Contributors: Georgia Doyle, Jenny Sinclair, Ian Harkin, Kate Cornish, Katrina Nissen
Photographers: Hannah Howard, Marcela Massey, Simon Leonard, Danny Dalton
GIANTS Netball 59 d Collingwood Magpies 55 (20-15, 16-10, 13-13, 10-17)
Adelaide Thunderbirds 61 d Melbourne Vixens 50 (13-13, 16-11, 15-14, 17-12)
West Coast Fever 73 d Queensland Firebirds 71 (25-15, 18-15, 15-21, 15-20)
NSW Swifts 64 d Sunshine Coast Lightning 63 (15-16, 16-18, 16-14, 17-15)
Is it a hoodoo, pure coincidence, or has one team just simply been better than the other, over and over again? Whatever the case, the Collingwood Magpies must dread coming up against GIANTS Netball. On Saturday, GIANTS won 59-55, and that was their 14th win in 15 matches between these two teams. Magpies’ one and only win came in Round 9 of 2017, and Ash Brazill is the only current Magpies player who was in the team that day.
On Saturday night, Adelaide Thunderbirds put on a great performance in front of a packed home crowd as they beat last season’s runners up Melbourne Vixens 61-50. Once again, Shamera Sterling was the star at the back, picking up the Player of the Match award, but it was a real team effort in defence.
An improved Matilda Garrett has been a revelation at goal defence this year, and it has allowed Latanya Wilson to dominate at wing defence. The back three of Sterling, Garrett and Wilson picked up 15 possession gains between them in this match. The entire Vixens team only came up with nine.
West Coast Fever kept their unbeaten run intact for another week as they defeated Queensland Firebirds. But it was far from the big margin many were expecting. Fever just held on by 2 goals after Firebirds made a late run at them through four Donnell Wallam super shots late in the game.
It was also an exciting finish in the final game of round five as NSW Swifts who had trailed for much of the game, were able to beat Sunshine Coast Lightning. In the corresponding game last season, Helen Housby scored a last second goal to get Swifts home by one, and here she was again, scoring a late super shot to get Swifts over the line by the same margin. She’s pretty good at these late winners, isn’t she?
Most goals – 60/61 Jhaniele Fowler (Firebirds v Fever)
Most supershots – 7/10 Donnell Wallam (Firebirds v Fever)
Most intercepts – 4 Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS v Magpies), Jodi-Ann Ward (GIANTS v Magpies) & Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Lightning v Swifts)
Most deflections – 8 Shamera Sterling & Latanya Wilson (Thunderbirds v Vixens)
Most goal assists – 24 Alice Teague Neeld (Firebirds v Fever) & Kelsey Browne (GIANTS v Magpies)
Most feeds – 43 Annie Miller (Lightning v Swifts)
Most gains – 8 Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds v Vixens)
Most turnovers – 9 Sophie Garbin (GIANTS v Magpies)
Most penalties – 23 Matilda Garrett (Thunderbirds v Vixens)
Courtney Bruce left the court halfway through the first quarter of the Firebirds v Fever clash after a fall that appeared to tweak her ankle. She was re-strapped and returned to the game in the second quarter, allowing all Fever, and Diamonds, fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Steph Wood also sent shockwaves following a heavy fall. She appeared uncomfortable for some time afterwards, but was able to run out the game.
Milestones and Debutants
Vixens’ Kiera Austin played her 50th national league match.
Firebirds’ Gabi Simpson played her 150th national league match. Yellow ribbons were handed out at the game to celebrate.
Speaking after the game, Gabi said the ribbons were a reminder of “joy, happiness and playing the game for the love of it. And when I wear it, it reminds me of the little girl I was when I started who played for those reasons.”
When asked of her favourite memories from her 150 matches, Gabi said, “Premierships were obviously amazing memories but also we have been through tough times as a club and in those moments, when the group rallies together, that’s when a lot of the special stuff happens.”
