Playoff for 7th – Adelaide Thunderbirds 27 drew with West Coast Fever 27
Jhaniele Fowler was back for the West Coast Fever in Sunday’s bottom of the table hit out in the Suncorp #TeamGirls Cup. Her presence brought a new confidence for the Fever who were noticeably more comfortable letting the ball go into the circle.
Shamera Sterling was onto the high passes early and managed to get her hands to plenty of ball. Her ability to hold the back space also prevented Fowler from being able to get close to the post which caused some problems for feeders early, forcing them to adjust their delivery trajectory.
Fever wing defence, Jess Anstiss, said that her side is still trying to work out how best to place the ball into Fowler, “with her being unable to play most of this tournament we had to rediscover how to place the ball into her. It is something we will have to continually work on back in Perth.”
Speaking after the game, Sterling said, “I know that when I play Jhaniele, she is going to be a hard jump for me, so I just need to go for it.” And, go for it she did, collecting seven intercepts, nine gains and one rebound for the game.
Fowler is still not back to full health, so was rested for half the game, which allowed Alice Teague-Neeld to make her impression. Teague-Neeld brought a ferocious attack to create turnover ball, finishing on one gain, one intercept and two pickups for her 20 minutes of play.
For the first three-quarters of the game, Fever held a steady lead by winning each quarter by one goal. They looked to extend further in the fourth quarter off the back of some hard mid-court pressure, however, were unable to capitalise. The Thunderbirds pounced on these opportunities stealing three unanswered goals to draw the game level.
What followed was a tense three minutes where the goals were repeatedly returned even. Fans held their breath as the Fever took a rushed centre pass to get the ball quickly in the hands of Kaylia Stanton. A spectacular deflection from Sterling denied the Fever a chance to take the game outright. Instead, the teams had to settle for a draw with a promise of more exciting tussles to come.
Playoff for 5th – New South Wales Swifts 42 def Queensland Firebirds 41
Fans have come to expect great battles between the Queensland Firebirds and the New South Wales Swifts and their playoff for fifth and sixth positions in the #teamgirls cup was no different. The Swifts started strongly with four unanswered goals. The young side were quick off the line to smother the Firebirds centres, with red dresses effectively restricting the hosts’ vision down court.
It wasn’t until captain, Gabi Simpson, launched a lob over the mess and into Romelda Aiken that the Firebirds got on the board at the 3-minute mark. The unprecedented Aiken long-bomb sparked the Firebirds into action with much of the next one and half quarters going goal-for-goal.
The Swifts applied their strong arms over defence for the whole game. The tactic often forced the Firebirds to remain in one corridor of the court, or caused them to bunch like a group of Net Set Go players all eager to get a touch.
The second quarter saw the return of ‘twinchliffe’ as Firebirds defender Tara Hinchliffe welcomed her twin sister, Maddie, onto the court in centre. The duo relished their time on court together in the purple dress, with Maddie stating, “It was great knowing that the girls had my back. And, I would look back to Tara and she would give me a nod of support.”
Maddie’s preferred position is wing defence, so her running at centre gave the Firebirds added defensive pressure through the middle, with the addition of Mahalia Cassidy in wing attack.
This concentrated defence did cause the Swifts to rush their play at times, which gave the Firebirds valuable turnover opportunities. The home side got agonisingly close to drawing the game, but a well-used time-out from Swifts’ coach Briony Akyle allowed her side to refocus.
Swifts’ acting captain, Paige Hadley credits her side’s composure as the reason they were able to withstand the Firebirds barrage in attack. Ultimately it was what got her side over the line with the team tactfully playing the ball in the middle third as the final seconds of the game ticked down.
“We obviously let them back in, and with this crowd behind them, we knew it was going to be hard,” Hadley said. “But, I think to keep our starting lineup on and maintain our composure was phenomenal particularly in that last two minutes where it could have gone either way. I think we held that ball in the last minutes for like thirty passes, so I’m proud that we there.”
