Cover Image: Aliesha Vicars
Contributors: Jenny Sinclair, Ian Harkin, Katrina Nissen, Georgia Doyle
Images: Danny Dalton, Aunty Barbara McGrady, Aliesha Vicars, Clinton Bradbury, Simon Leonard, May Bailey
Collingwood Magpies 53 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 50 (16-12, 11-11, 16-12, 10-15)
West Coast Fever 69 def Sunshine Coast Lightning 65 (20-13, 17-14, 18-21, 14-17)
NSW Swifts 68 def GIANTS Netball 63 (25-19, 12-12, 14-20, 17-12)
Queensland Firebirds 76 def Melbourne Vixens 71 (19-21, 20-15, 17-19, 20-16)
The final instalment of First Nations Rounds finished in colour, style and celebration. From the record attendances and sold out games to upset results, solemn ceremony and emotional scenes, Round 12 was a fitting netball tribute to the Indigenous people of Australia.
Once again, Netball Scoop was privileged to have photojournalist and activist Aunty Barbara McGrady, together with Gomeroi man and photographer Danny Dalton, in attendance.
After some topsy turvy results, the race for the finals is wide open (see ladder at end). Swifts are currently sitting pretty at the top of the ladder, but any of the top three teams could snaffle top spot or the valuable second chance. Swifts have a tough run home with the tricky Firebirds followed by the Thunderbirds. While the Vixens and Fever face bottom four teams, they both have to take on the rejuvenated Magpies. Whichever way it falls, every team will have to face at least one away final to take out the title.
Emily Mannix and Alice Teague-Neeld celebrated their 100th national league game this weekend, and what made the milestone particularly special is they also debuted together for the Vixens.
There were emotional scenes when Collingwood Magpies held on to record a 53-50 upset win over Adelaide Thunderbirds on Saturday. All of the troubles of the past few weeks bubbled over at full time, and several players were in tears, most notably Geva Mentor. This was the Magpies’ last Melbourne home game and the players dug deep to reward the faithful fans who showed up.
The Magpies’ strong performance in this game leaves a feeling of what could have been. Seeing their position on the ladder, it’s easy to forget that they defeated Swifts comfortably in round one and were leading Vixens in round two before the centre-pass controversy struck. Who knows what might have happened if they had won that game. As it is, they now have just two games left; another battle with Vixens next round, followed by their last ever Super Netball game in Tasmania in two weeks time.
For the Thunderbirds, this could be a very costly loss, and it highlights a problem with consistency. How could the team that defeated the defending champions one week, lose to the last-placed team the following week? Once again, Thunderbirds found it difficult to score, but unlike other occasions this year, their defence wasn’t able to win enough ball to make up for it. Shamera Sterling had her quietest game of the season, up against her countrywoman Shimona Nelson who had a strong game.
West Coast Fever scored a valuable 69-65 win over Sunshine Coast Lightning. After four one-goal defeats in their past six matches, Dan Ryan and his players were just relieved to come away with the win against a surging Lightning team. But a worrying trend has emerged. Fever have become fast starters, but poor finishers. They have led at three-quarter time in all 12 matches they’ve played this season, but have only gone on to win the last quarter four times. This poor record in fourth quarters could hurt come finals time. A highlight for Fever was Jhaniele Fowler scoring her 5000th Super Netball goal.
Thanks to Thunderbirds’ shock loss, NSW Swifts took over top spot on the ladder when they had a hard fought 68-63 win over GIANTS Netball in the NSW Derby. That means they once again claimed the Carol Sykes Trophy which goes on the line when these two teams meet. In a complete contrast to Fever’s fourth quarter problems, Swifts have proven to be very strong in the final 15 minutes. Helen Housby was the star again, continuing her incredible run of form as Swifts recorded their eighth successive win.
Queensland Firebirds threw a bit of a spanner in the works for Melbourne Vixens’ title chances with a gutsy 76-71 win in Brisbane. This puts Vixens a game and percentage behind third-placed Fever on the ladder. Appropriately, in First Nations Round, it was two First Nations athletes, Donnell Wallam and Leesa Mi Mi who starred for the Firebirds. Wallam was deservedly awarded the match MVP and must surely be putting up a strong case for World Cup selection. Interestingly, Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich was in attendance.
