Cover Photo: May Bailey
Contributors: Jenny Sinclair, Ian Harkin, Georgia Doyle, Katrina Nissen
Photographers: May Bailey, Marcela Massey
Adelaide Thunderbirds 60 def NSW Swifts 57 (14-16, 18-13, 10-13, 18-15)
Collingwood Magpies 65 def West Coast Fever 62 (16-15, 16-17, 19-12, 14-18)
Sunshine Coast Lightning 66 def Queensland Firebirds 60 (16-18, 15-19, 16-10, 19-13)
GIANTS Netball 60 def Melbourne Vixens 57 (16-17, 13-17, 17-16, 14-7)
Netball was in the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. With players due to be notified on Tuesday whether or not they’d made the Netball World Cup team, they were informed via a Zoom meeting the previous day that this wouldn’t be happening until they’d committed to a new Diamonds specific CPA. The ANPA claims it was blindsided by the news, while NA believed there had been adequate time to work through the process. As Queen Elizabeth once said, “Recollections may vary”.
Eventually the two bodies agreed on a compromise – that the CPA would be rolled over until after the Netball World Cup, after which point a new agreement for three years has to be put in place. In the meantime, there was a lot of unnecessary stress and emotion for the players caught up in the mess. For a full report of the saga, Erin Delahunty’s article explores the issue more fully.
The Diamonds ended up being notified of their selection on Friday, with the full team announced publicly on Monday morning. For more news on the selections Jenny Sinclair’s article provides greater detail.
Eye spy Dame Noeline Taurua, who was in the crowd at the Sunshine Coast Lightning game. As their inaugural coach, Taurua is back on Australian soil to mentor Belinda Reynolds, as well as to do some scouting ahead of the Silver Ferns camp to be held shortly.
It was an emotional night in Launceston on Saturday as the Collingwood Magpies bowed out of Suncorp Super Netball in style with a 65-62 win over Fever. In a somewhat bittersweet ending, the Magpies’ 101st and last match in the competition was actually one of their finest performances.
They played superbly and even when pressured in the final quarter by the defending champions, they dug deep and held on, sparking scenes of absolute jubilation at full time.
Not only was it Collingwood’s last game in Super Netball, but it was Ash Brazill’s last as well. She was there back at the start in 2017, and is the only player to be a part of the Magpies’ first and last games in the competition. A popular fan favourite, she will be missed in club netball, and it was a highlight of the night to see her go out a winner.
Another popular player is April Brandley, and she also went out a winner on Sunday when GIANTS defeated Vixens in the last game of the regular season.
The fixtures for next week’s semi-finals have been decided after an eventful last round, in which only one of the four semi-final teams actually managed to win. The topsy-turvy results saw Adelaide Thunderbirds claim second spot on the ladder with a gutsy three goal win over competition leaders NSW Swifts at Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney.
In a major form reversal for both teams, it was the Swifts’ first loss since round four. These same two teams will now meet each other once again next Saturday night in the Major Semi Final in Sydney. But the venue has changed. The game will be played at the larger Qudos Bank Arena with administrators clearly hopeful of a large crowd.
After starting the weekend in second place, West Coast Fever’s upset three goal loss at the hands of the last-placed Magpies, meant they dropped down to third on the ladder. It was the Fever’s fifth narrow defeat for the year, and Dan Ryan was clearly unhappy that his team had let the double chance slip.
They will now host fourth placed Melbourne Vixens in the knockout Minor Semi Final at RAC Arena in Perth next Sunday afternoon. This will be a replay of last year’s grand final and again, a large crowd is expected.
Here are the results of the four semi-finalists in matches played against each other this year.
Thunderbirds: 4 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw
Swifts: 3 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw
Vixens: 2 wins, 4 losses
Fever: 2 wins, 4 losses
Most goals – 54/56 Jhaniele Fowler (Magpies v Fever)
Most supershots – 8/16 Donnell Wallam (Lightning v Firebirds)
Most goal assists – 25 Steph Wood (Lightning v Firebirds) & Liz Watson (GIANTS v Vixens)
Most feeds – 42 Liz Watson (GIANTS v Vixens)
Most gains – 10 Latanya Wilson (Swifts v Thunderbirds)
Most intercepts – 4 Latanya Wilson (Swifts v Thunderbirds), Courtney Bruce (Magpies v Fever) & Emily Mannix (GIANTS v Vixens)
Most deflections – 14 Latanya Wilson (Swifts v Thunderbirds)
Most turnovers – 8 Kiera Austin (GIANTS v Vixens)
Most penalties – 19 Courtney Bruce (Magpies v Fever)
Steph Wood (Lightning) had a head clash with Gabi Simpson and blood came from a cut near her eye. She was taken for a concussion test which she passed and she resumed playing.
