Contributors: Tash Rudd, Jenny Sinclair, Kate Cornish, Katrina Nissen, Georgia Doyle, Ian Harkin
Photographers: Danny Dalton, Kirsten Daley
Cover Photo: Danny Dalton | Tah Dah Sports
Melbourne Vixens 72 def Queensland Firebirds 60 (17-15, 10-17, 20-14, 25-14)
NSW Swifts 67 def GIANTS Netball 64 (13-16, 20-16, 18-20, 16-12)
West Coast Fever 74 def Sunshine Coast Lightning 64 (21-13, 18-13, 18-24, 17-14)
Adelaide Thunderbirds 52 def Collingwood Magpies 47 (14-7, 15-14, 10-10, 13-16)
It’s not quite SSN news, but former commentator and Australian captain Liz Ellis won “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.” With her blend of wisdom, sage advice, fun and adventure, Ellis was a much loved contestant and a deserving winner. Her charity of choice was Share the Dignity Australia. Great work by all her fans who voted.
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Queensland Firebirds midcourter Macy Gardner was injured and had to leave the court during the third quarter, after a heavy hit from Melbourne Vixens goal keeper Olivia Lewis. She had been one of the best feeders on court for the Firebirds, letting the ball go without hesitation and with accuracy.
At the time, Firebirds were up by nine goals, but after Gardner went off, the positional changes did not settle and Vixens were able to forge a comeback, going into the three quarter time break ahead by one, a quick 10 goal turnaround. The injury to Gardner and her having to leave the court heavily impacted the Firebirds, as Vixens eventually ran out comfortable winners.
The NSW Derby was a terrific game, and NSW Swifts dug deep once again. Yet another close match, yet another tough win, as they got over the top of GIANTS Netball 67-64 in another nail biter. Swifts have now played four matches so far this season which resulted in margins of three goals or less. And they’ve won them all. They’ve also been behind at three-quarter time in all of them.
The top two teams on the ladder maintained their positions with wins on Sunday. Firstly, West Coast Fever had a 74-64 win over Sunshine Coast Lightning in what was an incredibly clean game. Both sides committed just 10 general play turnovers. Fever led by 13 at halftime, but Lightning put in an improved showing in the second half. A couple of unusual statistics in this game – Steph Wood had the most possession gains for Lightning, and Courtney Bruce had the most turnovers for Fever.
Meanwhile, Adelaide Thunderbirds won 52-47 over Collingwood Magpies. After a disappointing first quarter, Magpies showed a lot of fight to outscore Thunderbirds for the rest of the game. Thunderbirds’ Shamera Sterling was adjudged Player of the Match, but it was the champion defender at the other end, Geva Mentor, who had the most possession gains and really kept her side in the game. She’s hitting form nicely ahead of what would be a sixth World Cup coming up.
Most goals – 65/65 Jhaniele Fowler (Lightning v Fever)
Most supershots – 7/8 Sophie Dwyer (GIANTS v Swifts) & 7/11 Steph Wood (Lightning v Fever)
Most intercepts – 5 Geva Mentor (Thunderbirds v Magpies)
Most deflections – 11 Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds v Magpies)
Most goal assists – 33 Liz Watson (Vixens v Firebirds) & Alice Teague-Neeld (Lightning v Fever)
Most feeds – 48 Liz Watson (Vixens v Firebirds)
Most gains – 9 Geva Mentor (Thunderbirds v Magpies)
Most turnovers – 7 Kiera Austin (Vixens v Firebirds)
Most penalties – 19 Remi Kamo (Vixens v Firebirds)
Queensland Firebirds centre Macy Gardner went off halfway through the third quarter after a heavy hit from Melbourne Vixens goal keeper Olivia Lewis. What first appeared to be a possible head knock, then seemed to actually be a wrist injury. She re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, with the wrist in question heavily strapped, and after a few minutes dove on to a loose ball and re-injured the wrist. She called time, taking herself off and did not re-enter the game. Coach Bec Bulley will be stressing on her fitness, as the team had a significant dip when she was off court.
The Firebirds later confirmed that scans were positive, without giving details, and that she will need further tests.