Break out performance of the round
In her second year at the elite level, Annie Miller had a stand out game in Lightning’s narrow loss to the Swifts. In the past, she has been stuck playing second fiddle to Laura Scherian and Steph Wood but in this match she dominated all three key attacking statistics with 43 feeds, 21 goal assists and 27 centre pass receives. This gave Wood the time and space to get back in the circle and connect with Cara Koenen much earlier.
Miller also found better space on court, with many of her feeds coming from the top of the circle. Her decision making also seemed to step up another level, switching seamlessly from using the quick passes and ball speed Lightning are known for, but also knowing when to slow down, and wait for a better option to open up rather than passing a 50/50 ball.
GIANTS 59 def MAGPIES 55
By Kate Cornish
Against an energetic Giants Netball team at home at Ken Rosewall Arena, in front of a crowd drenched in orange, the Collingwood Magpies suffered their 14th loss against Julie Fitzgerald’s team. The Magpies have only managed to beat the Giants once in Super Netball, which was back in 2017.
The win for the Giants sees them on two wins after five rounds, equal with the Magpies, however, the display from the away team left a lot to be desired. Super-shots by the hand of Kelly Singleton brought the scoreline back to four points at the final whistle; however, the final scoreline was not a true reflection of the game. The Giants did not need to move out of second gear for the last 30 minutes of the match after securing a handy lead 36-25 at halftime. From there, the game ran goal for goal, with the Magpies unable to make a dent until the last few minutes when a flurry of super shots lessened the gap. Though the Magpies won the final quarter 17-10, their inability to match the Giants’ energy in critical positions will concern their coach, Nicole Richardson.
Where was the game won and lost?
The Giants had an energy about them that was evident from the time they made their way out onto the court. Their home-ground advantage was obvious with a loud and passionate crowd who rode the excitement of each goal scored. After a solid win last week, their first of the season and against the in-form Adelaide Thunderbirds, the form from 2022 that saw them fall one game short of the grand final had returned. With an interrupted preseason with shooter Jo Harten and defender April Brandley recovering from injuries, the combinations on the court have started to click a handful of matches into season 2023.
Brandley combined well this week with goal keeper Matilda McDonnell to disrupt the shooting powerhouse for the Magpies, Shimona Nelson. Often playing as a double-defensive unit against Nelson, they forced errors on the feed, and McDonnell, in particular, was impressive with three gains, three intercepts and one deflection.
As the game continued, the tagging defense and pressure applied by Brandley to Sophie Garbin, at goal attack for the Magpies, proved too much for Garbin, who looked tired and was costly on the court for her team with nine general play turnovers and a shooting percentage of only 60%. As a defensive combination, McDonell and Brandley only amounted to a penalty count of 11 between them. In contrast to goal keeper for the Magpies, Geva Mentor had 14 penalties to her name alone.
Amy Parmenter added even more pressure in defense for the Giants in wing defence. The last two rounds have seen her reclaim the exciting form that earned her a Diamonds debut at the end of 2022. Speaking to the media after the game, Parmenter commented on the connection that has begun to form over the last few weeks between herself, McDonnell and Brandley. “Our connection is the biggest thing and that is what will win us games. We are staying connected and we are backing each other up.”
Parmenter praised the opposition and believed their game plan of shutting down the connection between Kelsey Browne at wing attack and Nelson in goal shooter early in the game was vital to their success. “When they are on, they are on…if you can shut them down early, that is when they start to make mistakes or get a bit hesitant…we wanted to shut them down early on the centre pass and second phase. Kelsey (Browne) can feed from anywhere. We know that she is so good and has got such a good connection with Shimona (Nelson), so it was big hands over (ball) to try and stop that feed in.”
Jamie-Lee Price was again a stand-out on the court for the Giants, and she has carried her impressive Australian Diamonds form of late last year into this season. She has been exceptionally consistent on the court this season, showing a maturity in her game that some may argue is long overdue. However, her work in attack and defence at centre has consistently been the benchmark this season. Her efforts in this game earned her MVP of the match, and with the Netball World Cup later in the year, her form would undoubtedly be on the radar of coach Stacey Marincovich who dropped Price from the squad in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games last year.
