Category: SSN

Vixens reign supreme in minor semi-final preview

THE top two clash lived up to the hype as the Melbourne Vixens and Sunshine Coast Lightning battled it out in a precursor to the major semi-final next week. It was an enthralling battle, however it was the minor premiers that flexed their muscles in the final term to run out four-goal victors (58-54).

The Lighting started with a real pep in their step, having secured second spot on the ladder and subsequently a double chance no matter the outcome of the game. They forced a turnover off the Vixens centre pass and converted before delivering off their own to open up a two goal zip lead. But the challenge was quickly answered as the Vixens fought their way back into the contest to level the scores thanks to the dominance of Mwai Kumwenda. It was a hard fought battle between the two sides as no pass was left uncontested and both sides went goal for goal. The gears well and truly started to kick into gear for the Vixens as Caitlin Thwaites and Kumwenda dominated to post as they created a handy three goal buffer. The speed through the centre coming from centurion Liz Watson was virtually unstoppable as the Lightning had no answers for her dynamic movement and pinpoint accuracy as the Vixens extended their lead to four goals.

Calling a timeout, the Lightning looked to regroup, coming out of the break with a real fire in the belly as Jacqui Russell picked up an intercept and sent the ball into attack. The Lightning steadily pegged the margin back as Cara Koenen held strong under the post and showcased her impressive timing to pop out and score. It was tit for tat for the majority of the quarter as the Vixens held onto a slim lead but an Emily Mannix inspired intercept and Kumwenda super shot on the buzzer gifted the minor premiers a five goal lead.

The Melbourne Vixens picked up where the left off, hitting the scoreboard within the first 20 seconds of the second. An element of inaccuracy started to creep into the Lightning frontend as the Vixens capitalised on their chances time and time again. Thwaites turned it on in the second quarter with the goal attack running rampant not only under the post but so too in the centre picking up a timely intercept along the transverse line. The hands over pressure from Jo Weston and Mannix was second to none forcing the Lightning to play the ball around and labour in attack while it was a completely different tale up the other end for the Vixens who oozed nothing but pace and precision.

Phumza Maweni injected some intensity into the Lightning defence end with an impressive rejection as her partner in crime Karla Pretorius reaped the rewards and the Sunshine Coast converted to reduce the margin to five. The offline defence from the Vixens caused chaos for the Lightning but a super shot from none other than Steph Wood seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered. Russell came alive, driving through the centre third while Laura Langman flexed her defensive muscles to take a big intercept. But the ability for the Vixens to remain composed and clinical in attack allowed them to continuously ride through the Lightning’s attacking forays and maintain a five goal margin at half time.

Both sides made some changes out of the break with Elle McDonald coming on in wing attack for the Vixens and Peace Proscovia pulling on the goal shooter bib. A couple of errant passes in the Vixens attacking end saw missed opportunities while the injection of Allie Smith allowed Laura Scherian to run rampant. The changes did not stop there for both sides as Tegan Philip made her way onto the court in hope to provide a spark in the goal circle while Sunshine Coast wing defence Maddy McAuliffe brought plenty of intensity. Everything seemed to be falling the Lightning’s way as the attack started to hum and the defence got hands to ball drawing within one goal.

Proscovia was proving to be a menace under the post with her strength on the take, prompting the Vixens to inject Kadie-Ann Dehaney. The desperation from the Lightning came to the fore as they scrapped hard for any loose ball. Missed shots from Proscovia gifted the Vixens plenty of chances to add to the scoreboard but Wood was not content to let the game slip away sinking a super shot.

With only one goal separating the teams at three quarter time the Vixens put their foot down creating a six goal lead. McDonald steadily built into the game while Thwaites’ return to the court gave the Vixens more ascendancy. Sunshine Coast started to labour across the court with wayward passes plaguing them as the Vixens went on a tear. Out by as many as 10 goals, Wood put on a super shot spree with three consecutive goals but it was not enough to get the win as the Lightning went down by four goals.

