Category: News

Fever snatch one-goal victory against a charging Collingwood outfit

WITH dominant shooters at either end of the court, it was the West Coast Fever that prevailed against Collingwood Magpies in the dying seconds by one-goal (63-62). Leading for most of the game, West Coast showed composure despite Collingwood winning three out of the four quarters, to take the Fever’s win tally to three.

Kickstarting the action with the centre pass, Collingwood looked to capitalise early, however Olivia Lewis was determined to assert herself after getting the nod at goal keeper with a big intercept in the opening seconds of the quarter to set the tone for the Fever. But moments later her heroics were answered by none other than Collingwood co-captain Geva Mentor who forced the ball to trickle over the baseline. Quick transition play from the Pies saw the ball go streaming back down the court and land into the hands of Shimona Nelson  who quickly delivered. It was goal for goal for much of the opening five minutes as both sides scored off their centre pass and treasured possession. But the tables started to turn as Fever snuck out to a two-goal lead thanks to Stacey Francis hunting down loose ball in the Magpies attack.

Speedster Kelsey Browne started to find a wealth of space and depth on the pass to release the ball into Nelson under the post as the Pies looked to get back into the contest. The experience and smarts of Mentor were on full display with the goal keeper holding her ground in the goal circle and showcasing her impressive lean to offset the towering Jamaican momentarily. However the Fever steadily pushed out to a four-goal lead as they worked in overdrive to cover every move in attack for the Pies and clog up the space. Lewis continued to make life hard for Collingwood owning the front position and getting hands to ball to stop the Magpies in their tracks and then send the ball back into attack for the Fever. With the five minute mark approaching the end of the quarter Collingwood made a wealth of changes with Madi Browne entering the game and using her speed to set the court alight. But the Fever were unfazed as Fowler put up the first super shot of the game and extended the margin to 11 goals at quarter time.

A couple of costly turnovers from the Pies allowed the Fever to make the most of their chances and apply some scoreboard pressure to maintain the momentum of the game. But with the game slipping away Collingwood kicked into gear applying full court pressure and forcing the Fever to call a timeout after scoring five goals to two in the first couple of minutes of the term. Collingwood cut the lead down to seven goals and looked more confident in defence with Mentor making the most of the front position and winning ball back for the side while Matilda Garrett used her height and foot speed to nullify the influence of goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld. The increased Collingwood defensive pressure seemed to force somewhat of a disconnect between Fowler and Teague-Neeld with a couple of balls flying over the baseline. Up the other end the steadying influence of the Browne sisters worked wonders with the two showcasing their speed and dynamic movement able to consistently deliver ball into Nelson.

But the Fever did not lie down pushing the lead back out to seven goals as the Fever settled into the quarter with Ingrid Colyer hitting the circle edge with precision. With Collingwood sensing a change in momentum they called a timeout and once again went on a mini goal spree nailing three straight. Defensively the Fever looked to the bench as Sunday Aryang came onto the court and injected some speed and drive through the midcourt. It turned into a super shot shootout with Teague-Neeld and Sinclair plying their trade in the goal circle, going blow for blow while Garrett impressed with her hands over pressure.

The Fever had not won a third quarter so far this season and did not look like winning one as Collingwood burst out of the blocks throwing everything they had at the Fever to win the term 18 goals to 14. A turnover from the centre pass allowed Collingwood to edge one back and build some serious momentum despite Fever captain Courtney Bruce entering the game in at goal keeper.  After spending some time on the bench Mel Bragg came out with a fire in the belly taking her feet to the ball and winning possession off the Fever centre pass to draw back within six goals. Nelson showcased her aerial presence and strength as Bruce struggled to get into the game drawing a lot of attention from the umpires. Gabby Sinclair found her rhythm under the post as Bruce and Francis covered Nelson in the goal circle.

The Pies were surging, showcasing their patience to work ball to circle edge while the Fever lacked their usual cut and drive as 100 gamer Verity Charles hit the bench and Kaylia Stanton replaced Teague-Neeld at the post. Collingwood got back to within three goals but the Fever were not about to give up as a missed shot off the hands of Nelson swung them into attack as Fowler capitalised at the post. Bruce started to find her feet in defence laying a huge rejection on Sinclair but the goal attack did not seem fazed as she backed up to sink the two point shot and  get back within three goals again. Despite Collingwood dictating the flow for most of the quarter the Fever still held the lead heading into the final change.

An early turnover from Fever prompted Collingwood into attack sinking two goals in a row to slice the margin to two goals. The black and white continued to increase their defensive pressure with both Jodi-Ann Ward and Mentor shutting down the space to cause the Fever. With 11 minutes left on the clock scores were tied as both sides went goal for goal before the Fever pulled away thanks to Bruce contesting in the air and winning possession and sparking her side into action. Collingwood were not done with yet as Ward forced a held ball call from Teague-Neeld and Madi Browne picked up a tip on circle edge to take the lead. The lead ebbed and flowed in the final quarter with neither side able to settle or gain any form of momentum but with seconds left a missed opportunity to sink a super shot saw Collingwood fall one-goal short.

It was a battle of Jamaican goal shooters as Fowler led the way for the Fever under the post with another impressive outing finishing with 53 goals to her name at 96 per cent accuracy, while Nelson was the key contributor for the Pies with 45 goals. Teague-Neeld was influential in attack for the Fever as she totalled 19 goals but struggled to deliver on the scoreboard. Sinclair was strong to post for Collingwood sinking nine goals with three of them super shots.

Madi Browne starred delivering the ball effortlessly into the Collingwood shooters with 14 goal assists and three gains. Bruce got hands to plenty of ball with two intercepts while the experience of Mentor up the other end paid dividends amassing four gains and seven deflections.

>>> MAGPIES TEAM PAGE

>>> FEVER TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL GAME STATS

Collingwood Magpies 11 | 18 | 18 | 15 (62)
West Coast Fever 21 | 16 | 14 | 12 (63)

STARTING SEVEN:

Collingwood Magpies:

GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Molly Jovic
WD: Melissa Bragg
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor

West Coast Fever:

GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Alice Teague-Neeld
WA: Ingrid Colyer
C: Verity Charles
WD: Jess Anstiss
GD: Stacey Francis
GK: Olivia Lewis

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 4

THREE rounds of Suncorp Super Netball are done and dusted and the ladder is starting to really take shape with the Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts sitting at the top with three wins on the board and just the Firebirds left winless. With midweek matches throwing a new element into the season, it will be interesting to see how teams back up this round with a heap of rotations taking the court every game. Round 4 will see a huge grand final rematch between the Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning, so buckle up for another huge round.

Collingwood Magpies v. West Coast Fever
Saturday, 15 August

Opening Round 4 is an enticing battle between Collingwood and West Coast Fever, with both sides looking for a second win. While the Fever had an impeccable start they have had a flat couple of matches to sit in fourth, whereas the Magpies have had the opposite with two losses before a tight victory on Tuesday night, meaning both teams will be hungry to put a second win on the board especially with a chance to head into the top four on the line.