Richardson recognised that Price was a threat when she was interviewed at three-quarter time. However, despite the Magpies coach trying three different options in the centre position to try and nullify the impact of Price throughout the match (Molly Jovic, Maddie Hinchliffe and Ash Brazill), none were successful and in a dominant performance Price finished the game on 113 Nissan Net Points and earned herself player of the match.
Richardson also commented that her team needed to show greater intent as they were being out-enthused by the Giants. Unfortunately for Richardson, not only was her team unable to match the intent of the Giants, but they were also unable to match up in key positions on the court. In goal attack for the Giants, Sophie Dwyer was crucial in setting up their attacking play and accurate under the post (22/26). In contrast, Garbin could not have an impact or perform with the same dominance. The stark contrasts of both performances proved to be the difference in this match.
Garbin finished the 2022 netball calendar with a solid international season for the Diamonds, where she dominated in the goal shooter position. After defecting from the Swifts at the end of 2021 and joining the Magpies for the 2022 season, it was clear that her role for her new team would be as goal attack. To date, Garbin has failed to deliver consistently in this position. In this game against Brandley’s persistence and physicality, she looked exhausted and overwhelmed with the responsibility that a goal attack assumes at this level.
Richardson had the opportunity to move Garbin into goal shooter on two occasions. Instead, she was left at goal attack while Singleton was substituted into the shooter position. Given the strength and impact that Garbin has displayed as a shooter at the international level and her apparent struggles on the court in the match against Brandley, it may have been a missed coaching opportunity by Richardson.
The Magpies defensive unit of Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward has been one of the most consistent to start the season, with Ward being named player of the match on several occasions. In this match, however, this combination did not have the impact we have seen over the past few weeks, which could have been due to the lack of defensive pressure being applied down court that would allow them to contest for intercepts and deflections. Despite the Magpies’ backline not having the impact of previous weeks, Ward still finished the game with four intercepts, four gains and four deflections. These statistics and this personal performance by Ward is incredibly encouraging for their future matches.
Which players/combinations stood out?
While she often goes about her game with little recognition, over the past two weeks, Maddie Hay has found some consistent form for the Giants in the wing attack position. She has played in four of the five rounds this season, and while she had a slow start, her performance in this game was much improved. She is a natural wing defence who has assumed the role of an attacker, and that defensive background is perhaps her biggest strength.
Her ability to read the play and play a tight one-on-one game allows her the opportunity to win offensive intercepts and disrupt play in transition. Against the Magpies, she won the ball back for her team several times with three gains, three intercepts and three deflections. Even more impressive that Hay had this performance against Brazill, a current Diamonds squad member and one of the most athletic players in Super Netball.
Jo Harten 34/37 (92%)
Sophie Dwyer 22/26 (85%)
Shimona Nelson 36/39 (92%)
Sophie Garbin 9/15 (60%)
Kelly Singleton 4/6 (67%)
MVP – Jamie-Lee Price
THUNDERBIRDS 61 def VIXENS 50
By Georgia Doyle
(Originally published by Fox Netball)
Adelaide Thunderbirds secured their first home win for the Super Netball season in emphatic fashion, bull-dozing a persistent Melbourne Vixens side by 11 goals.
It was a disappointing result for Vixen Kiera Austin, who notched up her 50th national league game. Despite scoring four supershots, Austin and her teammates struggled to hold onto the ball against a ferocious Thunderbirds’ defensive line.
MVP Shamera Sterling dazzled the fans, twice rejecting a shot on the buzzer and setting the crowd alight. Speaking after the match, Sterling said, “It feels absolutely so good to beat the Vixens. In the previous years they have been the ones to beat, so this win is ‘all time’.”
Thunderbirds acknowledged their poor performance last week, with assistant coach Tracey Neville speaking pragmatically about their expectations.
“We needed to learn from last week, so we really punished ourselves as coaches and players that we expect better from ourselves in those critical scenarios. We have to come out and execute” she said after the match.
The seemingly never ending arms of the Thunderbirds defenders wreaked havoc through the Vixens attacking end, with potent wing defence Latanya Wilson causing mass disruption.
