Contributors: Jenny Sinclair, Katrina Nissen, Ian Harkin, Esther Nelson, Georgia Doyle, May Bailey
West Coast Fever 74 defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning 65 (18-19, 22-11, 16-19, 18-16)
Melbourne Vixens 66 defeated GIANTS Netball 63 after E.T (13-10, 18-14, 16-19, 13-17 / 6-3)
Collingwood Magpies 71 defeated Queensland Firebirds 67 (18-13, 20-18, 16-17, 17-19)
NSW Swifts 54 defeated Adelaide Thunderbirds 40 (9-7, 14-16, 18-10, 13-7)
Fever and Lightning, and Firebirds and Magpies, played off against each other in two Pride matches this weekend. However, the league has so far resisted the call for a full Pride round. For a sport that promotes diversity and inclusion, and hopes to be accepted into the 2032 Olympics on the back of it, netball still has some distance to go.
Round nine saw the first extra-time game of the Super Netball season between GIANTS Netball and Melbourne Vixens. For much of the game, Vixens held the upper hand, but with prodigious use of the super shot, GIANTS fought back spectacularly in front of their home fans. The score was deadlocked at 60-60 when the 60 minutes were up, and so the two teams battled it out for five more minutes. The Vixens were able to regroup and take out the game 66-63.
Another feature of the GIANTS v Vixens match was the high penalty count. Even taking into account that five extra minutes were played, the tally of 169 penalties was extraordinary. During the regulation 60 minutes, 158 penalties were called, just three less than in the Firebirds v Vixens game in round one. But what made this game different was the unusually large number of obstruction penalties; 54 in all, 33 of them to Vixens. That obstruction penalty count is comfortably higher than any other game this season.
Another week, another low-scoring game featuring the Adelaide Thunderbirds. In nine rounds so far, Thunderbirds have played in the lowest-scoring game of the round eight times. On the other occasion, it was the equal lowest. As has been the case in previous seasons, Thunderbirds possess a great defence which wins them lots of possession, and restricts their opponents’ score. But sadly, they’ve been guilty of throwing too much ball away and not capitalising on the defenders’ good work. Against Swifts, Thunderbirds came up with an incredible 24 gains, but they only scored from 11 of those. By comparison, Swifts converted 14 of their 19 gains.
Once again, the ladder takes on a very strange look. Fever and Vixens haven’t had things all their own way, but they’ve shown they know how to win. As a result, they currently find themselves three wins clear of the chasing pack, and surely they will both be playing finals. The other two finalists are far from clear however. Neither Firebirds, nor GIANTS, have won a game in the past two rounds, but somehow they cling on to third and fourth spots. Only on percentage though, as they are level on points with Swifts and Magpies. Thunderbirds and Lightning are just one win further back and can’t be completely ruled out in such a crazy season.
Congratulations to Jada Gafa who made her debut for Sunshine Coast Lightning. Gafa is a training partner and midcourter, who was brought into the side to cover Laura Scherian’s absence.
Gretel Bueta played her 100th national league match.
Most goals 66/67 Jhaniele Fowler (Fever v Lightning)
Most supershots 9/11 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS v Vixens)
Most gains 9 Courtney Bruce (Lightning v Fever) & Sarah Klau (Swifts v Thunderbirds)
Most intercepts 7 Sarah Klau (Swifts v TBirds)
Most feeds 46 Watson (Vixens v GIANTS) & Browne (Magpies v Firebirds)
Most goal assists 28 Liz Watson (Vixens v GIANTS)
Most turnovers 7 Cara Koenen (Lightning v Fever), Sophie Dwyer (GIANTS v Vixens), Gretel Bueta (Magpies v Firebirds) & Tayla Williams (Swifts v Thunderbirds)
Most penalties 28 Amy Parmenter (GIANTS v Vixens)
Jess Anstiss (Fever) – foot injury
Courtney Bruce (Fever) – took an elbow to the eye in the second quarter but continued the match
Rahni Samason (Vixens) – knee injury
Jo Harten (GIANTS) – Unwell. Left the court in the 2nd quarter of the match.