Donnell Wallam (Firebirds) landed awkwardly in a battle for the ball with Kadie-Ann Dehaney. She limped off in the third quarter, but was able to rejoin play not long after.
Erin O’Brien made her Super Netball debut, becoming GIANT number 29.
Ash Brazill played her last National League game
April Brandley played her last National League game
Tippah Dwan – played her 50th SSN game
Matilda McDonell – played her 50th SSN game
Olivia Lewis – played her 50th SSN game
Break out performance of the round
The final break out performance of the season goes to Remi Kamo. It’s rare that a rookie plays every game at SSN level in her first season, and excels in the process. The 29 year was outstanding in 2023, forming a strong partnership with Ruby Bakewell-Doran, and holding down the last line of defence against some very experienced shooters.
While Kamo’s consistency across the season has earned her this nod, she finished the game with 6 gains, including 1 intercept, 5 deflections, 3 rebounds and 3 pickups, all against two Australian shooters no less.
THUNDERBIRDS 60 def SWIFTS 57
By Katrina Nissen (originally published by Newswire)
Adelaide Thunderbirds have rattled the top four after a confidence-boosting win against the NSW Swifts in Sydney. Fighting back after a recent form slump, the Thunderbirds used a raft of positional changes and some ferocious defence to defeat the minor premiers by three points.
Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst masterfully weaved tactical changes into her line which kept the Swifts’ heads spinning.
In a move only seen on the international stage, Shamera Sterling showed her effectiveness at goal defence by plying her acrobatics during stints in the mid-court. This shift allowed shorter Jamaican Latanya Wilson to use her hops and dogged hunting style at goal keeper.
The positional switch forced big-game player, Helen Housby to the bench. Heading into this match, Housby was coming off six consecutive solid 100+ Nissan Net Point matches. But during this match, she was kept to an abysmal eight.
Speaking after the match, Swifts coach Briony Akle said that choice to bench Housby wasn’t because of anything Wilson was doing. “For us, knowing what was in their back end for defence, I think they wanted to get that ball down there too quickly. I said to them, ‘just take a breath’. That’s all they needed to do: use the fakes, and give two options on the ball. So, giving her [Housby] on the sideline never hurts.”
There were tantalizing World Cup matchups all over the court. The battle between English international Eleanor Cardwell and Diamond Sarah Klau was particularly mouthwatering. In the earlier stages of the match, Klau appeared to have the wood over Cardwell but the versatile shooter went into her bag of tricks to change up her game and even the odds.
When at wing defence, match MVP Wilson was also menacing against Paige Hadley, and finished with ten gains, including 3 intercepts.
While not yet confirmed to be in the World Cup twelve, Hadley is a safe option given her high work rate, solid passes and versatility. So, Wilson’s shutdown game on Hadley, who was kept to a miserly 18 feeds and 10 goal assists, will be intensely analysed by Diamond’s coach Stacey Marinkovich.
For the third quarter, the Swifts took a leaf out of the Thunderbirds’ book and changed up the defence end pushing Klau and Maddy Turner forward. The extra height paid dividends for the Swifts, particularly on the centre pass conversion, which for the Thunderbirds had sat at 92% but in this quarter dropped to 68%. The result was a drawn game heading into the final break.
The final term didn’t have the razzle-dazzle of the earlier stages of the match, but it did have the intensity. Knowing that the result would impact hosting rights for the minor semi-final, the Thunderbirds threw themselves at every ball. Sterling and Wilson stood up when it counted and won crucial ball in the closing minutes to secure the win.
They will now have an anxious two-hour wait to find out if they will be hosting the minor semi-final next week, or have a double chance in the major.
After dominating in the goal circle this season, Romelda Aiken-George has been named in her fourth Netball World Cup team. If she takes the court three times at the competition, she will join an illustrious group of athletes in the ‘200 club’. The only other Super Netball athlete to notch over 200 national league caps is Geva Mentor.
Romelda Aiken-George 27/31 (87%)
Helen Housby 17/20 (85%)
Sophie Fawns 5/9 (56%)
Eleanor Cardwell 30/35 (86%)
Lucy Austin 16/20 (80%)
Tippah Dwan 8/10 (80%)
MVP – Latanya Wilson
MAGPIES 65 def FEVER 62
by Georgia Doyle – Originally published for Fox Netball
Magpies have sung the Collingwood theme song for the final time, as curtains close on the netball club. In an emotional farewell, Super Netball’s wooden spooners took one of their biggest scalps of the season, beating West Coast Fever by three points and relegating them to the minor semi-final.
It was a fairy tale finish for the Pies, playing with a level of composure that has been missing for much of the season. They had their usual creative flare, but were able to reel it in and play smart when needed.
Collingwood were all smiles during the match, while tears flowed at the final whistle.
