Cover Image: Clinton Bradbury
Contributors: Ian Harkin, Katrina Nissen, Georgia Doyle, Ariane Virgona, Tash Rudd
Photographers: Hannah Howard, Clinton Bradbury, Marcela Massey, Aliesha Vicars
Adelaide Thunderbirds 63 def Queensland Firebirds 46 (12-12, 13-11, 14-14, 24-9)
NSW Swifts 65 def West Coast Fever 64 (19-16, 13-14, 16-19, 17-15)
Melbourne Vixens 62 def Sunshine Coast Lightning 61 (17-6, 13-14, 17-17, 15-24)
GIANTS Netball 69 def Collingwood Magpies 56 (14-15, 16-12, 20-16, 19-13)
Adelaide Thunderbirds consolidated their top spot with a comprehensive win over the Queensland Firebirds. Shamera Sterling put in her second commanding performance this season against the Firebirds. She had 10 possession gains, six intercepts, nine deflections, three rebounds, and three pickups and an NNP score of 154.5.
Coinciding with the match in Adelaide, was a 10 year reunion of the winning Thunderbirds team from the 2013 ANZ Championship grand final against Firebirds. Former players came together to commemorate the win. The Thunderbirds haven’t appeared in the playoffs since that game, but are set to break that drought in 2023.
It was welcome back to Super Netball this week for Nat Butler (nee Medhurst) as she was elevated from training partner to the West Coast Fever team in the absence of Sasha Glasgow. But it wasn’t a happy end result for Butler as the NSW Swifts won 65–64. This was the sixth time in 2023 that Swifts played in a match decided by four goals or less. And they’ve won them all. Fever has now lost three games, all of them by just one goal in the dying seconds.
You could say Fever’s been unlucky, but there’s a worrying trend that they’re not finishing off games well. They’ve led going into the last quarter of every game they’ve played this year while Swifts have led at three quarter time only once. And in matches that were close at three quarter time, Fever hasn’t won a fourth quarter yet, while Swifts haven’t lost one.
Helen Housby joined Jo Harten as shooters to have scored 10 super shots in a match on two occasions. Those to have done it once have been Steph Wood, Rahni Samason, Sam Wallace and Sasha Glasgow. There are eight instances of players scoring 10 super shots in a match, but nobody has managed to score 11 yet.
For the second week in a row, Kiera Austin has landed a super shot right on full time to give Melbourne Vixens a one goal victory. The reaction of Vixens players was very different this week though, not so much jubilation as relief. After being on top for most of the match, they only just held on against a surging Sunshine Coast Lightning led by a barrage of super shots from Steph Wood.
Vixens have now played in five games this season that have been decided by just one goal, with three of them finishing with a score line of 62-61. Their win goes a long way to sealing the top four spots with five rounds still to be played. It is now almost certain that Thunderbirds, Swifts, Fever and Vixens will be in the playoffs. It’s just a matter of what order they finish in.
The drought continues for Collingwood Magpies against GIANTS Netball. These two teams have now played each other 16 times in Super Netball, and Magpies have won just once. And that was six years ago. GIANTS’ win keeps their slim finals hopes alive, while Magpies are out of contention.
This week, men’s netballers Dylan McPherson and Dylan Nexhip were both given important roles by Fox Netball. On Saturday, McPherson was in commentary for the Fever v Swifts game in Perth, and his performance was well received by viewers who tuned in. Then on Sunday, Australian men’s captain Nexhip was on the couch to give his opinions on the weekly wrap up show Pivot. This is a great move by Fox to employ top male players to share their expertise.
Most goals – 53/55 Jhaniele Fowler (Fever v Swifts)
Most supershots – 10/14 Helen Housby (Fever v Swifts)
Most intercepts – 6 Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds v Firebirds)
Most deflections – 9 Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds v Firebirds)
Most goal assists – 23 Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS v Magpies)
Most feeds – 36 Liz Watson (Vixens v Lightning)
Most gains – 10 Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds v Firebirds)
Most turnovers – 9 Emily Moore (Thunderbirds v Firebirds)
Most penalties – 18 Remi Kamo (Thunderbirds v Firebirds)
Milestones & Debuts
Georgie Horjus, Maisie Nankivell and Lara Dunkley each celebrated their 50th national league match.
