Author: Sophie Taylor

VIC M-League wrap: Mixed Premier Division – Round 13

ROUND 13 saw plenty of excitement brewing for the penultimate round of Mixed Premier Division for the season, with the top four almost settled unless something massive happens in the final round of the season. Parkville Panthers proved their dominance in their final home and away match for the season, defeating Valley Wolves by 35 goals (68-33). Geelong Cougars also put in a strong effort with DDNA fighting in the second half but the side was unable to gain ground, going down by 28 goals (51-79), while NNE Vipers defeated a dilapidated Melbourne City Blackhawks by 17 goals (55-38) to jump into sixth on the ladder.

Eastside Sonics secured a solid win over St Therese, finding some good separation after half-time to run away with a 22-goal win (61-39). The Sonics had a slow start, throwing away plenty of ball and only scoring nine goals to 13 in the first before taking the game on in the second, shooting 20 goals to take the lead heading into half time, using turnovers well and converting opportunities. The Sonics defensive pairing of Caitlyn Degaris and Andrew Burgess was impressive, creating turnovers aplenty and speeding the ball back down the court. Jack Carpenter put on a shooting clinic for Sirens, quiet in the first quarter but going on to shoot 46 of his 53 goals in the remaining three quarters, aided by Jesse Failla and Bella Hodgson who provided plenty of feeds into the circle. St Therese put up a strong fight in the first half but were unfortunately unable to match it in the latter stages of the match, losing Tristan Comans after the first quarter and unable to replicate their stellar start to the match in the following quarters. The speed and resilience of Saints’ Shannon Blackman entered the match during the second quarter but full credit to Sonics’ Samara Harris and Emma Thompson, limiting Blackman’s influence around the circle and propelling the ball back towards their attack. Sam Robb was a great addition in wing defence early deflecting with ease while Prue Stanley and Ailish McCormack provided solid options through the midcourt and around the circle with Claire Oakley and Dale Mason having a solid start to the match at the post.

VIC M-League wrap: Men’s Premier Division – Round 13

MEN’S Premier Division Round 13 saw some ladder-defining matches take place, with the biggest switch ultimately seeing Melbourne City Blackhawks back in finals contention with a handy win against Ariels, leapfrogging Pasifika Sharks back into the top four. Meanwhile, Southern Seahawks are still an outside chance to make finals, sitting in sixth below the Sharks only on percentage and just one win behind the Blackhawks. In Round 13 results, Southern Seahawks reigned supreme over DDNA with a 32 goal win (68-36), St Therese proved a big finals point to Sirens Netball with a massive 15 goal win (58-43), while Geelong Cougars prevailed over Pasifika Sharks in a tight seven goal victory (47-40).

Ariels put up a tough fight against Melbourne City Blackhawks, going down by only 12 goals (57-69) in an effort to deny the Blackhawks their finals chances. The Blackhawks ultimately now only need to win their final match of the regular season to finish in the top four, timing their run to perfection. But while the Blackhawks had confidence and consistency on their side heading into this match, the Ariels were not to go down without a fight well and truly taking it to the Blackhawks from the opening whistle, making for a tight contest. The Ariels virtually matched the Blackhawks for a lot of the match, only running out of steam in the second half after being three goals down at half time. The absence of Tim Marshall for the Blackhawks saw Simon Cartwright and Anthony Maniapoto take the lead in defence, using speed and elevation to provide vital turnover ball and propel it back through to their attack. The height and strength of David Chisholm at the goal post was key for Blackhawks as the go-to shooter, nailed a whopping 54 goals. He was aided by Lucas Farrimond and Matthew Doyle in turn to create a dominant goal circle with plenty of versatility. Defensively, the Ariels used their rotations to switch up depending on the flow of the game, with Brendan Nick and Samuel Dugan providing a solid effort down the court, backed by Daniel Stone in goal keeper. The Ariels shared the load in the goal circle, with feeders, Anthony Williams and Phillip Pene finding easy access into a rotating goal circle, with Michael Dower top-scoring for the side with 22 goals.