Koenen continued her stellar form to post with 22 goals at 82 per cent accuracy, while Wood once again starred converting five super shots along with 15 goal assists. Langman was at her best through the midcourt picking up two deflections and 12 goal assists while Watson’s return to the Vixens bolstered their attack as the wing attack amassed 15 goal assists in her half on court. Kumwenda topscored for the Vixens with 43 goals while Thwaites was rock solid once again notching up 11 goals at 85 per cent. Defensively, the likes of Pretorius and Maweni inflicted a wealth of pain collecting five gains as their counterparts in Mannix, Dehaney and Weston registered 13 gains, five of them intercepts.

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

Sunshine Coast Lightning 13 | 13 | 16 | 12 (54)
Melbourne Vixens 18 | 12 | 13 | 15 (58)

STARTING SEVEN:

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

GS: Cara Koenen
GA: Steph Wood
WA: Laura Scherian
C: Laura Langman
WD: Jacqui Russell
GD: Karla Pretorius
GK: Phumza Maweni

Melbourne Vixens

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

Thunderbirds bid Pitman farewell with clutch win over Fever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fever

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

Thunderbirds

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

Blistering final term ends in GIANTS and Swifts draw

IT was a nail-biting finish to the New South Wales derby as neither side could be separated rounding out the game at 77 goals apiece. A scintillating final term at the hands of GIANTS captain Jo Harten gifted her side a draw after converting six super shots, despite being down by as much as 10 goals to the Swifts. It was a whirlwind contest as the lead changed hands multiple times while there were a couple of notable omission for both sides in the form of star goalers Helen Housby and Caitlin Bassett both out due to injury.

It was an even start to the game as both sides managed to convert from their centre pass before a hand in from Kristiana Manu’a saw the GIANTS stream down court and capitalise. Out to a two-goal lead early thanks to the hot hand of Kiera Austin and Harten the NSW Swifts answered the call through Maddy Turner. The goal defence starred in the opening couple of minutes of the term with her ability to track the ball and rack up the intercepts to stop the GIANTS in their tracks. Taking a few minutes to settle into the new attacking combination, the work of Paige Hadley came to the fore as the centre delivered bullet passes into the circle.

The back and forth nature of the game continued as the Swifts and GIANTS failed to be separated sitting at 11 goals apiece before a timeout was called by the Swifts. Entering the super shot period Austin showed her class, nailing back to back super shots to extend the GIANTS’ lead to four goals. the goal attack was finding plenty of space while up the other end Sam Wallace starred for the Swifts highlighting her ability to score from range and keep her side within striking distance. It was turning into a super shot shootout as both sides looked to find an edge but in the end it was the GIANTS that drew first blood.

The second quarter started a bit scrappy with ball ebbing and flowing down the court before the Swifts landed the first blow to eat into the two-goal margin. Quick ball movement seemed to be the way to go for both sides while the Swifts made a couple of changes in hope to upset the GIANTS. Lauren Moore made her way onto the court in wing defence while Maddy Proud pulled on the centre bib. The connections across court seemed more settled as the Swifts weaved their way down the court and stole back the lead albeit momentarily.

The goal keepers started to come into the game as Sam Poolman took an intercept before Sarah Klau answered the call with an intercept of her own. The Swifts continued to tinker with their frontend as Tayla Fraser entered the game thanks to the pressure and antagonising style of Amy Parmenter. The physicality continued to ramp up throughout the quarter as Austin flew into the post and Moore hit the deck a couple of times. While the Swifts switched up their attacking unit the GIANTS brought on the experienced April Brandley in goal keeper. Much like the first quarter the final five minutes were dictated by the super shot as Austin and Sophie Garbin plied their trade for their respective sides. In the end it was shot on the buzzer from Harten that gave the GIANTS a handy two goal buffer.

A hot start to the third term saw the Swifts nail the first four goals of the quarter and establish a two-goal lead. defensively things started to really kick into gear while their transition through the midcourt enabled the Swifts to put the foot down and keep the scoreboard cogs ticking over. The GIANTS simply had no answers for the Swifts who had a real pep in their step with a seven goal to one start to the term, prompting a timeout. Turner and Sophie Craig worked on overdrive through the centre third with the former creating a wealth of tips and deflections. Down by as many as eight goals the GIANTS rallied in attack to cut the deficit to five but the continuous pressure stemming from the Swifts defence stifled the attacking notion of the Swifts.

