Author: Sophie Taylor

Thunderbirds bid Pitman farewell with clutch win over Fever

THE Adelaide Thunderbirds delivered a huge one-goal come-from-behind win against the West Coast Fever to bid farewell co-captain Chelsea Pitman and close out their 2020 season. It was a huge effort from both sides seeing neither team look comfortable with ball in hand. Despite winning each of the final three quarters, the Thunderbirds did not manage to steal the lead until the dying minutes, making the side the first this season to win a game off the hand of the super shot with a four-nil advantage in the final term. While this is the end of the road for the Thunderbirds, it also forces the Fever to finish third on the ladder with an elimination final to come next week against the NSW Swifts.

It was a confident start from both teams, with the defensive units of both sides relentless and limiting easy movement and vision down court. The huge battle between Shamera Sterling and Jhaniele Fowler was on from the get-go, with both players having great patches and Sterling forcing missed shots from her fellow tall timber at the post. But it was the Thunderbirds’ unforced errors that saw the Fever gain the early ascendancy. a six-goal lead just prior to the eight minute mark forced the hand of Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst with the attack unit just not gelling. 

Courtney Bruce seemed to be winning the early battle against Lenize Potgieter, with the South African unable to find the ball with ease, and seeing Georgie Horjus rotated out of wing attack as Pitman hit the court for her final match in the Thunderbirds colours. It was a stagnant centre third that saw the Thunderbirds really struggle but it seemed to pay off a bit better in the latter stages of the quarter, reducing the margin a fraction and seeing Shadine van der Merwe impress in transition from wing defence. Maisie Nankivell continues to grow and had no issue finding Potgieter in the back space, with the goal shooter working her way around Bruce. A late super shot from Alice Teague-Neeld saw the Fever extend the margin once more for a six goal lead at the first break.

The second quarter saw Horjus hit the court in goal attack and saw a seamless start to the term and much better connection after some stagnant movement out the front. But Bruce continued to force the hand of Potgieter who got a second contact call against her, and while the zippy movement of Horjus injected something little different to the Thunderbirds frontline it was the Fever that continued to chip away and control majority of proceedings. While Layla Guscoth was not getting a heap of hands to ball, her smothering pressure on Teague-Neeld inside the circle was exceptional with long bombs not quite falling for the goal attack and Fowler well and truly kept away from the rebound. 

The Thunderbirds seemed to combine far better as a full court unit as the second quarter hit the midway point, controlling ball much better and flowing down court much better. The two Jamaicans were putting on a show, still unwilling to be beaten by the other while at the other end Pitman seemed to be the missing link settling much of the attacking play. For the Fever, Verity Charles continued her stellar season, zipping around the court and finding Fowler with ease alongside Emma Cosh. Super shots from Horjus kept the ball rolling for the Thunderbirds, reducing the margin time and again, and while there was plenty of scrap across the court neither side was really able to control the play. Bruce continued to force errors but the Fever were not able to capitalise, with a miss from Teague-Neeld seeing a five goal margin the way of the Fever at half time. 

The ball continued to bounce between the two goal thirds, with no goaler getting easy access to post but both great defence and great transition paving the way down court. The usually unflappable Fowler was still having an impact but certainly was not quite as impactful as usual, missing a couple of shots that Sterling got hands to on the rebound. But everything Sterling did was replicated at the other end, with Bruce continuing to fly for the intercept and apply a wealth of pressure on the feeders. Charles continued to be the barometer for the Fever, flying down court but managing to settle play well. An inaccurate Teague-Neeld was the issue for the Fever, with the goal attack sitting on just four goals at 33 per cent and forcing the hand of Stacey Marinkovich as Kaylia Stanton hit the court. The two sides continued to go goal for goal, with the Fever maintaining a four goal lead for much of the quarter. Kate Shimmin was tough as ever in goal defence, setting up out the front of Sterling once the final five minute period of the quarter began. Two super shots from Horjus saw the Thunderbirds trail by just two as the final quarter rolled around. 

A huge final quarter saw the two sides start well once more, continuing a mostly even contest although a fantastic pickup from Charles saw the Fever get the early break, with the Fever centre getting hands to plenty of turnover ball. The Thunderbirds attacking pressure seemed to lessen slightly as the Fever defensive unit stepped up their game, with a seven goal lead extending before Sterling won a great turnover ball to ramp up confidence once more. An awkward landing from Sterling saw the goal keeper hit the bench and Shimmin head into the circle with Guscoth, and while it could have spelled the end for the Thunderbirds, Horjus once again stepped up again for the super shot as Sterling jumped back on court with just over three minutes left in the match. Nankivell and van der Merwe built off the momentum Horjus had manufactured with the super shot, mongrelling their way through the play and seeing a tactical timeout from Marinkovich. It was the Thunderbirds that managed to pull away for a lead for the first time and at the perfect time, with under five on the clock, defeating the Fever by just one goal 64-63 credit to a huge final five minute effort from both the attack and defensive units.

Player of the match Pitman was stellar in her final match for the Thunderbirds, calming the side and racking up 17 goal assists and two pickups, while Potgieter (34 goals from 36 attempts) and Horjus (18 from 24, including eight super shots) had their eye in at the post. Nankivell topped the assist tally with 20 and four gains (two intercepts). Sterling, Guscoth, Shimmin and van der Merwe were impressive, combining for 10 gains (five intercepts) and four pickups at crucial moments. For the Fever, Fowler was kept to 54 goals at 90 per cent accuracy, while both Stanton and Teague-Neeld put up four goals apiece. Cosh was excellent with 22 assists while Charles was force in centre with 19 assists, a gain and three pickups. Defensively, Bruce was firing from all cylinders with 11 gains (three deflections, six rebounds and two gained balls off her nine deflections).