Shannon Eagland went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. It was a terrible blow for Eagland, who only recently joined the club as an injury replacement player, and who has previously done an ACL. Lightning are have an abysmal season with injuries, with Tara Hinchliffe and Reilley Batcheldor rupturing ACLs in the preseason.
Break out performance of the round
Taking advantage of a rare start, Giants’ Lauren Moore made the most of her 46 minutes against Romelda Aiken-George. Until she went off with cramping, Moore amassed 2 intercepts, 4 deflections, 1 rebound, and 2 pick ups, for a very minimal 4 penalties. It was a wonderful effort against one of the competition’s most experienced shooters, and the Giants fell off the pace after she had to leave the court.
MATCH OF THE ROUND:
SWIFTS 67 def GIANTS 64
By Kate Cornish
The first Sydney derby between Giants Netball and the NSW Swifts for 2023 was a stellar encounter on the back of the Diamonds Squad announcement on Thursday evening. With both teams fielding players named in the squad, the matchups across the court with individuals eager to impress Diamonds selectors ensured the match was played at a thrilling intensity for the entire 60 minutes.
Adding to the rivalry was bragging rights for the Carole Sykes Memorial Trophy. The trophy recognises the contribution of Sykes, a former player and NSW coach and is contested each time these teams meet. The Giants were desperate to steal it back from the Swifts, who had it in their possession after they won their round eight clash in 2022. However, while the Giants won two of the four quarters and seemingly had control for most of the game, their last quarter performance was just shy of their best, and they allowed the Swifts an ascendency in the final minutes, they could not wrestle back.
This game capped off a big week for Giants captain and English Roses stalwart Jo Harten, who announced her retirement from international duties only days earlier. Harten has been struggling with a knee injury since the end of 2022 and had surgery 12 weeks ago. She tweaked the same knee in the team’s loss in round six against the Firebirds and had to leave the court. However, in front of Giants fans, she was able to play a full game in the derby.
In a match that went right down the wire, a few big plays in the dying minutes by the Swifts proved to be the difference. With scores locked at 64 all, Tayla Fraser, in wing defense managed to get her hand on a bounce pass in the Giants attacking third, causing a turn-over that the Swifts scored off, giving them a one-goal lead and a centre pass to follow, which they also converted.
The Swifts were up by two points when a controversial umpiring call sealed the win for the team in red. Goal keeper Sarah Klau took a flying intercept in the final moments, snatching the ball from the hands of Giants wing attack Maddy Hay, who ended up on the floorboards. Harten and Hay appealed to the umpire for a contact call, but it went unanswered. The Swifts scored off that gain and then played their now-famous possession style to run down the clock and win their fourth-season victory.
Midcourt clash in Diamonds derby
The contest in the midcourt was fought out between Paige Hadley in wing attack and Amy Parmenter in wing defense, and it was delivered with intensity. While Hadley won the battle with her experience in pressure situations, keeping calm in dying moments in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line, Parmenter did not allow Hadley an inch on the court. The defensive combination of Parmenter, April Brandley and ex-Swift, Lauren Moore (who earned her first start for the season) was in scintillating form early in the match.
During a hotly contested 60 minutes, the defensive unit for the Giants continued to ask questions of the Swifts attacking line-up, who were forced to work exceptionally hard to get the ball to post and in the hands of Helen Housby and Romelda Aiken-George. A leader on the court for the Swifts, Hadley had 34 feeds to her shooters and was the general in their attacking third, setting up play and resetting until the right opportunity presented.
In direct competition for a plane ticket to the Netball World Cup in July, Giants midcourter Jamie-Lee Price squared off against Swifts co-captain, Maddy Proud, in centre. Price has been solid in her performances this season, though the Giants remain on only two wins. Her strength to the ball, direct style of play, vision in attack, and defensive attributes have kept her on the radar of the Australian selection panel.
Proud, on the other hand, has steadily worked her way into the season. And while the Swifts have still not found their best form, the tenacity and fearlessness with which Proud plays the game has seen them win incredibly tight battles for the third week in a row. The two rivals were matched well in this game and sometimes cancelled each other out. However, in the end, Proud slightly edged out Price with relentless movement in attack and the ability to sight and feed Aiken-George with the fast release needed to keep the Giants defenders out of the game.