Liz Watson had a tough day at the office against the in-form Wilson. The usually dominant Diamonds attacker was starved of ball, becoming frustrated and giving away 13 penalties and six turnovers.
Thunderbirds welcomed back captain Hannah Petty from injury, who hasn’t played since the abandoned Round Two match. She didn’t skip a beat when injected to combat the Vixens comeback, connecting with her shooters and adding extra defensive pressure through the midcourt.
Adelaide shooter Tippah Dwan is known for her speed and elusiveness, something she was forced to draw upon facing “‘one of [her] toughest opponents” in Vixens and Diamonds defender Jo Weston.
In an attempt to combat Vixen defender Jo Weston’s dogged tagging, Thunderbirds coaches instructions at half time were to “keep chugging and keep running”.
Vixens struggled to earn back the ball, with only eight defensive wins for the game. And to make matters worse, they were only able to score off two of these compared to Thunderbirds who capitalised on 15 of the 20 balls they won back.
Low shooting percentage didn’t help Vixens’ cause either, with just 75 per cent accuracy largely due to their super shot attempts. They were left without much choice, attempting them to try and give the scoreline some dignity.
This sealed the game for Thunderbirds, who now face their biggest challenge next week against an unbeaten West Coast Fever in what many pundits are predicting will be a grand final preview.
Neville is ever-aware of the fight they face next week.
“Fever are locked in stone for finals, for us it’s how we contest against their players and what we can put out. We need to be able to change within a game, tonight we had to change what we were doing to get the better of the Vixens. The girls were able to take on that tactical intelligence, which will be really important going forward” she said after the match.
In her 50th domestic match Kiera Austin returned to Netball SA Stadium for the first time since rupturing her ACL on the court two years ago. She showed no sign of worry, confidently scoring 14 from 17, including four supershots.
MASTERS VERSUS APPRENTICES
Adelaide Thunderbirds are the youngest team in Super Netball, with an average age of just 23.6 years. They didn’t let this phase them up against the veteran Melbourne Vixens side. With a combined 429 games under their belt, Thunderbirds matched the smarts and composure of the Vixens who have close to double the experience at 807 domestic matches.
Eleanor Cardwell 35/38 (92%)
Tippah Dwan 21/25 (84%)
Mwai Kumwenda 25/29 (86%)
Kiera Austin 18/28 (64%)
MVP – Shamera Sterling
FEVER 73 def FIREBIRDS 71
By Ian Harkin
West Coast Fever maintained its position on top of the Suncorp Super Netball ladder with victory over bottom-of-the-ladder Queensland Firebirds, but it was nothing like the easy, routine victory that many people would have been expecting. In the end, Fever only just managed to hold on against a surging Firebirds team. Playing in her 150th match, Firebirds legend Gabi Simpson spent the second half on the bench, unable to do anything but cheer for her teammates as they chased victory in the closing minutes.
Fever’s starting line-up most certainly worked. They put on a clinical display of almost mistake-free netball in the first half of the game. Giving up zero turnovers in a near-perfect first quarter, they raced to a 25-15 lead. The four turnovers then committed in the second quarter all came from the defensive end, which meant that for the first 30 minutes of play, Fever’s attacking players gave up no turnovers at all. That is an extraordinary statistic. At halftime, the score was 43-30 and things looked very ominous for the Firebirds.
That was when both coaches rejigged their teams for the second half. Firebirds’ coach Bec Bulley’s changes were all made in the hope of finding a better combination than that which took to the court in the first half. This included making the tough decision to leave Simpson on the bench for the final two quarters of her milestone match. There is no doubt that Bulley’s decisions were vindicated by the performance of her team in the second half. She will now surely have to consider giving a start to shooter Emily Moore and midcourter Macy Gardner in future matches.
Where was the game won and lost?
