Contributors: Jenny Sinclair, Andrew Kennedy, Georgia Doyle, Cara Gledhill, Katrina Nissen, Ian Harkin.
Photographers: Marcela Massey, Kirsten Daley
Queensland Firebirds 73 def New South Wales Swifts 60 (15-14, 20-13, 20-15, 18-18)
Adelaide Thunderbirds 51 def by West Coast Fever 60 (13-16, 12-18, 12-16, 14-10)
GIANTS Netball 82 def Sunshine Coast Lightning 54 (19-13, 18-11, 26-14,19-16)
Collingwood Magpies 70 def Melbourne Vixens 60 (17-13, 16-15, 19-14, 18-18)
The aftermath of last week’s incidents between Sunshine Coast Lightning’s player Kate Walsh and Swifts’ Sophie Fawns continue to rumble. It was revealed midweek that Walsh had been subjected to a considerable amount of trolling, and Netball Australia released a strongly worded statement condemning the actions.
Congratulations to Michelle Phippard, Jenny Doll and Kirrily Zimmerman who were recognised for their contribution to netball at yesterday’s Melbourne match. Phippard retired recently as one of Australia’s most loved and decorated umpires, Zimmerman retired after 14 years on the Netball Victoria board including her recent term as President, while Doll received Netball Victoria Life Membership for her years of work as an umpire manager.
Collingwood Magpies wore black armbands in memory of Coral Sahlberg, who was a life member of Netball Victoria and contributed to netball over many years as an umpire and coach. Coral passed away this week aged 85 years, and we extend our sympathy to her family.
Netball Victoria unveiled the Ingles Family Sensory Room, a certified sensory facility for people attending Vixens’ home games. What a wonderful and much needed initiative.
Prior to this season, no Australian team had scored more than 80 goals in a national league match. It has now happened three times this season already. Incredibly, on three separate occasions, Sunshine Coast Lightning have been on the receiving end as Fever, Firebirds, and now GIANTS have all scored 82 goals against them. It must be pointed out however, that without the help of super shots, these scores would “only” have been 78, 76 and 70.
Penalties continue to be a hot topic in the Australian league, averaging around a massive 120 per game. It’s unclear what the cause is, but contributing factors could include Covid and midweek match induced weariness, an alignment to international standards, and the number of relatively inexperienced umpires in the league who are still getting up to speed with Suncorp Super Netball.
Coach Kylee Byrne spoke of her frustration midgame, after the Lightning were whistled an incredible 72 penalties in their match, including 29 in the second quarter alone compared to the Giants seven.
Nevertheless, it’s the responsibility of players and coaches to adjust accordingly.
Most goals – 56/65 Donnell Wallam (Firebirds v Swifts)
Most supershots – 8/8 Sophie Dwyer (GIANTS v Lightning)
Most intercepts – 4 Ruby Bakewell-Doran (Firebirds v Swifts) & Sarah Klau (Swifts v Firebirds)
Most gains – 9 April Brandley (GIANTS v Lightning)
Most feeds – 47 Liz Watson (Vixens v Magpies)
Most turnovers – 7 Lara Dunkley (Firebirds v Swifts)
Rahni Samason (Vixens) – knee injury
Kate Walsh (Lightning) – left the court in the 4th quarter after a ankle tweak
Mahalia Cassidy (Lightning) – looked to sustain a knock to the head in the 4th quarter and opted to leave the court which is very unlike the competitive centre.
Break out performance of the round
Firebirds young defender, Ruby Bakewell-Doran collected her second MVP for the season in their match against NSW Swifts. The youngster appeared to get under Swifts goal attack, Helen Housby’s skin early in the match. Bakewell-Doran played with maturity knowing when to be on the body and where play off the body. She matched Housby for speed and elevation and her pressure over the line paid dividends when she eventually outpaced the English international for the centre pass. But most impressive is Bakewell-Doran’s ability to stay in play. She collected a tidy eight penalties for the match which is nothing considering she collected five gains and got six deflections. Surely, this performance will have national selectors finding a spot for her.