Exploited in defence, Poolman re-entered the game in goal keeper while Matilda McDonell came on at goal defence. But that did not seem to stop the Swifts who had their tails well and truly up thanks to their blistering speed and increased confidence to release the ball. Inaccuracy plagued the GIANTS shooting end while the likes of Turner and Klau gobbled up anything that fell short. Wallace made it look easy up the other end as the goal shooter delivered time and time again on the super shot as the Swifts held onto an eight-goal lead heading into the final change.

The shooter to shooter interplay between Wallace and Garbin was working wonders while Proud and Hadley seemed to have the ball on a string finding both shooters with great ease as they continued to stretch their opponents. The GIANTS midcourt on the other hand laboured as Jamie-Lee Price and Maddie Hay struggled to have their usual impact. Parmenter continued to toil away winning ball back thanks to her speed off the mark but the Swifts’ composure kept them ahead of the game. Four consecutive super shots from Harten sparked the GIANTS across the court as they got within two goals. an offensive contact against Wallace gifted the GIANTS possession as they went forward and nailed another super shot to draw level. With the clock ticking down Garbin sunk a super shot of her own but Harten once again flexed her muscles to convert and secure a draw.

With no Housby for the Swifts, it was Wallace that took the reins under the post nailing a whopping 50 goals with six of them super shots. New Diamonds member, Garbin also impressed sinking 18 goals from 21 attempts while the efforts of Proud and Hadley did not go unnoticed as they amassed 10 and 16 goal assists respectively. Harten and Austin once again combined to be a formidable force from range with 17 super shots between them, 10 of them off the hand of Harten. Parmenter was the livewire for the GIANTS and took home player of the match honours thanks to her three intercepts and eight deflections while Klau and Turner combined for 14 gains, six of them intercepts.

 

>>> SWIFTS TEAM PAGE
>>> GIANTS TEAM PAGE
>>> FULL MATCH STATS

 —

NSW Swifts 22 | 17 | 23 | 15 (77)
GIANTS Netball 24 | 17 | 13 | 23 (77)

STARTING SEVEN:

 NSW Swifts:

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Sophie Garbin
WA: Natalie Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Sophie Craig
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau

GIANTS Netball:

GS: Jo Harten
GA: Kiera Austin
WA: Maddie Hay
C: Jamie-Lee Price
WD: Amy Parmenter
GD: Kristiana Manu’a
GK: Sam Poolman

Firebirds come from behind to win final match of season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vixens

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

Firebirds

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

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 14

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

Collingwood Magpies v. Queensland Firebirds
Saturday, 26 September

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

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

NSW Swifts v. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, 26 September

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

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

West Coast Fever v. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Saturday, 26 September

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

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

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Melbourne Vixens
Sunday, 27 September

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

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

SSN Head to Head: Round 14

IN each round of Suncorp Super Netball we will identify key match-ups, provide an analysis of players and compare the two styles. The final round of the home and away season sees the top two sides go head to head with the battle in the centre between Kate Moloney and Laura Langman expected to set the tone for their respective sides.

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING v. MELBOURNE VIXENS
Laura Langman (C) v. Kate Moloney (C)

Neither Langman or Moloney are known for their desire to take a backwards step, and instead they are often applauded for their hustle and grind to constantly win ball back. They are both barometers for their side, able to stand up when needed and have an influence.

Coming off a surprise loss last round the Vixens, led by captain, Moloney, will be hoping to get back onto the winners list and rekindle that dominant form that saw them notch up the minor premiership two rounds ago. Without partner in crime, Liz Watson, Moloney has had to step up her attacking game in recent weeks, to feed the ball into the likes of Caitlin Thwaites, Tegan Philip and Mwai Kumwenda under the post. Her 1-2 punch around circle edge and speed off the mark makes her an effective option while her gut running is unquestionable, frequently contesting every ball that comes her way. Moloney’s on court leadership is paramount to the Vixens both in attack and defence as she is often that driving force and integral link between the two thirds. She is a real dogged style of player, in the sense that she does not allow her opponent any space and rides every pass. Her defensive attributes are clear, able to create tips and deflections such is her read of the play while her never say die attitude often sparks her teammates around her.

