to give a spark. However, the experienced defender proved costly, giving away 6 penalties in the circle, some of which were in the super shot zone and were capitalised on by Tippah Dwan and Georgie Horjus.
The home side returned to their starting seven for the final term and ended with an 18-10 flurry to secure their first win on home soil for 2022.
WALLAM V STERLING
One of the most anticipated matchups of Round 5: the battle of the second-highest volume goaler in the league versus the leading defensive rebounder. Shamera Sterling came into this match after producing one of her best matches of the 2022 season, while Wallam had experienced one of her toughest battles. In this encounter, Sterling took the cake. Her impeccable footwork and bodywork allowed her to collect 12 gains for the match.
THUNDERBIRDS’ HARD ROAD AHEAD
Today’s match is the first of three tough rounds for the Thunderbirds. In Round 6 they hit the road again to face Melbourne Vixens, who will be licking their wounds after a Round 5 loss, then return home to take on table-toppers West Coast Fever in Round 7.
The Thunderbirds will need to secure a win in one of these matches if they hope to stay in touch with the top 4. However, if history is anything to go by, it will take a Herculean effort.
A CAPTAIN’S GAME
In 2022 we’ve seen some solid ‘captain’s games’ from Kim Ravaillion and Hannah Petty.
Ravaillion is new to captaincy this year but has already shown she is one to lead by example. She has claimed MVP honours twice this season for her tireless work in defence and high workload in attack. Her court smarts and ability to clear the mess has proven effective in creating space for her attacking athletes.
Since making the move back to wing defence this season, Petty has been in, arguably, career best form. In the first two rounds, she led by example collecting several gains as her side notched convincing wins.
The Adelaide Thunderbirds have the most potent defensive unit in the league, collecting 19 gains in this match. However, their 30 turnovers let the side down, particularly in their attack end. Their worst offender was Tippah Dwan who notched 7 for the match.
The Firebirds weren’t much better, giving away 24 turnovers, with captain Kim Ravaillion responsible for 7 turnovers.
With the battle for a top four place so tight, both sides will need to address this quickly.
Donnell Wallam 30/37 81.1%
Gretel Bueta 26/28 92.9%
Lenize Potgieter 20/23 87%
Tippah Dwan 18/27 66.7%
Georgie Horjus 6/8 75%
MVP: Gretel Bueta (Firebirds)
West Coast Fever. 4. 16. 116.67%
Melbourne Vixens. 4. 16. 105.96%
Queensland Firebirds. 4. 12. 112.26%
Adelaide Thunderbirds. 4. 8. 102%
NSW Swifts. 4. 8. 95.58%
GIANTS Netball. 4. 8. 93.18%
Sunshine Coast Lightning. 4. 8. 87.61%
Collingwood Magpies. 4. 4. 89.09%
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 23 April 5pm NSW Swifts v Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday 23 April 7pm Melbourne Vixens v Adelaide Thunderbirds
Sunday 24 April 2pm Queensland Firebirds v Collingwood Magpies
Sunday 24 April 4pm GIANTS Netball v West Coast Fever