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division – Round 13

THE race to finals is well and truly heating up, with the top and bottom halves of the ladder taking on the sides closest to them in the penultimate round of Men’s Premier Division for 2019.

VIC M-League 2019
Men’s Premier Division – Round 13

Melbourne City Blackhawks will be thanking their lucky stars this round to not be in the top four, sitting in fifth with a match against the struggling Ariels on Wednesday and another low-ladder match next week key for the side making a run for finals. Comparatively, Pasifika Sharks sit in fourth and in reality, need a win both this round and next round to make finals and are coming up against Geelong Cougars this week who have sat in top spot for majority of the season – but only beat Sharks by two goals earlier this year. Meanwhile, Southern Seahawks take on DDNA in an interesting match between sixth and seventh, with DDNA having an inconsistent season pushing some higher teams but ultimately going down to bottom-ranked Ariels last round while the Seahawks have showed plenty of promise but fallen short a few too many times to really fight for a spot in finals in this late stage.

One of the bigger matches this round will see St Therese in third take on Sirens Netball in second. The Saints are currently sitting two wins between first and second but have been a fairly consistent side this season despite some minor hiccups. Sirens have proved again and again that they should not be underestimated, with the side clean, efficient and composed with ball in hand. The two sides could not be separated last time they met, with Sirens prevailing by only two goals after trailing for most of the match, but the side has continued to impress throughout the season so will be a real tough opponent for St Therese. A key matchup this round is that between the Saints’ defensive unit, with Dylan Nexhip, Matthew Longhurst and Tristan Comans able to impact with their timing and elevation key against the impeccable combination of Sirens shooters, Brodie Roberts and Josh Smith. The Sirens pair share the load and can ultimately shoot from anywhere in the circle, making the duo dangerous when on song and ultimately creating an unstoppable attack line with the opposition unable to focus on just the one option at the post. Through the midcourt, Riley Richardson and Guy Keane will be key for the Saints to make use of turnover ball, while the vocal Sirens defensive unit of Andrew Burgess and Will Jamison will need to be at their best to deny easy ball from the Saints in attack.

VIC M-League 2019: Mixed Premier Division – Round 13

THE penultimate round of Mixed Premier Division is set to be a big one, with Round 13 seeing plenty of defining matches that could really impact on the ladder even at this late stage of the season.

VIC M-League 2019
Mixed Premier Division – Round 13
7:00, 9:40pm

This round will see a number of exciting matches with a top-five battle between Geelong and DDNA set to test DDNA after a solid few weeks on the track. Geelong have been one of the more consistent teams this season, making this a real test for DDNA who ultimately need wins this round and the next to make finals as well as relying on other results to go their way. NNE Vipers have a good opportunity to put an average start to the season behind them when they take on Melbourne City Blackhawks, especially after only going down by two goals last time they met. Meanwhile, Eastside Sonics take on St Therese in the late timeslot.

Parkville Panthers will look to continue their winning ways when they take on Valley Wolves. With the side sitting undefeated from 12 matches and a bye next week to finish the season, a win this round will gift them an unbeaten record and a big confidence booster heading into the finals. Parkville well and truly ruled the roost last time these teams met, defeating the Wolves by 33 goals and proving the Panthers are in a league of their own. Valley Wolves, to their credit, had a fairly solid second half last time they met, proving they do have the ability to match with the strong Panthers but the real test will be for how long they can take it to the side. The ability of goaling pair Uneeq Palavi and Brodie Roberts will be the one to stop at the post with their collective ability to not only put goals up but also produce plenty of turnover ball. Wolves could be a real chance to turn it on in defence with the likes of Alastair Punshon and Erin Jay providing plenty of rebounding and handy deflections. Combine the number of Victorian Netball League players taking the court and the Wolves’ need for a win this round to make the finals and this match could be a real game-changer for the round.