Dropped Diamond proves a point
Producing a season-best performance in the Sydney Derby, goal defender Maddy Turner had a point to prove. Whilst Turner has represented the Diamonds in the past, debuting in 2019 after an inspiring domestic season, she has been unable to convince selectors of her credibility on the international stage over the past 18 months. Despite her combination with Sarah Klau (named in the Diamonds squad) consistently recognised as one of the best in Super Netball competition for several years.
However, in this game, Turner showed Diamonds selectors precisely what they are missing. With a classy individual performance, Turner was exceptional against Giants goal attack Sophie Dwyer, who also had an impressive game. Turner ended the game on five gains, four intercepts and three deflections, and while she will not be in Cape Town as a Diamond in 2023, she can certainly make an impact for the Swifts in the second half of the season. If this is the type of performance the Swifts can expect from Turner now that the pressure of international selection has been lifted, they can look forward to more success as the season progresses.
Super Shot show down
Love it or hate it, the super shot played a significant part in this derby, with the Giants and the Swifts trading blows at the end of the third quarter with a super-shot-showdown. In the final five minutes, Dwyer scored three super shots from three attempts, while Housby found her range and scored four super shots from as many attempts. Not only did it bring the crowd into the game, but it meant both teams needed to continue to play for two points to keep up with the other on the scoreboard. Fourteen super shots were landed during this match, nine from the Giants and five from the Swifts.
Come back queens find form at the right time
While the Giants hopes of making finals look grim and slip further away with each loss, the Swifts are finding form at the right time of the season. They have been able to grind out three very tight wins in the last three weeks, and they are beginning to believe they are premiership contenders. However, they are still far from the form that saw them win their Super Netball premierships in 2019 and 2021.
But if they can replicate that pressure and confidence, they have a squad that could challenge in the final’s series. Speaking after the game, coach Briony Akle discussed the quality of teams in season 2023, indicating every match required a complete 60-minute focus from the team, “In this competition, everyone is amazing. There is literally no game where you can be off.”
While the Swifts sit on the same number of wins as the Melbourne Vixens (four wins) after seven rounds, the two points they were awarded after their second-round match against the Thunderbirds was abandoned and declared a draw sees them with a slight advantage on the ladder. While many wondered if the two points (and the inability to play for four) might hurt them on the ladder, it has helped them keep their nose just in front. The Swifts sit in third place on 18 points, while the Vixens are nipping at their heels in fourth place on 16 points.
Jo Harten 33/38 (87%)
Sophie Dwyer 22/26 (85%)
Romelda Aiken-George 45/52 (87%)
Helen Housby 15/15 (100%)
Sophie Fawns 2/3 (67%)
MVP – Maddy Proud
VIXENS 72 def FIREBIRDS 60
By Jenny Sinclair (Originally published by Newswire and Fox Netball)
The Melbourne Vixens arrested a midseason slump following a convincing 12 point win over Super Netball’s current wooden spooners. In danger of having their 2023 season derailed after consecutive away losses, the Vixens got out of jail after trailing for a chunk of the match.
Coach Simone McKinnis said the victory was a springboard for the rest of their season. Speaking after the match, she rued her side’s slow start, describing it as stagnant and one-dimensional.
“It was a reminder that if you want to get back into this game, and back onto the winner’s list, you have to do what you have to do.
“There is no easy way.”
The Melbourne side lacked confidence early on, but a 45 point second half showed the dominance that took them to last year’s grand final.
Both sides started with different line-ups than usual. Vixens were forced into change due to an injury to wing defence Kate Eddy, while Firebirds rewarded the seven who masterminded last week’s inaugural win of the season.
The Firebirds’ strategy was simple – a quickly released high ball to find Donnell Wallam under the post. Despite being regularly double-teamed, the Diamonds’ squad member was mostly up to the challenge. She finished as the highest scorer on court with 51/53 at 91 per cent accuracy.
However, the Vixens’ short, patient approach also paid dividends, as they snuck out to a narrow lead by the end of the first.
The second quarter saw a change in form, as Firebird defender Ruby Bakewell-Doran stuck to Kiera Austin like superglue. The Vixens’ inability to find Austin caused havoc, restricting them to 10 goals while the Firebirds banged on 17.