>>>FEVER TEAM PAGE
>>>THUNDERBIRDS TEAM PAGE
>>>FULL MATCH STATS

WEST COAST FEVER 19 | 14 | 16 | 14 (63)
ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 13 | 15 | 19 | 17 (64)

Fever

GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Alice Teague-Neeld
WA: Emma Cosh
C: Verity Charles
WD: Jess Anstiss
GD: Stacey Francis
GK: Courtney Bruce

Thunderbirds

GS: Lenize Potgieter
GA: Sam Gooden
WA: Georgie Horjus
C: Maisie Nankivell
WD: Shadine van der Merwe
GD: Layla Guscoth
GK: Shamera Sterling

Firebirds come from behind to win final match of season

THE final round of the season began with a battle between two sides that cannot make finals but left everything out on the court in their last appearances for the year. The Collingwood Magpies got the chocolates in their first meeting this season, but have not won a match since, while the Queensland Firebirds have been in scintillating form in recent weeks. While the Magpies maintained control for much of the match, the Firebirds’ winning ability came to fruition to finish on a high with a tight 65-63 victory.

An even start was quickly changed by new Diamond Kim Jenner, taking a three goal lead although the Collingwood defence looked sharp early too going out hunting. Scrappy play through the midcourt was no issue in the two goal circles, with all four goalers firing early and hitting the scoreboard well. The Firebirds’ ability to not only control possession but also maintain it was critical, with Mahalia Cassidy commanding the ball well and combining seamlessly with Lara Dunkley out the front to find Romelda Aiken and Tippah Dwan with ease. While the Magpies trailed early in the quarter, a great tip and gather from Mel Bragg saw the side work their way back into the contest, with a super shot from Gabby Sinclair seeing the Pies take their first lead of the game.

Excellent pressure and patience from the Firebirds paid dividends, with the battle between Dunkley and Bragg seeing Dunkley come out the better to see the Firebirds take back the lead. It was raining super shots with neither team able to control the play, forced to put up the super shot to take back the lead. Where patience was the name of the game early, a hasty final minute saw the ball ping pong between the two ends and Firebirds holding a narrow one goal lead at the first change.

Rudi Ellis was a good match for Shimona Nelson as the second quarter began, forcing a bit more hesitance on the feds and the shot with her long arms, while Jenner continued to be a nuisance out the front. Continued defensive pressure down the court helped out the Magpies though, with Molly Jovic pressing defensively out in wing attack and seemingly winning the battle against Gabi Simpson during the opening half. Nelson seemed to be having one of her best outings of the season, controlling the ball well and not coughing up as much loose ball as usual in a fantastic first half of the second quarter. The Firebirds attack seemed stagnant, with little flow as Geva Mentor and Tilly Garrett worked their way gradually into the contest and seeing Jemma Mi Mi enter the fray.

Mentor had her eye on the pocket ball, causing all sorts of chaos as the Magpies continued to hold a lead, calling a tactical time out and immediately capitalising as the Firebirds struggled to command the play. A clutch super shot from Aiken saw the Firebirds bite back but Sinclair continued to fire on all cylinders from the two point zone on the return. While the Magpies maintained control for much of the quarter, the Firebirds worked their way back into the contest with the super shots. But it was not enough, seeing the Magpies have the one goal lead at the main break. 

An even start to the third quarter saw Mentor and Jenner both come out flying, winning cruces ball back in what continued to be a tight contest. Tara Hinchliffe had a much better start after a quiet start early, finding much easier purchase and forcing Nelson into sloppy positioning. What had been a 5-1 start from the Magpies was fought back by the Firebirds, weaning back control although the Magpies managed to stay one step ahead thanks to the combination between Mentor and Garrett. Sinclair’s quick feeds to Nelson were paying off time and time again, exposing the height difference between Nelson and Hinchliffe and being evasive enough to force Jenner out of the contest. The two wing defenders were standing up, with both Bragg and Simpson doing everything in their power to win ball back with their great read of the play.

A quiet game from Dwan was not what the Firebirds needed when they were trailing by four as the super shot period began, absolutely nullified by Garrett and punished by the Magpies. Aiken’s 7000th national league goal was overshadowed by the Firebirds’ sloppy play out the front, with her fellow Jamaican goaler in Nelson going at 100 per cent at the other end. The confidence on the feed to Nelson continued to be the star of the show, with both Bragg and Garrett getting on the end of the assist stat to lead by four goals at the final change.

Nelson’s sticky fingers continued to find the ball as the two teams entered their respective final quarter of the season, with the two teams going goal for goal early. While the Firebirds got a few straight on the board, the Magpies continued to wrestle back control, applying a heap of pressure to keep both Firebirds goalers away from their confidence zones in the circle. Trailing by two, the Firebirds were playing the hard game to steal momentum and seeing the Magpies call a tactical timeout. The Magpies seemed to drop the ball in attack, with Hinchliffe and Cassidy pairing seamlessly to wreak havoc and Dwan switching on out the front and the Firebirds finally stole back the lead with just under eight minutes on the clock.

Neither side was making it easy for the other to get goals on the board, though it was Sinclair who stood up to put the first super shot on the board to steal back the lead. Nelson’s first miss of the game came at the worst possible time, with the Firebirds biting back to even the margin and then put another single on the board to lead once more. The seesawing affair continued as the Magpies had their opportunities, unable to find the super shot and going down by two goals after a huge battle, 65-63.

Hinchliffe was stellar with six gains (three intercepts) and two pickups, while Jenner was quieter than usual with two intercepts. Cassidy was exceptional through the midcourt, finishing with 26 goal assists from a whopping 51 feeds and a gain, continuously finding Aiken (47 goals from 52 attempts) and Dwan (11 from 14). For the Magpies, Nelson starred with 42 from 43 while Sinclair had one of her best performances with 15 goals (six super shots) and 27 goal assists. Meanwhile, the defensive trio of Bragg, Garrett and Mentor was on fire with 13 gains (eight intercepts) between them.