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 73 def NSW SWIFTS 60
By Andrew Kennedy
Making a powerful statement to all finals contenders, the Firebirds put together a complete team performance, each player outdoing their Swifts opponent consistently. The first term was a bizarre feast of turnovers from both, a total of 23 in 15 minutes making a new Suncorp Super Netball record. Even though English Rose Helen Housby regained her poise and played a striking game, there was no way she could win it on her own. Opposing goal defence, rookie Ruby Bakewell-Doran, showed her raw athleticism and anticipation to complement Eboni Usoro-Brown and win player of the match. The result sees Queensland consolidate third place on the ladder with a formidable goal difference of 110%, while last year’s premiers Swifts were relegated to last.
Queensland have started to purr in attack of late, with the three prongs of Gretel Bueta, Lara Dunkley, and Kim Ravaillion all able to either dominate or assist their teammates to take the lead. Bueta especially is relishing the new combination with fellow basketballer, Donnell Wallam. Bueta can deliver a run-on jump pass from anywhere, and Wallam has the instincts to catch them, even behind or off balance. Their combined shooting of 72/82 at 88% was excellent, but they also retrieved nine rebounds to the Swifts defensive total of one, effectively converting 99% of attempts. Dunkley is growing more each week, taking more ownership of the circle edge and also delivering on defence.
Coach Megan Anderson commented, “Pre-match I said, you’ve gotta be accountable for your own job, but we have to do it for each other. That was key for us tonight – everybody contributing in their own way but enhancing the player beside them. As the game wore on, we saw people complementing each other, letting someone shine for five minutes, and when Swifts shut that down, we’d let someone else shine. The ebb and flow of the game, and how we controlled it was really good.”
The midcourt defence of Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson troubled the experienced Swifts, especially Paige Hadley, who had one goal assist and four turnovers in the first twelve minutes before she was benched, to re-enter after some focused coaching. Swifts, who have struggled with rhythm and options ever since leading goaler Sam Wallace was injured, shuffled feeders and shooters with limited effect. Sophie Fawns was admirably covered by the veteran Usoro-Brown, who has really found form in recent weeks by staying circle-bound and learning the timing of her Super Netball opposition.
Where the match was won and lost?
Twelve turnovers for Swifts and eleven for Firebirds had the crowd scratching their heads, whilst the coaches put it down to focusing on the outcome rather than processes. Neither team truly got on top of errors, both totalling 26 for the match. However, Firebirds’ conversion from Swifts’ turnover kept the tide turned to the hosts. They were patient and organised, but also capable of using a longer ball to Bueta or Wallam to relieve pressure, with 17/20 making it to a goal. New South Wales languished with only 38% of turnovers used effectively.
The tenacity and focus of Queensland should be an intimidating signal to other teams. “When we’re on song and playing our own game, I think we’re pretty hard to stop,” said Anderson. “But it takes a lot of effort, and players have to be aware that it takes that much effort every single game, that’s the level we need to play at.”
Which players/combinations stood out?
Kudos must be paid to Housby, who delivered a strong, calm, and classy performance. Her drives were incisive and her choice and delivery of pass was simple and sharp, although this curtailed her normal flair and creativity. Outside the ring, Maddy Proud showed her guts with 25 goal assists, more than half of her team total, and a best-on-ground Nissan Net Points total of 105. These two lead by example and gave New South Wales every chance to stay in the battle and keep the new players’ heads up.
Wallam 56/65 (86%)
Bueta 16/17 (94%)
Housby 32/38 (84%)
Fawns 15/21 (71%)
Singleton 7/11 (64%)
MVP: Ruby Bakewell-Doran (Firebirds)
WEST COAST FEVER 60 def ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 51
by Georgia Doyle
This clash is always headlined by the match-up between the Jamaican superstars, Jhaniele Fowler for Fever and Shamera Sterling for Thunderbirds. In the early part of the game Sterling was strong to the ball, finding good position on Fowler to force turnovers. Thunderbirds had one of their better games for turnover conversion, managing to score from 80% of their gained ball – a season best.
Thunderbirds welcomed back Lenize Potgieter, returning from a knee niggle that saw her miss the previous game against Melbourne Vixens. She spent some time on the bench during the match, which is presumed to be load management because for the majority of the game she was getting the best of Courtney Bruce with her strong hold, fast footwork and connection with her fellow attackers. Fever also enjoyed the return of Sasha Glasgow and Jess Anstiss from COVID, with both starting on the bench, before entering at half time, giving Emma Cosh her first start at goal attack allowing Alice Teague-Neeld to continue her impressive work at wing attack.