Kelea Iongi made her Super Netball debut when she took the court for the Swifts.
Jordan Cransberg made her Super Netball debut when she took the court for Fever.
Allie Smith (Swifts) missed the Round with a foot niggle.
Jo Harten (Giants) sat out the match after re-aggravating her knee last Round.
Amy Sligar (Giants) still on return to play protocols following a concussion last week
The opening match of the Round had three athletes drop in the first half with potentially concerning injuries. Tippah Dwan (Thunderbirds) rolled her ankle in the first quarter and was seen with ice then a boot on. She will have scans. Gabi Simpson (Firebirds) went down with an ankle injury just before half-time. She was assisted off the court and was unable to bear weight, using crutches to leave the stadium post-game. Eleanor Cardwell (Thunderbirds) also spent a large portion of the match on the bench with coaching staff confirming she’s been carrying a knee injury. She did, however, return to the court.
Late in the game, Hannah Petty (Thunderbirds) left the court with a quad injury and she will have that assessed. Then moments before the end of the match, Latty Wilson (Thunderbirds) limped off the court. Post match, Tania Obst believes it is not serious and was just cramp, something that Wilson apparently hasn’t experienced before.
Break out performance of the round
Jo Harten’s shoes are big ones to fill, but with the GIANTS’ captain sitting out this round, it was Matisse Letherbarrow who took the goal shooter position. This is the second year for Letherbarrow as a full time player, but with Harten and Sophie Dwyer being the regular starting shooters, she has to wait for her opportunities.
And she certainly made the most of her chance against the Magpies. She scored 42 goals at 89% accuracy, including five super shots from six attempts. In the second half, she had just one miss and scored 4/4 from two point range to help put the game beyond doubt. After the game, one of the people most proud of Letherbarrow’s performance was Harten.
THUNDERBIRDS 63 def FIREBIRDS 46
by Georgia Doyle
The match between Adelaide Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds was chaotic from start to end. Both teams were scrappy for the first three quarters, with neither side able to assert their dominance despite some quality passages of play. In shades of Thunderbirds past, they had a very poor gain to goal rate for much of the game despite MVP Shamera Sterling providing them with plenty of opportunities, reeling in 10 gains and nine deflections.
It was in the fourth quarter that Thunderbirds finally clicked into gear, running home with a 24-9 term to finish the match 17 goal winners. This win sets them firmly atop the ladder, one game clear of the second place Swifts as they are guaranteed to contest finals for the first time in 10 years. Coincidentally Thunderbirds also took this match to celebrate their last premiership, their 2013 triumph against Queensland Firebirds, with several of the team’s legends in attendance.
In a stadium that continues to receive a, possibly deserved, bad wrap for its injury history – Netball SA stadium laid claim to a few more athletes in this match. Tippah Dwan was first to go, with a nasty ankle injury in the second quarter that saw her sitting on the bench in a moon boot when she returned from the change rooms.
Eleanor Cardwell also spent some time with the team doctor and physio, after motioning to the bench that she needed to sub off prior to a tactical time out. She returned to the court with decent strapping on her right knee, and didn’t seem to move as well as she had in the first half. Gabi Simpson went out in sympathy with Dwan, also injuring her ankle in the final seconds of the second quarter – she didn’t return to the match and left the stadium on crutches very reluctant to take weight through the leg. Just as everyone thought the injury run was over, Hannah Petty left the court with a possible quad injury and then Latanya Wilson also had to be helped from the court. It was unclear what her injury was. At first, it appeared to be a hyperextended knee but coach Tania Obst believed it to be cramping.
When Simpson went down with her injury, it opened up the door for Hulita Veve to make her second consecutive appearance in Super Netball. She added a sense of calm to the Firebirds front end that seemed to have forgotten the aerial prowess of Sterling as they continued to send in high balls despite them rarely working. She was steadier with ball in hand, waiting for Donnell Wallam to open up in the front space rather than forcing something into the air that could be gobbled up by Sterling.
Both teams had strong defensive pressure through court, with six held balls across the game, and many more left uncalled if you ask the crowd. This was aided by the fact that both teams opted with defensive centres, while all four circle defenders are known for their rangy arms and long reach.
