Contributors: Cara Gledhill, Kate Cornish, Jenny Sinclair, Ian Harkin, Katrina Nissen, Kirsten Daley, Danny Dalton, May Bailey
West Coast Fever 71 d Melbourne Vixens 62 (19-10, 19-16, 18-16, 15-20)
GIANTS Netball 55 def Collingwood Magpies 48 (13-11, 12-17, 18-11, 12-9)
The netball world was rocked again this week with a Herald Sun article outlining the perilous state of Netball Australia’s finances. Facing substantial losses over the last few years, $4 million worth of debt to be repaid next year, and a ‘going concern’ notice, there will be some late nights at HQ as executives put a plan together to bring netball back from the brink.
With gambling sponsorship not ruled out of the equation, the odds of a Fever victory in the major semi final on Saturday night would have been slim. In their 13 outings against the Vixens in Suncorp Super Netball, they had won just three, drawn two and lost eight. But win they did, and they probably saved Netball Australia from further controversy, after the decider had been sold to Perth just three weeks ago.
Fever was well on top for most of this match against an uncharacteristically out-of-sorts Melbourne Vixens. It was a great team effort, highlighted by the defensive pressure of Courtney Bruce, Sunday Aryang and Jess Anstiss. The only real plus for Vixens was the shooting of Rahni Samason. The record for biggest loss in an SSN finals match is 17 goals, and that looked in serious danger until Samason’s hot hand brought some respectability to the Vixens’ score.
Fever thoroughly deserved to be the first team through to the decider on their home court. With a large number of tickets having been sold already (before Fever was even assured of a spot in the game), there is set to be a huge crowd at RAC Arena for the big one on Sunday, July 3.
If Fever had held a poor head-to-head record against Vixens, that went doubly for Collingwood Magpies against GIANTS Netball. In 13 previous encounters, Magpies had won just once, and that was five years ago. Unfortunately for them, that losing run continued on Sunday afternoon in the minor semi final.
After an intense battle, GIANTS eventually got the better of Magpies, helped by judicious use of the super shot, and a tremendous all-round game from wing attack Maddie Hay who had 18 assists, four gains and zero turnovers. GIANTS now head to Melbourne for the preliminary final against Vixens next Saturday. On current form, they will give themselves a good chance of upsetting the minor premiers and progressing to the grand final.
Most goals – 67/69 Jhaniele Fowler (Vixens v Fever)
Most supershots – 10/14 Rahni Samason (Vixens v Fever) and equal best record shared with Jo Harten (GIANTS) and Helen Housby (Swifts)
Most feeds – 45 Maddie Hay (GIANTS v Magpies)
Most goal assists – 26 Alice Teague-Neeld (Vixens v Fever)
Most intercepts – 4 Sunday Aryang (Vixens v Fever)
Most deflections – 7 Geva Mentor (GIANTS v Magpies)
Most gains – 6 Courtney Bruce (Vixens v Fever)
Most turnovers – 7 Liz Watson and Verity Simmons (Vixens v Fever)
Most penalties – 21 Molly Jovic (GIANTS v Magpies)
Emily Mannix (Vixens v Fever) – finger.
Break out performance of the round
Rahni Samason played a critical role in the Melbourne Vixens mounting their comeback against Fever, even if it was a case of too little too late. She struggled in the first half, only playing seven minutes across the two Power Fives and converting just one of her three attempts from range. Whether it was a half time rev up from Simone McKinnis, or her settling into the game after missing several weeks due to injury but the second half showed the form we are used to seeing from her. She played 20 minutes, and scored a whopping 10/14 super shots, to equal the individual super shot record of 10 in a game. Her ability to convert under pressure will be something Vixens hope she can bring in their match next week against GIANTS, and then against Fever in a fortnight should they have the next game go their way.
West Coast Fever 71 def. Melbourne Vixens 62
By Cara Gledhill
The West Coast Fever are through to the grand final after a dominant win over the Melbourne Vixens in Melbourne. The Vixens were favoured to win the game, having beaten the Fever twice during the regular season, but after this win, and with the grand final to be played in Perth, the Fever are now in the box seat to take out their first SSN premiership.