Is umpire inconsistency causing headaches at international level?

UMPIRING standards in netball have been brought to the forefront of media contention over the last few weeks, not for the first time in 2019 – and with the standard of the sport itself growing every year, it is clear why.

With so much questioned regarding fairness in sports these days, whether it be from media outlets, fans or players themselves it only seems appropriate that those officiating the sport deal with much of the slack. What many seem to forget is that where human officiation is necessary, human error can occur. And what we are starting to see in netball is that when this error occurs, many are beginning to openly question the ability and bias of an umpire towards the match in question.

With the use of a Victorian-based umpiring Facebook group, Twitter and the website SurveyMonkey, throughout October I conducted an online survey entitled ‘International Umpire Standards’, enquiring into the anonymous opinions of predominantly Australian umpires on the quality of umpiring standards over the past year and specifically focusing on the standards of Australia’s premier netball competition, Suncorp Super Netball, the 2019 Netball World Cup and the 2019 Constellation Cup between Australia and New Zealand.

The intention of this survey was to find out the current general consensus of umpires across a range of badges from around the state and open dialogue surrounding umpiring standards. Additionally, I wanted to find out their opinions regarding these competitions and how the umpiring standards compared, as well as how these applicants think the quality of umpiring can improve. Furthermore, it looked into the pros and cons of hypothetical rule changes that could improve accuracy, namely the most contentious suggestions being thrown around across the media – the addition of an extra umpire, the adaptation of umpiring zones on court and umpire review panels.

In Australia there is a clear and concise structure for umpiring accreditation, with letter grades or ‘badges’ used to differentiate levels. The lowest badge is ‘C’, with umpires needing to reach a certain understanding of the rules and practical application to progress further to ‘B’, ‘A’ and All Australian (AA). Following AA is the highest on-court umpiring accomplishment, the International Umpires Award (IUA).

At the time of writing there were 89 applicants, with a majority being ‘C’ and ‘B’ badged umpires combining for almost 75 per cent of results. ‘A’ badge sat at five applicants and ‘AA’ at one, while 16 were unbadged and one applicant chose to opt out of specifying.

Adding an extra umpire seems to be both the most suggested and scrutinised of the proposed rule changes, with a whopping 64 per cent of those surveyed disagreeing with the suggestion of an additional umpire on/around a netball court.

For many, it seems the size of the court itself only warrants two umpires, while others stated that there is enough inconsistency between two umpires that adding a third would not help the case. A number of applicants suggested that a third umpire would blur the boundaries of umpire zones further, negatively impacting the match and not adding any value to the calls already being made.

However, almost 60 per cent of applicants agreed with the question ‘do you think there is a way umpiring can be improved to be more accurate?’, with better training and pathway standards at grassroots one of the most common suggestions, while many suggest that further professionalism of umpires is required to achieve higher standards.

One of the more noticeable results on the survey regarded the quality of officiation in the Netball World Cup and Constellation Cup – both competitions where countries were unable to have umpires on court from their respective nations. While this is not a major issue for many countries, it does seem to play a significant role in how matches between higher ranking nations play out.

The Netball World Cup and Constellation Cup this year have been some of the more heavily criticised competitions in recent memory. The World Cup saw umpires from across the globe cover matches across two weeks of competition, unable to umpire their home nation in the process and ultimately seeing countries like Australia, New Zealand and England suffer for it with penalty counts well above the norm for their level. Similarly, lower-ranked nations found themselves struggling under the pressure of higher level umpires than they were used to, especially when attempting to match top sides, collecting warnings and cautions left, right and centre, unable to compete. For the Netball World Cup portion of the survey the results varied, with over 50 per cent stating the quality of umpiring met expectations, though many commented that matches umpired by lower ranked nations were of a lower quality than those from leading countries.