Fever struggled for energy during the match, with the after effects of Covid and the tail end of a grueling season of travel taking its toll. Repeated trips east, topped off by the 10 hour, 4000km trip to Launceston meant changes were needed to lift the side.
The flat performance from Fever gave co-captain Ash Brazill the chance to show off her flare in centre, a switch up forced by a wrist injury to Molly Jovic.
Brazill announced her retirement prior to the news that Collingwood would fold. As the only remaining foundation player, she is the beating heart of the club. Despite the underwhelming team performances, she speaks fondly of her time in the black and white.
“I’ve been able to live two dreams, playing footy and netball. And I feel like I’ve played my best netball when I play footy too” she said pre game.
Speaking from commentary, inaugural captain Madi Browne reminisced some highlights of her time as a Magpie.
“The song, to be able to sing it loud and proud when it’s got such history [was special]” she said.
Sophie Garbin earned MVP honours in a season best game with 12 goals and 20 goal assists. The performance put to rest many of the questions about her ability to perform in the Diamonds, with the World Cup team being announced next week.
Garbin’s combination with Jamaican international Shimona Nelson was on song, with the latter sinking 51/55, which begs the question of why she was an omission from the Jamaican World Cup team of 12.
Head Coach Nicole Richardson is known for her emotion, and she didn’t hide any of it post match.
“I’m trying to keep it all together, I’m super proud. Our last month has been under extreme pressure, stress and anxiety. We got smashed by Fever the first time we played, so to put out that performance tonight shows our resilience” she said.
Collingwood leaves behind a legacy of unfulfilled potential, with a raft of international players donning the black and white but unable to translate firepower to performance.
BYE BYE BRAZILL
Ash Brazill bid farewell to her domestic career after 13 seasons, having represented three clubs. The only remaining player from Collingwood’s inaugural season, Brazill played more than half of her 144 matches for the club, her passion and dogged defence making her a fan favourite. She also has 22 tests for the Diamonds, and will be hoping to add more at next month’s World Cup.
GOODBYE COLLINGWOOD FOREVER
After 101 matches, Collingwood Magpies played their final Super Netball game following the club’s decision to not renew their license going forward. Despite boasting world class alumnus including Madi Browne, Sharni Layton, Nat Medhurst and Caitlin Thwaites, the side repeatedly failed to reach their mammoth potential, finishing their run with a win-loss record of 36-62 with 3 draws.
Shimona Nelson 51/55 (93%)
Sophie Garbin 12/16 (75%)
Jhaniele Fowler 53/55 (96%)
Sasha Glasgow 5/7 (71%)
MVP – Sophie Garbin
LIGHTNING 66 def FIREBIRDS 60
By Katrina Nissen (originally published by Newswire)
With nothing but pride to play for, both Queensland sides left it all out on the court during their final match of the season. In a messy, frenetic arm wrestle which, at times, resembled the walking wounded, it was the Sunshine Coast Lightning who took the bragging rights into 2024, securing a six goal win over the Queensland Firebirds.
At various points throughout the match, key Diamond squad members sustained injuries that could spell disaster ahead of the Netball World Cup in July.
Donnell Wallam dug into her bag of tricks early, dropping a fadeaway shot, a layup and a super shot all in the opening 15 minutes of play. She finished the game with an inaccurate 43 from 58 attempts, dropping a few more layups and fadeaways along the way.
Super Netball’s most unassuming defensive duo, Remi Kamo and Ruby-Bakewell-Doran, showed the depth of their growth over the season. They kept the Diamond’s starting attackers scoreless in the first three minutes of the match.
However, you can never keep a player as smart as Steph Wood down for too long. She wove her magic to find space and her partner to bring back the score deficit on more than one occasion throughout the match.
Just as the Lightning was mounting a first-half comeback, a collision between Wood and Firebird Gabi Simpson saw the former leave the court with blood streaming from her eyebrow – but not before sinking a super shot.
After being cleared of the league’s concussion protocols, Wood returned to the court in the second half with a new dress and stitches holding the eyebrow together. The match MVP will undoubtedly be closely monitored as she looks ahead to the World Cup in July.
Just before Wood’s injury, Bakewell-Doran and Lightning’s Mahlia Cassidy clashed heavily. Both ended up on the floor, with Bakewell-Doran taking a long time to rise and limp to the sidelines. She already had strapping on her knee and did play out the match, but did occasionally favour the leg.
In further headaches for the Firebirds, Wallam also went off the court with an ankle injury in the third term. Struggling with both pain and accuracy, Wallam made several reappearances across the last 15 minutes.
As the final term got underway, emotions rose, which had contrasting effects for both sides. The Firebirds faded as errors crept in, and the Lightning stood up and delivered their final, impactful quarter of the season.