Georgie Horjus got her first legitimate minutes at goal attack for the year, only having played there for a few minutes as a result of blood rule to Dwan a few weeks ago. This time she entered the match for Cardwell, who was having issues with an ongoing knee injury and decided she needed some time with the physio. Horjus entered the game in style, sinking a super shot to level the game.
She remained there for the rest of the game, with Cardwell deemed not able to play out at goal attack, and Dwan spending the remainder of the match in a moon boot. While Horjus lacked her usual confidence to post, and seemed to pass off more shots than usual she still finished the game 8/11 including two super shots. Her long-standing connection with Lucy Austin, having come through the Netball SA pathway together, came in handy when she needed to offload, always seeming to know where Austin would be.
Where the match was won and lost?
It was only in the final quarter that the game broke open, as Thunderbirds finally got into their groove while Firebirds seemed out of options. Mia Stower played the second half at wing attack, for the first time this season, as Bec Bulley was looking for something different in attack and was low on options with Macy Gardner sidelined following last week’s wrist injury. While she seemed confident to give the ball into Wallam, she wasn’t able to find her in a good shooting position with only four goal assists from 10 feeds. She also gave away five turnovers in just 30 minutes of play.
Sterling was relatively consistent across the whole game, but what changed was Thunderbirds ability to capitalise on her efforts. In the first half the team had 12 gains, and scored off only five giving them a conversion percentage of 42%, whereas in the second half they had nine gains, but scored off seven bringing them up to 78% including converting all five of their gains in the final quarter.
Which players/combinations stood out?
Wallam continues to be a stand out in a struggling team. With one of the toughest battles in Super Netball playing up against Sterling, many of the errors she made could arguably be put down to those around her. Wallam was doing well to hold strong front space against Sterling, but feeders would still opt to give the high ball that could easily be contested by Sterling from behind.
She was also able to step up and score two point shots when needed, finishing the game with 5/13, including an after the buzzer shot from just inside the goal circle to keep them in striking distance heading into the final quarter. She is arguably in direct competition against Sophie Garbin for the final Commonwealth Games team, so it will be a tough gig for Stacey Marinkovich to decide between the two who are both struggling in their own ways.
Eleanor Cardwell started the game slightly rattled, possibly due to the rangy arms of Remi Kamo looming over her shot. In the first quarter she missed an uncharacteristic three goals, and while she was lucky to strongly contest the rebound, she spent the first time out and most of the quarter time break at the post rather than with the team.
Eleanor Cardwell 29/35 (83%)
Lucy Austin 19/21 (91%)
Georgie Horjus 8/11 (73%)
Tippah Dwan 3/4 (75%)
Wallam 29/42 (69%)
Moore 11/14 (79%)
MVP – Shamera Sterling
SWIFTS 65 def FEVER 64
By Katrina Nissen
(originally published for Fox Netball / Newswire)
The NSW Swifts continued their five game winning streak, with West Coast Fever their latest scalp. It was a tough battle in a notoriously hard arena; however, the one goal victory all but secures their finals berth.
With Fever’s super shot super star Sasha Glasgow ruled out due to Covid protocols, many expected training partner, and former Diamond, Nat Butler (nee Medhurst) to start the match. However, Emma Cosh was awarded the goal attack bib despite having limited minutes in the position this season.
The typically testy battle between Swifts shooter Romela Aiken-George and Fever captain Courtney Bruce was one of many mouthwatering contests on court. With a lot of physicality let go by the umpires, players openly showed their frustration.
Without Glasgow, cracks showed in Fever’s attack end with uncharacteristic ball-handling errors which Swifts converted into a three goal, first quarter lead.
Swifts tried three defenders against Jhaniele Fowler. Teigan O’Shannassy was probably the most effective utilising her height to pick off three deflections, and her team’s only intercept for the game.
At the start of the third term, Butler entered the match. She immediately fell back into a familiar rhythm with Fowler, using her smarts to expertly weave the ball around the attacking end. Her presence elevated the side as they pushed out to a six-goal lead.
MVP Helen Housby showed why she is one of the league’s leading goalers, taking control of the super shot zone to reign in the score and keep Swifts in touch heading into the final term. She finished the match with 27/33 including 10 super shots.