The key finding of the survey results saw over 55 per cent of applicants elect ‘below expectations’ for the Constellation Cup, which saw four test matches played between Australia and New Zealand across a period of three weeks. With Australian and New Zealand umpires unable to take the court for fear of bias, the four matches saw what many perceived as questionable calls and interpretations of rules, while others complained of ‘over-umpiring’. There were many questions about the interpretation of rules and overall standard of play left after calls were made so frequently during the Constellation Cup, with Silver Ferns coach, Noeline Taurua speaking out about the umpiring quality when the Ferns collected 66 penalties in the final match after picking up an average of 42 across the first three matches.

For comparison, 31 per cent of umpires said that Suncorp Super Netball exceeded expectations, while a further 64 per cent stated that it met their expectations, suggesting that the high quality and consistency of Australian umpires is something that has come to be expected and relished in netball.

Like any sport, consistency across accreditation can differ depending on the association, local standard and umpire supervision. However, with premier netball competitions in Australia such as the Australian Netball League (ANL) and its statewide feeder competitions, umpires are given as much an opportunity as players to progress their skills thanks to the match standard and umpire supervision across the country. While badging is one of the key ways to maintain relative consistency across the country and indeed the world, many other countries do not necessarily have the same standards in place, though the same final outcome is awarded – IUA – for jumping the final hurdle.

Australia, New Zealand, and to an extent England, currently lead the sport in umpiring and umpire development, with all three countries having high quality officiators due to the equally high quality of players and teams taking the court. What seems to be the most contested issue at this time is that, similar to how graded umpires can differ from association to association, umpires of the same international accreditation can differ thanks to their country of origin and standard of competition. Therefore meaning countries with a high standard of domestic competition such as those aforementioned tend to have higher quality umpires than a number of other netball-competing countries.

While every game or indeed, umpire, may have its faults, the umpires from these leading countries tend to form the highest standard thanks to the quality of netball they have available to officiate week in and week out. However with this standard comes a different issue, with lower-ranked countries and their equally badged counterparts not always able to keep up with the quality many spectators and players have come to expect.

The main problems that seem to pop up during international competitions are a) the standards of international umpires, and b) the perceived bias of national/domestic umpires, disallowing them from umpiring their own country – and therefore robbing the country’s representative teams from reaping the rewards of the best umpires available.

At the end of the day, umpires are on the court to ensure a safe and fair game is played for all involved, and not intended to change a game’s outcomes with their decision making – or as we have come to see in netball, often lack thereof.

While this commentary – and indeed the survey conducted – offers plenty of questions and suggestions to improve the quality of umpiring, something begs the question; is it possible for umpiring to be improved to be at a standard spectators, players and umpires alike can agree on? When does match fairness become a question of an umpire’s ability rather than simple human error? Only time will tell.

Finally, in the wise words of one of my own umpire supervisors, ‘just let them play!’

Vic M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division wrap – Round 12

ROUND 12 was one of the closer weeks in Men’s Premier Division, with three matches coming down to less than 10 goals while one match was the unexpected blowout of the week. Melbourne City Blackhawks had results go their way on their road to finals, sitting in fifth but safe for another week despite their loss to Sirens Netball (69-61), with fourth-ranked Pasifika Sharks losing valuable percentage in their 62-81 loss to St Therese and potentially giving the Blackhawks the look-in they need to achieve finals. Meanwhile, Southern Seahawks achieved a massive win over Geelong Cougars, running away with a two goal victory (41-39) after a massive first half set up the upset. This was Geelong’s second loss of the season, now only leading in top spot by percentage with two tough matches to finish the season.