In a huge bonus for the Fever, Courtney Bruce returns after two rounds off which will massively boost the side’s defensive stocks – although their youngsters have been stepping up well in Bruce’s absence, so expect to see Olivia Lewis and Sunday Aryang chop out on court where required. With some highly talented youngsters taking the court, expect some of those players to really shine for both sides, as Jess Anstiss looks to be finding her form and potentially coming up against Molly Jovic through the midcourt with the replacement midcourter doing a solid job alongside speedsters Kelsey and Madi Browne. Verity Charles has also had a solid few weeks on the track as has Mel Bragg for the Pies, making for a couple of interesting midcourt battles.

Two huge goal circle clashes could be the difference in this game, with Bruce taking on Shimona Nelson at one end and Jhaniele Fowler going head-to-head with Geva Mentor at the other, making for some exciting battles given all four players’ ability to get hands to ball. In this match, it will be up to the goal attack on each side to step up in their goal shooters absence, with Gabby Sinclair and Alice Teague-Neeld tasked with the duty for their respective teams and needing to really assert themselves on the scoreboard. The Magpies’ circle depth could really pay off in this one, with Nyah Allen and Emma Ryde on the bench – though Ryde has not taken the court since Round 1 – while Fever’s Kaylia Stanton has struggled to find her form in patches of court time. It will be Jodi-Ann Ward’s job to shut down Teague-Neeld and block her clever feeds into Fowler, while Stacey Francis’ physicality could be the kicker against Sinclair.

 

Queensland Firebirds v. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, 15 August

Two sides hungry for victory will go head-to-head in an interesting clash on Sunday afternoon, with both the Firebirds and GIANTS renowned for their physicality in the contest and relentless pursuit of the ball. The GIANTS know the intensity the Firebirds will be looking to provide in the contest given prior to Round 3 the two sides were both sitting winless, meaning they will know not to underestimate the side despite its relative inexperience. 

The biggest battle will likely be between the Firebirds defence and GIANTS attack, with highly experienced tall timbers Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett heading up the goal circle and their combination improving over the off season. The rotation of Kiera Austin has also paid off over the past few rounds, with the young goaler able to impact both inside and outside the circle, spotting both goalers with ease inside the goal circle. Meanwhile, a younger defensive unit in Kim Jenner, Tara Hinchliffe and Rudi Ellis headline the Firebirds, with Jenner continuing to impress week on week and not letting up her intensity week on week. While Ellis has only taken the court in one match so far this season, her height could be utilised against Bassett while Hinchliffe’s upside is her decision making, picking and choosing when to hunt the ball and stay away from the whistle. Gabi Simpson has not stopped once this season so will be a tough competitor for Austin, although her efforts could be mirrored by Amy Parmenter at the other end, with the 2019 rising star taking on speedster Jemma Mi Mi.

Jamie-Lee Price and Mahalia Cassidy will go head-to-head through the midcourt in what should be an enticing matchup given their respective hunt and tenacity for the ball, while Romelda Aiken will have her work cut out for her when she takes on Sam Poolman, who continues to play the role of terrier to get under the skin of her opposition at the post. Tippah Dwan had a much better Round 3 output after a quiet match last weekend so will hope to continue her way up in form, taking on an improved Kristiana Manu’a who has been getting hands to ball well this season and will want to force Dwan into a pass to a heavily-defended Aiken where possible. Both teams have a wealth of players who can come on where required and have an impact, making this a very interesting matchup.

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. NSW Swifts
Sunday, 16 August

A huge grand final rematch opens Sunday’s proceedings, with the matchup even bigger given the two sides are second and third on the ladder. Neither side had a huge amount of changes over the off-season, and with plenty of class and experience taking the court expect an exciting and close match. Maddy Turner could potentially take the court this round, bolstering the Swifts defensive unit after being named in the squad, however the Swifts have proved in recent weeks that their extended list is more than capable of taking on the load sitting undefeated despite a couple of close shaves.

The Lightning come into this match off the back of a disappointing effort against the Vixens during the week, and will need their big names to step up. While Steph Wood is still carrying a niggling knee injury, her commitment has seen her continue to take the court and use her vision to drive into space. That being said, her accuracy was very low during the week which the Vixens used to their advantage, while Peace Proscovia also seemed to have the yips. The goaling duo will need to step up to ensure Cara Koenen does not get left with the brunt of the load, especially given the versatility in the Swifts camp defensively with both Sarah Klau and Lauren Moore able to have an impact in the air or body-on-body. Jacqui Russell impressed on the hunt last round and will have her work cut out for her once again taking on Nat Haythornthwaite and Maddy Proud, although the versatility the Lightning showed during the week rotating Russell and Laura Langman could provide a huge bonus once more this week with Paige Hadley running rampant through the centre. 

Sophie Craig has played her role well to start the season, offering a good option in wing defence and whittling down the impact of her opposition, but will have a tough time on Laura Scherian who will hope to explode out of the blocks this round after a quiet outing against the Vixens. The Swifts’ versatility in the goal circle has paid dividends across the past few rounds, with the trio of Helen Housby, Sam Wallace and Sophie Garbin continuing to combine seamlessly, all offering something different inside the circle. Karla Pretorius has had a quiet start to the 2020 season by her standards, so will hope to step up this round against Housby and nullify the England goaler, while Phumza Maweni has come alive in patches so just needs to string some consistent quarters together against the likes of Wallace and Garbin.

 

Melbourne Vixens v. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Sunday, 16 August

Sitting pretty at the top of the ladder, the Vixens will finish off the round for the second week running against the seventh ranked Thunderbirds. Both players sport a heap of talented names among their side, and while the Vixens have typically kept to their starting seven and given youngsters court time when they have extended a lead, the Thunderbirds have proven they are willing to test players from the get-go and could take the Vixens off guard with their inexperienced and highly versatile names stepping up to the plate.

The Vixens will need to ensure they do not underestimate the Thunderbirds, with the return of both Layla Guscoth and Sasha Glasgow from injury during the week opening up further rotations from the bench. Both players settled in nicely and played their roles well on return, and while the Thunderbirds did not get a win on the board they showcased some terrific partnerships that will only continue to grow. The Vixens have a heap of experience and really strong connections across the court so will hope to utilise that once more and outplay the Thunderbirds. The midcourt interplay between Kate Moloney and Liz Watson is almost unstoppable when on song, and the additional rotation of Tayla Honey could help carry some of the load from the co-captains if need be. While the midcourt test will be huge for a relatively young Thunderbirds side, headed by Chelsea Pitman they should not have a huge issue finding ball inside the circle given her ability to thread the needle and find both Glasgow and Lenize Potgieter at the post. 