Much like a fine wine, Langman continues to get better with age and is a key cog for the Lightning. When she is firing Sunshine Coast are just about unstoppable with the centre able to break through the defence with great ease and penetrate into the circle in the blink of an eye. Her athleticism and endurance is almost unmatched, able to run rings around her opponents while her experience allows her to bring out all the tricks in the book. However it is the connection with Steph Wood that is the most damaging with the duo able to set the court alight with their dynamic movement, speed and netball nous to weave their way down the court. Langman is a real general in attack able to create something out of nothing and most importantly is not afraid to go back and reset to allow the Lightning frontend in Cara Koenen, Laura Scherian and Wood to re-position. The New Zealand veteran is damaging in attack but so too down back with her hands over pressure, ability to read the play and pick off an intercept, while her skill to transition in a heartbeat can often catch opposition teams off-guard.

It will be a hotly contested tussle in the centre with both players possessing very similar attributes and game play given their defensive tendencies. Any cross court passes will play into the hands of Langman, with the centre renowned for her ability to peel off and go hunting meaning the Vixens will have to be meticulous especially in attack if they are to get the chocolates. However if the two captains nullify each other it will be up to the players around them to step up and lead the pack which could be tricky for the minor premiers if Watson misses out again this round.

2020 Suncorp Super Netball: Five Talking points – Round 13

THE penultimate round of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) sparked plenty of intrigue and debate as the GIANTS failed to keep their slim finals hopes alive while the league celebrated Indigenous round despite it being marred by controversy.

Bassett remained on the bench in GIANTS do-or-die clash
In arguably one of their biggest games of the season, the GIANTS’ narrow loss to West Coast Fever all but ended their hopes of sneaking into the top four. There was no denying that accuracy seemed to be a big issue for the GIANTS as Jo Harten and Kiera Austin shot at a combined 70 per cent, failing to convert their chances as Australian Diamonds captain and shooting sensation Caitlin Bassett sat on the bench. It looked like her time might come as wing attack Maddie Hay went down with an injury midway through the third but instead of swinging the relatively inaccurate Austin into wing attack like previous matches, the GIANTS shuffled the bibs around as Amy Parmenter moved into wing attack momentarily before Claire O’Brien ran out the rest of the game. The attack seemed to suffer in the final quarter as the GIANTS struggled to find their rhythm with Courtney Bruce and Olivia Lewis starring as the GIANTS lacked Bassett’s accuracy and rebounding ability under the post.

Controversy sparked as Jemma Mi Mi failed to take the court
In a round dedicated to celebrating Indigenous culture many were looking forward to Queensland Firebirds midcourter Jemma Mi Mi taking the court. Currently, Mi Mi is the sole Indigenous player in the SSN and in the lead up to the match on Sunday had done a wealth of work promoting her journey and encouraging other young Indigenous girls to follow in her footsteps. However, the speedster failed to take the court against the Vixens with the decision sparking plenty of debate. In the dying minutes of the final quarter wing attack Lara Dunkley seemed to pull up gingerly with some form of cramp, but instead of coming off the court, opted to stay out there and run out the game as Mi Mi waited patiently on the sideline to be subbed on. Many fans questioned the decision behind not injecting Mi Mi into the game given the significance of the round and the fact that the game was a dead rubber as it did not impact finals.

Liz Watson is key to the Vixens success
Highly talented wing attack, Liz Watson was forced to the sideline once again with an ankle complaint which allowed the Firebirds and Gabi Simpson in particular to take full control when it came to tempo and flow. Youngsters Tayla Honey and Elle McDonald have plenty of raw talent but ultimately lack that craft and finesse that Watson has especially around circle edge, with her direct passes into the goalers. Watson is renowned for her exceptionally high work rate at the centre pass and movement within the attacking third, something that was once again missed in the Vixens frontend against the Firebirds on the weekend. The likes of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe capitalised on Melbourne’s lack of movement and assertiveness in Watson’s absence.