Ruby Bakewell-Doran (Firebirds) – heavily strapped thigh due to a cork, but was able to play the majority of the game
Break out performances of the round
Sunshine Coast Lightning shooter Reilley Batcheldor was unphased when she came up against Diamonds defender, Courtney Bruce in Round 9. The youngster was physical and pumped up when she entered the fray in the third quarter. She was impactful defensively as well as in attack, picking up 1 intercept and 2 rebounds, to add to her 18/27 goals (including 3 super shots). She looked more comfortable in this outting than in previous rounds, being fed by Steph Wood and Cara Koenen who both celebrated every goal with her.
When GIANTS’ captain Jo Harten had to leave the court, many would have expected the Melbourne Vixens to run away with the match. But no one told Matisse Letherbarrow and Sophie Dwyer. The duo, who came through the NSW pathways together, were composed, mobile and importantly accurate. Letherbarrow was hungry for the ball, chasing down loose passes and often winning foot races against experienced Jo Weston and Emily Mannix. She also shouldered most of the super shot burden to peg back the lead in the third quarter potting 4/4 for the period. In all, Letherbarrow scored 9/11 from super shot range, and was the major reason that GIANTS were able to send the game to extra time.
Tayla Williams got some big minutes due to Maisie Nankivell being out for Adelaide Thunderbirds due to COVID-19 Protocols. While she started on the bench, in favour of Elle McDonald & Georgie Horjus in the mid court she was injected to centre after only 10 minutes. She lead her team for goal assists and intercepts, while also matching opposition centre Maddy Proud for physicality and intensity. While Proud still notched up some good numbers, her influence on the game certainly wasn’t as dominant as it has been in previous weeks.
WEST COAST FEVER 74 def SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 65
By Jenny Sinclair (originally published for Fox Netball)
The opening match of Suncorp Super Netball’s Round 9 had two winners but just one victor as West Coast Fever and Sunshine Coast Lightning faced off in the clubs’ inaugural ‘As One’ Pride match.
Amidst a sea of rainbows celebrating diversity and inclusion, Fever ran out comfortable nine point winners against Lightning, despite a third quarter glitch. The match was far closer than first versus eight would suggest, but Fever remain comfortably perched on top of the ladder, while Lightning continue to languish at the bottom.
With both clubs missing key midcourters, Fever coach Dan Ryan sprung a surprise at the start, selecting Emma Cosh and training partner Chelsea Pitman at goal attack and wing attack, respectively.
Despite being double teamed in the circle, Jhaniele Fowler was the recipient of Fever’s sizzling ball speed and free-flowing attack. In contrast Lightning’s route to goal was laborious as Fever clogged up the middle channel of the court with strong physical presence and hands over pressure.
After shooting at an abysmal 55% last week, Lightning captain Steph Wood found her range early, with three supershots gifting her team a narrow quarter time lead. It was one way traffic in the second quarter, as Fever flexed their defensive muscle.
Searching to narrow the margin, Lightning shuffled their deck in the third quarter, shifting every player into a different position. With Maddie Hinchliffe and Wood directing traffic in the middle, they swung momentum and reduced their deficit to two.
However, Fever kicked up another gear, led by the hustling Stacey Francis-Bayman, to close out the match.
Fever and Diamond goal keeper, Courtney Bruce, was ferocious in defence, hauling in five intercepts and three rebounds, despite a loose elbow and resulting shiner received during the match. Fowler finished with an unparalleled 66 goals at 100% and the MVP award.
Neither side would be thrilled with their performance, gifting a combined total of 42 turnovers across the match. While the Fever juggernaut rolls on, they’ll be frustrated at their inability to punish teams across four quarters, and will need to address that if they want to go deep into the finals.