>>>MAGPIES TEAM PAGE
>>>FIREBIRDS TEAM PAGE
>>>FULL MATCH STATS

COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 18 | 17 | 16 | 12 (63)
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 19 | 15 | 13 | 18 (65)

Vixens

GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Molly Jovic
C: Tyler Orr
WD: Mel Bragg
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor

Firebirds

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Tippah Dwan
WA: Lara Dunkley
C: Mahalia Cassidy
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Tara Hinchliffe

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 14

THE final round of 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) action is upon us, with a host of great games ahead and a couple of results that could change up positions in both the top and bottom four. While none of the top four sides are in danger of falling out of finals contention, the West Coast Fever are just two points behind the Sunshine Coast Lightning – who will take on the Melbourne Vixens – meaning the Lightning need a win on the board to secure a top two position and a second chance run at the finals. 

Collingwood Magpies v. Queensland Firebirds
Saturday, 26 September

The Collingwood Magpies will have their last opportunity to put a second win on the board for the season but with the Queensland Firebirds continuously growing this season there is little chance of the Magpies collecting one last hurrah. That being said, it was the Firebirds they defeated back in Round 3 for their first win of the season, meaning the side may come in with some confidence as they bid goodbye to a forgettable season.

Expect a huge battle between two in-form players inside the circle, with veterans Romelda Aiken and Geva Mentor going head to head in what could be the kicker in this match. That being said, youngster Tippah Dwan has been in scintillating form in her first season on court, being as much a playmaker out the front as a threat at the post meaning she cannot be left on her own and forcing the one-on-one between Mentor and Aiken. Through the midcourt, expect a tight battle between Mahalia Cassidy and Molly Jovic with the youngster stepping up to SSN level with ease, though expect plenty of rotation and fresh legs against the Firebirds centre as the match continues with Collingwood constantly switching up their centre-court lineup. The Magpies will be up to their ears in the attack third, with the Firebirds defensive unit of captain Gabi Simpson and exciting up-and-comers Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe impressing every week without fail. The Magpies will need Shimona Nelson to stand up and command space and attention at the post if the Magpies expect to get a win on the board to finish a lacklustre season.

NSW Swifts v. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, 26 September

The GIANTS will be ruing missed opportunities – and goals – after a hard slog last week resulted in a close battle with the Fever but coming up short yet again, meaning they miss out on finals for a second straight year. Meanwhile, the Swifts will be out to prove their recent form is just a blip in the radar as they attempt to go back-to-back and rewrite their one goal victory from way back in Round 1.

It will be a huge battle when Kiera Austin and Jo Harten take on a threatening defensive combination in Sarah Klau, Maddy Turner and Lauren Moore on the weekend, with each of the three defenders all having standout games in patches but this season seemingly just missing the mark when it comes to consistency. That being said, the trio are adept at rebounding so will want to take advantage of Austin and Harten’s combined accuracy, with the side renowned for relying on super shots. Through the midcourt, expect a heap of changes for the Swifts with speed and energy the name of the Swifts game in the centre whereas the GIANTS like to stay as consistent as possible. Paige Hadley and Amy Parmenter are both key names for their respective sides with both attacking and defensive attributes, while Jamie-Lee Price has had an excellent season so will want to finish with a bang. The absence of Maddie Hay could throw a spanner in the works for the GIANTS, while the Swifts have a number of quality attackers at their disposal to create plenty of rotation both in and around the circle.

West Coast Fever v. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Saturday, 26 September

The Fever have had a stunning season after a disappointing 2019 and indeed shaky start to 2020, but since Round 7 they have rarely skipped a beat. Adelaide Thunderbirds have certainly had their own purple patch but have struggled with consistency at times after an exciting start to the season. The Fever need a win here to have a chance of a top two finish, with the waiting game lasting a whole extra day before they will know if they have secured a safe spot – if they get the win.

Jhaniele Fowler has been virtually unstoppable in season 2020, and while if anyone is capable of taking Fowler down it is Shamera Sterling, the Jamaican goal keeper has not been quite as energetic in the last few weeks making this an interesting contest. Verity Charles has had a fantastic season with the high ball into Fowler but will need to watch her hand with Sterling’s ability to anticipate the air ball, while a dogged combination of Shadine van der Merwe and Maisie Nankivell will look to quell Charles’ impact on circle edge. That being said, Fever have both Alice Teague-Neeld and Emma Cosh to steal focus if required, with both attackers able to thread the needle to Fowler and create attacking forays. Defensively, Courtney Bruce has been huge over the past few rounds, meaning Lenize Potgieter will have her work cut out for her – as will her feeders in Georgie Horjus and Nankivell, and also possibly the now-uncontracted Chelsea Pitman and goaler Sam Gooden.

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Melbourne Vixens
Sunday, 27 September

The final match of the round – and indeed the season – is a huge battle between the Lightning and Vixens. While the Vixens are in no danger of losing top spot and the minor premiership, a win here would do a lot for the side’s confidence heading into finals after a scrappy few rounds without co-captain Liz Watson working the ball around. For the Lightning, they have been a new and improved side in recent rounds, making this an enticing clash and a potential finals preview.

These two sides are no stranger to rotating their attack, and if anything from this season has become apparent, there are very little missing links in either side’s attack. Last time they played, Kate Eddy did a number on Laura Scherian but expect the pocket rocket to come out flying, with Steph Wood stepping up in the latter half of the season and proving she is more than capable of stepping up when her side is down. Wood’s partnership with centre Laura Langman is exceptional, with Kate Moloney tasked with shutting down the New Zealand powerhouse, while Jo Weston has had a phenomenal season being a thorn in every goal attack’s side making for a huge contest. At the other end, Caitlin Thwaites seems to have a new lease on life in season 2020, transitioning to goal attack and not skipping a beat. Taking on Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni – with the latter also having a fantastic season – will be tough, especially if Watson is not out the front once more.

2020/21 Diamonds Squad list released

THE 2020/21 Australian Diamonds Squad list has been released this morning, with plenty of returning names in the mix and a couple of newbies to the fray. While players with continued injuries in Kelsey Browne and Ash Brazill are missing from the squad, Liz Ellis Diamond winner Gretel Bueta has still been named despite missing the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season to pregnancy. 