A couple of young guns in Georgie Horjus and Maisie Nankivell will need to be at their best to evade their opposition going forward, with Horjus likely to take on Jo Weston in what will be one of her tougher matchups, especially if she gets the start as she has for the past few rounds. Emily Mannix and Weston had one of their better defensive performances for the season during the week so will hope to build on that, especially against the Thunderbirds who have proved to be prolific on the super shot thus far. At the other end, expect plenty of defensive rotations between Shamera Sterling, Kate Shimmin and Guscoth as they take on the task of shutting down the Vixens shooting trio, with Caitlin Thwaites, Mwai Kumwenda and Tegan Philip seamlessly rotating through the use of rolling subs and formidable with their versatility. 

Centre Pass Podcast: Maddy Proud interview (Round 2 wrap)

Centre Pass Podcast: Georgie Horjus interview (Round 1 wrap)

Centre Pass Podcast: Molly Jovic interview (Round 1 preview)

ANZ/SSN Stats wrap: Round 9/2,3

LAST week’s stats wrap looked a bit different with both the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and ANZ Premiership taking the court, and this week is no different with the SSN having an extra round of competition to add to the wrap. The two competitions saw some huge results over the combined 13 games across the last seven days – with at least one game played every night from Friday through Wednesday – and plenty of top talent stepping up to the plate. Like last week, it is important to take into consideration that the two leagues currently have different rules and matchplay times, with differing stats evident. 

ATTACK

Jhaniele Fowler continues to lead the goaling tally three rounds down and is likely to stay there thanks to her prolific volume and accuracy, combining for 111 goals at 90 per cent across Rounds 2 and 3. Next in line is Cara Koenen with the youngster backing up well between matches shooting 38 goals on the weekend and 30 to finish Round 3, while Caitlin Bassett racked up 47 goals in her 200th national appearance on Tuesday evening. Shimona Nelson took the court for the first time in Round 2, shooting 32 goals before going one better and backing up with 42 more to her tally on Tuesday night. Bassett’s partner in crime Jo Harten continues to have a huge influence on the scoreboard – especially when it comes to the super shot – shooting 20 goals in her first outing and 22 in her second, with 12 super shots converted across the two matches. Meanwhile, Lenize Potgieter sits fourth on the goal tally after three rounds, with 96 to her name from 101 attempts, shooting 43 from 45 in Round 2 but rested in her second match this week with 18 from 19. When it comes to the Vixens and Swifts, their respective rotating shooting trios do not lend to a leading stats performance, but given the two teams sit first and second on the ladder they must be doing something right. 

In the ANZ Premiership, Kalifa McCollin starred once more with a huge 32 goal haul in Southern Steel’s surprise victory over Northern Mystics, backed up with a 19 goal effort in her side’s loss the following day. Ameliaranne Ekenasio was also prolific in her single outing for the round with 19 goals at 95 per cent, while Abigail Latu-Meafou put up 15 from 17 in the Magic’s one goal loss to the Northern Stars. Looking to goal shooters, Maia Wilson was huge under the post as per usual with 37 goals at 90 per cent while her direct opposition in Kelsey McPhee was solid with 27 goals to go with Latu-Meafou’s haul. Of the players that took the court for multiple games, Grace Nweke (combined 78 goals), Ellie Bird (62 goals) and Aliyah Dunn (50 goals) led the tally.

MIDCOURT

A huge few rounds of SSN sees a couple of quality names lead the midcourt tally once more, with consistency coming in droves off the likes of Vixens co-captains Liz Watson and Kate Moloney, though it seemed to be goalers who racked up the assists this round with so many prolific wing defenders plying their trade. Watson and Moloney combined for 33 assists in the first outing and 40 in the second. Some impressive goaler-turned-feeders put on a show with their vision into the circle to spot their partner in crime, with Georgie Horjus, Kiera Austin and Alice Teague-Neeld stepping up across their respective performances. Austin led the assists tally for the week with 30 in her second match but just 10 in her first, coming away with a shooting accuracy of under 50 per cent against the Thunderbirds and only playing through the midcourt in her match against the Fever. Horjus managed 27 assists and 19 goals from 25 attempts across her two games, while Teague-Neeld may have only played 39 minutes in her second game she racked up 22 assists, but hit the scoreboard much better in her first with 11 goals and 20 assists. Mahalia Cassidy was a workhorse in both of her outings, combining for 35 goal assists and three pickups, while Amy Parmenter continued her strong start to the season, making up for a slower Round 2 with a huge seven gains (four intercepts) in her Round 3 outing. 

Peta Toeava and Gina Crampton are the repeat offenders over the past rounds through the midcourt, accounting for 45 and 37 assists respectively across their two games – both racking up 26 in their first match and nullifying each other – while Whitney Souness (19 assists, 33 centre pass receives, two intercepts) and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (20 assists, four pickups) both put in solid efforts in their single match against the other. Karin Burger had a solid match with four intercepts in the Pulse’s losing effort, while both Kimiora Poi and Charlotte Elley were also impressive on the defensive front with two intercepts apiece against the Pulse. Claire Kersten also collected two intercepts in her first outing, while Kate Heffernan was influential in the Steel’s finals crushing victory over the Mystics, racking up four intercepts.

DEFENCE

Sarah Klau and Shamera Sterling lead the deflections tally three matches down, with the two even on 22 apiece though their teams mirror each other in second and seventh on the ladder. Sterling’s combined 18 gains saw her rocket up the leaderboard this round, while Klau’s partner in crime Lauren Moore has continued to stun with another six intercepts to her name across Rounds 2 and 3. Kim Jenner had an absolute blinder against the Magpies in Round 3, racking up seven gains (five intercepts) though was quiet in her first outing, while her partner in crime Tara Hinchliffe combined for five gains across the two rounds. With two more wins under their belt this round, Vixens defenders Jo Weston and Emily Mannix were consistent as ever with three gains apiece (one and two intercepts) in the first match while Mannix turned on the afterburners in the second game with eight gains (three intercepts), with both players having breaks off the court. Young defensive duo Olivia Lewis and Sunday Aryang proved they were more than capable of holding up defensively, combining for 15 gains across the two matches, mostly down to Lewis’ rebounding ability but also Aryang’s three intercepts against the GIANTS. The Magpies have continued to rack up the highest amount of penalties across the round with a combined 138 across two matches, with Geva Mentor (41 penalties from two games) leading the charge.

Defensively, there is no surprise that Temalisi Fakahokotau was impressive as ever with her work rate continuously paying off for a combined seven gains across the round (two intercepts) while her partner in crime Jane Watson had a quiet second outing but was influential as ever in the side’s win over the Mystics. Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick combined for 11 gains (five intercepts) across the round, with both Courtney Elliott (two gains, one intercept) and Dani Gray (three gains, one intercept) contributing to the tally. Erena Mikaere pulled off six gains in her standalone game as did Kate Burley (three of which were intercepts), while Kelly Jury racked up four intercepts in her second match but was quiet in her first – the complete opposite of her partner in crime Katrina Rore, who collected four gains in the first but just two in the second. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit had another solid week on the court, combining for four gains (two intercepts) across her two matches.