Down by five goals at half time, the Vixens shuffled their deck. They brought Hannah Mundy on at wing attack, pushed the rest of the team back a position, and sent Em Mannix to the bench.
Liv Lewis started to find her timing during the second half, despite a clumsy challenge that benched Macy Gardner with a wrist injury. The goal keeper swung momentum back in Vixens’ favour after she picked off one intercept and four rebounds on her way to a MVP performance.
Vixens’ co-captain Liz Watson made a strong return to form, directing traffic for her side. Playing at both wing attack and centre, she recorded 33 goal assists and 49 feeds.
NO MARGIN FOR ERROR
Of the Vixens last seven matches, today’s has been the only convincing win. Three have been decided by a solitary point, and a further three by five or less. While tight margins are good news for both fans and television ratings, they can play havoc with a team’s confidence.
The Firebirds have made a habit of storming home with a bang, winning four last quarters of the seven rounds played this season. It’s the second quarter that’s their Achilles heel, picking up just two of the seven. Gaining consistency would go a long way to straightening out their season.
DIAL A DIAMOND
With the national squad announced during the week, Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich had the pleasure of informing Vixens Kiera Austin, Liz Watson, Kate Moloney and Jo Weston, and the Firebirds Donnell Wallam and Ruby Bakewell-Doran of their selection. The six are almost a complete team of sparklers, all the way down court.
Kumwenda 47/55 (85%)
Austin 21/25 (84%)
Wallam 53/58 (91%)
Stower 3/6 (50%)
Moore 1/3 (33%)
MVP – Olivia Lewis
FEVER 74 def LIGHTNING 64
By Katrina Nissen (Originally published for Newswire & Fox Netball)
Despite jetting more than 25,000km since Round 4, West Coast Fever have shown why they are back-to-back Super Netball premiership contenders. In overcoming Sunshine Coast Lightning by 10 points, Fever have now made it hard for the Queenslanders to keep in touch with the top four.
Fever coach Dan Ryan acknowledged that his side was fatigued after clocking up so much air travel. He said, “It’s even more praising the efforts of the players to have gotten through the load they have over the past four weeks.
“We saw the fatigue creep up last week (against the Thunderbirds).”
The match started at a frenetic pace with both teams going goal for goal. Eventually, West Coast’s smothering defence caused the first break. Once the gates opened, the momentum swung all Fever’s way, and they quickly piled on a first term, eight-goal lead.
Lightning’s trusty ball winner, Karla Pretorius was kept unusually quiet by Sasha Glasgow who outpaced and outsmarted the experienced South African.
Fever’s Alice Teague-Neeld continued to show why she is the league’s most in-form wing attack. She stormed her way to 37 feeds and 30 centre receives for the match. Match MVP Jess Anstiss flew under the radar but notched up defensive and attacking stats while sending Annie Miller to the bench.
During a time out, Fever’s coach Dan Ryan called for an aggressive mindset to go along with a changed lineup. He went for a more defensive on-court team who immediately paid dividends, keeping Lightning’s centre pass to goal rate at a disappointing 65 per cent for the first half.
Conversely, Fever maintained a formidable 91 per cent across the match. Ryan praised the effort, describing last week’s conversion rate as ‘awful’.
With an incredibly low 19 turnovers between both teams, Lightning defenders found it extremely difficult to crack Fever’s lead. However, in a captain’s run, Steph Wood kept her side in touch by sinking seven super shots.
Lightning carried the momentum into the final term and could have crumbled when Eagland went down with a knee injury. However, they maintained composure to mount a brave fight-back but had too large a margin to claw back, as Fever continued to punish on the scoreboard.
Speaking post match, Lightning coach Belinda Reynolds said that maintaining focus when players go down is hard, particularly when it is a suspected knee injury.
“Obviously, we have had a few ACL injuries in our camp so it hits home hard for some of our players. We will all get around Shannon and hope for the best.”
Fever captain Courtney Bruce was a standout for her team, applying intense pressure over every shot and collecting two rebounds and two intercepts for the match. Jhaniele Fowler also put together a massive haul, shooting a perfect 65 goals from as many attempts.