It was a measured game for the most part, with Fever never really needing to step out of second gear. Their defensive end were kept quiet by their standards, with Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang only collecting seven gains, with four of these coming from rebounds. The work of Stacey Francis-Bayman out the front at wing defence forced lots of errors that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, while also forcing many feeds from off the circle edge. Fever had the edge throughout the game, with their attacking firepower proving too strong even against the best defensive team in the league who left their run a little too late and struggled to gain momentum with several changes to the line up throughout the match.
Both wing attacks had dominant performances this game, against some quality wing defences. Alice Teague-Neeld continues to enjoy her recent transition out of the circle, capitalising on her strong connection with Fowler, her creative play making skills all while enjoying the decreased pressure of not having to worry about putting up shots for goal.
In this match she had a phenomenal 40 feeds, of which 25 lead to an attempt, while also dominating centre pass receives. She came up against Thunderbirds captain Hannah Petty, who is in career best form having made the move back to wing defence this season. She was only able to manage one gain and two deflections in this game, while also not having the shut down role often praised at wing defence.
Elle McDonald also had a strong outing, notching up a full 60 minutes at wing attack. She dominated feeds, goal assists and second phase receives, and only had two turnovers. She has been pushing for a starting position over the last few weeks, and rewarded coach Tania Obst with the decision in this match. This also allowed Horjus to play out the match at goal attack, showcasing her court craft and work rate, taking what seemed like every second pass in the attacking third setting up all those around her.
Where the match was won and lost?
Thunderbirds continue to lack the attacking firepower to match it with the best, they didn’t score more than 14 in a quarter and against the highest scoring team in the league that just doesn’t cut it – this isn’t for lack of ball supply, with Sterling providing ample turnover ball for conversion, with six in this game. There is a breakdown in the attacking end that isn’t giving the Thunderbirds attackers enough opportunity to put score on the board. Georgie Horjus was often stuck outside the circle, facilitating play rather than getting in the circle to take away attention from Potgieter. Not only does this delay goal scoring, but the more passes are made outside the circle, the more opportunity for a turnover.
Contrastingly Fever, Fowler in particular, continue to showcase their attacking prowess – although this was their lowest score for the season, highlighting the defensive impact Thunderbirds continue to have on their opposition. In previous years where Fowler has arguably been their only approach to goal, this year new coach Dan Ryan has reinvented the attacking end with three viable goal attack options – two of which got a run in this match. While Glasgow was off on her accuracy, only shooting 3/7 her court craft is improving as she continues to make the transition from her traditional position of goal shooter
Which players/combinations stood out?
Cosh was strong in her outing at goal attack for Fever, while not a position that is unfamiliar, having played most of her junior career there, at the Suncorp Super Netball level she has racked up the majority of her minutes at wing attack. She had strong movement in the attacking third, holding defenders accountable so they couldn’t double back of Fowler. Even when Thunderbirds defenders opted to double team Fowler and isolate Cosh as the ball carrier outside the circle, the speed and strength of the Fever mid-court enabled them to reset the ball and open up Fowler, or give Cosh the opportunity for a quick one-two pass into the circle where she nailed 5/6 of her shots, most of which were from considerable distance.
Potgieter had a strong return from her week off managing a knee niggle. She started well against Bruce, finding easy space along the baseline while Bruce was caught with her eyes down or out hunting, allowing direct ball to be delivered to Potgieter under the post. Thunderbirds opted for the shorter, moving circle during the power five period of the second, third and fourth quarters forcing Potgieter to the bench in favour of Tippah Dwan at goal shooter. While this allowed them more opportunity to take super shots, when the feeders are unable to get the ball to players in this part of the court it doesn’t do much good.
Potgieter 23/24 (96%)
Horjus 14/19 (74%)
Dwan 7/10 (70%)
Fowler 50/51 (98%)
Cosh 5/6 (83%)
Glasgow 3/7 (43%)
MVP: Jhaniele Fowler (Fever)
GIANTS NETBALL 82 def SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 54
By Andrew Kennedy
In the second State of Origin fixture for round seven, a packed parochial Sunshine Coast crowd were egged on by an 11-8 start for their side, courtesy of turnovers from the GIANTS and nine straight goals from new talent Riley Batcheldor. However, a timeout before the first power five was enough for the visitors to breathe and readdress their game plan, and they came out all guns blazing. Winning the rest of the game 74-43 and sinking 12/16 supershots, they equalled the Suncorp Super Netball record tally, and delivered one of the most complete team games of 2022. Lightning were left to lament the COVID absence of Cara Koenen, now needing to win six of their last seven games to avoid missing finals for the first time in club history.