The final match of the round saw Ariels get their debut win in 2019, prevailing by seven goals over DDNA (49-42) with an impressive defensive effort rendering DDNA’s goalers unable to find the post. A dominant first quarter gave Ariels the confidence to take control of the match, and with DDNA losing key goaler Christian White to injury and playing sans wing defence in the second half, the Ariels were able to take hold of opportunities and open up a solid margin. In the absence of White, Jason Heard and David Butler put in the hard yards but despite their efforts were unable to find easy access into the goal circle, hesitating to feed and shoot and ultimately allow Ariels defenders, Nick Brendan and Daniel Stone to find plenty of turnover ball. Ariels may not have much – or any – winning experience this season, yet it seemed like they had no worries running the ball down the court, creating opportunities and using every turnover to apply scoreboard pressure to DDNA. While DDNA commanded plenty of ball back themselves thanks to the defensive effort of Jake Novak and David Priddle, they did not find much purchase against a side so hungry for a win, playing catchup for majority of the match and struggling to match the physicality of the Ariels with the likes of Michael Dower giving as much as he got. It was a relentless contest with neither side willing to give an inch, creating a far closer contest than many expected and granting the Ariels a much needed and deserved inaugural Premier Division victory.

2020 Suncorp Super Netball fixture released

THE full 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) fixture has been announced, with a new structure set for the biggest season yet after a disrupted 2019.

The season will commence on May 2 with the final round of the home and away season spread across three days on August 7-9. The season will consist of 14 rounds and three weeks of finals, with a newly created split round in Round 8 to enable a much-needed mid-season June bye for each team.

There are two themed rounds during the season, with Indigenous Round in Round 5 and Confident Girls Round in Round 9, while the Queens Birthday public holiday clash between Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies returns for a second year.

Round 1 sees a grand final rematch between NSW Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning, with the reverse fixture setting up a massive finals series with the two sides not facing each other again until the final round of the season.

With three states hosting two teams, there are a number of big clashes between rivals with Sydney derby’s in Rounds 6 and 12, while Queensland derby’s take place in Rounds 4 and 9. As for the Melbourne clashes, the rival clubs will play in Rounds 6 and 14.

In an interesting development, Melbourne Sports Centre – until now known as the State Netball Centre – will see the Magpies host the reigning premiers, Swifts in Round 2, a venue that for many is known as the Melbourne Vixens’ home court. While Queensland Firebirds’ home venue has been renamed Nissan Arena, they do not have any further changes to their typical home court.

Sydney’s Quay Centre will not see any SSN matches next season, with all Sydney matches – for both GIANTS Netball and NSW Swifts – taking place at Ken Rosewall Arena. Perth’s RAC Arena is listed on the fixture but unconfirmed at time of publish, with all West Coast Fever home games likely to play there.

Two matches will be played by clubs in their feeder states, with Collingwood Magpies hosting a match in Launceston, Tasmania in Round 4 against GIANTS Netball, while the GIANTS will then go on to host a match at AIS Arena in Canberra against Queensland Firebirds in Round 5.

With so many big matches heading up the 2020 season, we take a look at some the Super Netball teams’ individual fixtures.

The Adelaide Thunderbirds have a real mix early in the 2020 season, playing two of their first five matches at home but ultimately their strongest foes early the two Victorian teams based on their 2019 performances. Though back to back matches against last year’s premiership sides may throw a spanner in the works, they should have a relatively solid run through the middle of the season before taking on Vixens, Lightning and Swifts in three of their last five rounds.

For the Collingwood Magpies, Round 1 will set up their season with the hope they can continue their solid 2019 end of season form against the West Coast Fever. Matches against the Swifts and Lightning in Rounds 2 and 5 will challenge the Magpies, while four away matches in the final five rounds could throw a real spanner in the works.

GIANTS Netball have an interesting start to the season, with two away matches before they host their first home match of the season in Round 3. Though they ultimately play three of last season’s lower sides to open their 2020 campaign, the GIANTS only have two home matches in the first five rounds of the season and will take on NSW Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning in Rounds 12 and 13, making for a tough run home.

Melbourne Vixens have one of the most unpredictable fixtures, which makes sense given the side in recent years has had a mix of consistency. While the Vixens are fortunate in that they won’t face last year’s finals sides consecutively, they only have two home matches in the final five rounds making for a very interesting finish to the season, with a final round battle against the Magpies similar to the 2019 season.