NSW Swifts prove they know how to win ugly
It was an inconsistent performance from the reigning premiers who struggled to find any continuity in attack as they chopped and changed. Challenged in the second and third quarter and with the game on the line the Swifts kicked it up a gear, albeit marginal in the final term. The combination of Sophie Garbin and Helen Housby seemed to be what the doctor ordered in the goal circle as the duo found their range only missing two goals for the quarter as the midcourt work stemming from Natalie Haythornthwaite and Paige Hadley increased. Although it was not pretty, it showed that the Swifts have the ability to grind it out against tough opposition with Shamera Sterling and Layla Guscoth putting in the hard yards and making life tricky for the Swifts’ attackers.

Cara Koenen and Steph Wood could be the Diamonds next starting shooting combo
The Lightning frontend ooze plenty of class with Laura Scherian and Laura Langman real playmakers in the attacking third thanks to their speed, drive and spatial awareness. However, inside the circle is where the real damage happens as Cara Koenen and Steph Wood put on a show under the post. The shooter to shooter interplay is near on impossible to negate with their deft touches and perfect timing proving to be a headache even for the best such as Geva Mentor as shown in this round. Although it took a few minutes for Koenen to build into the match, once the goal shooter found her range and confidence she starred sinking an impressive 41 goals from 45 attempts at 91 per cent while Wood was not only the goal assist mastermind but so too effective from range nailing four super shots. Their partnership is one of movement and dynamism, something that could be handy for the Diamonds in the future.

SSN Stats wrap: Round 13

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

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

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

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

Courtside Comments: Round 13 – Tara Hinchliffe

Where could Chelsea Pitman end up in 2021?

ANNOUNCING that Adelaide Thunderbirds did not offer her a contract for the 2021 Suncorp Super Netball season, Thunderbirds co-captain and England Roses midcourter Chelsea Pitman will be on the move next season. The wing attack has been in arguably career best form in 2020 and is keen to play on next season, making her a handy acquisition for any team she decides to join. The main question however, is where will she go and which team is in need of a specialist wing attack? Draft Central poses some potential options, keeping in mind that team lists for next season have not yet been announced.

West Coast Fever:
With Ingrid Colyer going down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury she can be expected to spend a large chunk of next season on the sidelines as she recovers, effectively leaving a hole in the Fever attack. Although Emma Cosh has stepped up to the plate in the past few games, she is still developing her craft and with the services of Pitman up for grabs West Coast would be silly not to pounce. Pitman is clever with ball in hand and has experience feeding into tall holding shooters such as Jhaniele Fowler, playing with the likes of Romelda Aiken back in her heyday at the Firebirds and more recently Shimona Nelson when she was at the Thunderbirds. The Roses wing attack is cautious with ball in hand and while she does not do all the flashy things it is her patient approach down court and skill execution that sets her apart from other midcourters.

Sunshine Coast Lightning:
With the future of Laura Langman still up in the air with the New Zealand international announcing her retirement from Silver Ferns duties, the question of whether she plays on in 2021 is one that must be asked. If she does in fact retire it could see a huge shake up in the Lightning attack end with Laura Scherian likely to swing into that centre position leaving the wing attack position vacant and open for someone like Pitman to swoop in. Pitman has proven her ability to adapt on the fly and feed with great ease into a moving circle such is her high netball IQ and impressive ball placement, which could play into the hands of Sunshine Coast. With speed to burn when it comes to Scherian, Pitman could provide that steady head and composure to hit circle edge and deliver into the likes of Steph Wood, Peace Proscovia and Cara Koenen, making her an exciting possibility for the 2021 season.