Lightning, who haven’t beaten Fever at home since 2019, need to keep developing their exciting youngsters, while Diamonds’ selectors will be breathing a sigh of relief as the shooting duo of Cara Koenen and Wood appeared far more comfortable after a below par outing last week. Koenen finished with 27/29 (93%) and a crucial two intercepts and three rebounds.
Sunshine Coast Lightning and West Coast Fever, who describe themselves as fierce rivals but strong allies, joined forces to compete in Suncorp Super Netball’s second ever Pride game. However, widespread calls for Netball Australia and the league to include a full Pride Round have fallen on deaf ears so far. For a sport that celebrates inclusion and diversity, and is pushing for inclusion in the 2032 Olympics on this basis, the time for administrators to act is now.
CRUNCHING THE CHANCES
Champion Data – sports’ statistical oracle – has crunched the numbers, and found that at mid season, West Coast Fever has a 99% probability of playing finals, and 59% chance of staying on top of the ladder with the crucial home final.
Sadly it’s time for the Lightning to focus on rebuilding, as they’re estimated to have just a 7% chance of making finals, and effectively would have to win every remaining game to do so.
Most elite netball clubs boast a towering goal shooter, but Fever have put an entire attack line of plus six-footers together. Goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler tops the list at 198cm, followed by goal attack Sasha Glasgow at 187cm and wing attack Alice Teague-Neeld at 183cm. It’s a considerable height advantage over most opponents, giving a clearer line of sight into the shooting circle.
Jhaniele Fowler 66/67 (98%)
Emma Cosh 4/7 (57%)
Sasha Glasgow 3/5 (60%)
Cara Koenen 27/29 (93%)
Reilley Batcheldor 18/27 (67%)
Steph Wood 13/16 (81%)
MVP: Jhaniele Fowler (Fever)
MELBOURNE VIXENS 66 def GIANTS NETBALL 63 (after extra time)
By Esther Nelson
In some of the most exciting 65 minutes of netball we have seen this season, the GIANTS unsuccessfully fought against the calm and steady play of the Vixens. Potential oracle and Fox Sports commentator, Anne Sargeant, rightly predicted a draw at the end of full-time but the Vixens were too good in extra time, defeating the GIANTS by three goals.
The GIANTS came onto the court with an intensity, no doubt looking to improve on their flat performance against the Swifts in the previous round. This was hard to maintain and as a result the GIANTS’ performance ebbed and flowed throughout. In the second quarter the Vixens capitalised on a couple of turnovers for a 7 goal lead as the GIANTS seemed to get stuck moving the ball down court on their centre passes. The Vixens constantly had hands-over pressure on the pass which led to a lot of hesitancy and mistakes by the GIANTS.
There was a big change in the GIANTS shooting end when Matisse Letherbarrow came on to replace GIANTS captain and goal shooter Jo Harten towards the end of the second quarter, as Harten had been unwell all week and was unable to keep playing. Letherbarrow took this opportunity with both hands, working well with Sophie Dwyer to lift the GIANTS to win both quarters in the second half. In total, Letherbarrow shot nine successful super shots and was greatly appreciated by the crowd at Ken Rosewall arena for her efforts.
Conversely, the Vixens played very controlled and measured netball despite ongoing pressure from GIANTS and led for the majority of the game. It was a team effort as all Vixens players on court worked hard to do their role and backed each other up. The connection between goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda, goal attack Kiera Austin, and wing attack Liz Watson was particularly strong. The home team rallied a number of times and caught the Vixens in the final two minutes, leading to the 60-60 draw at full-time. In extra time, the Vixens again maintained their composure. An intercept by Jo Weston on a Jamie-Lee Price pass into the GIANTS circle in the last minute sealed the Vixens’ victory.
Where the match was won and lost?
Kumwenda was sublime, shooting a total of 50 goals at 100%. The GIANTS worked hard but struggled to have an answer for her.