The Fever employed a full-court defensive strategy from the outset, starving the Vixens’ most prolific players of easy access to the ball. The Fever had clearly done their research in identifying Kiera Austin as a key player on the first phase for the Vixens. The centre pass has been shared reasonably evenly between Austin and Liz Watson throughout the season. When Austin takes the centre pass, it allows the prolific Watson to drop onto the circle edge and feed straight into Mwai Kumwenda. Close marking from the Fever defence cut off this option and this disrupted the Vixens’ game plan significantly.
In attack, the Fever were simply slicker and showed patience to work the ball in when needed rather than always releasing to Jhaniele Fowler straight away. Alice Teague-Neeld was unstoppable at wing attack with a changeup in her direct opponent having little effect.
Where the match was won and lost?
It was the beginning of the end for the Vixens when they failed to score a single goal in a period of over six minutes at the end of the first quarter, while the Fever piled on nine. Multiple unsuccessful supershots to Rahni Samason and Kiera Austin meant the Vixens went into the first break down by nine goals and were in catch-up mode for the remainder of the game.
While there were periods where the Vixens were able to string together multiple goals, the Fever were able to fight back on every occasion with the margin stretching out to as much as 21 goals in the third quarter. Samason nailed ten supershots (nine in the last half of the game) to add some respectability to the margin, but the Vixens never looked a chance to seriously challenge the lead.
Which players/combinations stood out?
In a true team performance, there wasn’t a weak link for the Fever. Dan Ryan opted to keep the same team on for the whole game, with only Alice Teague-Neeld subbed off in the final quarter with what looked to be cramping.
In attack, Alice Teague-Neeld and Jhaniele Fowler formed an impressive combination. Teague-Neeld finished the game on 26 goal assists from 41 feeds, while Fowler fell just short of 70 goals for the game, shooting at 97% accuracy despite the efforts of the Vixens defence.
The eventual player of the match Courtney Bruce had a stellar performance on Mwai Kumwenda, sending her to the bench multiple times and forcing her into uncharacteristic turnovers at key moments of the game. Similarly, Jess Anstiss had an impressive outing on Liz Watson and Hannah Mundy. Without a lot of gains to her name, Anstiss played a grinding game of one-on-one defence, forcing the Vixens midcourt into off-target feeds for the defenders behind her to pick off.
Sunday Aryang had a superb game at goal defence, able to move her feet quickly to get around her direct opponent in Kiera Austin. Her speed onto the ball and work to transition the ball through the court showed why she will be such a valuable player for the Diamonds at the Commonwealth Games.
Samason also deserves a mention for turning around what could have easily been a 20-goal or more loss. Samason has only recently returned from injury. Despite a couple of early supershot misses, Samason was quick to sight the post and was shooting from range without regard for whether the shot was worth one or two.
Jhaniele Fowler 67/69 (97%)
Sasha Glasgow 3/6 (50%)
Mwai Kumwenda 20/20 (100%)
Rahni Samason 18/23 (78%)
Kiera Austin 12/17 (71%)
MVP: Courtney Bruce (Fever)
Giants Netball 55 defeated Collingwood Magpies 48
By Kate Cornish
With a place in the preliminary final on the line against the Melbourne Vixens, there were no second chances in the minor semi-final against Giants Netball and the Collingwood Magpies as they took to battle at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney on Sunday afternoon. Both teams have had inconsistencies in their game throughout the year, but it is the Magpies who have rallied during the season after a horror start, losing their first three games but shrugging off their critics to finish fourth on an incredibly congested ladder. The Giants have had moments of brilliance as they’ve strived to recreate the form that saw them make the grand final in 2021.
After a hesitant first half, it was the experience of the Giants that saw them pull away in the third and fourth quarters to see them end the finals dreams of the Magpies.
The Giants demonstrated better composure in the moments that mattered. They are experienced finals campaigners and had more belief in their game plan than the Magpies who lost their nerve towards the end of the game. Though the Magpies were only able to win one quarter, they were dominant in the second quarter and even took the lead into the half time break, however a lack of discipline in the third quarter resulted in 20 penalties, compared to the Giants 11, which saw the Giants enjoy greater space on court and more uncontested ball to post.
Sophie Garbin enjoyed her best game in the black dress this season. Garbin, formerly with the NSW Swifts, signed to the Magpies to transition from an impact goal shooter to a full-time goal attack and the evolution has not been a smooth one. She has been benched on numerous occasions throughout the season due to lack of form, but over the last fortnight Garbin has found some confidence.