With less than a minute to play Swifts leveled the game. Experts at delaying play, they took a single knowing they had the centre pass. Going long they fired the ball into Aiken-George who was alone under the post and secured the one point win.
It was also the second week in a row, and the third game this season that Fever lost in the dying moments.
TURNER V ARYANG
Swifts’ Maddy Turner was an omission in the recently named Australian Diamonds squad. Her performance today when compared to squad member, Sunday Aryang puts that decision into question. In perhaps her third most comfortable position of wing defence, Turner picked up a team high five deflections, showing her versatility across the three defensive positions, compared to Aryang’s two.
WILL SHE OR WON’T SHE?
On Tuesday, Netball England will name their squad vying for the July Netball World Cup. There could be a few surprise inclusions in the side, none more so than Fever’s Sasha Glasgow who put her hand up for both Diamonds and Roses selection, eligible thanks to her grandparents.
Due to Covid, Fever were without two of their playmakers in Sasha Glasgow and Jess Anstiss. Their absence is a timely reminder that despite Covid no longer being in the headlines, it is still hanging around. This begs the question, how will Covid impact the competition if more key players are missing in pinnacle matches?
Romelda Aiken-George 28/34 (82.4%)
Helen Housby 27/33 (81.8%)
Jhaniele Fowler 53/55 (96.4%)
Emma Cosh 4/5 (80%)
Nat Butler 4/5 (80%)
MVP – Helen Housby
VIXENS 62 def LIGHTNING 61
By Katrina Nissen
(originally published for Fox Netball / Newswire)
A nightmare start spelled disaster for the Sunshine Coast Lightning, with their epic final quarter not enough as they fell short by a solitary goal to a clinical Melbourne Vixens.
Lightning failed to win a single possession, while coughing up eight balls in the first fifteen minutes of play. Vixens were a stark contrast, scoring off 100% of their five won balls, and also starved Lightning of shooting opportunities for over eight minutes.
Vixens’ scorching start was largely thanks to Emily Mannix who made the most of her first start in recent weeks. Her connection with teammate Jo Weston was on song as the duo collected four intercepts, one rebound and three deflections.
Lightning reshuffled their lineup heading into the second term. While it was a more competitive quarter, they were unable to pull back the margin, with Vixens carrying a ten goal lead into the main break.
Speaking to commentary at halftime, Mannix talked about the stakes in this match. “We knew we had to hit them hard. They’re playing for their season and we’re playing for ours.”
21 year old Ava Black was a breath of fresh air for the Lightning. The youngster was not cowed by the calibre of Vixens midcourt as she threw herself at any loose ball or errant pass within arms reach.
Forcing multiple changes in goal keeper across the match, Mwai Kumwenda put in an MVP performance with 45/48 including her 3000th Super Netball goal.
Heading into the final super shot period, Lightning coach Beldina Reynolds had clear instructions, “We know that they will want to keep possession, but we can’t let them do that.”
Karla Pretorius delivered, taking an intercept with four minutes on the clock which Steph Wood finished off with a super shot, her ninth from eleven attempts. A quick reply and then parry saw Lightning up by one with 30 seconds remaining.
Vixens expertly played the ball around until a penalty from Kadie-Ann Dehaney against Kumwenda gave them the opportunity to secure the win with a two point goal. Having not scored a super shot this match, Kumwenda gave the ball to teammate Kiera Austin, who had sunk three already and nailed the winning pressure shot last week.
Lightning’s Karla Pretorius is on track to make a strong international netball return at this year’s World Cup. The South African sits in the league’s top five for deflections (with 36) and just outside the top five for intercepts (16 – one shy of top five). Most importantly, Pretorius has been tidy with the ball only giving away nine turnovers this season.
ROAD TO FINALS
Both Vixens and Lightning have a tough road as they battle for a finals berth. In the next two weeks, Vixens face ladder leaders Adelaide Thunderbirds and then the NSW Swifts who, last night, overcame second placed West Cover Fever. If they can win at least one of those matches, they should be safe. If Lightning are to make finals, they need Vixens to drop a game or two, while Lightning must register at least four wins including two on the road against Thunderbirds and Fever.