The brilliant display of netball from Fever in the first half, particularly from their attack end, must surely have made most people watching think that the game was as good as won then. They were close to perfection in everything they did. Try as they might, none of the Firebirds’ defenders could make any sort of impression in the first 30 minutes. At that stage, victory appeared well out of reach of the home team. And so it was, with a good buffer of 13 goals at halftime, that Fever coach Dan Ryan looked to his bench.
Most notably, Ryan gave first-choice goal attack Sasha Glasgow a rest and replaced her with Emma Cosh. This is where some people might think Ryan was being a touch complacent. After all, why would you risk changing a team that was playing so well? But, having banked four straight wins to start the season, and holding such a handy lead in the game, he was in the enviable position of being able to take that risk and look to the future.
Cosh had an unhappy start to her stint, landing just one from five in the third quarter, and Glasgow was eventually reintroduced five minutes into the last term. By this stage, the Firebirds had gained some momentum. Despite that, Fever still looked safe at that point. That was until the final power five period arrived. In all, Firebirds landed five super shots, including four from Donnell Wallam, but they ultimately ran out of time and the points went to a relieved Fever team.
Which players/combinations stood out?
The connection was there once again in the first half between the Fever front three of Jhaniele Fowler, Sasha Glasgow, and Alice Teague-Neeld. This trio has been dominating recent matches, and for the first two quarters here, it was a case of rinse and repeat. But on this occasion, centre Verity Simmons joined in the fun and had a tremendous game as well.
Fowler went on to score 60 goals in the game, an achievement that not that long ago would have been almost unheard of, but for Fowler, it’s just about par for the course now. Remi Kamo, in just her fifth Super Netball game, had the unenviable task of taking on Fowler, and such was the dominance of the Fever spearhead, there was a feeling of shock when she had her only miss of the game late in the second quarter, and Kamo was able to pick up the rebound.
Once again, Teague-Neeld, had another fine game, notching up 35 feeds, 24 goal assists, and 28 centre-pass receives. She is absolutely thriving since being moved to wing attack, and those days in the circle as a hesitant nervous shooter are like a distant memory. Glasgow was only on court for 40 minutes, but in that time, she notched up 19 assists with no turnovers, while also landing three vital 2 pointers.
For the Firebirds, after a slightly shaky start, Donnell Wallam had a terrific game, and she went oh so close to causing what would have been a huge boilover. The two halftime replacements, Emily Moore, and Macy Gardner both impressed in their time on court. They combined for 28 assists in just 30 minutes and the team looked more assured and composed with them in the line up.
Meanwhile, Fever captain Courtney Bruce landed awkwardly midway through the first quarter, but after getting her ankle re-strapped, she rejoined the game in the second quarter and played out the last three quarters with little inconvenience.
Donnell Wallam 55/63 (87%)
Emily Moore 4/5 (80%)
Mia Stower 3/4 (75%)
Jhaniele Fowler 60/61 (98%)
Sasha Glasgow 8/11 (73%)
Emma Cosh 2/6 (33%)
MVP – Jhaniele Fowler
SWIFTS 64 def LIGHTNING 63
By Georgia Doyle
(Originally published by Fox Netball)
NSW Swifts clawed their way back into the top four with a nail-biting one goal win over Sunshine Coast Lightning in Super Netball.
The victory caused a big shake up in the ladder, with Swifts forcing their way into the top four for the first time this season while simultaneously pushing Lightning out of it.
The significance of the win wasn’t lost on Swifts co-captain Maddy Proud.
“It was huge for us, we knew this game was going to be make or break, we almost treated it as a grand final. We’re a team that has shown in the past, when the pressure is on that we can really show what we’re made of” she said after the game.
In the final two minutes of the game Steph Wood went down with an apparent knee injury, sending shockwaves through the stadium. She battled on, against the everpresent physical pressure of Maddy Turner but it wasn’t enough.
A Helen Housby super shot with less than one minute remaining nudged them into the lead. A rare Karla Pretorius fumble gave the ball back to the Swifts who capitalised by playing their famous possession game.
Speaking after the match, Housby said, “It feels like there isn’t any air left in the stadium for us. We knew Lightning were going to stick with us for the full 60 minutes. We just had to have the belief to win the game and we did.”
