Contributors: Georgia Doyle, Drew Kennedy, Ian Harkin, Katrina Nissen, Jenny Sinclair, Cara Gledhill
Photographers: Clinton Bradbury, Kirsten Daley, May Bailey
Melbourne Vixens 66 d Queensland Firebirds 64 (15-18, 17-18, 17-14, 17-14)
Adelaide Thunderbirds 51 d Sunshine Coast Lightning 44 (13-10, 16-11, 10-10, 12-13)
West Coast Fever 74 d Collingwood Magpies 69 (17-16, 19-19, 16-19, 22-15)
NSW Swifts 52 d GIANTS Netball 43 (17-12, 13-12, 12-13, 10-6)
Was the Vixens v Firebirds clash the best game of the season so far? That was the opinion of many fans who watched the game (although Fever and Magpies fans might beg to differ). It had great intensity, quality in attack and defence, one team establishing a lead, the other pegging them back, and then an exciting finish in front of a good crowd and a terrific atmosphere. It was a match well worthy of a final.
Melbourne Vixens played a strong defensive game to collect 11 gains, thanks to their circle defenders plus Kiera Austin. While this number of gains isn’t unusual to see in elite netball, what is incredible is the fact they had a 100% gain to goal rate, meaning that every time they picked up ball, the attackers turned it into a goal. This went a long way in pushing them over the top of Firebirds, who only converted 60% of their gains. This statistic becomes particularly important when both teams had such similar centre pass conversion, with 75% conversion from Vixens and 71% from Firebirds.
Sunshine Coast Lightning’s shooting woes derailed what might have otherwise been a victory against Thunderbirds. Adelaide conceded 89 penalties and 29 general play turnovers, but Lightning was unable to capitalise, because they were successful with just 64% of their attempts, and this resulted in 15 missed-goal turnovers. Captain Steph Wood had a night she would rather forget, finishing with 16/29 at just 55%. Interestingly, during the 40 minutes of regular play, Lightning actually outscored Thunderbirds by five goals, but it was in the 20 minutes of power play that Thunderbirds came out on top by 12. Lightning landed just four of their 14 super shot attempts during the game.
The incredibly tight Super Netball ladder after round 8 demonstrates just how close the competition is this year. Fever and Vixens are out in front and they have a 2 win buffer, but then comes six teams all within one win of each other. The current last-placed team is Lightning, and they’ve already had more wins than the eventual wooden spooners in each of the five previous Super Netball seasons. All four games in round 8 were unpredictable, with both competition leaders almost being toppled.
Champion Data’s newly released ladder simulator shows that Fever have a 99% chance of making finals, and the Vixens 96%. It gets interesting from that point on, with Firebirds sitting on a 77% chance and Giants 55% chance respectively. Mathematically, the Pies have just a 21% chance of making the finals, but going on their recent form, if any team will defy the odds, it’s Collingwood.
Two milestones were reached during round 8. On Saturday, Matilda Garrett celebrated her 50th national league game with a win for Adelaide Thunderbirds. On Sunday, Amy Parmenter also brought up 50 games. She was unfortunately on the losing side for GIANTS Netball, but one of the highlights of the weekend was the sight of Amy and her grandmother walking out on court on Mother’s Day.
Most goals – 61/63 Jhaniele Fowler (Fever v Magpies)
Most supershots – 4/7 Sasha Glasgow (Fever v Magpies) and 4/8 Jo Harten (Swifts v GIANTS)
Most gains – 10 Shamera Sterling (Lightning v Thunderbirds) and Sarah Klau (Swifts v GIANTS)
Most intercepts – 4 Shamera Sterling, Tara Hinchliffe (Lightning v Thunderbirds) and Sarah Klau (Swifts v GIANTS)
Most feeds – 57 Maddy Proud (GIANTS v Swifts)
Most goal assists – 36 Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever v Magpies)
Most turnovers – 7 Elle McDonald (Lightning v Thunderbirds), Liz Watson (Vixens v Firebirds) and Amy Parmenter (GIANTS v Swifts)
Rahni Samason (Vixens) – knee injury
Jess Anstiss (Fever) – foot
Paige Hadley (Swifts) – gash above left eye suffered in fourth quarter against Giants, no concern regarding concussion
Verity Simmons (Fever) – rolled right ankle, returned to the match
Break out performance of the round
Hannah Mundy proved vital in the Vixens win over Firebirds. When Liz Watson was being effectively shut down by Gabi Simpson, she was moved into centre in the second quarter to allow her a little more space, giving Mundy some minutes at wing attack. The two then switched heading into the second half, but some coaching direction at the main break was able to give both players a rev up and saw them return to their usual dominance in the second half.