For the NSW Swifts, Rounds 1 and 14 are set to be the big ones against Sunshine Coast Lightning but aside from those matches and the annual Sargeant-McKinnis Cup matches against the Melbourne Vixens in Rounds 5 and 11, the Swifts have one of the more settled fixtures next season. With a good mix of consecutive home and away matches, they should have a solid run in 2020.

Queensland Firebirds have a relatively easy fixture given they finished towards the bottom of the ladder, with matches against 2019’s higher teams predominantly throughout the middle of the season and hosting three of their last five matches. The Firebirds will likely travel the most compared to other sides, not playing back-to-back home matches until Rounds 12 and 13.

Sunshine Coast Lightning have a very interesting start to the season, traveling for a Grand Final rematch in Round 1 before going down to Melbourne to face the Vixens in Round 2 – a fellow finals side from last season. Lightning are fortunate to have two home matches in a row to finish their season, facing both NSW-based sides to finish off the season.

Similar to the Firebirds, West Coast Fever have one of the easier fixtures, playing last season’s grand finalists back to back in both their home and away fixtures, but will have a relatively easy start and end to the season. The side is at their best at home in Perth, and with some consistency and back-to-back home matches they should be able to string along some good wins while they’re at it.

For the full 2020 SSN fixture, head to the Suncorp Super Netball website.

Vic M-League 2019: Mixed Premier Division wrap – Round 12

ROUND 12 of Mixed Premier Division saw plenty of big results, with two blowouts well and truly separating the top of the ladder from those toward the bottom, while the lower end of the top four were dealt a reshuffle. Valley Wolves were well and truly challenged by Pasifika Sharks, going down by three goals in the closest match of the round (47-50), while DDNA got a solid nine goal win over St Therese (52-43) despite missing a number of key players. NNE Vipers were well and truly outclassed by Parkville Panthers in the 74-goal loss (24-98), while an undermanned Melbourne City Blackhawks outfit was defeated by a convincing Geelong Cougars (37-81).

With two big margins ultimately headlining the round, Parkville Panthers and Geelong Cougars have proved once more why they are the toughest teams in the division with plenty of talent on show every time they take the court. As the only two sides that are locked in as finals bound prior to the end of the season, and with respective massive margins to finish Round 12, it is unsurprising how they got to this point. For Parkville, the Round 12 victory was the highest individual team score for the season so far, getting dastardly close to 100 goals before being pipped at the post on 98 – though no less massive an achievement. Brodie Roberts and Uneeq Palavi were impeccable to post, with Palavi holding space with ease and opening up plenty of opportunity to shoot from anywhere in the circle. Roberts used his speedy drive to not only find space in the circle to turn and shoot but also create turnovers aplenty and was ultimately at his best in the final quarter, when the pair combined for a whopping 32 goals, split right down the middle with 16 apiece. For Geelong, it was an all-round defensive effort that got them over the line by a whopping 44 goals, with Sarah Szczykulski leading from the back as per usual while Gez Murphy, Jake Noonan and Jake Dambrauskis all took a turn in the defensive circle. It was credit to the defensive prowess of the Cougars that got them the win, with every player doing their bit to create turnover ball that ultimately lead to the impressive margin. While a better third quarter effort saw the Blackhawks lift their intensity, the Cougars were just too good on every turn and bounced back well from their disappointing loss to the Panthers last round.

Vic M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division wrap – Round 11

MEN’S Premier Division Round 11 had a number of big matches, headlined by a massive match between DDNA and Sirens Netball, with Sirens only just getting over the line in the tight clash. DDNA applied exceptional pressure to the high-ranked side, seeing Sirens come away with a one goal victory (47-46). Melbourne City Blackhawks backed up their Round 4 win against Pasifika Sharks with a five goal win this time around (70-65). The Blackhawks had the upper hand from the get-go, applying phenomenal pressure across the court to create turnovers aplenty. Meanwhile, Southern Seahawks well and truly ran over Ariels for a 13 goal win (47-34).