The squad has included a host of new names in Verity Charles, Sophie Garbin, Kim Jenner, Cara Koenen and Maddy Proud, while Jess Anstiss returns to the squad. Charles’ excellent season sees her brought into the squad for the first time, while Jenner, Koenen, Garbin and Anstiss were part of the 2019 development team and have clearly proved they are capable of stepping up to the next level. Despite questions around being left off the court during the 2020 season, Caitlin Bassett remains in the squad, while fans will be disappointed Caitlin Thwaites will not come out of retirement after a stellar season.

Some notable names left off the list are Maddy Turner, Tegan Philip and April Brandley, with the latter still returning from pregnancy earlier in the year and the former two not quite having the same influential seasons as they did in 2019.

Diamonds Head Coach Stacey Marinkovich says she is excited about the squad and the depth of talent across Australia and every position.

“Selection definitely hasn’t been an easy task – we have such a great depth of talent within our system across every position on the court and I congratulate those that have been selected,” Marinkovich said in the Diamonds announcement.

“This squad showcases an incredible breadth of experience and new emerging talent. We have a strong vision towards our marquee events, the 2022 Commonwealth Games and 2023 Netball World Cup, and I look forward to further technically and strategically developing this group and building on our connection and cohesion under pressure.”

“Our Australian Development Squad will be named within the next couple of weeks and this list will truly capture the depth of our elite talent. We will continue to monitor and track players leading into an exciting 2021 international netball calendar.”

While the squad will not play competitively in 2020, Netball Australia is working closely with the Queensland government to host a training camp following the completion of the 2020 SSN season. The 2020/21 Australian Development squad will be announced in the coming weeks.

2020/21 Origin Australian Diamonds Squad

Jess Anstiss – West Coast Fever/Western Australia
Kiera Austin – GIANTS Netball/New South Wales
Caitlin Bassett – GIANTS Netball/Western Australia
Gretel Bueta – Queensland Firebirds/Queenslan
Courtney Bruce – West Coast Fever/Western Australia
Verity Charles – West Coast Fever/New South Wales
Sophie Garbin – NSW Swifts/Western Australia
Paige Hadley – NSW Swifts/New South Wales
Kimberley Jenner – Queensland Firebirds/Queensland
Cara Koenen – Sunshine Coast Lightning/Queensland
Sarah Klau – NSW Swifts/South Australia
Jamie-Lee Price – GIANTS Netball/New South Wales
Maddy Proud – NSW Swifts/South Australia
Emily Mannix – Melbourne Vixens/Victoria
Kate Moloney – Melbourne Vixens/Victoria
Gabi Simpson – Queensland Firebirds/New South Wales
Liz Watson – Melbourne Vixens/Victoria
Jo Weston – Melbourne Vixens/Victoria
Steph Wood – Sunshine Coast Lightning/Queensland

SSN Stats wrap: Round 13

OUR Suncorp Super Netball stats wrap will again this week solely focus on Round 13’s proceedings, with a huge penultimate round of action culminating in a couple of massive results and its fair share of controversy with Caitlin Bassett once more left on the bench and Jemma Mi Mi in a similar position despite being touted as the face of SSN Indigenous Round. Meanwhile, the NSW Swifts confirmed their place in the top four thanks to the GIANTS’ tight loss to West Coast Fever and the Melbourne Vixens suffered their second loss of the season to the Queensland Firebirds to close out the round. 

There were many top performers across the round once more, with defenders seeming to be top of the list again with a number of players stepping up and causing errors aplenty. Phumza Maweni continued to star in her second season, racking up eight gains (five intercepts) to lead the tally for the round while Courtney Bruce collected 12 gains in a tough battle. Maddy Turner had arguably her best outing of the season so far with six gains (three intercepts), matched by her opposition goal keeper in Sterling with the same stats and a three goal margin as the final whistle sounded. A huge combined defensive effort from the Firebirds completely exposed the Vixens who were without playmaker Liz Watson, seeing Kim Jenner, Tara Hinchliffe and Gabi Simpson combine for 15 gains (eight intercepts) between them. 

Looking further up the court, Jamie-Lee Price was excellent with 17 goal assists and four intercepts in a losing effort, while Verity Charles topped the assists chart this round with 24 from 36 feeds and 17 centre pass receives. Paige Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite combined well in the Swifts camp for 23 and 19 goal assists, both also racking up an intercept apiece while Kate Moloney held up the Vixens attack with 18 assists. Firebirds duo Mahalia Cassidy and Lara Dunkley also left no stone unturned, sharing the load out the front with a combined 35 goal assists and two intercepts, while youngster Georgie Horjus plied her trade out the front for the Thunderbirds to finish with 29 centre pass receives and 14 assists. 

Horjus was not the only attacker to hit the centre pass and assists stats, with both Steph Wood and Gabby Sinclair finding their playmaking form, albeit while playing on opposing teams. Wood impressed once more in at goal attack with 10 goals at 71 per cent and 21 assists, while Sinclair finished much the same on the goaling front with 10 at 67 per cent and 17 assists. Sam Gooden got the start for the Thunderbirds with another 10-goal haul – this time at 53 per cent – while Tippah Dwan was solid once more against the Vixens with 16 goals from 23 attempts. Caitlin Thwaites was excellent with 17 goals (seven super shots) while Kiera Austin was shaky on the shot with 28 goals from 43 attempts at 65 per cent and 11 general play turnovers but came away with four intercepts credit to her ability to win ball back. In at goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler (63 goals from 66 attempts), Romelda Aiken (45 from 51), Cara Koenen (41 from 45) and Shimona Nelson (40 from 44) were not only impressive in their volume but also their accuracy, standing up well under pressure with only the latter coming away with a loss.

Courtside Comments: Round 13 – Tara Hinchliffe

Draft Central Courtside Comments: Round 13 – Tara Hinchliffe

EACH week the Draft Central team will focus on one Suncorp Super Netball player across the round and take a look at their individual highlights, key moments and improvements across their match. Our Round 13 focus is Tara Hinchliffe, with the Queensland Firebirds defender continuously building in form and applying constant pressure down in goal keeper. Each set of notes showcases the opinions of our writers individually.