The news that she had not been selected for the Diamonds Commonwealth Games team could possibly have released a pressure valve for Garbin who has played with much more self-confidence, flair and direction. Along with her shooting partner in Shimona Nelson, the two enjoyed shooting accuracy of 100 percent for the first 30 minutes of the game. Garbin was also instrumental in defense with one intercept and three deflections to her name.
Giants wing attack Maddie Hay was outstanding, easily putting in her best performance of the season. In contrast to the nervous finals series she produced last year, Hay showed that she had grown from that experience with her dominance in this game. She was as impressive in defense as she was in attack, winning back the ball for the Giants on multiple occasions. Hay also contributed 18 goal assists and a massive 45 feeds in her time on court. Being awarded player of the match was a fitting reward for her efforts.
Where the match was won and lost?
The third quarter of the match was a costly one for the Magpies. They lost it due to a lack of discipline in the penalty count and produced six turnovers; three of them coming from Nelson who, up until that point had been solid under the post for the Magpies.
Another big turning point of the match was when Magpies goal defender, Jodi-Ann Ward went to the bench with five minutes left in the third quarter. Ward, along with co-captain Ash Brazill had been sidelined last week after having covid, and under the health and safety protocols were only able to join the team yesterday for the captains run. Ward went to the bench citing some breathing difficulties and did not return to the game.
Before leaving the court, Ward had managed to produce a decent effort against Sophie Dwyer who had only managed six goals at that point. She had largely managed to keep Dwyer out of the game and had certainly restricted her impact. When Ward left the game Dwyer enjoyed much greater freedom and grew in confidence as the game went on.
The end of the third quarter saw the Giants score three unanswered super shots, setting up a final quarter where the Giants simply needed to play smart netball to hold on to their lead, which they were able to do.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Though already discussed, it is worth mentioning the performance of Maddie Hay once more. For the amount of ball that Hay handled during the match she managed to not have a single turnover to her name for the whole 60 minutes, which is incredibly impressive especially considering the high intensity that the match was played at.
It is also worth noting that Hay’s background in netball is as a wing defence, so she has had to learn the craft of this position in a very short space of time over the last two seasons. To see her consistently be one of the most dominant wing attacks in the game is noteworthy. Playing a huge role in transition defense for the Giants in this game, Hay called upon her skills as a former wing defense in collecting one gain, one intercept and two deflections.
In a post-match interview, Giants captain Jo Harten said of Hay, “She is outstanding and is pretty much an unsung hero of our team. I absolutely love playing with her and have so much respect for her. She started as wing defence, went to centre and now she has made wing attack her own…completely underrated but she is the absolute glue of our team.”
In the second half in particular Hay along with Harten were instrumental in the attack end for the Giants with Hay directing play and setting up her shooters with good post position. She was constantly re-offering and making herself available as an option, finding herself in good feeding position on 45 occasions.
For the first half of the game, the attacking end of Garbin, Nelson, Kelsey Browne and Molly Jovic were combining well. While Browne was dominant in the Magpies centre pass receives, it was Garbin who was lead in their second phase receives, helping to not only set up play outside the circle but getting herself into good position to act as a third feeder into Nelson. Garbin played 55 minutes and offered 14 goal assists and 16 feeds to Nelson. This is a combination that will continue to grow and with another pre-season under their belt, we can expect big things from this attacking line up in 2023.
While the Magpies will be devastated to have gone out in week one of the finals series, they will learn a lot from this match. In the first half they had multiple opportunities but they did not take them. To be able to make it into week two of finals, or even make the grand final this team will need to believe that they deserve to be there and play with that confidence.
Jo Harten 40/44 (90.0%)
Sophie Dwyer 9/14 (64.3%)
Shimona Nelson 40/41 (97.6%)
Sophie Garbin 6/6 (100%)
Gabrielle Sinclair 1/3 (33.3%)
MVP: Maddie Hay (Giants)
Nicole Richardson talking about her frustration on why the umpiring during the game changed:
“I have addressed the umpires after the game and made it quite clear on the bench at three quarter time, regardless of the result that I was going to talk to them…basically what I was told was that the intensity of the game lifted in the second half, so the umpiring had to change…some of the calls may have been pulled up to try and control that intensity. I was super frustrated because what was allowed in the first half compared to the second was very different…’
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 25 June 7pm Preliminary Final: Melbourne Vixens v GIANTS Netball JCA