Match MVP April Brandley had already inscribed her name on the trophy in the first 30 minutes. The excellent planning and research by GIANTS coaching staff were evident, as Brandley perfectly pushed opposing captain Steph Wood to the limit, causing her to turn the ball over five times, and taking seven rebounds, more than the entire Lightning team.
Brandley, whilst not aware of her own stats, showed great respect for Wood after the win – “she’s such a play-maker,, so it was important to make her work hard as she can work. If you give her space she’s going to control that whole [attack] end, because she’s a very smart player…. Anything up in the air we were ready for, and blocking out is really important. It’s just nice to be in the air and not see a pair of hands come over the top of you which we normally see! I wasn’t particularly focusing on rebounds, we were just getting up to them and focusing on the contest which made a really big difference.”
Lightning coach Kylee Byrne saw this as the visitors shutting down connecting passes – “when you’ve got someone very different from a Cara [Koenen], who in [the past 3-4 games] has really stood up and been that release, when that’s taken away there’s something different to work with… Getting [Riley Batcheldor] out there and learning a totally different style of play, what this competition’s about, she’ll be better for that.”
GIANTS attack had another brilliant week. After being caught out racing against Mahalia Cassidy, GIANTS wing attack Maddie Hay was advised to hang back much later and much further. This gave Price huge space to drive the ball through, and in turn let Hay, Sophie Dwyer, and Jo Harten dictate the spaces they wanted. Hay was seen more often at the top of the circle, captain Harten smartly used her core strength and left-hand grabs to leave the opponents scrambling, and Dwyer continued her rapid improvements to dominate with last minute cuts along the baseline.
The shining light for Lightning was goal keeper Tara Hinchliffe, whose five gains acknowledged the effort her teammates were exerting. Laura Scherian also did her level best, keeping Amy Parmenter safely on her back the whole game and finding space on long drives and dodges, keeping the GIANTS wing defence to an uncharacteristically quiet zero gains.
Post-match Hinchliffe said, “I think me getting [so many] gains means the team WERE functioning, playing keeper at the back you don’t win that ball unless you’ve got everyone out there doing their job. For me, in games where it’s tough and you’ve got people hurting, I want to stand up and protect them. That was my motivation today.”
Where the match was won and lost?
Sunshine Coast coach Kylee Byrne was frustrated post-match that her plan to come around the body of static GIANTS attackers using fast feet was derailed by a lopsided amount of umpire intervention. Her team was out of play 71 times to the visitors 48, with the midcourters Cassidy and Maddie Hinchliffe particularly expensive with 11 contacts each. Price and Hay seemed able to smartly hold off their players by holding still and economically fending off challenges.
Byrne reflected on the problems matching up against a team with different game plan and speed. “We didn’t [overcome their defensive style] at all, and we actually had worked on that during the week, how they take a lot of ball stationary. We felt we could take ball, move around the body to contest or gain the ball. When that was taken away from us we backpedalled a bit. That’s something we’ll look at this week, if it’s a completely different style to what we’re used to training and playing against, to make sure we’ve got all the tools and skills to combat that.”
Which players/combinations stood out?
Dwyer upped the ante once more during the power five periods. With 5/6 two-pointers in round six, this week she dropped in 8/8, along with her 22/25 one-pointers and twelve goal assists. Harten was no slouch, with 95% from regular range and 50% from the supershot arc. The whole front four of Julie Fitzgerald’s charges are firing at once, and they look set to romp up the ladder in the second half of the year.
Harten 38/43 (88%)
Dwyer 30/33 (91%)
Letherbarrow 2/3 (67%)
Batcheldor 25/30 (83%)
Wood 20/27 (74%)
Lee-Jones 2/4 (50%)
MVP: April Brandley (GIANTS)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 70 DEF MELBOURNE VIXENS 60
By Cara Gledhill
The Collingwood Magpies made an emphatic statement at the Melbourne derby, claiming victory by ten goals over a COVID and injury-depleted Melbourne Vixens side. The Vixens were without their usual starting wing defence in Kate Eddy, whilst midcourter Hannah Mundy was also ruled out under COVID health and safety protocols. Sharp shooter Rahni Samason was also ruled out with a knee complaint. Jo Weston started the game in wing defence, with Emily Mannix taking the goal defence bib and Olivia Lewis given the job at goal keeper.