Still only 22-years-old, Hinchliffe has been a consistent strength down back alongside Kim Jenner and has really tidied up her act in season 2020, with her experience over the past few years seeing her step up to the plate well. While she had a quiet start to the season in comparison to Jenner, Hinchliffe has had a huge purple patch over the past few rounds with her ability to adapt her play-style coming to the forefront. The entire Firebirds defensive unit seems to be gelling a lot better which has allowed the goal keeper to read the play well down the court and come in for a timely intercept or deflection. In her Round 13 effort against the Melbourne Vixens, Hinchliffe came away with five gains (three intercepts, one rebound, one deflection resulting in a gain) and two pickups in what was a strong showing from the up and coming defender.

Here’s what we had to say:

By: Sophie Taylor, Draft Central Senior Editor

Hinchliffe’s improved decision-making has been clear in 2020 and in this outing against the Vixens she proved once more that she is a force to be reckoned with. Her anticipation and clean hands were on show in the battle against Mwai Kumwenda in the opening term, forcing the goal shooter into dangerous positions and using her footwork to constantly switch up her positioning to keep the feeders guessing. Pairing with Jenner, the two were a constant barricade both in and around the circle and continuously fed off each other’s excitement-building ways. Hinchliffe has found her form this season while also staying away from the whistle and overall played a constant nagging-defender role in this match to allow Jenner and Gabi Simpson to continue their ball-winning ways. While Hinchliffe had a quiet patch early in the third when the Vixens came out flying, she proved that she is never down and out of the contest with her vision down court and anticipation to snatch an intercept and propel the ball back to the attack.

By: Taylah Melki, Draft Central Managing Editor

The goal keeper was on song from the opening minute of the game injecting herself into the contest with her hands over pressure, read of the play and smothering nature to clog up the space. Hinchliffe never looked out of the contest and paired seamlessly with Jenner to confuse the space and cause headaches for the feeders. Her three-foot marking and aerial presence were on show throughout the match creating tips and deflections while her constant footwork to dance around the body of her opponents kept the Vixens guessing. A testament to the development of her game, Hinchliffe only racked up 10 penalties highlighting her ability to adapt to the umpires instructions as she worked in overdrive to be a menace down back and lull the Vixens into a false sense of security to then go out hunting. Her connection with Jenner was unstoppable as the two peeled off their players to cover one another’s and continued to mount pressure on the well-oiled and experienced shooters in Caitlin Thwaites, Tegan Philip and Kumwenda. Hinchliffe’s hustle for the ball was unquestionable while her drive through the defensive third allowed Simpson and Jenner to roam freely through the centre.

By: Lucy Pollock, Draft Central UK Writer

Hinchliffe has had a standout season for the Firebirds this year. Overall her performances and contributions to the Queensland side have been significant and she has found even more maturity in her game. Her quick footwork and rangy arms earned her an early deflection in this match which set the tone, and she is proving to be such tough opposition for experienced goal shooters in the SSN. Her tenacity to rebound or pounce on any loose balls helped spur the Firebirds into the lead, and she is so persistent in the one-on-one battles. Her partnership with Jenner is formidable, and Hinchliffe knows exactly when to come out for a fly, when to set up in the goal circle and her aerial ability means there is no easy passage to goal. She can sometimes be costly in terms of penalties but seemed aware of this in the game against the Vixens and kept herself out of trouble with the umpires. She consistently found opportunities to turn over the ball for the full 60 minutes and her scrappy, never-say-die attitude allowed the Firebirds attack multiple chances to reap the rewards. Whilst Jenner has had a breakout season this year, Hinchliffe is not to be forgotten or left behind and she is developing into a deadly goal keeper for the Firebirds. 

By: Kate Cornish, Draft Central volunteer writer

Tara Hinchliffe is one half of the Queensland Firebirds defensive duo that has impressed during the 2020 Super Netball season. In Round 13 against the competition’s leaders, the Melbourne Vixens, she more than had her work cut out for her, starting the game against one of the most unpredictable goalers in the competition, Kumwenda. Hinchliffe had a flying opener to her game with a number of deflections and an early intercept. She put doubt in the minds of the Vixens feeders from the start and her dynamic combination with Jenner was winning the battle against the Vixens attacking end. Her ability to push Kumwenda towards the top of the circle paid dividends; Kumwenda was uncomfortable sitting high and her usual easy access to post was being denied. Hinchliffe had to mix up her approach when Thwaites was introduced into goal shooter in the second quarter. The form, confidence and smarts of Thwaites while she was on court took some sting out of the Firebirds defence and the game began to even up as Hinchliffe was kept relatively quiet trying to contain Thwaites. The Firebirds managed to hold onto the win in the end, and that was largely due to the fantastic start they were gifted by the teamwork and understanding between Jenner and Hinchliffe, who could very well be the Diamonds’ next generation of defenders. 

Firebirds shock error-ridden Vixens

THE Queensland Firebirds added another excellent win to their tally this season with a huge six goal victory over the Melbourne Vixens to close out not only Suncorp Super Netball Indigenous Round but also the penultimate round of the 2020 season. The Firebirds did not let up throughout the entire contest, consistently forcing uncharacteristic errors from the minor premiers.

An even start from both sides saw neither waste their centre pass, using space well and finding their goalers with ease. But the Firebirds were the first to get the break off a missed Tegan Philip attempt, adding a few goals to the margin s the attack duo of Tippah Dwan and Romelda Aiken flew early. The Firebirds were bursting with confidence, forcing wasted ball from the Vixens who were without key cog Liz Watson out the front. Trailing by four, the Vixens looked their best when they were able to find Mwai Kumwenda at the post but were given a tough time of it by the Firebirds defensive unit of Gabi Simpson, Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe.