2020 ANZ Premiership: Most developed players

WITH Round 10 of the ANZ Premiership season cancelled due to a change in COVID-19 restrictions, Draft Central casts an eye over each side’s most developed players for 2020 ahead of the finals. It has been an unconventional season to say the least with the ANZ Premiership season brought to a halt back March due to the pandemic and teams forced to fly in and out of Auckland to comply with the restrictions in place. But that did not stop each team from performing on the big stage, with the development of a couple of key youngsters front and centre.

NORTHERN MYSTICS – Grace Nweke

Without Silver Ferns goal attack Bailey Mes, the load landed on Grace Nweke and the teenager did not disappoint. The goal shooter was formidable under the post and constantly double teamed in the goal circle thanks to her prowess and ability to score with such ease. She leads all comers when it comes to goals with a whopping 471 at an impressive 89 per cent showcasing her complete and utter dominance. Nweke was the lynchpin for the Mystics in attack, using her height, read of the play, long arms and physicality to win majority of the passes that came her way. Her ability to work within the confined space and strong connection with Peta Toeava were simply unstoppable with the two able to sync up and score within seconds. Starring last season, there were plenty of questions about whether or not she would be able to back up this season, but it is fair to say that the 18-year-old went above and beyond. Her confidence grew throughout the season and allowed Saviour Tui, Asher Grapes and Filda Vui to ply their trade out the front.

NORTHERN STARS – Mila Reuelu-Buchanan

Northern Stars centre, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan has really come into her own in 2020 earning herself back-to-back appearances in Draft Central’s Team of the Week thanks to her dynamic movement. Her vision has developed tenfold in the latter half of the year, able to sight Maia Wilson with ease under the post and become a commanding figure in attack. Reuelu-Buchanan has been key for the Stars through the centre court, often organising traffic with her well-directed passes and applying strong hands over pressure to try and slow down her opposition. The 22-year-old stepped up in the absence of Temepara Bailey who retired last year, getting down to business each and every time she takes the court. She consistently showcases her high endurance to run out full games in the centre position and not tire while combining well with Grace Kara and Jamie Hume on the front line. Her adaptability to cater for the frequent changes in wing defence with Lisa Mather and Fa’amu Ioane rotating through was also on show.

WAIKATO BAY OF PLENTY MAGIC – Kelsey McPhee

Although it was a challenging season for the Magic, Kelsey McPhee proved to be a shining light for Waikato Bay of Plenty with the goal shooter increasing her accuracy and volume to post. Shaky on the shot at times, McPhee displayed her strength to reel in the rebound and block out defenders to give her side a second chance on the shot. Carrying a knee injury later in the season the shooter rose above highlighting her grit and determination. Her ability to shake up her game play was also crucial for the Magic as she got on the move more frequently to drive out of the circle and allow either Abigail Latu-Meafou or Khiarna Williams to float in while her strong holds also allowed the Magic to score quickly. Her 1-2 connection with Whitney Souness was also solid as the two combined on circle edge and from distance credit to her aerial presence.

CENTRAL PULSE – Maddy Gordon

It became apparent in the Pulse’s Round 9 loss to the Tactix just how influential Maddy Gordon is with the pocket rocket able to set the court alight with her turn of pace and slick hands. Relishing the extra court time in 2020 Gordon has taken everything in her stride, hitting the circle edge with speed and precision to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Aliyah Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio. She is crafty with ball in hand and at times can fly under the radar given the amount of big names across the court but has made a name for herself this season with her constant give and go. Strong in attack her defensive pressure is also a key asset of her game able to win back through the centre third with her three-foot marking and deceptive leap. Her connection with Claire Kersten has developed at a rate of knots throughout the season allowing the two to swing the ball across the court with ease to create space and keep the defenders head on a swivel.

MAINLAND TACTIX – Kimiora Poi

Kimiora Poi is another centre court player who has been in ripping form throughout 2020 and put her hand up for Silver Ferns contention thanks to her strong drives and endurance. She has been a key cog through the midcourt for the Tactix, using her zippy speed to cut through the defence and claim possession. She is quick off the mark and is patient with ball in hand, not afraid to work the ball to circle edge or deliver from distance into the goalers. Her high release on the pass allows Ellie Bird to grab the ball at its peak and keep defenders at bay while her short and sharp interactions with Te Paea Selby-Rickit is a testament to her ability to read the play and play accordingly. Poi is constantly on the move, rotating around the circle edge and setting up clever triangle plays with the goalers and Erikana Pedersen to keep the defenders guessing.

SOUTHERN STEEL – Kate Heffernan

A relatively unknown quantity heading into the season, Kate Heffernan took the competition by storm in 2020 and all but cemented her spot as the starting wing defence for the Steel. She is electric across the court credit to her impressive closing speed to create doubt in the receivers mind and force turnovers. her long wingspan is a crucial to the Steel in defence able to apply strong hands over pressure to block her oppositions vision into the circle and make life hard for them around circle edge. Heffernan is also strong in transition constantly reoffering on the transverse line to reset play or drive through the centre third to punch through and open up space. Her connection with the experienced Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and youngster Taneisha Fifita in defence and combine with Shannon Saunders through the midcourt allows her to play with confidence and back herself to go out hunting for an intercept.

SSN Round 3: Momentum shifts

ROUND 3 played host to the first midweek games in Suncorp Super Netball history and once again saw some phenomenal matchups across all four games with some highly talented players taking the court. The condensed fixture and introduction of rolling subs this year has seen plenty of young names already jump on the court and have a huge impact despite their lack of experience. We take a look at each game and note which players shifted the gears and switched up the momentum.

GIANTS Netball (75) defeated West Coast Fever (68)

In her 200th national league game GIANTS goal shooter and Australian Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett relished the extra court time, dominating at the post for a full 60 minutes. Inconsistent in the opening two rounds the towering shooter hit her stride against the Fever making the most of her experience and extra height to capitalise against much younger opponents in Sunday Aryang and Olivia Lewis. However it was the second quarter performance from Bassett and Jo Harten that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game as the duo toiled away under the post to not only cut down the deficit but steal the lead. Bassett nailed 12 goals form 15 attempts while Harten delivered both from under the post and distance sinking three super shots and four ordinary goals to sit at 100 per cent for the quarter. Their shooter to shooter interplay kept the defenders guessing as Kiera Austin plied her trade out in wing attack to keep the Bassett and Harten connection uninterrupted.