Mwai Kumweda 45/48 (94%)
Kiera Austin 13/14 (80%)
Cara Koenen 27/28 (96%)
Steph Wood 25/29 (86%)
MVP – Mwai Kumwenda
GIANTS 69 def MAGPIES 56
By Ariane Virgona
A lot was riding on this ‘season defining’ clash between 6th and 7th on the ladder to keep finals dreams for 2023 alive with both teams looking for their third win. With the previous head-to-head record being 14-1 in favour of GIANTS, the game was for the GIANTS to keep and the Magpies to win.
With captain Jo Harten ruled out for load management of her knee, Matisse Letherbarrow was given the start and showed maturity beyond her years and incredible accuracy to post. Having played through the ranks with Sophie Dwyer, this combination seemed to be a secret weapon unleashed at the right time and was enough to keep the GIANTS finals hopes alive.
The Magpies needed a consistent effort across the game and came out strong, winning the first quarter but were unable to finish well with 6 general play turnovers in the last quarter (compared to 3) and allowed the GIANTS to score 8 of the last 10 goals to push the margin out past 10.
GIANTS had an impressively high shooting accuracy with 90% and 92% for Letherbarrow and Dwyer, respectively, and 83% accuracy for both with the supershot, which was well supported by the generally strong shooter-to-shooter connection. They were at their best when they worked the ball with speed and pushed the Magpies attack high on transition down the court, placing strong defensive pressure over the ball and limiting vision into the circle.
With the defensive pressure from Amy Parmenter and Jamie-Lee Price, GIANTS were able to get a small run on in the second quarter to start their ascent. Lauren Moore was impressive again with front position and confusing the space to Shimona Nelson, with three gains, four deflections, and one rebound, showing promising connection with veteran April Brandley who had one gain, one intercept and four deflections for the game, and who kept Sophie Garbin busy.
The partnership between Price and Maddie Hay was demonstrated not only through the feeds (34 for Hay and 33 for Price), but the teamwork observed on court to lead the younger shooting line-up and set the tone for the attack to emulate. Dwyer also held her own in the circle and helped to integrate Letherbarrow in what was only her third game for the season.
It comes as no surprise that the super shots from GIANTS raised the scoreboard pressure, especially in the second half when both shooters shot four from four. They secured a seven-goal lead at three quarter time with a shot on the buzzer. Compared to last week (5/20), the GIANTS only attempted 12 super shots with 10 of them falling.
Keeping the Magpies in the game was their defensive pressure, coming from Ash Brazill and Jodi-Ann Ward, and the work of Garbin isolating the one on one between Moore and Nelson in the circle. The shooting accuracy from Garbin was lower than needed to keep capitalising off the gained ball and centre passes, but when she worked her way into the circle by altering her entry timing, she was able to take some of the load off Nelson.
Magpies showed their brand of netball with flat and short passes down the court and a high and quick release to Nelson in the circle. That was despite some stagnancy or inefficiency when working the ball into the circle at times. When the ball was let go with confidence, they showed their flair and Kelsey Browne in second phase was delivering with the highest of the Magpies for feeds (33).
Ward had an outstanding performance for the Magpies with eight gains, three intercepts and two deflections alongside Brazill and Geva Mentor who also had several touches between them, making for a strong defensive game from the Magpies and plenty of gained ball. Nelson is also noteworthy with impressive shooting accuracy of 100% goals, including super shots, lifting the team in the final minutes when Kelly Singleton was double-teamed.
Where the game was won and lost?
Although the score line crept out, the Magpies were within reach for most of the game. Even in the final half of the last quarter, it felt like any team’s game. It was an accumulation of small errors in clutch moments that let the game slip from the Magpies. They showed passages of connectedness and consistency but were too costly (26 turnovers to the GIANTS 16). Magpies had 16 possession gains to 9 for GIANTS, but failed to capitalise on them (44% goals to gains rate for Magpies compared to 78% for GIANTS).
The Magpies didn’t score a goal in the last four minutes of the match as the margin blew out. This shows the defensive pressure that GIANTS applied and the reduced scoreboard pressure that the Magpies were able to apply. Although the focus was on defence and the Magpies worked in a defensive box formation to push the GIANTS wide, the team was not always successful at maintaining formation to deliver the bounty. A few mistakes in the last 5 minutes, missed shots, offside and offensive contact, and a wayward pass which ended in the hands of Brandley saw GIANTS capitalise on their possession to seal a 13-goal win.