Playoff for 3rd – Sunshine Coast Lightning 46 def GIANTS Netball 44
The playoff for third and fourth position saw the Sunshine Coast Lightning take on Giants Netball. Lightning started the game with what will likely be their starting seven throughout the Super Netball season. Goal attack, Steph Wood, put out her best performance of the tournament finishing the game with 16 goals from 18 attempts (89%) and notching 13 feeds and 14 centre pass receives.
Karla Pretorius was at her annoying best, disrupting the mid and goal thirds and producing seemingly superhuman turnovers. Her connection with South African compatriot, Phumza Maweni, is still a work in progress as the duo adjusts to playing the style of defence required for super netball, rather than the international style.
After the game, Maweni addressed the differences stating, “It is so different. These teams are so professional and so physical. For me, it was not easy to defend. I need to adapt earlier so that I can pick up some of the balls.”
The Giants defensive unit grew in confidence and determination over the weekend. Kristiana Manu’a adjusted to her new position out at goal defence. She began to play less on the body, thus drawing less whistle, which allowed her to get to clean ball in and out of the circle.
Given how impressive Kiera Austin was over the weekend, it will almost be a shame to see Caitlin Bassett renter the fray once she recovers from her wrist injury (*calm down, I said almost). She and Jo Harten were pulling out all the tricks in their final game: look away passes, bullet passes, fade away shots and studio-lay ups.
Harten loves having this freedom to use this flare, “Julie (Fitzgerald) has so much confidence in us that she trusts us to play with that extra spark and creativity. And sometimes, in tight games such as that, it may be what is needed to get the ball past the defence.”
Addressing the eventuality of Bassett getting back on court, Harten said, “when we add her into the mix, it will be a lot of work to build those connections. But it is exciting for us, knowing that we can beat a team like the Magpies without her.”
“I am excited to step on the training court with her. She’s been a bit of a freeloader so far. I can’t wait for her to get better and get fit. It will be a bit of an exciting game, that first one against the Swifts (in round one of the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season).”
Grand Final – Magpies Netball 39 def Melbourne Vixens 33
A full report on the grand final is coming shortly.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE SUNCORP #TEAMGIRLS TOURNAMENT
On the use of rolling subs
The rolling subs was an exciting feature of the tournament: even though it gave us a little whiplash at times. The players became so slick with the interchange that sometimes the new player went unnoticed until they made an impact.
As for whether it would benefit Suncorp Super Netball, Tara Hinchliffe is all for it. “It will mean we can have fresh legs all the time which is really helpful.”
Though she also acknowledges a complication with the idea, “I suppose we aren’t really used to the rolling subs so it can be a bit difficult if we are on the sidelines and yelling at someone to get off.”
On the wealth of Aussie netball talent
One of the great things about the Suncorp #Teamgirls Cup was that it gave the lesser known players and training partners a chance to prove that they can match it with the likes of Mentor, Langman, Watson and Aiken (to name a few). Some of these athletes weren’t quite ready for the intensity and speed but give them another season or two of training with the big guns and they will no doubt be ready to step up when the next wave of retirements happens. But some are ready now:
Amy Parmenter – Giants
Parmenter is one of those athletes who has been on the fringes of breaking into Suncorp Super Netball for the past two years, before landing a contract with the Giants this year. The slight midcourter is built for speed and utilised dexterous footwork to dodge her way to the top of the circle or to the pocket.
She was a Giants training partner for the past two years, which means that she has existing connections with Harten, Green and Austin. This showed in her ability to fire bullet passes into the circle and feed the ball to where Harten was going to be under the post. Parmenter is also versatile: equally comfortable in any of the three midcourt positions. This makes her a weapon when placed at centre like she was for most of the Giants four matches over the weekend.
Giants’ captain, Kim Green, says that Parmenter is, “Determined and more than ready for this. She can fly for the fall, and she is so speedy in attack and despite being based as a wing defence. She can play a mean centre as well. So we are very fortunate to have her and I know how special it is for her to be in this team.”
Expect to see Parmenter elevated into the Diamonds training squad either this year or next.