Queensland Firebirds (54) defeated by Collingwood Magpies (58)

Staring down the face of a five goal deficit at half time the Magpies came out new and improved in the third term to completely shift the momentum into their favour. While the Firebirds got off to a steady start, adding to their lead it with the seven goal scoring spree that saw Collingwood fight back and draw level. Increased ball speed in attack thanks to Madi Browne and Molly Jovic dancing around circled edge and the injection of sharp shooter Nyah Allen seemed to provide the spark the Pies needed to get the cogs ticking over. Allen came on with a hot hand slotting three goals straight in that seven goal passage of play while a couple of inspired Geva Mentor intercepts sent the ball streaming into attack with Shimona Nelson lifting her intensity, rhythm to post and take advantage of her aerial strength. Although Collingwood went into the final change down by two goals they found that mojo throughout the third quarter and carried that hunger into the final term.

NSW Swifts (66) defeated Adelaide Thunderbirds (51)

The Swifts led from start to finish but it was the final five minutes of the first quarter that allowed them to stamp their authority on the match. Coming off a strong performance last round the Adelaide Thunderbirds contested in the opening stages of the game but it was the class and silky transition down court from the Swifts that caught the T’birds off guard. Helen Housby found her rhythm early, receiving just about every second pass working in tandem with Natalie Haythornthwaite as Sam Wallace displayed her strength to score quickly. Piling on five consecutive goals the Swifts opened up a hefty buffer and did not look back as Shamera Sterling, Kate Shimmin and Shadine van der Merwe were out of answers, unable to combat the persistent attacking forays.

Melbourne Vixens (63) defeated Sunshine Coast Lightning (51)

Already holding a decent lead the Melbourne Vixens went on a tear in the second quarter, completely and utterly dominating Sunshine Coast in every facet of the game. They not only showcased their prowess in attack but so too in defence shutting down Cara Koenen, Steph Wood and Peace Proscovia as the normally reliable trio only managed a mere eight goals at 58 per cent. Emily Mannix inflicted a wealth of pain with her pressure and skill to pick up an impressive three intercepts for the term and force uncharacteristic errors from the Lightning. Humming in defence the Vixens did not skip a beat in the goal circle with Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip delivering 18 goals but it was the influence of centurion Kate Moloney that really stood head and shoulders above the rest with the centre doing a wealth of work across the court with her gut running. The dominant quarter allowed the Vixens to take plenty of momentum heading into the second half and ultimately set up the win.

SSN Writer Insight: Round 3 – Sunday Aryang

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 3 focus is West Coast Fever’s Sunday Aryang with the young defender exploding out of the blocks in the opening rounds and able to have a significant impact off the bench. Each set of notes showcases the opinions of our writers individually.

Ethiopian-born Aryang was brought into the Fever side in 2019 as a bench replacement when Courtney Bruce was out with injury and has rarely taken a backwards step. While she did not make many appearances last season, the young gun has made her presence felt on court in 2020, able to add another string to the Fever’s defensive bow with her long arms and burst of speed to create a deflection. Her versatility to rotate through all three defensive positions is huge for the Fever, and her Round 3 effort saw her rack up four gains (three intercepts) and just five penalties to her name to go with her one general play turnover in 50 minutes of game time. At only 19 years old, expect big things from the tenacious youngster.

Here’s what we had to say:

By: Sophie Taylor, Draft Central Senior Editor

Aryang put out a phenomenal performance in a losing effort on Tuesday evening, heading up the defensive unit in goal defence and applying a huge amount of pressure to the GIANTS attack with her hands over pressure, leap and intensity consistent throughout the four quarters. In her most significant performance so far, the youngster did not shy away from a challenge and was unafraid of hunting the ball in the centre third, staking her claim on the court cleanly and coming away with a few crucial stats to her name. Aryang had very little snags in her performance and stood up well against some highly experienced competition, showcasing her ability to impact both on and off the body with her defensive prowess on full show. Overall, Aryang’s level-headedness was one of her greatest assets on the court, not throwing a heap of turnover ball away and able to swiftly transition between applying defensive pressure to charging down the court. While she did collect a few centre pass break penalties, it signified her intent for the ball and is something that we are sure to see her improve on over time.

By: Taylah Melki, Draft Central Managing Editor

The youngster came out with a real intensity and fire in the belly going toe-to-toe with Jo Harten in the opening quarter. Strong in defence with her three-foot marking, Aryang showcased her impressive drive down court to send the ball into attack while her constant back-up play on the transverse line allowed the Fever to reset time and time again. She impressed with her clever body positioning in the circle to block out Harten and Caitlin Bassett on the rebound while her contest in the air was also key. Aryang closely marked Harten throughout the game and worked hard to own front space and force Harten behind her. The goal defence was elusive on court, able to read the play and quickly slot into the space such was her speed. She showcased her versatility seamlessly moving into goal keeper and adapting her game play accordingly. She was not fazed by the experience of Bassett and instead backed her aerial presence and nifty footwork to manoeuvre around the body and take a couple of strong intercepts.

By: Lucy Pollock, Draft Central UK Writer

Aryang put out another fantastic performance against the GIANTS in Round 3. She has something very special in terms of defensive ability and a desire to hunt for the ball, but it was her attacking play that really impressed me in this game. She did a huge amount of work bringing the ball down court and supporting on the transverse line, which can be a weakness for young defenders at this level. Aryang did well not to get caught up by the speed of Harten and caused a lot of disruption with her rangy arms and impressive vertical leap. She was persistently going for every ball and was also crucial for the Fever in terms of being quick on her transitions from defence to attack. Although she went to the bench at half time, she came back in at goal keeper as Fever shuffled their defensive unit to try and gain control of the match. Her height is a huge advantage in providing versatility, and her acceleration is surprising for a very tall player. She is undoubtedly a very exciting prospect for the West Coast side, and what a great start to the SSN season from the youngster.

By: Kate Cornish, Draft Central volunteer writer

At just 19 years of age, there is no doubt that Aryang has already caught the eye of the netball world. Making her SSN debut this year, she is certainly one of the exciting young prospects the condensed format of the 2020 season (which has permitted a larger squad size) has allowed us to meet. Matching up against English international and GIANTS captain, Harten in the Fever’s round three clash was never going to be no easy feat for Aryang, but in this season there is no time to be overwhelmed by the occasion. During the game, commentator and ex-Australian Diamond captain Laura Geitz (who has qualifications to spot a rising defensive star) was full of praise for the youngster, comparing her to goal defence, Karla Pretorius. This is quite the compliment, considering Pretorius has been the benchmark for the goal defence position for a few years. Aryang took three intercepts during the game and was unlucky to not be awarded another two when it looked like she had both hands on the ball and great front position. She fought valiantly to keep her team in the competition with four gains and while Harten enjoys the more physical style of play on an opponent, Aryang finished the game with only four contact penalties against her name, indicating she was in play for most of the game and was able to contest ball. Also showing her flexibility and diversity on court, Aryang stepped into the position of goal keeper during the match and made an immediate impact taking a beautifully timed intercept. In the end, despite a solid effort by the young defender the experience of Harten and the determination of the GIANTS to not only get their first win for the season but to celebrate 200 matches for Bassett was too much for Fever, however the opportunity to play against one of the best goal attacks in the world will have provided Aryang an understanding of what it takes to win at the elite level and giver her some tangible improvements to reflect on as the season rolls on.