The high penalty count for Magpies (69 versus 51 for GIANTS) and especially contact penalties (55-38) meant that Magpies cut themselves out of the play often and as a result, released the pressure they had been working hard to build. The changes in the game from the Magpies came in the last quarter when they tried to switch up the attacking line to close the four-goal gap with the super shot, a strategy we have seen many times from this team but unfortunately this change didn’t quite have the intended effect.
Shimona Nelson 48/48 (100%)
Sophie Garbin 5/10 (50%)
Kelly Singleton 0/2 (0%)
Matisse Letherbarrow 42/47 (89%)
Sophie Dwyer 17/19 (90%)
MVP – Jamie-Lee Price
Tania Obst, Thunderbirds Head Coach
Overall thoughts on the match
“We’re very happy with the way we finished off, our ability to maintain possession of the ball and get the ball flowing through court was great by the end of the match. But we’re not going to gloss over where it went wrong or where we allowed Firebirds to get back into the game. We should’ve been up at quarter time but we weren’t so we’ll have to have a look at what happened there.”
On what the rest of the season holds
“We’re in this period of the season where it’s hard yakka, everyone is a little bit sick or carrying a niggle. It’s about managing bodies during the week to then get everyone out and performing on game day. We’ll see what the damage is after this one and get ready for Vixens. We’ve made no secret that we want to be better and be playing in finals.
On the injury carnage in the match
“I think I’m the only one not injured. But I’ve said it before, we’re a team of 10 and if ever there was a game to prove that I think it was today, Four goalies came in handy, I thought Georgie did well to swing across to goal attack but I thought she slipped in like I thought she would.”
On Georgie Horjus & Maisie Nankivell’s milestones
“I’m really proud of both of those girls, I’m really proud that our program has developed them to now be playing 50 games. We want to look after our South Australians and I think we’re showing that we are investing in those players. I think it was fantastic that both of them were able to do it on the same day.”
Bec Bulley, Firebirds Head Coach
Overall thoughts on the match
“Tough game, I thought it was a bit scrappy by both teams at the start but we stayed in it. We probably let Thunderbirds get a bit of a lead in the third quarter, but some great super shots by Nelly got us back it. But it’s frustrating that we let it blow out so much.”
On Donnell Wallam’s performance
“Her supershot decisions, around when to take it, she did a really good job on that. I think we lost confidence on our feeds into her. We gave Shamera a lot of credit, and she is a great player. She did a great job coming over the top of Nelly so we have to just hold our space, take the ball strong. Nelly puts a lot of pressure on herself, and is disappointed with her performance”
Nicole Richardson, Magpies Head Coach
Overall thoughts on the match
“Great first half in a low scoring contest and disappointing that we couldn’t get the job done.”
‘It’s shattering for the group. The girls work so hard week in and week out and are playing some exciting netball but can’t get the job done at the end of the day, I feel for them.”
On what the rest of the season holds
“We still have 5 games left to go and we have to make sure we get back on track and continue to challenge each other and we get another opportunity next week when we step out against the Swifts.”
On the positives from the match
“We are winning good ball, we are winning ball off our own back so that is a positive, and so the lesson for us is that we are letting ourselves down with ball in hand and if we can tidy up our decision making, tidy up our execution of pass, then we put ourselves in a pretty good position to come away with the result that we work so hard for.”
Nat Butler, West Coast Fever
On coming out of retirement.
“It was a lot of fun and I am so grateful. It was so special to have the chance again to compete. I have never lost the competitiveness so to have another opportunity to have a crack was really special. I wanted to make the most of it because it could have been the last time.”
(Team . Pts . %)
Thunderbirds . 30 . 116.90%
Swifts . 26 . 98.94%
Fever . 24 . 108.28%
Vixens . 24 . 101.97%
Lightning . 12 . 99.45%
GIANTS . 12 . 98.03%
Firebirds . 8 . 90.63%
Magpies . 8 . 90.58%
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 20 – 5pm – GIANTS v Lightning
Sat, May 13 – 7pm – Vixens v Thunderbirds
Sun, May 14 – 2pm – Swifts v Magpies
Sun, May 14 – 4pm – Fever v Firebirds (2pm local time)