But while the Firebirds had much of the early contest sorted, the Vixens evened up the ledger soon enough as the super shot period came into fruition with Dwan hitting the scoreboard with two quickly. Wasteful passes went against the Vixens as the Firebirds pulled back the momentum once more. Aiken’s excellent season continued, rebounding with ease while the Vixens could not seem to connect the way they intended to, as the Firebirds headed into the first change up by six goals. 

Caitlin Thwaites joined the fray in the second quarter, using her strength to body up on Hinchliffe but it was to no avail when the Vixens attack could not get the ball to her, with Simpson a menace allowing the Firebirds to get out to a 10-goal lead. The Vixens were forced into a second tactical timeout as the defensive lineup made the switch between Kate Eddy and Jo Weston, while Elle McDonald hit the court in wing attack. McDonald seemed to be a better fit against Simpson, holding ground well and aiding the Vixens as they put three straight goals on the board. 

But sloppy ball movement continued to allow the Firebirds to maintain the ascendancy and a 10-goal buffer was solidified by another super shot from Dwan. Thwaites was quick to deliver one back though, while Eddy’s injection into goal defence caused a held ball on Dwan’s next attempt. Suddenly trailing by just five goals, the Vixens made the most of the super shot to manufacture the momentum back in their favour. That being said, the Vixens seemed to be standing still and waiting for the ball, allowing the Firebirds to create small tips here and there. A super shot from Dwan after the siren saw a four goal lead the way of the Firebirds at the main break. 

The Vixens attack had a new look again with Kumwenda and Thwaites combining at the post, and it seemed to be the trick with a 5-1 start to the third quarter. But as she so likes to do, Jenner stepped up when it mattered to continue to spur her side into action. While both sides were managing to create the turnover ball, wasteful passes in transition from Weston saw the Vixens unable to capitalise. Continued clumping from the Vixens saw the Firebirds continue to win back the ball and steal back the lead the Vixens had worked so hard to steal early in the quarter. Simpson was having the game of her life, shutting down McDonald who had a real impact early and Simpson’s combination with Jenner at the centre pass saw the Vixens struggle to make use of their opportunities, trailing by four once more at the final change.

Simpson’s huge impact continued to stand out with the Vixens sloppy passes being stolen away time and time again. But Kadie-Ann Dehaney stepped up when the Vixens needed it, winning the ball off a critical Firebirds centre although the following Vixens centre saw another crucial miss as the Firebirds continued to dominate, extending the lead to 10 goals once more. The Vixens needed to utilise every single chance they had at the super shot, but the Firebirds defence stepped up another level and the purple attack continued to chip away at the other end. Multiple super shots from the Vixens were not enough to get a win on the board, going down by six (64-58).

Aiken was unstoppable at the post with 45 goals from 51 attempts, while Dwan was effective with 16 goals of her own (three super shots). Mahalia Cassidy was excellent with 20 goal assists while the Firebirds defensive trio of Hinchliffe, Jenner and Simpson were impressive with 15 gains between them, including eight intercepts. For the sloppy Vixens, they really missed the effectiveness and continued drive of Watson with Kate Moloney sitting on 19 assists and McDonald next in line with nine. Eddy and Weston picked up two intercepts apiece but overall it was a lack of scoring opportunity for the ladder leaders, with Kumwenda (22 goals) and Thwaites (17, seven super shots) not able to find the post against the huge defensive pressure.

>>> VIXENS TEAM PAGE
>>> LIGHTNING TEAM PAGE
>>> FULL MATCH STATS

MELBOURNE VIXENS 12 | 19 | 13 | 14 (58)
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 18 | 17 | 13 | 16 (64)

Vixens

GS: Mwai Kumwenda
GA: Tegan Philip
WA: Tayla Honey
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Kate Eddy
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Emily Mannix

Firebirds

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Tippah Dwan
WA: Lara Dunkley
C: Mahalia Cassidy
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Tara Hinchliffe

Swifts tested by headstrong Thunderbirds

A HUGE battle between the NSW Swifts and Adelaide Thunderbirds ensued on Saturday afternoon, with the Swifts narrowly getting away with a three goal lead after trailing at the final change. While the Swifts did not need this win after the GIANTS’ earlier loss during the round cemented the reigning premiers’ top four status, it was a confidence boosting and ugly win that the Swifts will hope to use to push them in the coming weeks.

A fantastic start from the Swifts set the scene, causing confusion in defence and firing early thanks to Sarah Klau, Paige Hadley and Maddy Turner taking the loose ball and impressing on transition down the court. The Swifts were patient and efficient out the front, and with captain Maddy Proud out of the side the combination of Hadley and Nat Haythornthwaite seemed to have little issue finding Sam Wallace and Helen Housby. While Shamera Sterling and Layla Guscoth had a glimpse at the turnover ball they were not able to get hands to it. 

The Swifts excellent start continued although the Thunderbirds definitely stepped up, settling into the contest despite still making some minor errors allowing Housby to get in on the defensive action. Georgie Horjus started out in wing attack alongside Sam Gooden, with the duo needing some time to ease into it but overall working well to get ball to Lenize Potgieter at the post. While Hadley and Haythornthwaite had no issue feeding to Wallace early, it was as much due to the duo’s confidence as Wallace’s solid positioning. The Swifts headed into the second with a seven goal lead, dominating much of the first quarter. 

Where the Swifts dominated much of the first quarter, the Thunderbirds picked up their game in the second finding easier passage to post and creating the loose ball that Sterling thrives off. While a couple of Horjus misfeeds could have allowed the Swifts to take control but it saw the T’birds go the other way instead, causing errors and forcing the Swifts to play at their level. Maisie Nankivell was one of the crucial links who stepped up out in centre, using her timing to cause chaos while working in overdrive at both ends of the court. 