2020 ANZ Premiership: Round 9 – Player of the Week

EACH week Draft Central will analyse player performances from across the round in the ANZ Premiership and determine a “Player of the Week” based on game day performances. A player can be nominated as many times as deemed necessary given their individual performance across the round.

Central Pulse wing defence Karin Burger proved just what she is capable of in Round 9 picking up a wealth of ball and imposing herself across the court to earn herself Player of the Week honours. Although her side only managed to win one of their two games her performance and output did not waiver in either match as the wing defence went tooth and nail to put up a wall in defence. Her three-foot marking was sublime, making full use of her wingspan to block her oppositions vision into the circle and make life hard in the defensive third.

Burger was on song from the opening whistle against the Southern Steel going toe-to-toe with fellow Silver Ferns midcourter Gina Crampton to all but nullify her influence around circle edge thanks to her close marking and constant niggle. Her ability to cut off her drive and apply hands over pressure sent the Steel attack end into a tizz, unable to work the ball down the court. Burger was rewarded for her efforts throughout the match racking up four gains and two pick-ups credit to her read of the play. While her defensive pressure was immense her work through the centre third to bring the ball down the court did not go unnoticed with the wing defence backing up on the transverse line and using her drive to cut through the defence.

Although the Pulse struggled to have their usual impact in their clash against the Mainland Tactix, Burger did not skip a beat. She injected plenty of spark in the side with her speed off the mark to constantly get hands to ball to disrupt the flow in attack. she was constantly on the lookout for any cross court balls while her quick footwork and long arms caused havoc around circle edge with Burger forcing tips and turnovers. Opposed to speedster Erikana Pedersen and picking up Kimiora Poi in defence, Burger worked in overdrive to limit their space and access to the top of the goal circle and once again collected a wealth of ball with four intercepts and two pick-ups.

Her strong connection with Katrina Rore and Kelly Jury paid dividends with the wing defence able to feed off their energy and positioning to apply a full court press and smother the opposition. Their collective pressure enabled Burger to go out hunting and leave her player unmarked in hope to roam freely and get intercepts. On the taller side for a wing defence, Burger makes the most of her height with her reach over the pass and deceptively quick footwork to shut down space and run her opponent ragged.

Swifts remain undefeated in season 2020

SUNCORP Super Netball’ reigning premiers, NSW Swifts kept their undefeated season intact with a convincing performance against the Adelaide Thunderbirds (66-51). Having never lost a Round 3 game, the Swifts made sure that was not about to change as their silky transition down court exploited the Thunderbirds both in attack and defence. Welcoming back Sasha Glasgow and Layla Guscoth from injury, the Thunderbirds showed glimpses of brilliance but simply could not topple the Swifts.

In her 100th game, Paige Hadley got things underway with the centre pass. Her speed and vision was on full display as Sam Wallace opened the account in the first 10 seconds of play. It was goal for goal in the opening couple of minutes of the game with both sides treasuring possession and working their way to circle edge to gain prime feeding position. The Swifts opened up a three-goal lead capitalising on the Thunderbirds missed opportunities as Wallace and Helen Housby put on a show in the goal circle with their combined accuracy. Up the other end, Chelsea Pitman worked in overdrive in attack for the Thunderbirds taking advantage of her speed and ball placement, paired with her spatial awareness to deliver the ball into Lenize Potgieter despite being heavily manned.

A tactical timeout with five minutes left in the quarter saw Guscoth make her way onto court in wing defence with her hands over pressure immediately on show. The changes however did not seem to disturb the Swifts as they went about their business in attack, hitting the circle edge with great pace and precision. With the clock ticking down Glasgow entered the game in goal attack, showcasing just what she has to offer with a long bomb and Adelaide’s first super shot of the night. But the Swifts were happy to play at their own pace and disregard the super shot to steadily increase the margin and claim the ascendancy heading into the break.

Glasgow picked up where she left off in the second, finding her range to cut down the deficit early in the quarter. But the cracks in the developing combination between Glasgow and Potgieter started to show with a couple of rookie errors in the way of a short pass cost the Thunderbirds possession. The Swifts however started to kick into gear blowing out to an 11-goal lead as their composed nature shone true. Struggling to move the ball through the centre third thanks to the Swifts pressure the Thunderbirds rung in the changes with Hannah Petty taking the court, the first time since Round 1, and offering plenty of drive in the centre while Guscoth switched back into goal defence. Coming off a stellar performance last round, Sophie Garbin snuck onto the court in goal attack helping her side to push out to a 15-goal lead with their smooth transition front and centre.

In defence, Sarah Klau put on a show shutting down Potgieter at the post, covering her every move and pushing her up high in the circle. The Swifts contested every single pass forcing the Thunderbirds to work in overdrive to create any inch of space. With the game slipping away a strong rebound from Shamera Sterling and Guscoth gave Adelaide something to build off sinking back to back goals. Moments later, Pitman delivered through the midcourt with her three-foot marking paying off to snatch an intercept. The Swifts were eager to put a stamp on the moment shift as Lauren Moore collected an intercept of her own and Wallace punished at the post. Down by 17 goals, Glasgow stepped up to the plate with consecutive super shots and keep the Thunderbirds in with a fighting chance.

The Swifts came out of the blocks firing, nailing the first two goals of the second term to extend the lead. In her familiar position of goal shooter Glasgow oozed confidence but the shooting circle as a whole lacked movement with Glasgow and Samantha Gooden leading into the same space and clogging the circle. The injection of Georgie Horjus paid dividends with the speedy goal attack darting in and around the attacking third. Going on a four goal shooting spree the Swifts made a host of changes with Tayla Fraser slotting into the wing defence position.

With the tide swinging towards the Thunderbirds, Housby stepped up to the plate showcasing her defensive prowess with an impressive deflection that landed in the lap of Wallace. But the Thunderbirds were not done with yet as Maisie Nankivell cranked it up in defence getting her hands to ball around circle edge while Petty also lifted in intensity. Coming out of the break with a renewed sense of urgency Sterling led the way down back but they struggled to capitalise on their opportunities in attack with two consecutive missed shots. With eight goals separating the two sides in the final five minutes of term the Swifts once again put the foot down as Housby sunk a timely super shot to re-establish a 12-goal buffer.