The Magpies employed blistering through court defence across the game. A box defence was used on the Vixens centre pass multiple times to good effect, restricting any easy access to goal. The work of the Magpies midcourt was key to this, with all players effectively cutting off access to the circle edge and Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward able to pick up the off-target feeds which resulted.
In attack, the Magpies shut the Vixens defence out of the game at times, using long and rangy bounce passes in the attacking third to excellent effect. This allowed Kelsey Browne and Molly Jovic, who were burning their direct opponents for speed, to run onto the ball, drawing the defenders away from the middle channel to allow the feed into Shimona Nelson. The aerial work of Nelson over Olivia Lewis who boasts one of the highest vertical jumps in the competition was also impressive. She took the ball strongly throughout the game under relentless pressure from the Vixens defence, who were often doubling back on her.
Where the match was won and lost?
The Magpies never looked like losing the control they had over the game from the opening whistle and pressed their advantage, winning all but the drawn fourth quarter. Nicole Richardson made the big call to bench goal attack Sophie Garbin partway through the second quarter, after she turned over the ball six times to that point. This was a key moment in the game, as the Magpies were able to adjust to the change and extend their advantage with Gabby Sinclair shooting well from distance and slotting into the Magpies attack seamlessly.
The Vixens attempted to make several runs at the Magpies during supershot periods, but were unable to eat into the margin, shooting at just 42% from supershot range.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Kelsey Browne continued her strong recent form withstanding the long armed reach of Jo Weston to finish the game on 25 goal assists, 21 centre pass receives, three gains and just a single turnover. She used her speed time and time again to burn off Weston and then training partner Sharni Lambden and controlled the attack for the Magpies with finesse.
The combination between Browne and Jovic continues to grow, with both able to outpace their direct opponents and deliver pinpoint feeds to Nelson, often a fair distance from the circle edge.
The defence from the Magpies continues to be a highlight, with Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward a constant thorn in the side of the Vixens attack. Ash Brazill had a statistically quiet game, but was instrumental in transitioning the ball through court for the Magpies and holding Liz Watson off her favoured circle edge position.
Mwai Kumwenda 36/47 (77%)
Kiera Austin 16/23 (70%)
Shimona Nelson 48/51 (94%)
Gabrielle Sinclair 10/14 (71%)
Sophie Garbin 9/10 (90%)
MVP: Kelsey Browne (Magpies)
Firebirds coach Megan Anderson speaking about Lara Dunkley’s form: It’s consistent court time, and she’s just one of those players that gets out there and gives it 110 percent, and she believes in herself this year. That belief has allowed her to step out on court and own every single game she takes.
She has such a good connection with Gretel [Bueta], and she feeds Donnell [Wallam] beautifully. She’s going from strength to strength and she’s safe with the ball, and defensively she really helps shut down the transition.”
Megan Anderson, about how to develop her new and different players.
“Last week she [Wallam] had a lot of stuff going on in her head, especially with Diamonds selection. We just said, just do your job in the circle, we will get the ball to you. It will make your job easier, play to your strengths, use your hold in the circle. She’s had no pathway experience at all, she’s soaking it up and loving it.
[In contrast for Ruby Bakewell-Doran] she’s been waiting in the wings for a year or so. She’s brought such a competitive vibe to our environment! You see how fast and fit she is, but in training she keeps everybody on their toes. She’s really lifted that at our training sessions, which benefits everybody. The hardest thing is she’s got lots of habits in Sapphire [league], so, helping her break those and work in the defensive unit is probably her work on, but she’s getting there week after week.”
Simone McKinnis, Melbourne Vixens Coach “I didn’t think that we had the workrate, the intensity about what we were doing out there on court”
(Team / Pts / % )
Fever 20 113.77%
Vixens 20 103.34%
Firebirds 16 109.84%
GIANTS 16 101.84%
Magpies 12 95.85%
Lightning 12 86.97%
Thunderbirds 8 97.25%
Swifts 8 92.43%
Sat 7th May 5pm Vixens v Firebirds
Sat 7th May 7pm Lightning v Thunderbirds
Sun 8th May 12pm Fever v Magpies (2pm AEST)
Sun 8th May 4pm GIANTS v Swifts
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