Geelong Cougars went better than their Round 4 four-goal victory over St Therese, extending the margin this time around for an impressive 11-goal win (58-47). It was a tight battle early, and while both sides had dominant patches it often seemed as if the sides were even throughout thanks to the intense contest on every ball across the court. Neither side seemed to take much control throughout the first half, playing tug of war with possession leaving Geelong with a one-goal lead at the first break and St Therese with the leg-up at half-time. The second half loomed as a tight one before the Cougars came out and blew Saints out of the water, shooting 34 goals to 22 on their way. Brayden Pastore and Cameron Allum were impressive as ever at the post for the Cougars, sharing the load as per usual and benefiting off their teammates’ speedy and strong drive down the court. That was a real issue for St Therese, with the side unable to apply their brand of hands-over pressure to deny easy ball down the court given the speed with which Geelong used the ball. In defence for Geelong were Luke Marko Rawlings and Joshua Burns, with the pair using their typical flair to deny easy ball into Saints shooters, Josh Clavarino and Connor Lilly, while Saints attackers, Riley Richardson and Guy Keane used their typical speed and circle feeding to find their goalers despite the defensive pressure. One of the more interesting contests of the match was clear in the final quarter, seeing Geelong player-coach Gez Murphy lining up on young gun Tristan Comans, in a battle of experience and tactical knowledge versus raw talent. The pair were unrelenting to the final whistle, creating a formidable battle through the midcourt. While Geelong extended their lead in the second half, credit to St Therese for sticking in the game and contesting every ball, finding opportunities to close the margin once more.

Vic M-League 2019: Mixed Premier Division wrap – Round 11

ROUND 11 saw intercepts galore, with close matches and blowouts alike. NNE Vipers gave Pasifika Sharks a real run for their money, only going down by six goals (57-63) after leading by as much as six goals at half-time, before Sharks made the switch with Junior Levi down in goal keeper. The Melbourne City Blackhawks had a rough match, struggling to put goals on the board early before settling but to no avail against DDNA who put their foot down in a bid to enter the top four, beating the Blackhawks 70-36. Meanwhile, Parkville Panthers well and truly got the chocolates over Geelong Cougars, defeating them by a whopping 16 goals (60-44). Panthers had the upper hand early, taking a solid lead into the first change before posting an impressive win against a fellow flag contender and giving their percentage a considerable boost.

Ultimately the most game-changing match of the round took place between Valley Wolves and Eastside Sonics, with the Sonics getting one back over their Round 2 foe with a one-goal victory, 47-46. It was a tantalising and vocal contest, with the Sonics challenging the Wolves from the first whistle, creating a much tighter match than anticipated thanks to defensive pressure across the court. A dead-even first half saw the two sides match up well, unable to be split at the first or second change and sitting at 23 goals apiece at half time. Wolves tightened up in the third term, extending a lead to six goals but the Sonics did not give up, turning on the defensive pressure in the final minutes of the match to steal victory by the final whistle. The back and forth contest saw neither side find much momentum, unable to pile on multiple goals at a time before scores levelled once more. Defensively, both sides were well and truly on top of things, creating intercept opportunities both in the goal circle and down the centre corridor. Erin Jay put in an impressive effort teaming up with both Joshua Burns and Hayden Smith throughout, with the trio finding plenty of turnover ball and rebounding well against the height and aerial ability of Sonics’ Jack Carpenter and agility of Taylor Dykstra. At the other end it was a battle of physical and vocal proportion between James Story and Andrew Burgess, with the duo evenly matched and directing their respective sides down the court, while Nat Billings and Monique Nagle shared the load in goal attack well. The midcourt saw an interesting contest with impatience creating turnovers aplenty from both sides coming down the court. Samara Harris was explosive as ever for Sonics alongside Jesse Failla, while the Wolves switched up their midcourt a number of times, remaining relatively consistent down the court throughout despite changes to the lineup.