Can you believe we’re about to hit the halfway mark of the regular season already? Last week saw the points table close up as Fever had their first loss at the hand of Thunderbirds, and Firebirds defeated GIANTS for their win. Now we move on to round seven, which features four matches of interest, including a crucial NSW Derby. All four matches are between a winner and a loser from round six.
In Australia, the matches will be broadcast on Fox Sports and Kayo. In New Zealand, the matches will be shown on Spark Sport. And in the Pacific Islands, two games of each round will be shown on PacificAus TV. Elsewhere in the world, you can stream all the games on Netball Australia TV. You can also follow live scoring and statistics thanks to Champion Data.
Before we get on to this week’s games, check out our wrap of Round six
Here’s Jenny Sinclair’s Interview with Stacey Marinkovich on the Diamonds Squad
And here is Jenny’s piece on Jhaniele Fowler and her family
MELBOURNE VIXENS v QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS
John Cain Arena, Saturday, Apr 29, 5pm AEST
(7pm NZ, 4:30pm SA, 3pm WA, 8am UK)
Round seven kicks off with an interesting clash. Melbourne Vixens will be looking at this game as a way of climbing back into the top four. They dropped down to fifth spot on the ladder last week after going down to NSW Swifts in a one goal thriller. But this match looms as a much tougher test than it would have looked a few weeks ago. Queensland Firebirds have shown some solid form in the past fortnight, just falling short against Fever, then defeating GIANTS.
Vixens would be getting used to close finishes this season. Five of their six matches have been decided by five goals or less, including three with one goal margins. They put in a good performance last week despite losing. After some questions were raised about her form, Liz Watson had her best showing of the season so far. Meanwhile, Olivia Lewis played a full 60 minutes at goal keeper and had a strong game. Whoever plays goal keeper this week, Lewis or Emily Mannix, they will have a tough task up against Firebirds’ Donnell Wallam.
Wallam was the star of the show as Firebirds held on to beat GIANTS at home last week. She proved the difference, scoring 55 goals at 97% and landing four super shots from four attempts, including two at crucial times in the last quarter. It will be fascinating to see what coach Bec Bulley does with the goal attack position this week after Emily Moore and Mia Stower had different approaches last week. Firebirds have looked at their most dangerous this year when the attack has been centred almost totally on Wallam, and that was the method Stower used to good effect in round six.
Vixens will be favoured to win this match at home. They should certainly be confident if past results are any indication. These two teams have met 12 times in Super Netball with the Melbourne team leading the head-to-head 9-3. They won both matches last year, but the games were hard-fought contests. Goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda starred in the latest clash with 51 goals as Vixens won 66-64.
Shooters – Mwai Kumwenda, Kiera Austin, Kim Borger
Midcourt – Liz Watson, Kate Moloney, Kate Eddy, Hannah Mundy
Defence – Jo Weston, Emily Mannix, Olivia Lewis
Shooters – Donnell Wallam, Mia Stower, Emily Moore
Midcourt – Lara Dunkley, Kim Ravaillion, Gabi Simpson, Macy Gardner
Defence – Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Remi Kamo, Ash Unie
GIANTS NETBALL v NSW SWIFTS
Ken Rosewall Arena, Saturday, Apr 29, 7pm AEST
(9pm NZ, 6:30pm SA, 5pm WA, 10am UK)
Here it is. This will be big. A NSW Derby with big implications for the ladder, but obviously, when these teams meet, it’s much more than that. There are state bragging rights at stake. It’s a vital game for GIANTS Netball. They currently sit in sixth place with just two wins from their six matches after their upset loss to Firebirds last week. Meanwhile, NSW Swifts will be coming in on a high after a thrilling one goal win over Vixens.
The big question is how much court time will Jo Harten get? She left the court during the second quarter of last week’s match with a knee injury. She has since retired from international netball, putting herself out of contention for a spot in the World Cup, and she will devote all her energy to helping the GIANTS. Matisse Letherbarrow is a good replacement, but if Harten is able to play a large part in this game, it will lift her team. Last week saw Sophie Dwyer take on extra responsibility and she played well. It’s fair to say that if GIANTS are to win, it will take a strong performance from whatever combination of shooters are on court, as they come up against Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner.
At the other end of the court, Romelda Aiken-George had her best game of the season in round six for Swifts. It will be a hard match up for either regular GIANTS goal keeper Matilda McDonell, or replacement Lauren Moore. Moore came on in the third quarter last week and put in an impressive showing. In the midcourt, Maddy Proud was also back to something close to her best in round six, and her battle with Jamie-Lee Price will be a real highlight of this contest. Paige Hadley versus Amy Parmenter will also be well worth watching.
In all, there have been 14 matches between these two teams and Swifts lead the head-to-head record 8-5 with one match drawn. Last year’s clashes were split 1-1, with Price starring for GIANTS in the first match, while Proud and Klau dominated for Swifts in the second. There is so much riding on this. If Swifts win, they can consolidate a position in the top four, while GIANTS need the win to stay in touch.