Romelda Aiken-George is still searching for form in her new colours, but had a dominant game against compatriot Kadie-Ann Dehaney, scoring 43 from 49 including an impressive lay-up.
Down by three at half-time, the biggest margin of the game, Swifts’ head coach Briony Akle was frank about her side’s performance.
“We’ve been good in patches, but we need a lot more consistency and sticking to the game plan” she said in a broadcast interview.
Lightning’s Laura Scherian was forced off court in the third with blood streaming from her face, but Swifts were unable to take advantage of the disruption. They instead opted to get themselves back in the game courtesy of a Helen Housby super shot.
Throughout the match Swifts struggled to win back ball in defence, and found it harder to score off it. With only four gains for the match and scoring off just 50 per cent of them, it was in stark contrast to Lightning who capitalised on 83 per cent of their defensive wins.
Despite the disappointing outcome, Lightning coach Belinda Reynolds was still full of praise for their ability to stick to the game plan.
“We wanted to be disciplined in our tempo today – pick the times where we can get the ball speed and movement but also pick the times when we needed to show composure, both of which I think we did really well tonight” she said post match.
DIAMONDS DAZZLING DUO
Cara Koenen and Steph Wood have been one of the most tantalising shooting combinations on show in 2023. With Australian Diamonds squad selection just two weeks away, expect to see them at the top of Stacey Marinkovich’s list not just for the squad but for the World Cup Team headed to Cape Town.
With seven past and present Diamonds players on show, and squad announcement looming all eyes were on last year’s squad members Maddy Proud and Maddy Turner who are yet to make themselves permanent fixtures in the side. Both players put out strong performances, especially Proud who was finding her shooters with ease. However, she was costly with ball in hand giving away four turnovers, something that may be of concern for Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich.
Cara Koenen 40/42 (95%)
Steph Wood 22/25 (88%)
Romelda Aiken-George 43/49 (88%)
Helen Housby 18/20 (90%)
MVP – Helen Housby
Bec Bulley, Firebirds Head Coach
On her team’s incredible comeback
“To get back within two goals in that second half was amazing and showed a lot of heart. I am really proud of that. I reminded the girls that we were so close and to keep their heads up and to focus on what we can control. Defensively we were so close to those intercepts and needed those two hands. They responded really well and while it wasn’t a win, I was really proud.”
On the decision to take Gabi off in her 150th match
“It was so hard. We could have left the team on, because they did a lot better in that second quarter. But, it was a change that worked for us previously. I felt like Macy provided so much in the midcourt and Rav is really good at her attack from wing defence but can be really tight one-on-one. I had full intentions of trying to get Gabi back on in that last quarter but we were still in it and it was really hard to make changes when you have momentum.”
Maddy Proud, Swifts Co-Captain
On her belief in the team
“Going into that last quarter knowing we were in it, I had so much confidence in our team. It was a bit of a deja vu moment when it came down to playing keepies off at the end, which is what we’re known for”
Belinda Reynolds, Lightning Head Coach
On the defensive pairing of Dehaney and Pretorius
“Their combination is growing each week, it’s their first season together so they’re doing a marvelous job. KD continues to win a lot of ball for us, she did get a bit penalised at some moments so she needs to adjust her footwork at times”
On their next step after three consecutive losses
“It’s about going back and still having that belief, I think our game plan was executed very well today but we struggled to win ball in the second half, so we need to see how we can improve that”
(Team . Pts . %)
Fever . 20 . 112.9%
Thunderbirds . 14 . 120.5%
Vixens . 12 . 99.3%
Swifts . 10 . 95.1%
Lightning . 8 . 99.0%
GIANTS . 8 . 95.9%
Magpies . 8 . 95.0%
Firebirds . 0 . 88.8%
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, Apr 22 – 7.00pm – Swifts v Vixens
Sun, Apr 23 – 2:00pm – Firebirds v GIANTS
Sun, Apr 23 – 4:00pm – Fever v Thunderbirds
Tue, Apr 25 – 1:00pm – Magpies v Lightning (ANZAC Day)