Most goals – 59/62 Donnell Wallam (Firebirds v Vixens)
Most supershots – 6/8 Donnell Wallam (Firebirds v Vixens) & 6/10 Kiera Austin (Firebirds v Vixens)
Most intercepts – 3 Jodi-Ann Ward (Magpies v Thunderbirds)
Most deflections – 8 Remi Kamo & Ruby Bakewell-Doran (Firebirds v Vixens)
Most goal assists – 28 Hannah Mundy (Firebirds v Vixens)
Most feeds – 47 Mahalia Cassidy (Fever v Lightning)
Most gains – 6 Jodi-Ann Ward (Magpies v Thunderbirds) & Remi Kamo (Firebirds v Vixens)
Most turnovers – 8 Sophie Garbin (Magpies v Thunderbirds) & Sophie Dwyer (Swifts v GIANTS)
Most penalties – 22 Matilda McDonell (Swifts v GIANTS)
Milestones & Debuts
Sophie Casey debuted for Adelaide Thunderbirds, becoming #107
Alice Teague-Neeld celebrated her 100th National League Match
Emily Mannix celebrated her 100th National League Match
Hannah Petty missed Thunderbirds loss against Collingwood Magpies, still recovering from a quad injury with the priority being well prepared for the Finals Series.
Maddy Proud had several, not unusual, falls. However, she did leave the court for assessment after one of them, and looked to be particularly sore.
Break out performance of the round
Ash Ervin faced Super Netball’s toughest challenge, matching it against Jhaniele Fowler in Perth. It was Ervin’s first start, with Belinda Reynold’s taking the chance to give her bench some court time as the side are out of the finals race. And boy did Ervin relish the opportunity, she got her hand to ball within the first few minutes and caused plenty more disruption throughout the match. She finished with a team high three gains, with only six penalties. Her reach over the shot had significant impact on Fowler, who missed four goals – her equal highest number of misses from the one point zone this season
Leesa Mi Mi backed up her impressive performance last week, to dominate yet again during First Nations Round. The Wakka Wakka woman ran toe to toe with Diamonds captain Liz Watson for the full 60 minutes, and was leading all of the stats. She recorded 31 feeds, 24 goal assists and only three turnovers. With a new team entering the league next year, if they have already started their scouting she could be one creeping to the top of the list.
It’s also worth talking up Hannah Mundy. After limited court time over the past few seasons, Mundy has been making the Vixens’ wing attack bib her own. So much so, that the team has shifted to suit, with Liz Watson moving to centre, Kate Moloney to wing defence, and Kate Eddy to the bench.
In today’s game, Mundy was a stand out for the Vixens, racking up 28 goal assists, 46 feeds, 19 centre pass receives, 17 second phase receives, two gains and just three turnovers.
MAGPIES 53 def THUNDERBIRDS 50
By Jenny Sinclair
Collingwood’s death by a thousand cuts continued as they upset title favourites Adelaide Thunderbirds by a narrow three points. Their clinical win showed glimpses of the powerhouse they could have been, rather than what is – a team folding just seven years after conception.
When the news dropped last week that Collingwood wouldn’t renew their Super Netball license, it left the team in tatters. Futures of players and staff unknown, fingers pointed, and just pride left to play for.
Today, that pride was enough for the Magpies to win their last ever home game on Victorian soil, leaving the team in tears after a tumultuous few weeks.
However, it was a surprising result given each team’s position on the ladder. Collingwood languish at the bottom, while the Thunderbirds are pushing for their first grand final success in a decade.
The Magpies made a promising start, with a near flawless attacking performance supported by defensive attrition.
Shimona Nelson was a tower of strength under the post, shooting 44 from 44 and reducing the usually brilliant Shamera Sterling to a spectator at times. The rapid fire connection between MVP Kelsey Browne and Nelson proved difficult to stop, although Sophie Garbin’s reluctance to go to the post could prove costly for her come Diamonds’ selection.
Leading by four points at half time, Magpies coach Nicole Richardson was hopeful her side could hang on.
She said to commentary, “We were in this position last week, we lost, so we need to learn from it.