Despite the high number of deflections from the GIANTS (23 compared to the Vixens 17) they were unable to capitalise as the Vixens were always the first to loose ball. The GIANTS finished the game with only 7 pickups compared to the Vixens with 22. Kate Moloney deserves a special mention with 8 pickups to her name.
Down the GIANTS’ shooting end, Dwyer was often not in position for the rebound when either she or her shooting partner was shooting. It has become more obvious in the last two games as Dwyer’s shooting percentage has dropped to around 80%, compared to the previous rounds when it was around 90% (save for their loss against the Firebirds where it was at 82%). While having confidence in making your shot is important, when playing against a ball-hungry Weston and Emily Mannix, who picked up five rebounds between them, it is definitely something to think about.
The GIANTS were in chase-mode the whole game, so it was a valiant effort against the Vixens to get to extra time, with two relatively inexperienced shooters and the absence of their captain on court. In extra time, the Vixens showed why they are in the top two on the ladder.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The Vixens’ defence was a well-rehearsed unit that moved with synchronisation and there were multiple options to the ball throughout the game. Olivia Lewis slipped onto the court in goal keeper for the Vixens in the final quarter but was quickly replaced by Mannix whose experience, particularly in extra time, meant the Vixens had the confidence to play without rushing the ball down the court.
The battle between GIANTS wing defence Amy Parmenter and Watson was impressive to watch. Watson finished on 121 NNP and was named player of the match. Parmenter did well against the Australian Diamonds captain and arguably the best wing attack in the world, finishing the game with two intercepts and two deflections. GIANTS goal defence April Brandley had a solid game with one intercept and five deflections but unfortunately most of the time her teammates were not there to back her up and the ball would end up back in Vixens’ hands.
Despite a tough 2021 season, the Vixens have managed to learn and grow their game. They’ve always been a well-oiled machine when scoring off their centre pass. What this game showed is their ability to win back the ball at the crucial moments, stay cool under pressure and use the super shot only when necessary. In this game, Austin had one out of two successful super shots and Kumwenda did not attempt any, compared to GIANTS with 12 super shots from 16 attempts.
Matisse Letherbarrow 13/14 (92%)
Sophie Dwyer 17/21 (81%)
Jo Harten 10/11 (91%)
Mwai Kumwenda 50/50 (100%)
Kiera Austin 14/18 (78%)
MVP: Liz Watson (Vixens)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 71 def QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 67
by Georgia Doyle
This game was significant for a few reasons – it was the first SSN game in Hobart with Collingwood normally playing in Launceston for their annual trip down south, it was Gretel Bueta’s 100th national league match and the second pride match of the round.
Collingwood are undefeated in Tasmania, having played one match there every year since the inception of SSN, except for the hub season in 2020, often being able to overcome higher ranked teams including beating eventual Premiers NSW Swifts in 2019. They continued this pattern for their game against third placed Firebirds. They brought a level of intensity across the whole court, with Ash Brazill and Geva Mentor doing particularly well to quell the impact of usually dominant attackers Lara Dunkley and Donnell Wallam.
The lead stretched out to as much as 14 in the third quarter, as a result of eight unanswered goals to the home side, but a string of defensive gains and super shots narrowed the margin to two goals with four minutes remaining. Firebirds were unable to rally for a final push with some late turnovers, that allowed Collingwood to secure their fifth consecutive win in Tasmania, and put them one step closer to the top four.
Sophie Garbin has slowly been settling into her role at goal attack throughout the season. In the early games she was often caught doing too much work outside the circle, meaning Shimona Nelson was often double teamed and would struggle with the pressure of both defenders. More recently she has left the play making to mid court duo Kelsey Browne and Molly Jovic and made herself a strong option in the circle. While her volume may sit lower, only 4/4 in this game, her presence in the circle often opens up Nelson for an easy pass as it forces the opposition defenders to be more accountable to their individual players.