The Thunderbirds were much more careful feeding into the circle after a sloppy first quarter, not giving away as much ball while Horjus stepped up driving towards every ball and persisting on circle edge. A Gooden super shot on the buzzer saw the scoreline reduce to four goals, with the Thunderbirds unafraid to take the risk and seeing the defensive unit step up too. Guscoth continued to be a menace against Housby, blocking vision and applying a heap of pressure on both her opposition and the Swifts feeders. The Thunderbirds had a heap of opportunities to take the lead but the risk of the super shot began to outweigh the reward with long arms over pressure from Klau and Turner, trailing by two at the main break. 

The Thunderbirds continued on their merry way in the third, edging the scoreline to 33 goals apiece. It took a heap of work but the T’birds managed to take their first lead of the match with just under eight minutes on the clock, though it seemed that Wallace was not quite right after a knock from Guscoth in the second. Horjus continued to showcase her impressive vision and positioning as Housby hit the bench with a rolled ankle, as the Swifts’ players struggled to consolidate off their centre pass and allowed the Thunderbirds to maintain a two goal lead. Finicky errors from the Swift’s continued to plague the side, wasting a heap of turnover ball that the defensive unit worked so hard to win back. Housby returned and seemed to have an immediate impact on the Swifts’ confidence as Wallace sunk her first super shot of the game to see the Swifts down by one goal at the final change. 

A huge final quarter saw the Swifts come out flying as the combination of Housby and Sophie Garbin fired up, opening up space well as the Swifts stole back the lead with a huge 6-1 start to the quarter and forcing a tactical timeout from the Thunderbirds. Chelsea Pitman hit the court for the first time in wing attack as Horjus transitioned into goal attack, although Klau was there to spoil the party gobbling up the high ball and turning the tides. A couple of late super shots from Horjus saw the Thunderbirds get a taste but it was not enough as the Swift’s milked the clock for much of the last 90 seconds for a 57-54 victory.  

Player of the match Hadley starred through centre with 24 goal assists and an intercept, aided by Haythornthwaite who was not far behind with 19 and an intercept of her own. Wallace topscored with 26 goals while Housby worked her way into the match to finish with two intercepts and  22 goals at 92 per cent and Garbin added eight to the tally. Defensively, Klau and Turner impressed in the first and final quarters for 10 gains between them (five intercepts). For the Thunderbirds, Potgieter missed just the one goal on her way to 33 at 97 per cent, while Gooden managed 10 at an inaccurate 53 per cent (four super shots). Horjus put up four of her five attempts, three being super shots, while also racking up 13 goal assists, shared by Nankivell with 16 and two deflections (one gain). Guscoth was far more in the contest than her one gain suggested, while a relatively quiet Sterling managed three intercepts and two gains from her 10 deflections. 

 

>>> THUNDERBIRDS TEAM PAGE
>>> SWIFTS TEAM PAGE

ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 12 | 16 | 15 | 11 (54)
NSW SWIFTS 19 | 11 | 12 | 15 (57)

STARTING SEVEN

Thunderbirds

GS: Lenize Potgieter
GA: Sam Gooden
WA: Georgie Horjus
C: Maisie Nankivell
WD: Shadine Van Der Merwe
GD: Layla Guscoth
GK: Shamera Sterling

Swifts

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Helen Housby
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Lauren Moore
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau

SSN Stats wrap: Round 12

FOR the first time in season 2020, our Suncorp Super Netball stats wrap will just look at the one round that passed over the weekend, Round 12. Wins to three of the top four sides saw the Melbourne Vixens sew up the minor premiership, although it did not come easy with a huge start from Collingwood Magpies forcing the Vixens onto the back foot. As for the West Coast Fever, they asserted their dominance with another huge victory over the NSW Swifts while the Queensland Firebirds were relentless in their pursuit for a fifth win when they took on the Sunshine Coast Lightning. The final match saw the GIANTS keep their finals hopes alive with a 10-goal win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Starting in defence this week, there is no denying the fine form of Courtney Bruce, Phumza Maweni and Emily Mannix. The three goal keepers were lynchpins in defence for their respective teams, anticipating the ball down the court and picking up a handful of intercepts apiece as they controlled proceedings from the back end. Bruce was arguably the most effective up against Sam Wallace and Sophie Garbin, coming away with four intercepts and seven deflections, while Maweni’s stellar combination with Karla Pretorius saw the Lightning defensive unit combine for six intercepts and 15 deflections which resulted in 11 gains. Geva Mentor and Jodi-Ann Ward have continued to grow their partnership, combining for 12 gains, while there was no denying Shamera Sterling when she got going, finishing with eight gains from two intercepts and 11 deflections in the Thunderbirds’ loss to the GIANTS.

Heading through the midcourt, it was a great week for centre court defence with a number of midcourters picking up defensive stats to go with their offensive attributes. Kate Moloney (two intercepts, 22 goal assists, 10 pickups) and Amy Parmenter (two intercepts, 13 goal assists, seven pickups) were two of the most prolific ball winners, while Maddie Hay, Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley collected two intercepts apiece, with Proud sitting on 20 goal assists. Both Lightning wing defenders in Maddy McAuliffe and Jacqui Russell found themselves on the stats sheet with a combined four gains between them, while Laura Langman took on the offensive load for 27 goal assists to lead all comers this round. Magpies goaler Gabby Sinclair was next in line with six goals and 25 assists but eight general play turnovers, while Verity Charles (24 assists, one intercept) and Mahalia Cassidy (24 assists, four turnovers) also had an impact out the front. 

When it comes to goalers, there is no player more consistently impactful than Jhaniele Fowler, with the tall timber registering another 69 goals to her name at 96 per cent accuracy in Round 12. Romelda Aiken was next on the board with 47 from 52 – a more accurate output than we typically see from her – while the duo’s young Jamaican compatriot Shimona Nelson put out one of her better performances with 43 goals at 96 per cent. Next in line was Cara Koenen who shot true at 100 per cent against the Firebirds, unfazed by the tight defensive unit for 41 goals, while Lenize Potgieter was slightly less accurate than usual with 41 from 47 and Wallace put up 35 goals from her 40 attempts, with a whopping 10 super shots to her name allowing the Swifts to keep close contact with the Fever. When it came to goal attacks, there were none more influential than Steph Wood who almost single handedly fought the Lightning back into the contest after a sloppy start, racking up 19 goals (five super shots), while Kiera Austin and Jo Harten combined well once more for 30 and 28 goals apiece, although their inaccuracy told a much bigger story at a shared 74 per cent. That being said, the duo won ball back with three intercepts between them. The Vixens shooting circle shared the load as per usual with all three goalers sitting between 85 and 95 per cent accuracy, while Garbin also hit the scoreboard well with 18 goals and impressively hit five super shots from her 10 attempts, not known for her long range ability.