“This win means so much to us. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, so hopefully for the girls and the fans we can come away with the win and the points.”
Defenders Jodi-Ann Ward and Geva Mentor picked off six gains between them, keeping Eleanor Cardwell particularly quiet. Scoring just 13 points in the first half, the English Rose was visibly unhappy with her performance as the game progressed.
Leading by as much as 10 at one point, cracks appeared in the Magpies form during the last quarter. While the re-energised Thunderbirds narrowed the margin to two, Magpies hung on for an emotional win.
The Thunderbirds lack-lustre performance could come back to haunt them. Results pending, it has potentially bumped them off the top of the table, and into a string of away finals if they are to take out the premiership.
It’s a different future for the Magpies, whose 10 players will be left without a club at season’s end. While their agents are looking worldwide for future opportunities, contracting periods in the UK and New Zealand close before Super Netball’s even opens. So players have to decide whether to lock down a certainty overseas – potentially for far less money – or take a risk on missing out altogether.
And while the Magpies players will have to endure further cuts over the coming weeks, the deepest, perhaps, comes from Netball Victoria. The organisation have recently expressed their interest in remaining a two team state.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NETBALL?
Netball Victoria’s preference is for a regional team, or as cynics put it, one that won’t rival the Vixens. Other parties that have publicly expressed their interest include Netball Tasmania, and potential white knight and founder of Melbourne Victory, Geoff Lord.
Applications for the eighth license, to be overseen by a subcommittee of Netball Australia, close on June 20th.
Shimona Nelson 44/44 (100%)
Sophie Garbin 9/10 (90%)
Eleanor Cardwell 30/33 (91%)
Tippah Dwan 12/15 (80%)
Lucy Austin 2/3 (67%)
MVP – Kelsey Browne
FEVER 69 def LIGHTNING 65
By Jenny Sinclair
West Coast Fever’s topsy-turvy season continues after a four point win in front of a record Western Australian crowd. With almost 11 000 fans in the house – an attendance only eclipsed in their home finals matches – Fever’s victory against the Lightning lacked conviction.
After dropping four of their previous six Super Netball games, questions could be raised over Fever’s match fitness. While Covid and the fatigue of a heavy travel schedule are factors, the team have won just four of their 12 final quarters this season.
However, Fever coach Dan Ryan denied there was a significant problem.
Speaking post match he said, “It’s playing under pressure isn’t it? Sometimes you’re going to step up, and sometimes you are going to struggle.
“At the end of the day to win this competition you’re going to have to perform under pressure, and the more we put ourselves under pressure in those situations the better prepared we will be.”
As is customary, Fever started strongly, pulling out to an early lead with crisp ball movement and strong defensive pressure.
One of the most enthralling battles on court was an all-Diamonds affair, with Fever defenders Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang making life difficult for their opponents. While Steph Wood’s power of work regularly found Cara Koenen under the post, Wood’s accuracy was off early on.
After missing all of her five super shot attempts in the first half, coach Belinda Reynolds backed in her captain.
Speaking to commentary she said, “Steph’s been off the radar early, but she’s a champion so she’ll continue to attack it.”
While Koenen was lethal with 38 from 40, she was outshone by Jhaniele Fowler, who was the highest scorer on court. The Jamaican powerhouse brought the house down with her 5000th Super Netball goal during the match, in a 54 from 58 shooting effort. However, she also gave up four handling errors, as rookie Ash Ervin made her work for every possession.
Selected this week into the 2023/24 English Roses squad, Sasha Glasgow put last week’s quiet performance behind her as she fed Fowler superbly and contributed 15 points of her own, including five supershots.
In her 100th national league game Alice Teague-Neeld also had a return to form, with 35 feeds and an impressive defensive contribution of three gains.
However, Fever’s eighth win of the season didn’t come without its sticky moments. With the margin narrowing late in the game, and penalties once again blowing out for the Fever, centre and eventual MVP Verity Simmons copped an unusual one. Asking the umpire for clarity over crowd noise, she was firmly signaled to zip it.
After the unconvincing win, third placed Fever have work to do as finals loom. With the same number of shots on goal as the Lightning, they only scraped over the line thanks to a superior shooting percentage.