This was Mundy’s fourth appearance in 2022, after being a regular starter in 2021 due to the absence of Watson. She recorded a season high 17 goal assists, three pick ups and 57 Nissan Net Points all in her 37 minutes on court, much better numbers than her full 60 minute performance against Thunderbirds in Round 6.
Melbourne Vixens 66 def Queensland Firebirds 64
by Georgia Doyle
Melbourne Vixens came into this Round 1 rematch facing some challenges before the first whistle blew, without head coach Simone McKinnis due to Covid protocols as well as impact shooter Rahni Samason who wasn’t medically cleared from her knee injury. Assistant coach Di Honey stepped into the head coach role seamlessly, not being afraid to make changes throughout the match in search for the winning combination.
It was a high intensity, high quality game that saw several swings in momentum and resultant lead changes. Firebirds were up by as much as eight in the second quarter but some poor decision making at critical moments saw the lead fall away. The first half was dominated by the away side, but they slipped away in the second half – unable to maintain the intensity for the full 60 minutes.
The number of gains was awfully close, with Firebirds recording 10 and Vixens 11; however, remarkably Vixens had a 100% gain to goal conversion rate, a key contributor to them pushing ahead in the second half, with Firebirds only able to convert 60% of their gained ball throughout the match, and 50% in the second half
In what was arguably the best game of the season so far, both teams put out strong showings to remind everyone why they sit at the top end of the ladder. The depth and versatility of Vixens midcourt was highlighted in this match, with Hannah Mundy coming on for only the fourth time this season and making a strong impact against former Australian Diamonds Kim Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson, playing across both centre and wing attack. She was second in her team for feeds and goal assists, only recorded two turnovers and was the match leader for pick ups with three all in just 37 minutes on court. This injection also pushed Moloney back to her roots at wing defence, where she used her speed to shut down Lara Dunkley who had just seven goal assists in the second half compared to 19 in the first.
Firebirds continue to use their speed and athleticism to dominate teams, particularly in the attacking end. The combination between Gretel Bueta and Donnell Wallam gets stronger every week, often using their basketball background to dominate the air. Lara Dunkley and Kim Ravaillion have settled into their combination nicely, finding the circle edge with ease while also not being afraid to send in a ball from distance, having confidence in their shooters to pull in almost anything.
Where the match was won and lost?
Decision making is proving key this season in deciding outcomes of matches, particularly around the super shot. In the final four minutes of the game, scores were tied and Wallam attempted a two point shot that missed, and went out of court giving Vixens the throw-in – and then capitalised with two consecutive goals.
On their next centre pass both Bueta and Wallam attempted another super shot, both missing allowing Vixens another chance to put two single goals on the board now pushing their lead out to four with just one minute remaining. Firebirds fortunes changed briefly and both shooters nailed a two point shot, but it was too little too late with the Vixens having continued ticking over the scoreboard with safe one point shots to secure the victory in the final minutes by a narrow two goals.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Gabi Simpson continued her strong form from the first half of the season, putting in a monster effort to shut down the usually dominant Liz Watson. Watson made the move from wing attack to centre half way through the second quarter, after racking up an uncharacteristic five turnovers at this point in the match, following this positional switch she only recorded an additional two for the remainder game.
By half time Watson only had nine goal assists to her name, when she averages 22 per game – highlighting Simpson’s ability to nullify Watson’s usually strong impact on the attacking play for Vixens. Simpsons also collected two gains and two deflections, proving she also has the capability to read play and help turn ball over for her side.
Olivia Lewis earned the start at goal keeper for Vixens, following her stellar effort on Wallam in their first match up – likely due to years of experience training against the likes of Jhaniele Fowler during her time at Fever. She struggled to have the same impact in this game, only collecting one gain in her 24 minutes on court. Emily Mannix
was injected to goal keeper mid-way through the second quarter, but it was in the third quarter that she really got involved. Within the first two minutes she had two gains, when the team only had four total in the preceding 30 minutes. The additional height, being 4cm taller than Lewis, took the Firebirds feeders some time to adjust to, putting the ball a bit lower giving Mannix the chance to get her hand to them.