Firebirds made more changes than usual in this match, with both Mia Stower and Jemma Mi Mi earning some court time in an attempt to change up the attacking line for Firebirds. Stower’s injection to goal shooter was a massive shake up for how the Firebirds shooting circle usually operates, and gave Geva Mentor a smaller moving player to cover as opposed to the strong hold provided by Wallam. Stower was accurate to post, from short and long range and also safe with ball in hand committing no turnovers in her 20 minutes on court. Mi Mi also added some extra speed to the mid court, able to evade Brazill and find circle edge, where she had the confidence to feed her shooters and set them up for goal.
Where the match was won and lost?
The match was almost lost very early in the second half, when Firebirds took a long time to show up after the main break leaking eight unanswered goals in the first five minutes of the third quarter. When the game looked out of reach and the lead was at 14, Firebirds defenders pushed into another gear and were able to claw themselves back into the game with six unanswered goals of their own. The remainder of the quarter was mostly goal for goal, but some super shots helped them get back to only six goals behind heading into the final term.
Firebirds got as close as two goals heading into the super shot period of the final quarter, but several errors and turnovers from the team in purple saw them gift easy ball back to the Magpies, who capitalised as they had all day and finished ahead by four at the final whistle.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Brazill continues to put her name at the top of the list of players who should be booked on a flight to Birmingham. She was able to nullify Dunkley, who usually dominates goal assists for Firebirds. Dunkley was sent to the bench mid-way through the second quarter, having only recorded five goal assists and giving away two turnovers. Not only did Brazill effectively shut down her opposition, but she was also able to collect two gains, two deflections and one goal assist. She also stayed clean and in play, with only five penalties across her 60 minutes. This ability to stay in play while minimising the impact of her opposition also helped Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward rack up some big numbers, with seven gains between them.
Kim Jenner played a key role in this match for Firebirds. She played the most minutes she has for the season, after not having taken the court since Round 6. She spent the majority of the game sitting back at goal keeper, matching up against Shimona Nelson. Despite being the second most penalised player on court, with 19, she was able to disrupt the Magpies attacking end, collecting two gains and forcing Nelson into five turnovers, the most for her team.
Nelson 65/66 (99%)
Garbin 4/4 (100%)
Sinclair 2/3 (67%)
Wallam 32/40 (80%)
Bueta 23/26 (89%)
Stower 6/11 (55%)
MVP: Kelsey Browne (Magpies)
NSW SWIFTS 54 def ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 40
By Katrina Nissen (originally posted for Fox Netball)
If defence wins premierships, then the NSW Swifts and Adelaide Thunderbirds will be hopeful.
In a must-win clash for both sides, who produced one of the season’s lowest scorelines, it was the NSW Swifts who kept their Super Netball finals hopes alive with a 14 goal win.
The Thunderbirds started the match at a disadvantage with two of their starting seven players out under Covid protocols. One of the players was their centre Maisie Nankivell, which forced a midcourt shuffle seeing goal attack, Georgie Horjus starting in wing attack and Elle McDonald pushed back to centre.
Unfortunately, for the Thunderbirds, the shifts didn’t gel, so they introduced youngster Tayla Williams at centre. Williams proved a better match for the Swifts quick midcourt, and by the end of the first half, she had collected four intercepts in her 20 minutes.
Turnovers, ball handling errors and questionable decisions were rampant from both sides throughout the match. Neither side settled until late in the third quarter when the Swifts eventually pulled out to an eight goal lead, off the back of some great defensive work and a closing seconds super shot.
Swifts goal keeper, and match MVP, Sarah Klau got the better of Thunderbirds shooter Lenize Potgieter. Klau was mobile, showing superior footwork to get around Potgieter to get her hands to balls. Potgieter didn’t appreciate the extra attention on the body from Klau and eventually conceded a few offensive contacts.