Despite sitting on top of the ladder, Adelaide Thunderbirds loss earlier today makes things interesting. It potentially opens up a higher berth for Fever, should they have a strong finish to the season.
Ryan said of the opportunity, “It makes the last two rounds really hairy, and really scary. You never know what can happen, and things can change really quickly.”
WHAT’S IN A POINT?
Plenty if you are West Coast Fever, as their four losses this season have all been by a single point. If they’d been converted to wins, Fever would be untouchably placed on top of the ladder. As it stands they will most likely finish in third or fourth, and face a string of away games if they are to become back to back premiers.
Jhaniele Fowler 54/58 (93%)
Sasha Glasgow 10/15 (67%)
Cara Koenen 38/40 (95%)
Steph Wood 13/23 (56%)
Charlie Bell 9/10 (90%)
MVP – Verity Simmons
SWIFTS 68 def GIANTS 63
By Katrina Nissen
The Super Netball finals race has been blown wide open after the NSW Swifts defeated Giants Netball in Sydney.
Swifts will meet the Adelaide Thunderbirds in the last round, and depending on the results of that game, any of the top four teams could take out the minor premiership and hosting rights for the major semi-final.
In front of a raucous full house, Swifts narrowly got over the line by five points, while retaining the Carol Sykes trophy for the 2023 season.
Nerves or physical pressure from Jaimie-Lee Price saw a few uncharacteristic errors from Maddy Proud in the opening minutes that gave Giants an early three goal lead. But it didn’t last as the Swifts rallied to apply a vice-like full court defence and hit the lead.
Proud and Price had vastly different matches. Price is an imposing presence on court which allowed her to collect two intercepts, yet draw far more umpire whistle. Proud is a dynamic athlete, using her speed to evade opposition. However, her erratic pace can be her undoing as she gave away more turnovers.
The battle between Price and Proud wasn’t the only Diamonds matchup during the game. With six squad members on court, and only two weeks until the World Cup team is announced, it was a good chance for selectors to assess like-for-like matchups.
National squad member Amy Parmenter had a quiet game statistically, despite doing a wealth of work trying to contain a dominant Paige Hadley and then Proud, as the two switched positions.
Sophie Dwyer had a lacklustre start to the match, only sinking eight in the first half. But when Matisse Letherbarrow was introduced, Dwyer came alive as the duo reduced the lead from nine points to level pegging.
With a tight final campaign ahead, coach Briony Akle was impressed with her side’s composure as the match tightened.
“Yes we were seven or eight up, but they came back and that was always going to happen. I don’t think we executed greatly for the 60 minutes but our girls managed to grind the win out,” she said post match.
As the Giants surged, the Swifts emptied the bench searching for defensive answers. But with two key defenders missing due to injury, they struggled at times. Despite various combinations, it was returning to their starting trio that got them over the line in the end.
English international Helen Housby continues to dominate. Her connection with Romelda Aiken-George was impeccable, as was her accuracy at the post. A deserving MVP, Housby sunk 23 shots and put in 23 feeds.
Youngster Matisse Letherbarrow has seen record court time in her third season with Giants. Largely due to injuries plaguing captain Jo Harten, Letherbarrow has played big minutes in the last few weeks. She was injected into the match at half time, with her side trailing by six.
She almost single handedly turned the scoreboard on its head, nailing four from five supershots to level the score by three quarter time. Letherbarrow faded away in the final quarter; however, as the radar went off. She missed all three of her remaining attempts, as Swifts swooped in to take the win.
Romelda Aiken-George 32/40 (80%)
Helen Housby 23/25 (92%)
Sophie Fawns 4/6 (67%)
Jo Harten 17/19 (90%)
Matisse Letherbarrow 17/22 (77%)
Sophie Dwyer 16/23 (70%)
MVP– Helen Housby
FIREBIRDS 76 def VIXENS 71
By Ian Harkin
In an upset result, Queensland Firebirds secured their second win in a row, while Melbourne Vixens suffered their second straight loss. Firebirds won 76-71 in a hard-fought clash in Brisbane, and fittingly, in First Nations Round, Donnell Wallam and Leesa Mi Mi both played pivotal roles in the victory. For Vixens, it’s a result that could make the task of claiming a place in the grand final (on their home court) much more difficult.