Kumwenda 51/56 (91%)
Austin 13/21 (62%)
Wallam 48/56 (86%)
Bueta 14/17 (82%)
MVP: Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens)
Adelaide Thunderbirds 51 defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning 44
By Andrew Kennedy
A strong display by the bookend imports of Adelaide pushed them to a third win for season 2022, and fourth spot on a very congested ladder. Shamera Sterling read the minds of the Lightning shooters and feeders and intercepted at will, and Lenize Potgeiter came back to form, playing simple spaces and delivering on the shot. Flowing on from a lack of connections and timing, Sunshine Coast delivered the worst team shooting of the year with 63%, causing headaches for the Diamonds squad selectors ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
Neither team was impressive in their conversion of possession, with both sitting near 60% scores off centre passes. Thunderbirds turnover rate of 29 was quite grim, and both teams gifted around 10 intercepts to the opposition. Structure in attack was flat in both directions, with the backline needed time and again to take centre passes and reset.
Sterling had an amazing match with ten gains and two blocked shots. The Jamaican took advantage of the doubt in the Lightning attack line and read their moves telepathically. The strong form of Cara Koenen dissipated after her Covid exclusion, and all three Sunshine Coast shooters were pushed into uncomfortable spaces. Steph Wood clocked the worst Nissan Netpoints for season 2022 with -40. For several weeks, Wood has failed to land her traditionally safe step-back long-range attempts. Shooting at 55% and delivering five turnovers, coaching staff will be focusing on getting her mindset and confidence back in coming weeks.
At the other end, Potgeiter’s 97% gave confidence that flowed through the team. The South African shooter played a sharp and clean game to the backspace that Tara Hinchliffe simply couldn’t cover.
At times there was brilliance from the Lightning defenders Kate Walsh and Tara Hinchliffe. Having studied the hesitation and low release of Potgieter, both of them were able to intercept passes at three feet when their opponent felt uncertain of her positioning.
Where the match was won and lost?
It cannot be overestimated the asset and threat that is Shamera Sterling. With an average of eight gains per match and ten in this round, Thunderbirds would be sunk without her. With two blocked shots in this game, she continues to more than double any other player in the league for the statistic, with her incredible anticipation and elevation. Sterling will be a huge factor in the way teams plot against Jamaica in the Commonwealth Games.
Both teams had real troubles in their transition play, but it was Adelaide who stayed steadier, converting 11 of their 23 gains. As the top three teams regularly achieve 70% for this stat, pulling Thunderbirds out of the bottom half of the ladder needs a lot more focus in coming weeks.
Lightning never gave up the fight, chasing down an eight-goal deficit to just four in the final quarter. Their momentum was halted however by a stunning rebound from Latanya Wilson in the dying minutes, allowing Potgieter to slam five one-pointers on the trot and send the Queenslanders to the bottom of the table.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Lightning’s Laura Scherian was reliable as ever, finding the right space and controlling the delivery of the feed and bringing her teammates into the match. The true struggle was doubt in the minds of her shooters, making feeding a risky game. Hinchliffe was also strong again, building well through the middle of 2022 after a season ending knee injury last year, leading her side with four gains.
Cara Koenen 15/20 (75%)
Steph Wood 16/29 (55%)
Riley Batcheldor 9/14 (64%)
Lenize Potgieter 36/37 (97%)
Georgie Horjus 12/15 (80%)
MVP: Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds)
West Coast Fever 74 def Collingwood Magpies 69
By Cara Gledhill (as published on Fox Netball)
The West Coast Fever have cemented their place at the top of the Super Netball table, winning a thrilling game over the resurgent Collingwood Magpies by five goals in Perth.
They now sit a game clear of the second-ranked Melbourne Vixens.
It came down to the final five minutes of the game with no team going up by more than four at any point.
The Magpies were out to a four-goal lead partway through the final quarter, but better management of the supershot period by the Fever saw them take the game away from an impressive Magpies outfit.
With Kelsey Browne wreaking havoc on the Fever defence, Sunday Aryang was pushed out to wing defence at the start of the fourth quarter and had an immediate impact, shutting off the easy access to the circle Browne had been enjoying prior to that. A key defensive gain by Stacey Francis-Bayman during the supershot period allowed the Fever to press their advantage.