Lightning strike in Pretorius’ 100th

THE Queensland derby was just as good as expected, with the Queensland Firebirds coming out strong but unable to weather the Sunshine Coast Lightning storm, falling short by eight goals (75-67) in Karla Pretorius’ 100th national game.

It was a hard and fast start from the Firebirds, with the defensive connections forcing early errors and clogged space while the confidence out the front was huge. But sure enough, Pretorius was in everything early, testing Romelda Aiken’s hands and getting hands to ball thanks to Phumza Maweni’s ability to force Aiken high. But up the other end Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe would not be outdone, strong as ever forcing turnovers. Peace Proscovia was a huge target out the front for the Lightning but did not receive any favours from Cara Koenen out the front, with the duo struggling to set up plays in attack and seeing Steph Wood take the court to inject some extra speed and agility. Wood’s impact was immediate as was her connection with Laura Langman, with the duo combining well as the Lightning inched back the margin. The improved connection out the front was not enough though, with the Lightning trailing by seven goals at the first change.

Both sides had some issues getting on the board early in the second, with the defensive effort continuing to dominate for both sides. The improved movement from the Lightning frontline was paying off although Lara Dunkley’s stellar few rounds continued with a great start once more on circle edge for the Firebirds making it hard to split the two sides. A five goal buffer was enough to maintain the Firebirds momentum but the Lightning’s fight back had only just begun with Koenen at the post using her body well on Hinchliffe to limit the goal keeper’s chances for the loose ball. What had been a seven goal game at the first break turned into just two goals as the Lightning continued to fire, both in defence and offence. Tippah Dwan had a huge start but was quiet for much of the second credit to Pretorius’ ability to keep the youngster away from easy possession. Jemma Mi Mi was injected to add some speed in attack and while she did not find a heap of ball, when she did it allowed Dwan to find pockets of space putting up two straight super shots to ensure the Firebirds stayed in the lead going into half time. 

Macy Gardner headed into wing attack to start the third, with the constant effort from Maddy McAuliffe forcing a third change in the position. The Lightning’s class came to play early in the third, with the attack moving much better and Koenen winning the battle over Hinchliffe with her excellent goalline drive. A couple of big moments from the Lightning saw the scoreline reduce to just one goal with a Firebirds tactical timeout imminent, while a couple of great defensive moments from Pretorius and Maweni allowed the Lightning to capitalise off the Firebirds centre and draw ahead for the first time all game midway through the third. 

Rudi Ellis made her way onto the court in goal keeper to add some extra height and hands over pressure on Koenen, while Hinchliffe stepped out to goal defence as Jenner headed to the bench, such was Wood’s dominance out the front. While Mahalia Cassidy and Langman were both starring in their respective attacking thirds, the Firebirds wing attack woes continued, with Gardner hesitating on the feed allowing the defenders to get the upper hand. The super shot was the saving grace for the Firebirds with Dwan putting one on the board although Wood did the same at the other end, with neither team letting up on the scoreboard and as the Lightning held a three goal lead heading into the final term.

The stifling defence from the Lightning was relentless, and with a finals berth on the line the home side’s final quarter effort was testament to the buildup from defence. While Aiken was continuing to fire from all cylinders, the defensive effort outside the circle was just as strong as within, not letting anywhere near as much ball into the circle as they did early on. Dwan came off the court with minor shoulder pain requiring strapping, seeing youngster Mia Stower take the court, and while the goal attack put up a few shots the unintended change did not do the Firebirds any favours as the Lightning extended to a six goal lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock. 

With both Lightning goalers on fire, the Firebirds defenders did not know where to look. Despite constant efforts from Gabi Simpson, the Firebirds looked tired and could not seem to find the intensity they needed despite a super shot from Dwan who returned to the court heavily strapped. Jacqui Russell came alive in the dying minutes, turning over the ball multiple times and while an Aiken super shot kept the Firebirds in touch it was not enough as the Lightning kept their season alive with a 75-67 victory. 

Pretorius and Wood were the difference in this match and Pretorius deservingly won player of the match honours for her effort, with three intercepts and six deflections resulting in six gains, while Wood finished with 19 goals (five super shots), 24 feeds and 20 centre pass receives to her name. Koenen starred at the post with 41 goals at 100 per cent, while Langman racked up 27 assists from 47 feeds. The Lightning defensive unit of Pretorius, Maweni, McAuliffe and Russell carved up the Firebirds attack with a huge nine intercepts between them, three apiece to Pretorius and Maweni while Russell managed two in 19 minutes on court. For the Firebirds, Aiken was huge with 47 goals from 52 attempts at improved 90 per cent accuracy, including her one super shot, while Dwan was well and truly nullified by Pretorius to finish with 11 goals at 52 per cent (five super shots). Cassidy finished with 24 assists while defensively it was a much quieter one than typically seen from the purple, with the combination of Jenner, Hinchliffe and Ellis only picking up an intercept apiece.

>>>LIGHTNING TEAM PAGE
>>> FIREBIRDS TEAM PAGE
>>> FULL MATCH STATS

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 13 | 19 | 23 | 20 (75)
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 20 | 17 | 15 | 15 (67)

STARTING SEVEN

Lightning

GS: Peace Proscovia
GA: Cara Koenen
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Maddy McAuliffe
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

Firebirds 

GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Tippah Dwan
WA: Lara Dunkley
C: Mahalia Cassidy
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Tara Hinchliffe