The second half of the 2023 season has seen Firebirds’ coach Bec Bulley settle on her preferred seven and it looks quite different to the seven she started out with in round one. The players are rewarding her for the trust she’s placed in them. There wasn’t a single change to the Firebirds lineup on court in 60 minutes against Vixens.
The injury to midcourter Macy Gardner in round seven certainly wouldn’t have been part of Bulley’s plan, but it has now provided an opportunity for Mi Mi, and her performance has well and truly justified that selection. She has fitted into the Firebirds team seamlessly and played the role of centre with the maturity of someone far more experienced at Super Netball level.
Since being given the nod as first-choice goal attack midway through the season, Emily Moore has blossomed and formed a great partnership with Wallam. In this match, Moore finished with just four goals in 60 minutes of netball, but she played the supportive goal attack role to perfection as Wallam put up over 90% of the team’s attempts.
For Vixens, there has been a deal of shuffling in the midcourt this year. In this match, coach Simone McKinnis settled on Hannah Mundy for the wing attack position, meaning co-captains Liz Watson and Kate Moloney moved to centre and wing defence respectively. While not getting the end result McKinnis was after, this combination worked well for the majority of the game and might be the one that she pins her faith in from here on.
Where was the match won and lost?
At three-quarter time, Firebirds led by one goal. As the more experienced team and the one headed for finals, Vixens might have been expected to finish stronger. But Firebirds stuck to their plans, took their time, found Wallam regularly and applied scoreboard pressure.
In defence, the combination of Remi Kamo and Ruby Bakewell-Doran, were a constant menace. In that last quarter, when the game was on the line, Kamo came up with two vital gains and five deflections to disrupt the usually smooth-running Vixens attack end. In contrast, Vixens were unable to get hand to ball defensively when they really needed it late. This proved the difference.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Wallam was outstanding in this game and a well-deserved MVP. In the presence of Australian Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich, she finished the match with 65 goals from 70 attempts. Olivia Lewis and Emily Mannix were tried at goal keeper, and both had their moments, but Wallam proved just too difficult to handle.
She was a commanding presence in the circle, taking the ball strongly, often while being double-teamed. But once again, she showed she was far from just a one-dimensional holding shooter by landing six crucial super shots from eight attempts.
The future of Australian netball is in good hands, if the efforts of Mi Mi and Mundy are anything to go by. Mi Mi has recently turned 22 and playing in just her third Super Netball game, she was opposed to the Australian captain Watson. Despite that, she never looked ruffled. She finished with 24 goal assists and was one of the best players on court.
Meanwhile, Mundy turns 22 next week, and even though playing in a team full of internationals, she was the standout for Vixens. For much of the first half, she dominated the attack end while Watson took a back seat. She was quietened somewhat in the second half, but it was still a top performance, including 28 goal assists, 46 feeds, and two gains.
The defensive partnership of Kamo and Bakewell-Doran has been one of the highlights of the season. They’ve taken their Brisbane club connection to Super Netball and it’s proven to be a hit. The Vixens’ shooting combination of Kiera Austin and Mwai Kumwenda has been in strong form this season, but the Firebirds duo put them under immense pressure, and combined for 10 possession gains, 16 deflections and four rebounds.
Donnell Wallam 65/70 (93%)
Emily Moore 4/6 (67%)
Mwai Kumwenda 43/51 (84%)
Kiera Austin 21/27 (78%)
MVP – Donnell Wallam
(Team . Pts . %)
Swifts . 38 . 104.83%
Thunderbirds . 34 . 108.28%
Fever . 32 . 111.11%
Vixens . 28 . 102.56%
Lightning . 16 . 98.80%
GIANTS . 16 . 96.31%
Firebirds . 16 . 91.77%
Magpies . 12 . 89.17%
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, Jun 10 – 7pm – Thunderbirds v Lightning (6:30pm Local time)
Sun, Jun 11 – 2pm – Fever v GIANTS (12pm local time)
Sun, Jun 11 – 4pm – Firebirds v Swifts
Mon, Jun 12 – 1pm – Vixens v Magpies (King’s Birthday Holiday)