GIANTS Netball:
After somewhat of an up and down 2020 season, the GIANTS could be on the hunt for a specialised and experience wing attack, a role which Pitman could fill if the position became available. With Kiera Austin spending majority of her time out in goal attack and Jo Harten pulling on the goal shooter bib, the feeding role has fallen to youngster Maddie Hay and while she has impressed in patches the consistency of Pitman could be the edge the GIANTS need to bat deep in 2021. Pitman already has forged strong connections with Harten thanks to the duo playing in the Roses together while Pitman is also familiar with Caitlin Bassett having won the 2011 Netball World Cup together; albeit a while ago now. Pitman is a smooth mover who is hardly ever overawed and could offer that sense of stability and class to a consistently changing GIANTS line-up.

Although it is a long shot, Pitman could potentially ply her craft across the ditch in the ANZ Premiership while the possibility of Pitman taking her netball to England is also a chance with new franchise Leeds Rhinos searching for some experienced names to round out the squad. Either way, it is fair to say whichever team picks up Pitman, they will be better for it given her composure, netball smarts and all round experience.

Draft Central’s top international performers in SSN

THERE is no shortage of international stars throughout the Suncorp Super Netball league and with one round remaining in the home and away season Draft Central casts an eye over the top performers hailing from the some of the top ranked netballing nations. Given that there is only one player in Laura Langman representing New Zealand, Mwai Kumwenda representing Malawi and Sam Wallace waving the flag for Trinidad and Tobago they will not be taken into account, instead focusing on Jamaica, South Africa and England. However, it is fair to say that all three players have once again been strong contributors to their respective clubs.

ENGLAND

Although there are a host of Roses player in the league it is hard to go past Geva Mentor who, despite playing in a team sitting at the bottom of the ladder, has been a consistent force down back for the Magpies. The goal keeper has been in ripping form with her ability to create tips and deflections consistently on show thanks to her read of the play and high netball IQ. Mentor is a real leader down back for the Pies and has proven to be a key cog with her ability to regain possession and skill to influence the players around her in Mel Bragg and Jodi-Ann Ward while her strength on the rebound is also impressive. Other Roses players that have had impressive seasons include the likes of Jo Harten with the goaler dominating on the super shot and often dragging her side back into the contest while Helen Housby has also been an excitement machine for the Swifts. Wing attack Chelsea Pitman has arguably had her best season for the Thunderbirds showcasing her leadership, impressive timing on the drive and strength around circle edge however it is Mentor’s consistency that pipped her compatriots at the post.

JAMAICA

It was incredibly difficult to choose the top performer for Jamaica given the plethora of talent they have in the SSN and their dominant performances. However, it is hard to look past that of Jhaniele Fowler with the goal shooter going on a tear and beating her own record of 66 goals to nail 69 in her Round 12 effort. Her long reach and split enables her to be a constant threat in the air while her ability to score within the blink of an eye is a key reason for the Fever’s resurgence in 2020. Fowler has increased her versatility this season with the typical holding goal shooter proving that she is not afraid to get on the move and shoot from further out, however she does her most damage from directly under the post. She does the bulk of the shooting for the Fever with Alice Teague-Neeld, Emma Cosh and Verity Charles feeding the ball into her with ease. Her compatriots in Shamera Sterling and Romelda Aiken were also hot on her tail when it comes to being the top performer for Jamaica, with the duo impressing for their respective sides and often changing the course of the game. Sterling is a ball winner, willing to hunt anything and everything while Aiken has recaptured her hot form starring under the post for the Firebirds.

SOUTH AFRICA

Goal shooter Lenize Potgieter has made an undeniable impact since joining the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2020 with her ability to score with great ease and accuracy. The unconventional shooting style might catch many off-guard but it does not offset the star shooter who has been a lynchpin in attack for the Thunderbirds this season. Her composure with ball in hand, deceptively long split and strong holds make her incredibly difficult to stop, sinking 403 goals for the season with one match still to play. Her connection with youngster Georgie Horjus has been nothing short of impressive with the two syncing up seamlessly, much like their partnership with Pitman out the front. In past seasons the influence of Karla Pretorius has been much more profound and while Phumza Maweni has found her rhythm in the latter half of the season it is hard to go past the efforts of Potgieter and her sheer consistency at the post.