The last time these two teams met, young Swifts shooter, Sophie Fawns was monstered by the more experienced Shamera Sterling. However, when she entered the match from the bench in the late stages of the first quarter, she had an air of confidence about her. She continued that way for the rest of the match and scored an impressive 15/21 at 72.7%
It was an unusually quiet match for Shamera Sterling who appeared to have trouble with the attacking switches between Fawns and Helen Housby. The same can’t be said for Sterling’s teammate, Latanya Wilson who relished an opportunity to play a full 60 minutes. Wilson was brimming with confidence and was pestering in attack, forcing the Swifts shooting change.
But, for all the ball which the Thunderbirds won, they were unable to turn them into goals at the other end of the court. By halftime they had won the ball back 14 times but only converted 50%. By the end of the match that percentage had dropped to 46%
ROAD TO FINALS
The Adelaide Thunderbirds have a tough road to the finals. In the next five matches, they have three away games and will take on each of the top four teams including West Coast Fever during Round 14 at RAC Arena in Perth.
The Swifts have a slightly easier path with three back-to-back games on the road and then two home matches to finish the season. Only one away match is against a top tier team, though their two home matches will be against Fever (currently 2nd ) and Firebirds (currently 3rd).
Knowing what’s ahead of them, league experts have predicted Thunderbirds to finish 6th and Swifts to finish 7th in season 2022. Though, after this performance from the Swifts, they may change that prediction.
On paper, the NSW Swifts and the Adelaide Thunderbirds are reasonably matched. Both came into Round 9 with a 38% win rate in 2022, with their last clash being decided by a single goal.
The Thunderbirds have the most potent defensive end with their goal keeper, Shamera Sterling, snaffling 32 intercepts across the 8 rounds – the most of any league athlete. She also sits third for deflections (35), first for defensive rebounds (26) and first for blocked shots (10).
The Swifts have one of the most effective midcourters in the league, in their co-captain Maddy Proud. The speedy attacker leads the league for goal assists (207) and circle feeds (353).
DOING IT FOR THE KIDS
Each year several Suncorp Super Netball teams adopt a charity to support, and many dedicate a Round to the cause. For this match, the Swifts held a crazy hair and sock day for the Kids Cancer Project. Each of the athletes on both teams showed their support by wearing temporary tattoos, but unfortunately, no crazy hair or socks, unlike in previous years.
Helen Housby 30/35 (86%)
Sophie Fawns 16/22 (76%)
Kelly Singleton 6/7 (86%)
Lenzie Potgieter 31/35 (89%)
Tippah Dwan 7/15 (47%)
Georgie Horjus 0/2 (0%)
MVP – Sarah Klau (Swifts)
BRIONY AKLE ON THE QUICK TURNAROUND TO TUESDAY’S MATCH
“It was important to us to get the win here in front of our fans. We don’t train ahead of our match on Tuesday night so getting this victory allowed us to move into the next match with confidence knowing we’re playing a great brand of netball.”
MADDY TURNER ON HER DEFENSIVE COMBO WITH SARAH KLAU
“I think it was a full team effort. I think there were a couple of plays where I sent Sarah out to get a touch and then pulled her back to get another one. It was good fun to boss each other around. Because it was so slow coming down we had time to play our best together. We had time to talk.”
(Team / Pts / %)
West Coast Fever. 28. 113%
Melbourne Vixens. 28. 103.48%
Queensland Firebirds. 16. 106.45%
GIANTS Netball. 16. 99.28%
NSW Swifts. 16. 98.07%
Collingwood Magpies. 16. 96.66%
Adelaide Thunderbirds. 12. 96.31%
Sunshine Coast Lightning. 12. 87.01%
All matches will be shown live on Fox Sport and Kayo Sports. The second midweek Round
TUE 17 May 6pm AEST Sunshine Coast Lightning v NSW Swifts
TUE 17 May 8pm AEST West Coast Fever v Melbourne Vixens (6pm local)
WED 18 May 6pm AEST Collingwood Magpies v GIANTS Netball
WED 18 May 8pm AEST Adelaide Thunderbirds v Queensland Firebirds (7:30pm local)