Shooters – Jo Harten, Sophie Dwyer, Matisse Letherbarrow
Midcourt – Maddie Hay, Jamie-Lee Price, Amy Parmenter, Amy Sligar
Defence – April Brandley, Matilda McDonell, Lauren Moore
Shooters – Romelda Aiken-George, Helen Housby, Sophie Fawns
Midcourt – Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud, Allie Smith, Tayla Fraser
Defence – Maddy Turner, Sarah Klau, Teigan O’Shannassy
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING v WEST COAST FEVER
UniSC Arena, Sunday, Apr 30, 2pm AEST
(4pm NZ, 3:30pm SA, 2pm WA, 5am UK)
Sunshine Coast Lightning comes into this match with two days less preparation time after playing in the ANZAC Day clash on Tuesday. They won that game comfortably against Collingwood, to move into the top four, so they will be full of confidence. But they’ll be coming up against a determined West Coast Fever team, hurting from losing their first match since round 12 last season. Fever seemed to be in control for most of their match, before being overrun late by the Thunderbirds.
For Lightning, the fitness of captain Steph Wood will be incredibly important. She copped a whack during the second quarter and was dazed afterwards. She continued to play out most of the rest of the match, but she was clearly not the same player who had been dominating the start of the match. A good example of this is her 37 Nissan Net Points in the first quarter compared to -23 in the last! In the midcourt, Annie Miller had another strong performance and it was noticeable that the team scored just five goals in the final 12 minutes after she was given a rest on the bench. The attacking foursome of Wood, Miller, Cara Koenen, and Laura Scherian will have to be at their best if Lightning is to win.
Fever will be wondering what went wrong after dropping their first points of the season. One thing that definitely went wrong was the number of turnovers. Fever gave up possession on 22 occasions, including eight each to Verity Simmons and Alice Teague-Neeld. That is a rare occurrence for this team, and they will be looking to get back into top form here. They will need to, as Karla Pretorius, fresh from an outstanding game on Tuesday, will be ready to pounce. Jhaniele Fowler is always strong, but in recent years, she has dominated the Lightning defence in particular. It will be a tough ask for countrywoman Kadie-Ann Dehaney to restrict her.
There have been 15 previous clashes between these two teams and Fever leads the head-to-head 9-6. Importantly, they have also won seven of the last eight matches over the past three years. In 2022, Fever won by margins of 19 and 9 goals, with Fowler alone scoring a combined 130 goals in the two matches.
Shooters – Cara Koenen, Steph Wood, Charlie Bell
Midcourt – Laura Scherian, Mahalia Cassidy, Annie Miller, Shannon Eagland
Defence – Karla Pretorius, Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Ash Ervin
Shooters – Jhaniele Fowler, Sasha Glasgow, Emma Cosh
Midcourt – Alice Teague-Neeld, Verity Simmons, Jess Anstiss
Defence – Sunday Aryang, Courtney Bruce, Kim Jenner, Rudi Ellis
ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS v COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES
Netball SA Stadium, Sunday, Apr 30, 3:30pm SA time
(6pm NZ, 4pm AEST, 2pm WA, 7am UK)
The feeling in the camps of these two teams surely couldn’t be much more different. The triumphant Adelaide Thunderbirds return home after being responsible for top-of-the-table Fever’s first loss of the season. Meanwhile, the Collingwood Magpies will somehow have to pick themselves up after a very disappointing performance in the first ANZAC Day clash on Tuesday. They will have only five days to recover compared to seven for their opponents.
Thunderbirds may have finally established themselves as definite premiership contenders. And it all came thanks to a moment of Eleanor Cardwell magic. With time almost up against Fever, Cardwell had an easy option to send the game to extra time, but instead went for the riskier option of a super shot to win the game. And she nailed it. The 2023 Thunderbirds looks a far more even team than in previous years. Shamera Sterling is still the star, but there are players all over the court contributing. One noteworthy performance in round six came from captain Hannah Petty. She only entered the game in the last quarter, but made a couple of brilliant plays, without which there would have been no victory.
The battle in the Thunderbirds goal circle will be great to watch this week. Cardwell and shooting partner Tippah Dwan will have their work cut out for them against Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward. Mentor and Ward have both been consistently good, week after week. Ward is leading the league in intercepts, averaging 3.5 per game. The problem for Collingwood is at the other end of the court. The attack is breaking down badly, with Sophie Garbin struggling for form in what is not her preferred position. Even the normally reliable Kelsey Browne was below her best against Lightning. A game against the brilliant Thunderbirds defence is hardly the ideal match to try to rectify the problems.
If the Magpies need some inspiration, it could be in the history between these two teams. They have met 12 times previously and Collingwood leads the head-to-head 6-5 with one draw. One suspects however that this Thunderbirds team is a much stronger one than some of those that have played Magpies previously. In 2022, Thunderbirds won two low scoring matches, with centre Tayla Williams being the star of their most recent clash.
Shooters – Lucy Austin, Eleanor Cardwell, Tippah Dwan
Midcourt – Georgie Horjus, Tayla Williams, Maisie Nankivell, Hannah Petty
Defence – Latanya Wilson, Shamera Sterling, Matilda Garrett
Shooters – Shimona Nelson, Sophie Garbin, Kelly Singleton
Midcourt – Kelsey Browne, Molly Jovic, Ash Brazill, Maddie Hinchliffe
Defence – Jodi-Ann Ward, Geva Mentor, Jacqui Newton