Both teams had late outs with Magpies goal attack Gabby Sinclair and Fever midcourter Jess Anstiss ruled out with illness and a foot injury respectively. Nyah Allen came into the ten as a replacement player for Sinclair, making a cameo in the final five minutes, while Jordan Cransberg got some court time at centre as a replacement for Anstiss.
It was a high quality game with low turnovers and gains, as both teams worked to treasure the ball and used all their skills to keep the ball away from defenders. Fever coach Dan Ryan ran the changes in the midcourt and defence throughout the game in an attempt to stifle the quick ball in attack from the Magpies. The Magpies stuck with the same seven until the final five minutes of the game when Nyah Allen was brought on.
The Magpies had clearly done their homework. The feeders from the Magpies were placing their passes into Shimona Nelson with pinpoint precision to avoid the defensive work of Fever goal keeper Courtney Bruce.
The Fever had the best centre pass conversion of any team coming into the game and the Magpies identified this, looking to disrupt it in their centre pass defence by crowding the centre third and cutting off the run of Fever wing attack Alice Teague-Neeld who is so prolific in this area.
The Fever looked their strongest when they hit the circle edge and could feed the ball to Fowler with ease. However, they missed Jess Anstiss and struggled at times to work around the zone defences the Magpies were running.
A BATTLE OF WOULD-BE FINALISTS
While the Magpies had a slow start to the season, they have well and truly established themselves as finals contenders. This high quality game was an example of what we expect to see from the top teams, with low turnovers, little opportunity for gained balls in defence and accurate shooting from both teams.
A DIAMOND A DOZEN
With Gabby Sinclair ruled out for the game, questions would have been asked of Sophie Garbin, who was benched early in the Magpies’ last game.
Preferred in at goal shooter for the Diamonds, Garbin had a solid game at goal attack, slotting a supershot in the final moments of the all-important third quarter. Kelsey Browne continued to make a strong case for a Diamonds squad call-up, ending the game on 26 goal assists, 37 centre pass receives and four pickups.
MOTHERS DAY MAGIC
Jhaniele Fowler and Ash Brazill celebrated Mother’s Day in style. Fowler has given up a lot to be in this league, spending extended periods of time away from her daughter. She was in her usual fine form, shooting 61/63 goals at 97%.
Continuing her strong run to the Commonwealth Games, Brazill was a strong presence for the Magpies, finishing the game without a turnover and coming up with gains and pickups at crucial points in the match. She was also instrumental in transition throughout the game.
Jhaniele Fowler 61/63 (97%)
Sasha Glasgow 9/12 (75%)
Shimona Nelson 53/60 (88%)
Sophie Garbin 12/19 (63%)
Nyah Allen 1/1 (100%)
MVP: Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever)
NSW Swifts 52 defeated GIANTS Netball 43
By Andrew Kennedy
In the upset of the round, cellar-dwellers Swifts claimed the Carol Sykes trophy and regained a glimmer of hope for their season. Giants were kept to their equal lowest tally of 2022 and in their rush they scored the worst total of any team in a quarter this year with six goals in the fourth. It was at odds with the recent form of both teams, with Helen Housby delivering on all the possession from Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner, while Giants couldn’t convert possession and had a nightmare drop in accuracy.
The study of two English goal shooters was fascinating – while Jo Harten was more of an outlet and rescue pass and came too far out of the circle, Housby dictated where and when she wanted the ball, keeping out of the way of feeders. This allowed the Swifts veteran to reset and double or triple play at will, and she and Singleton never had to take a shot outside their comfort zone. Housby and Singleton also played a closed circle smartly, alternating leads and rotating well, to make the Giants defenders fall away.
It wasn’t just the strong accuracy and leads, but a great leadership role played by Housby, as acclaimed by her coach Briony Akle. “Helen did a GREAT job. I think she came to play tonight. She protected those youngsters out there. That’s her job as well, and she certainly did it.”
If the Giants had won it would have been an MVP award to April Brandley again. She studied her rookie opponents and attacked any pass that had a low release to great effect, with two nice intercepts from passes that should have been safe. The Giants circle defence needed more coverage from their midcourters with Maddy Proud being so dominant. “I think it’s a mindset getting into transition quickly,” said Brandley. “They play the ball so fast, once there’s been a turnover, hands over to slow their pace down.”