It was an all-Diamonds squad affair at one end of the court as Lightning’s Cara Koenen and Steph Wood went head-to-head with Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang. The quartet have all but secured their spots on the plane to Cape Town, with the only question mark over Aryang who will be fighting for supremacy over Firebird Ruby Bakewell-Doran and Thunderbird Matilda Garrett.
THE YIELD OF TEAGUE-NEELD
26 year old Alice Teague-Neeld is having the best season of her career and convincingly leads the league for centre pass receives and goals assists – two stats usually held by Aussie captain, Liz Watson. Given her stellar form it is surprising that Teague-Neeld wasn’t named in the recently announced Aussie Diamonds squad. Could we expect her to be a late call-up by the end of the season?
Fowler 65/65 (100%)
Glasgow 6/10 (60%)
Koenen 34/37 (92%)
Wood 23/30 (77%)
MVP – Jess Anstiss
THUNDERBIRDS 52 def MAGPIES 47
by Georgia Doyle
Fresh off a season defining win against premiership favourites West Coast Fever, Thunderbirds continued their winning streak with a physical victory over Collingwood who sorely missed the services of Ash Brazill who was out with illness. The quick five-day turnaround from the ANZAC match also didn’t seem to be doing them any favours, as the team struggled for energy even during the moments when they managed to fight themselves back into the contest.
Thunderbirds took first blood, with an intercepted pocket ball on the Magpies first centre pass – and it was one of three that quarter. From there it was all downhill, as the side only managed one goal in the first seven minutes of the match. They kept forcing passes in from off circle edge, that got eaten up by the Thunderbirds defenders.
Adding to this was the repeated poor performance of Sophie Garbin, who in half a game who scored only six goals for five turnovers. She was unwilling to go to post unless at very close range, resulting in lots of passes in and out of the circle which gave eventual MVP Shamera Sterling and Matilda Garrett ample opportunity to get their hand to ball.
Despite the superior performance from Thunderbirds, the scoreboard was reasonably flattering to the away side – who arguably should’ve been down by much more than they were at the final whistle.
Thunderbirds made several changes to their attacking line up, running three different combinations across the match. While the well-run combo of Eleanor Cardwell and Tippah Dwan saw the most minutes, change ups that saw Lucy Austin introduced at goal shooter provided something different for Magpies defenders to think about just as they started to get comfortable and claw back into the game.
For Collingwood, the injection of Kelly Singleton for her first lot of decent minutes played dividends. Her extra speed and willingness to shoot long kept Matilda Garrett busy, and allowed a few more high balls to go into Nelson under the post. Having previously been brought on as a ‘Hail Mary’ to save the day with super shots, this was the first time she has had a decent run during regular time so early in a game. She rewarded coach Nicole Richardson, scoring six goals, including three super shots, and was much safer with ball in hand compared to Garbin with only three turnovers.
Where the match was won and lost?
The Magpies attacking end was disconnected from the first whistle, with sprayed balls aplenty and feeds into the circle that by now all middies should know are not acceptable against Sterling. Sophie Garbin was reliving her nightmare performance against Lightning, with three turnovers in her first 12 minutes on court, before being subbed out for Kelly Singleton. When she returned to court her numbers were better, but will still be concerning as she is vying for a shooters bib in Cape Town.
Adding to Magpies woes was the disconnect between Molly Jovic and Kelsey Browne in the mid-court. Browne was being run ragged by Latanya Wilson. Her usual long speedy drives to the pocket were being picked off with ease, or the pass was overshot and the ball ended up over the baseline before Browne could secure it.
Shamera Sterling was phenomenal against Jamaican compatriot Shimona Nelson, with a grand total of eight gains and 11 deflections across the game. Add to this the balls that were sent flying over the baseline because she confused the space for the feeders looking in. In achieving this, she was remarkably not penalised for contact for the entire game, and only had five obstructions at the end of the 60 minutes.