WHO’S A GONER?
After spending a lot of the back half of the season on the bench, the future looks in doubt for Firebirds’ wing defence, Gabi Simpson. The veteran notched her 150th national league match earlier this season but hasn’t played a full game since Round 4, even riding the pine for a full 60 minutes when her side beat the Vixens. Simpson has a lot to offer a team in terms of leadership, but most teams are looking for versatility in the midcourt, so as a specialist wing defence, a forced retirement may be in her future.
Rumours are also swirling that Lightning’s remaining inaugural midcourtier, Laura Scherian may also hang up the ASICS this season. The 35 year old made her national league debut in 2007 and has two premierships and four Diamonds’ appearances to her name.
Cara Koenen 46/50 (92%)
Steph Wood 17/21 (81%)
Charlie Bell 0/1 (0%)
Donnell Wallam 43/58 (74%)
Emily Moore 7/11 (64%)
Mia Stower 1/3 (33%)
MVP – Steph Wood
GIANTS 60 def VIXENS 57
By Jenny Sinclair (originally published by Newswire)
In an enthralling final Super Netball round that included boilovers, blood and goodbyes, Giants Netball followed the script to take down the Melbourne Vixens by three points. Amongst the drama, three of the top teams were beaten, the Magpies made an emotional farewell as they exit the competition, and there were injuries galore during the Lightning’s victory.
This match result left both coaches with conflicting emotions.
Speaking after the game, coach Julie Fitzgerald spoke of her regret that the Giants finished sixth.
“We have enormous potential. We have younger players who are a year older and a year better and we can’t wait for next year,” she said.
Meanwhile, Simone McKinnis has work to do in restoring the Vixens’ confidence after suffering their third loss in the last five weeks. Their slump in form is a significant road bump heading into the minor semi-final.
Both teams had a composed start, combining good ball security with uncompromising defence. However, it wasn’t long before the error rate rose, with both side’s centre pass conversion rate hovering in the mid sixties.
Veteran Jo Harten wound the clock back in attack, plying almost two decade’s worth of experience against the Vixen’s defence. The English international used superior body positioning and seemed to enjoy drawing the umpire’s whistle in her favour.
Speaking to commentary at half time, Harten disclosed just what this game meant to the Giants.
“It’s been a challenging one, this season,” she said. “But we’re playing for pride, they’re playing for finals. We don’t want to disappoint our home crowd so we’re leaving it all out there.”
Knowing that the result of this match didn’t impact ladder position, both sides rejigged their lines. Giants put some court time into their youngsters, while Vixens rested several stars ahead of finals. However, they notably didn’t bench three of their frontline players, with Liz Watson playing every minute of the season.
Two of the contenders for the Diamonds’ centre bib, Jamie-Lee Price and Kate Moloney, ran head-to-head for just over half the match. Price was expensive, giving away four turnovers, but took the honours due to her three intercepts and eye watering workrate in attack.
With scores level in the last few minutes of the game, a small Giants reshuffle lifted the home side. The reintroduction of match MVP Maddie Hay gave them greater ball security in attack as she expertly delivered the ball to Sophie Dwyer for the match winning supershot.
Giant April Brandley farewelled 14 years of elite netball with a strong outing that included three intercepts and one pickup. Brandley played for five clubs during her domestic career, and added 39 caps for the Diamonds.
With the Fever ousted from second spot after their loss yesterday, Vixens now face the tough trek west to play them in the minor semi-final. After an expensive 72 penalties in today’s match, Vixens will need to tidy up their act to take down the reigning premiers.
Will Jo Harten be back in orange in 2024? After announcing her international retirement a few months ago, Harten made it clear that she wanted to play on for the Giants. Despite surgery earlier this year however, she’s been struggling with an ongoing knee injury, and has looked well below her best. While Harten is one of the best shooters to play the game, and her leadership is outstanding, Giants may need to look at other options to climb the Super Netball ladder.
Jo Harten 33/36 (92%)
Sophie Dwyer 16/24 (67%)
Matisse Letherbarrow 1/5 (20%)
Mwai Kumwenda 43/47 (92%)
Kiera Austin 11/14 (79%)
MVP – Maddie Hay
(Team . Pts . %)
Swifts . 42 . 105.28%
Thunderbirds . 38 . 107.09%
Fever . 36 . 110.442%
Vixens . 32 . 102.91
Lightning . 24 . 99.88%
GIANTS . 20 . 95.94%
Firebirds . 16 . 91.03%
Magpies . 16 . 90.01%
Matches will be shown live on Fox Sport and Kayo Sports.
Major Semi-Final: Sat, Jun 24, 7pm – Swifts v Thunderbirds
Minor Semi-Final: Sun, Jun 25, 4pm – Fever v Vixens (2pm WA time)