Where the match was won and lost?
Tilly McDonell has grown in confidence from extra minutes and experience this season, and has shut down some of the taller target shooters. However, in this game the timing of an agile Housby on the drop to backspace with a beautiful roll was impossible to cover. Then when adjustments and coaching advice came through, Housby resumed a normal goal attack role of powering into front space, and she was untouchable.
MVP Maddy Proud continued her assault on the stats pages, now streaking out in number one for goal assists with 207 for the year, 23 ahead of the nearest feeder. Her performance was balanced by Paige Hadley’s dominance on the centre pass – she had 62% of the receives and only played 48 minutes. While Amy Parmenter and Lauren Moore cover the second phase and goal third well, teams are well advised to be ready for the cunning rotation of Swifts midcourt in getting to circle edge.
It was an interesting experiment to bench stalwart Jamie-Lee Price for the third quarter and replace her with Amy Parmenter in centre. While Parmy did deliver extra coverage of passes to the pocket and restrict some of the Swifts feeding, the overall return was negative. Parmenter had four turnovers in the third alone, and seven for the game.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau were duking it out with Proud for the MVP award. Klau came to life in the final quarter as Giants were rushing to close the margin from 42-37 – the Diamonds goal keeper snaffled four gains in the last period. But it was Turner who grafted away for the whole game in a performance reminiscent of the 2021 grand final against Sophie Dwyer. Turner pushed her opponent well away from the circle to minimise quick interplays with Harten, and also drained Dwyer’s energy, as her accuracy sank and her 8/8 supershots last week became 1/5 in round eight.
Turner explained their tactics post match: “The game plan is to shut down the shooter-to-shooter – we know how lethal Jo and Sophie can be if they have that connection. To break those two apart was our focus. I don’t think we’ve ever done as much performance analysis, trying to work out how to fix that, and it was good to put it into practise – I was happy I finally got it done! Unfortunately we couldn’t get that swing ball across the circle, to try and stop the one under the post, to force them to shoot long. We know we can get those rebounds when they’re under pressure.”
Jo Harten 26/30 (87%)
Sophie Dwyer 12/19 (63%)
Helen Housby 35/43 (81%)
Kelly Singleton 10/10 (100%)
Sophie Fawns 7/8 (88%)
MVP: Maddy Proud (Swifts)
“I’m not at all happy with how we played that last five minutes from a strategic perspective. We just weren’t able to execute.” – Nicole Richardson, Collingwood Magpies Head Coach
“It’s awesome [playing on Mother’s Day] – to have my little boy up in the crowd, and great to see so many mums, and it’s a really special day!” – April Brandley, Giants
“I’ve just been told I should’ve had a stitch [for her injured forehead], I got glued! So hopefully that does that job, otherwise there’ll be a stitch later in the week. I’m gonna get called Harry Potter now! I was really proud, the four of us in that attack end, I think we worked for each other, I was stoked to be out there with them” – Paige Hadley, Swifts, about her accidental elbow to the eye from Lauren Moore
“That’s the game from now on – we don’t have a seven-foot shooter standing there, so we’ve got to make that work, and that’s been the plan all along since Sammy [Wallace] went down [with her knee injury]. Helen [Housby] did a GREAT job. I think she came to play tonight. She protected those youngsters out there. That’s her job as well, and she certainly did it.” – Briony Akle, NSW Swifts head coach
(Team / Pld / Pts / %)
West Coast Fever . 8 . 24 . 112.9%
Melbourne Vixens . 8 . 24 . 103.3%
Queensland Firebirds . 8 . 16 . 108.2%
GIANTS Netball . 8 . 16 . 99.8%
Adelaide Thunderbirds . 8 . 12 . 99.3%
Collingwood Magpies . 8 . 12 . 95.5%
NSW Swifts . 8 . 12 . 95.0%
Sunshine Coast Lightning . 8 . 12 . 86.9%
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, May 14 – 5pm – Sunshine Coast Lightning v West Coast Fever
Sat, May 14 – 7pm – GIANTS Netball v Melbourne Vixens
Sun, May 15 – 2pm – Collingwood Magpies v Queensland Firebirds
Sun, May 15 – 4pm – NSW Swifts v Adelaide Thunderbirds