Thunderbirds will be disappointed they didn’t manage to put the Magpies away, leading by as much as 11 goals during the third term to only then be in front by five at the final whistle. While they will be pleased they never let the margin dip below five in the final quarter, against another team they well and truly could have been run over in the final minutes.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Latanya Wilson continues her dominance over the best wing attacks in the league. Having already dismantled Liz Watson and Alice Teague-Neeld, her job today was against Kelsey Browne and she made easy work of it. Browne’s drives to the pocket were encouraged, only to then have the ball plucked right out of the air.
Across the match Wilson may have only had two clean gains, but the work she did to create opportunities for her team mates or to force errors couldn’t be recorded in any numbers. While Browne still had some decent stats of her own, each one was under pressure and the disconnect Wilson created within the Magpies attacking end by shutting down Browne was evident throughout the match.
Matilda Garrett showed why she was the only player to force her way into a hotly contested Australian Diamonds side. While she didn’t have the huge numbers she has in previous weeks, her ability to shut down Garbin and Singleton was impressive So often their goal attack wasn’t an option, meaning the ball had to be forced into Shimona Nelson at the last second, which gave Sterling the chance to get up in the air and contest.
Geva Mentor was a shining light for the Magpies, with some vintage form in any attempt to get her side back in the game. The three different shooting combinations she was up against didn’t seem to phase her, with a game high nine gains and nine deflections to her name it wasn’t always easy for Adelaide to find Cardwell under the post. All of this work by Mentor was done with her wing defence out of play, as Maddie Hinchliffe was the most player on court with 15 penalties in her first start in black and white. This gave Georgie Horjus clear vision to the circle, and meant the height advantage Hinchliffe held over Horjus was limited.
Cardwell 33/37 (89%)
Dwan 13/15 (87%)
Austin 4/6 (67%)
Nelson 30/32 (94%)
Garbin 6/10 (60%)
Kelly Singleton 6/10 (60%)
MVP – Shamera Sterling
Tania Obst, Adelaide Thunderbirds Head Coach
Overall thoughts on the match
“We just needed to grind out that game, we weren’t able to get into our flow that we wanted to. It was a game where we won ugly, which is better than losing pretty. I think those games we need to experience, it was quite different to the type of game we played last week so to still come away with the win was really good for us moving forward. Magpies came back at us, they did a few things in the defence end which we took a while to adjust to. We won two quarters, drew one and lost that last but I still felt like we were in control of the game. We probably just had a bit of disconnect from the transverse line into the goal circle.”
On if she has the belief that her team are Grand Final prospects
“I think that belief word is an interesting one, I feel like we’ve had moments in seasons gone by where we’ve probably not necessarily been able to finish off games. When you come out onto this court you’ve got to believe that you can actually do it and I think now we are actually executing those moments better and that comes with experience. We will just keep going through our process, doing our review and analysis ready for the next opposition”
On the inclusion of Matilda Garrett in the Diamonds Squad
“I think that was fantastic, we’ve all enjoyed Tilly’s announcement in the squad. There’s been a lot of talk about her breakout year, and I actually think she’s been doing some really good stuff for the two years prior that she’s been here. The consistency of what she’s done has been fantastic when she’s had her opportunities this year. She had an achilles injury at the end of last season and she’s worked tirelessly to get that right and in preseason she hasn’t missed a beat. Her engine has improved and it’s showing now, she’s able to do those repeated efforts that’s required at this level.”
On Eleanor Cardwell’s impact on the team
“What Eleanor has brought to our group has been exceptional. This is a new competition for her, but her character to really embed herself amongst our younger forward line and then her belief to really stand up and challenge in the competition [is great]. And she’s really brought those younger players along with her. Her leadership has been fantastic for us, there’s absolutely no doubt and she’s demanding of herself and her teammates out there and everyone is thriving with that.”
(Team . Pts . %)
Fever . 24 . 111.3%
Thunderbirds . 22 . 115.5%
Swifts . 18 . 97.5%
Vixens . 16 . 102.1%
Lightning . 12 . 100.5%
GIANTS . 8 . 95.5%
Magpies . 8 . 91.9%
Firebirds . 4 . 90.4%
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, May 6 – 5.00pm – Firebirds v Magpies
Sat, May 6 – 7:00pm – GIANTS v Thunderbirds
Sun, May 7 – 2:00pm – Vixens v Fever
Sun, May 7 – 4:00pm – Swifts v Lightning