Olivia Lewis – Fever
Lewis is another player who will be entering the Suncorp Super Netball fray this year. The versatile defender was thrust into the thick of the action in each of the four games across the #TeamGirls Cup. She was quite impactful, picking up intercepts, deflections and gains each time she stepped on court. She was last year’s WANL final MVP, her club’s MVP and the winner of the Jill McIntosh medal.
Fever captain, Courtney Bruce, has great expectations of Lewis, “She is a such a threat at the back. Team her with myself and Stacey (Francis) we will be quite a formidable, strong, in your face defence end.”
Gabi Sinclair – Magpies
Sinclair took to the courts of the #TeamGirls cup like it wasn’t one of her first major hit outs as a newly signed Magpie. Her confidence to go to post, accuracy on the shot and hunger for the ball was a revelation. And, she wasn’t afraid to get in the thick of the action; tussling for the ball with the likes of Courtney Bruce.
Like most of the players to hit the court, her play was untidy at times, and she was a little costly with turnovers. But, the precision passes and ability to outmaneuver world class defenders will come with more court time, and the experienced tutelage she will no doubt be getting from Nat Medhurst.
Lara Dunkley – Vixens training partner
Captain of the Victorian Fury, Dunkley, was a standout amongst the training partners of the #TeamGirls cup. The athletic midcourter had many scratching their heads in shock that she has not signed to a team. Dunkley was confident, quick, and fed her shooters like she had been in the league for years.
She was economical and didn’t give away many turnovers in each of the games she played. The way she attacked the ball with such doggedness really caught the eye of fans. Her commitment to the intercept often saw her putting her body on the line. But it paid off, particularly in the Vixens game against the Lightning where she collected two intercepts. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Dunkley elevated into the Vixens squad as a replacement for the injured Tayla Honey.
Maddie Hinchliffe – Firebirds training partner
Maddie only saw three minutes of action in the Firebirds second game of the #teamgirls cup, so it was a surprise when coach, Roselee Jencke, entrusted her with the centre bib for her side’s playoff against the Swifts. But her trust was repaid. Maddie’s stats for the game are tidy, giving ten feeds, gaining three pickups and only losing one turnover. But that’s not what was so impressive about her.
Like her sister, Tara, Maddie has game smarts and great instincts. She was instrumental in securing midcourt turnover thanks to her ability to read the plays, which allowed her to easily deflect the ball to her teammates. She kept pace with the game seamlessly switched between defence and attack mode as turnovers were created by either side.
Speaking of the opportunity given to her, Maddie says, “I knew this weekend was going to be a challenge. But, it was a chance to build confidence in my game, and the support of my teammates helped the nerves and made me ready for the challenge.”
On the success of the tournament
The ambition of the Suncorp #TeamGirls Cup was to promote women’s sport and encourage females across Australia to ‘start playing, keep playing’. It was also a way to showcase the confidence and self-esteem these elite athletes have. And … it was a roaring success.
“This tournament has been fantastic. Through the fans engagement, with the clinics and everything else that is going on. And the atmosphere that this competition has been played at has been phenomenal. I think we empowered women.” Madi Robinson, Magpies Netball
“This tournament showed the best netball competition in the world, which will show that anyone can get out there and have a go. It was tough; it was fierce; we saw blood and tears. So it showed how strong women are.” – Liz Watson, Melbourne Vixens
“I think the world-class facility helped because people were excited to play here and to come here to watch. But, I also think the attitude on the court has been really exciting and confident, not just in the players but also the little girls who stepped on the court with us at times. It showed them what they could step up into the future.” – Jo Harten, GIANTS Netball
“We came together as big groups of women, not just players, but support staff as well. It was a celebration of how fierce we can be. Not just as girls but as netballers too.” – Tara Hinchliffe, Queensland Firebirds
“I think seeing how connected all the teams are, that they are all like best friends, it will encourage girls to stay in the sport to make life-long friendships. And, it showcased these women as great role models in the sport as well as other areas. I think it is important to keep that going.” – Maddie Hinchliffe, Queensland Firebirds
I loved the vignettes on the new players, and the reflections on #teamgirls. Let’s hope NA gives us plenty of notice planning for next year, so we an plan to travel from interstate