The final quarter saw changes aplenty from both sides as Maddy Proud showcased her classy touch for the Swifts in attack while Potgieter proved how quickly she can score. Both sides went neck and neck throughout the term but the Swifts steadily started to pull away and display their cleanliness and strong connections across the court. Youngster Kelly Singleton made her debut coming on and nailing a goal as the Swifts cruised to a 15-goal victory.

Potgieter was accurate converting 17 goals from 19 attempts but down on her usual output. Horjus was a solid contributor with on the scoreboard with seven goals, while Glasgow turned it on in her return game with 16 goals, seven of which were super shots. For the Swifts, Wallace presented well in at goal shooter and increased her volume from last week with 27 goals for the game while Housby also continued on her merry way sinking 21 goals. After stunning last round Garbin plied her trade to post, but only managed 10 goals. Down back, Klau stood tall with one intercept and four deflections while fellow goal keeper Sterling amassed seven deflections, three rebounds and an intercept.

>>> SWIFTS TEAM PAGE

>>> THUNDERBIRDS TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL GAME STATS

Swifts 18 | 17 | 12 | 19 (66) 
Thunderbirds 10 | 13 | 12 | 16 (51)

STARTING SEVEN:

NSW Swifts:

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

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

GS: Lenize Potgieter
GA: Georgie Horjus
WA: Chelsea Pitman
C: Maisie Nankivell
WD: Shadine van der Merwe
GD: Kate Shimmin
GK: Shamera Sterling

Centre Pass Podcast: Maddy Proud interview (Round 2 wrap)

Centre Pass Podcast: Georgie Horjus interview (Round 1 wrap)

Vixens stun Lightning to go three from three

THE final match of Suncorp Super Netball Round 3 saw an intense table-topping clash between the Melbourne Vixens and Sunshine Coast Lightning, with the Vixens coming out with a bang and holding off a hungry Lightning outfit for a massive 63-51 victory to remain undefeated at the top of the ladder. In Kate Moloney’s 100th national league game, the Vixens rallied around their co-captain and put out a stellar first half performance that kept the Lightning at arms length away from a comeback.

An opening goal from Tegan Philip started proceedings, with tight circle defence down both ends proving how split this game would be from the get-go. The height difference – 15cm to be precise – between Kate Eddy and Laura Scherian was evident early, with Eddy getting the early break with her immense hands over pressure. Meanwhile, Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni did a solid job early confusing the space and causing a few turnovers, though the midcourt then coughed up multiple passes allowing the Vixens to extend a lead. The defensive pressure from both sides kept the ball ping-ponging early but the likes of Eddy, Jo Weston and Emily Mannix all racked up early gains with an unmoving attackline stagnant with Steph Wood playing despite carrying a niggling knee injury. With a heap of patience around the circle, the Vixens had all the momentum early with an 8-2 lead and eight minutes left in the first quarter as the Lightning called the first timeout. 

A big change on the frontline saw Wood removed from the court with Cara Koenen in goal attack alongside Peace Proscovia and the high ball into Proscovia paying off immediately and adding a few goals to their tally off a turnover. Credit to the Lightning circle defence, the Vixens were forced to turn back to the transverse line on multiple occasions, although the Lightning were not having much luck either with impressive body on body defensive pressure forcing the Lightning to chip away the scoreline despite the super shot period beginning. A few wins off Vixens centre passes saw the Lightning begin to turn the tables, taking the scoreline back to just three goals. The Vixens vision down the court paid off, with Liz Watson and Weston unafraid of the wind up pass and fake into the circle, drawing Maweni away from the post and seeing Caitlin Thwaites finish the first with a super shot to drag the lead back out to five at the first break.

A Lightning centre pass to begin the second saw the side put a score on the board to start the quarter before the Vixens reciprocated with one of their own, but were held up through the midcourt with Laura Scherian’s speed and Jacqui Russell’s hustle forcing a patient approach to circle edge. Weston’s hard work through the midcourt continued to pay off, also holding Koenen well and denying any easy ball at the post. Philip’s confidence improved as the time continued, with an 11-goal lead suddenly seeing the Vixens well in control.

Defensive hustle from the Lightning saw sparks of what the side is capable of, with a held ball call on Watson seeing the ball rocket back the other end for an eventual Wood goal. But follow-up wins from Russell and Laura Langman did not pay off, with the Vixens getting hands to the loose ball and winning on the rebound from an inaccurate Lightning goal circle. The super shot period saw the Vixens draw out their lead as Thwaites and Philip put on a long bomb clinic, and Annika Lee-Jones took the court to put further hands over pressure on the shot. Another huge Russell intercept saw little reward for the Lightning who continued to struggle to find the post. It was only super shot inaccuracy that kept the Lightning in with a chance, credit to the extra height from Lee-Jones, with the 18 goals to eight quarter seeing the Vixens head into half time with a 15-goal lead. 

The Lightning started the third quarter with a shooting accuracy of just 69 per cent and needed to put on the accelerator soon if they were to have a chance at victory. A new-look attacking lineup for the Vixens saw Thwaites start on the bench as Mwai Kumwenda took the court. It takes a lot to send Pretorius to the bench and a different lineup defensively, with Maweni out in the unfamiliar goal defence position while Maddy McAuliffe stepped into centre and Langman sent back to wing defence to shut down Watson. Some better movement in attack saw the Lightning chip away at the scoreline, with Wood beginning to put some goals on the board and feeding much better to Koenen. Debutant Ash Unie took the court for the Lightning, and while she injected a bit more speed into goal defence she just could not match Philip for class with the experienced Vixens goal circle continuing to pay off against the young defensive combination. 

At the other end, Jacqui Newton got her chance on court out in goal defence, giving Weston a rest and on her first hunt almost came up with a huge take, continuing to go looking for the ball but not finding purchase. Pretorius and Maweni returned to the court as the two teams continued to go goal for goal, with the super shot period starting and Kadie-Ann Dehaney rotating into goal keeper. Four consecutive goals – including one super shot – from the Lightning saw the margin narrow once more to 10 goals, seeing the Vixens call their first timeout for the match. The Lightning defence was beginning to really pick up, forcing slow ball movement from the Vixens and dangerous feeds along wing the Lightning to cause some doubt around circle edge. The Lightning still trailed by 11 goals at the final change, but given their steal of momentum late in the quarter they gave Vixens something to think about if they were to maintain top spot. 

A huge final quarter began, with the two sides continuing to go goal for goal as the pressure mounted and errors from both defensive units unable to pick off the loose ball. Better movement in attack from the Lighting saw a couple of crucial goals go their way, with multiple options to the ball paying off where it had struggled to find connections early. Another change up in attack for the Vixens saw Thwaites return to the court for Philip, though the midcourt hunt from the Lightning made it tough for the Vixens to transition down court with their usual speed and precision. As Thwaites drew attention from both defenders, Kumwenda had a blinding start to the quarter, and the final five minutes saw the Vixens with a 13-goal lead but the super shot paying dividends for Wood to reduce the margin. Some clever ball movement kept the Lightning in the match but tight defence limited long range shots from the side, as Mannix racked up a heap of turnover ball with her clean footwork to block access to Koenen. A massive effort from the Vixens saw a huge 12 goal margin to finish the match, defeating the hungry Lightning 66-48.

The Vixens racked up a heap more penalties than the Lightning but their ability to win ball back paid off, with new centurion Moloney winning player of the match for her efforts with 13 assists and an intercept, opening up space time and time again for Watson (26 assists from 43 feeds). It was another shared effort from the goaling trio with Kumwenda leading the charge (21 goals from 23 attempts) and Philip (19 at 76 per cent accuracy) and Thwaites (17 at 71 per cent) both shooting three super shots apiece. Mannix was huge with seven gains (three intercepts, three deflections and a rebound) while Weston racked up six pickups to go with her three gains. For the Lightning, Pretorius and Wood led the charge with Pretorius’s three gains (two intercepts) and Wood’s ability to impact both in and out of the circle (13 goal assists, two pickups and 11 goals at 65 per cent) keeping the Lightning in touch on the scoreboard. Koenen carried much of the shooting load with 30 from 34, while Scherian aided on circle edge well with 13 assists.

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

MELBOURNE VIXENS 16 | 18 | 15 | 14 (63)
SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 11 | 8 | 19 | 13 (51)

STARTING SEVEN:

Vixens

GS: Caitlin Thwaites
GA: Tegan Philip
WA: Liz Watson
C: Kate Moloney
WD: Kate Eddy
GD: Jo Weston
GK: Emily Mannix

Lightning

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

Pies fight back to secure first win of the season

ON the hunt for their first win of the season it was Collingwood that escaped with the win in what was a hard fought battle against the Firebirds (58-54). The lead ebbed and flowed throughout the match as the Firebirds once again burst out of the blocks but could not keep it up for the entire game as Collingwood dug deep.

A sloppy start to the game gifted the Magpies an early break as Shimona Nelson capitalised off Queensland’s centre pass and made it two goals in a row. Collingwood proved that they were happy to play possession in the attacking end but were too cautious in approach as the Firebirds defensive unit shut down every drive to win a holding the ball call. The increased intensity from the Firebirds filtered down the court as Romelda Aiken showed off her extreme athleticism to reel in the high balls despite being double teamed at the post. Queensland steadily skipped out to a three-goal lead as they forced the Magpies into errant passes which trickled over the sidelines.

As the quarter ticked down, the Magpies fought their way back into the contest to draw level with eight and a half minutes left. But once again, the Firebirds stamped their authority pushing back out to a two-goal lead. Youngster Tippah Dwan looked even more composed in attack, finding plenty of the ball and injecting herself into the game with her nifty footwork. Aiken came out with a real fire in the belly and proved her versatility taking the hard drive along the baseline to open up the space and keep Geva Mentor guessing. Thanks to her energy up in the goal circle, Aiken plied her trade in defence to snatch back ball and inflict further scoreboard pain on the Pies.

Aiken continued to showcase her array of talents constantly on the move and putting up a plethora of shots. It was neck and neck for most of the quarter before the Firebirds once again lifted in attack thanks to the speed and dynamic movement of Jemma Mi Mi. The wing attack seemed to have the ball on a string slicing through the Pies defence  showcasing her class to deliver the ball on a silver platter to Aiken. Queensland looked in complete control as Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe put in the hard yards in defence to quell the efforts of Nelson and Gabby Sinclair in attack.

The battle in the midcourt did not disappoint as Kelsey Browne struggled to combat the brute strength of Gabi Simpson around circle edge. A strong rebound from Hinchliffe sent the Firebirds into attack once again to re-establish a three-goal buffer with the centre pass to come. Mi Mi continued her merry way in the attacking third, receiving every second pass as Melissa Bragg failed to reduce her opponents impact around circle edge.

A tactical timeout from the Magpies did not seem to solve their kinks as Jenner flew through for an intercept before the Pies answered the call with Mentor winning the ball back under the post. The injection of Matilda Garrett gave the Firebirds something different to think about under the post, while the super shot paid dividends for the Pies as Sinclair proved to have a hot hand from distance to cull the margin to just two goals. But it was Jenner that brought the house down with back-to-back intercepts and her quick transition down court to hold a commanding lead at half-time.

It was more of the same in the third term as the Firebirds looked to capitalise on the opportunities that swung their way. They piled on the pressure, slotting four consecutive goals thanks to Aiken under the post and Mahalia Cassidy out the front to create a game-high seven-goal lead. But Collingwood fought back with four consecutive goals of their own to swing their momentum their way as the Firebirds called a timeout in hope to arrest the shift of play. After starring last week, Nyah Allen once again stepped up to the plate and proved her worth with the youngster willing to go to post and using her pace to dart around the court. Allen managed three goals straight as Mentor provided a wall in defence for the Pies to pick up a huge rebound and send her side into attack once again to claw back to within a goal.

Looking for a spark in attack, Ine-Mari Venter came onto the court for the Firebirds which allowed the goaler to take the heat off Aiken under the post. An offside call from Molly Jovic and missed shot from Allen proved to be the spark the Firebirds needed as they once again pushed the lead out to four goals in what was a seesawing affair. But Collingwood were not done yet, getting back to within two goals.

With a win on the line and tired bodies across the court, neither side let up on the physicality however the issue of turnovers started to come into play. Collingwood went on a goal scoring spree nailing four goals to one in the opening stages of the final term to steal a two-goal lead.

Jodi-Ann Ward came alive in the final quarter with the Jamaican international throwing herself at every single pass and causing a ruckus, while Jovic relished the court time using her speed to consistently hit circle edge. After cutting the margin to just one goal, the Pies once again pulled away and while the Firebirds made the defensive switch up of Jenner and Hinchliffe it did not seem to bother Collingwood as they notched up their first victory of the season.

Aiken was commanding as ever under the post sinking 37 goals from 42 attempts. Dwan was once again a strong option in the goal circle as the youngster downed one super shot to go with her 12 goals. For the Magpies, Nelson stood up under the pressure thanks to 42 goals from 45 attempts at 93 per cent, while Sinclair plied her trade both out the front and in the circle posting 13 goal assists and seven goals. The injection of Allen worked wonders for the black and white as the youngster sank four goals. Down back Mentor was key for Collingwood amassing three intercepts while the persistent Jenner starred with a dazzling five intercepts and three gains.

>>> FIREBIRDS TEAM PAGE

>>> MAGPIES TEAM PAGE

>>> FULL GAME STATS

Queensland Firebirds 17 | 15 | 13 | 9 (54)
Collingwood Magpies 14 | 14 | 15 | 15 (58)

STARTING SEVEN:

Queensland Firebirds:

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

Collingwood Magpies:

GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Madi Browne
WD: Molly Jovic
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor