Tag: gabi simpson

Dunkley on the move to Firebirds

ANOTHER Melbourne Vixens player has made the move up north to the Queensland Firebirds with Lara Dunkley set to take the court as a replacement player for Mahalia Cassidy. The talented midcourter will provide plenty of excitement for the Firebirds with her attacking and defensive pressure able to cover the court with ease and consistently provide an option. Dunkley can switch between wing attack, wing defence and centre highlighting her versatility for the Firebirds playing with the likes of emerging speedster Jemma Mi Mi and Gabi Simpson through the middle third.

Despite not getting a wealth of court time during 2019 with the Vixens, Dunkley has shown that she can have an impact when given the chance. Paired with the likes of Australian Diamonds goal attack Gretel Tippett and Jamaican shooting machine Romelda Aiken, Dunkley could prove to be the missing piece in the attacking end for the Firebirds and will be hoping to have a profound impact on court with her precision passing and quick feet.

Dunkley is not the only Vixen to take the plunge with South African Ine-Mari Venter also pulling on the purple dress in 2020 while Rudi Ellis has also jumped ship after spending time with the Vixens Australian Netball League team – Victoria Fury.

Still in the infancy of her netball career, the 24-year-old captained Vic Fury in 2018 highlighting her strong leadership skills and netball nous. Surrounded by the likes of Renae Ingles, Liz Watson and Kate Moloney during her time with the Vixens, Dunkley will have plenty to offer for the developing Firebirds midcourt.

Firebirds coach, Roselee Jencke is excited about having Dunkley on the court and what she can bring to the team.

“Having the flexibility to use Lara across three positions is beneficial and will give us added advantages when it comes to match-ups and opposition strengths,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how all these athletes work together. “It’s going to be an exciting season.”

Australian Development Team: Potential Starting Seven

WITH the Australia Development Squad set to fly out to New Zealand for a round robin competition from October 5-9, we take a look at a possible line-up for the clashes. Coached by Julie Fitzgerald the side will take on New Zealand and England with the program aimed at developing the next generation of players.

GS: Cara Koenen

The Sunshine Coast goal shooter has had a breakout season with her accuracy and dominance under the post highly impressive. Koenen worked her way into the season and made her presence felt with her silky movement and ability to shake up her play from strong baseline drives to holds in the circle. She can shoot from range and is often unfazed by the physical one on one marking in the goal circle.

GA: Kiera Austin

Although she did not get a wealth of game time throughout the Suncorp Super Netball season with the GIANTS, Austin proved her worth making an immediate impact when injected. She is a smooth mover across the court, able to work the angles and feed the ball into the circle with ease while also not afraid to back herself from distance. The goal attack is composed under pressure and is relatively clean with ball in hand, able to release a pass into space and provide a constant option in attack. She has a big bag of tricks with her cuts and drives a real feature of her game play.

WA: Jemma Mi Mi

The Queensland speedster could help to spark the attacking end with her dynamic movement, vision into the circle and netball nous to release well weighted passes. Mi Mi knows when to go and when to hold back while her work at the centre pass is imperative in bringing the ball down the court.

C: Kate Moloney

The Melbourne Vixens captain is all heart and will provide plenty of encouragement for the young side while also filled with plenty of skill. Moloney can run all day credit to her high endurance and desperation to fulfil her role to the best of her ability. She can have an impact anywhere on the court but it is her placement in the attacking third that is hard to stop with her vision and ball placement often on song. Her defensive pressure is equally as impressive able to pick up loose balls in the middle third while also covering the drive of her opponent to force turnovers.

WD: Gabi Simpson

Simpson is no stranger to the big stage and will provide plenty of experience down in the defensive end given her time both on the international and national stage. The wing defence oozes class and composure able to think her way through pressure and deliver bullet like passes to players across the court. Her work through transition is second to none often re-offering on the transverse line and resetting play to allow the attacks to reposition. She has an uncanny ability to sense the moment and do the unthinkable to take a game changing intercept or timely deflection when needed.

GD: Kim Jenner

In a trying season for the Queensland Firebirds, Jenner has stood tall and backed herself, hunting down the cross court balls and using her speed to create a contest. The 21-year-old defender has plenty of x-factor able to sight and read the ball coming down the court while her hands over pressure has been proven to cause headaches. She has athleticism to boot and has the skill to shut down a player with her smothering pressure.

GK: Emily Mannix

Unlucky to have missed out on Diamonds selection, Mannix is all class able to win games off her own back with her timing and vision to take big intercepts. She is renowned for her defensive pressure able to nullify any easy passes down the court and create doubt in the feeders minds with her towering presence. She is deceptively quick given her height while her strength enables her to gobble up any missed shots.

Sky is the limit for Hinchliffe

A DIAMOND of the future, Queensland Firebirds defender Tara Hinchliffe was dropped right into the thick of it throughout the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season with the 21-year-old tasked with the challenge to hold up the defence end.

The young defender started playing netball at age seven, relishing the opportunity to get off the sidelines at her older sister’s game and get onto the court with twin, Maddie who is a training partner with the Firebirds.

“I absolutely love having a twin sister. We used to do everything together whether it was different sports but netball always seemed to be the thing we looked forward to the most.”

But Hinchliffe was not always a defender. In her junior years she often found herself under the post going for goal rather than defending it, but a stroke of genius from her coach saw her switch ends and pull on the goal defence bib.

“We both started playing shooter, we were always down the same end together so that was always fun,” Hinchliffe said. “I went down the other end and I didn’t really mind it and the coaches liked it because we were both tall. That’s how it all started, then I stuck in defence.”

Hinchliffe was lucky enough to be mentored by former Firebirds and Diamonds captain Laura Geitz last year, with the youngster picking up plenty of tricks of the trade from Geitz and crediting the talented goal keeper to making her feel so welcomed at the club.

“I guess for me coming in as a young player it was all sort of new for me so I could look to Gabi on one side and Geitzy behind me and know that they backed me in any situation and know what to do,” she said. “They would always be the first ones to respond and tell me what to do. I was more than happy to just follow their lead. That was a really good experience in my first year to know what it was like.”

The Firebirds struggled throughout the 2019 campaign only notching up the one win for the season ,but that did not stop captain, Simpson, from spurring on her troops and encouraging them to play their game and try their hardest.

“When you have a good leader you just want to play for them. You want to work hard for them,” Hinchliffe said.

“Gabi just likes to have fun. I love it when she smiles at you on court, she’ll make a joke and just lighten the mood so that’s something different that she brings and I think that works for our team because we are younger and we like to just enjoy it as well.”

Despite the trying season the Firebirds faithful have remained as boisterous and passionate as ever, with Hinchliffe absorbing the colourful and decorated culture associated with the club.

“I know this season has been one of the toughest seasons we’ve had, knowing the fans are still there makes it really exciting and you want to turn up and you want to work even harder for them which I think is special to the Firebirds, that I’m not sure all the other clubs have.”

The young defender has taken it all in her stride, absorbing the pressure and stepping up to the plate time and time again while her partnership with fellow 21-year-old Kim Jenner developing at a rate of knots.

“We both know we are young and are the biggest critics of ourselves. To know that we can both look at each other and trust each other. We often just get on court and look and say let’s just play netball, we don’t need to overthink it,” Hinchliffe said.

“We are both still very young to be playing SSN and both being 21 I guess we both look at each other and say can you believe that we are really here?”

Hinchliffe was immersed into the Firebirds last year with coach, Roselee Jencke a key figure in her life, helping to guide her down back and foster her netball skill.

“Sure there’s a lot of hard work but she’s also a great person and relationship builder. As soon as I came in I knew she’d look after me, she’s your biggest defender and protects us as well which we are grateful for,” she said.

Hinchliffe has already had a highly decorated career playing in the Under 21 World Cup in Botswana and was recently recognised for her impressive performance on the court with a call up to the Diamonds Development Team, an accolade she was not really expecting.

“Yeah it’s pretty crazy, I see myself being two years in SSN so I definitely wasn’t expecting anything to do with Australian netball. But it’s very exciting, I think the squad is a great opportunity to have a mix of the younger and more experienced girls,” she said.

“Any day to wear the green and gold dress is a good day, I remember Geitzy sending that to me a few years ago.”

2019 SSN season team review: Queensland Firebirds

IT was a relatively unsuccessful year for the Queensland Firebirds who only managed one win for the season and came agonisingly close in a couple of other match-ups, registering two draws. Despite the challenging season there are plenty of positives to come out of 2019, with some young up-and-coming players making their way through the ranks. The Firebirds were hit with injury after injury throughout their 2019 campaign, unable to get continuity in their game.

Position: 8th
Percentage: 89.17%
Win-loss: 1-2-11

Overview:

Mahalia Cassidy was ruled out early in the year, struck down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and leaving the midcourt stocks relatively weaker before South African recruit Erin Burger made a much needed cameo. Burger worked tirelessly both in defence and attack during her time with the Firebirds, while an injury to Jamaican shooter Romelda Aiken saw the key player sidelined for a number of weeks. The injury prompted the signing of South African quick-fire goal shooter Lenize Potgieter who paired well with Gretel Tippett under the post. Despite being injured for parts of the season the combination between Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe steadily developed, with the two showing plenty of promise for future years. Captain Gabi Simpson controlled the defensive end using her experience and off the body marking to assist the two young defenders. The season also farewelled two netball greats in Caitlyn Nevins and Laura Clemesha, leaving some gaping holes in the 2020 squad.

Shining light:

Although it was a trying year for Queensland, Tippett stood tall in the attack end, making history with 100 consecutive national league goals and leading from the front. The unorthodox goal attack displayed her attacking flair, creativity and sheer athleticism week on week, single handedly dragging her side back into the contest time and time again. She was proved unstoppable when given the time and space to go about her business, both under the post and in the attacking third, while also showcasing her presence defensively with her three foot marking and physicality. Her ability to adapt to the rotation of goal shooters such as Aiken, Potgieter and Abigail Latu-Meafou was pivotal to the Firebirds, able to switch up her gameplay depending on what was required by her fellow goalers. Tippett was arguably in career best form this season, displaying all her attributes from her speed and strength to cleanliness with ball in hand and impressive vision.

2020 predictions:

It is fair to say that the Firebirds are in the rebuilding stage, but they have plenty of upside with coach Roselee Jencke backing the defensive duo of Jenner and Hinchliffe. With further exposure to the highest standard the two could form a formidable unit credit to their defensive pressure. Already known for their tenacity, intercepting ability and commitment to the contest, if they can hone in their untidiness and stay away from the whistle it could go a long way in helping the club reach further heights next year.

2019 Australian Development Team & Squad

WITH a big season of international netball set to commence, the Australian Diamonds have released a Development Team and Squad consisting of 20 players. The side is dedicated to strengthening the Aussie stocks and fostering the talent of young up-and-coming players to become future Diamonds.

Experienced heads Gabi Simpson, Kate Moloney and Emily Mannix have all been named in the team after missing out on Constellation Cup selection. The trio are renowned for their hard work, endurance and craft in their respective positions and will provide plenty of composure and wisdom on the court given the youth and inexperience.

After a breakout season, it is no surprise Sunshine Coast Lightning versatile shooter Cara Koenen got the nod in the team. The 23-year-old played an integral role in the Lightning’s finals berth with her accuracy, clever footwork and strong holds all but cementing her spot in the starting side. Given her scope the training squad could be just the beginning and a stepping stone for the talented goaler who oozes composure and class. Teammate Maddy McAuliffe also got the call up with the wing defence plying her trade credit to her hands over pressure and tagging style of defence.

Despite of a lack of court time in 2019 through injury Matilda Garrett has been named in the Development Squad thanks to her defensive pressure while fellow Magpie Gabby Sinclair has also secured a spot. After coming in as a replacement player for Maddy Proud at the Swifts youngster Tayla Fraser has earned a spot in the squad with her dynamic movement and speed to boot a real feature of her game. Fellow Swift, Sophie Garbin also got the nod in the Development Team after an impressive season with her accuracy and strength on full display throughout the year. Other shooters such as Kiera Austin and Alice Teague-Neeld have also been selected with Austin renowned for her versatility, silky movement and general netball know how able to adapt to just about any situation on the court.

Queensland Firebirds defensive duo Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe also landed a spot in the Development Team with their hard work throughout the season well and truly recognised. Both Hincliffe and Jenner have plenty of class paired with tenacity and a desire to hunt any cross-court ball making them a promising combination. Teammate Jemma Mi Mi also caught the eye of selectors with her speed, agility and ability to stop on a dime.

The GIANTS are well represented with Kristiana Manu’a and Amy Parmenter both in the team, along with 28-year-old goal keeper Sam Poolman who was selected in the squad. Parmenter burst onto the scene this season with her speed off the mark, ability to read the play and skill to cover the court. West Coast Fever duo Jess Anstiss and Olivia Lewis will also be hoping to have an impact while Hannah Petty is the only representative from the Thunderbirds after having a solid season in the midcourt with her drives and speed.

2019 Australian Development Team
Jess Anstiss
Kiera Austin
Sophie Garbin
Tara Hinchliffe
Kim Jenner
Cara Koenen
Emily Mannix
Kristiana Manu’a
Maddy McAuliffe
Jemma Mi Mi
Kate Moloney
Amy Parmenter
Gabi Simpson
Alice Teague-Neeld

2019 Australian Development Squad
Tayla Fraser
Matilda Garrett
Olivia Lewis
Hannah Petty
Sam Poolman
Gabby Sinclair

Diamonds dig up a few popular gems in Constellation Cup announcement

THE Australian netballing public looks set to be satisfied for the first time in a while following the announcement of the 2019 Australian Diamonds Constellation Cup team. Fan-favourite Ash Brazill has been included in the team following the dynamic midcourter being overlooked for the Netball World Cup. Her form in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) this season has earned her a spot in the side, included in a 23-player side that also saw a couple of popular picks in NSW Swifts’ Maddy Turner and Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Laura Scherian included in the 13-player side. The trio replaced injured Kelsey Browne, pregnant April Brandley, and the omitted Steph Wood, of whom the latter has still retained her spot in the 2019/20 Diamonds’ squad.

Alongside Wood are former Diamonds, Gabi Simpson, Kate Moloney and Emily Mannix, all of whom were training partners for the Netball World Cup, while youngster Kiera Austin has also been included in the extended squad of 18 following a terrific season broadening her game to wing attack.

2019 Samsung Australian Diamonds Constellation Cup Team:

Caitlin Bassett (GIANTS Netball)
Ash Brazill (Collingwood Magpies)
Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever)
Paige Hadley (NSW Swifts)
Sarah Klau (NSW Swifts)
Tegan Philip (Melbourne Vixens)
Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS Netball)
Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens)
Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds)
Maddy Turner (NSW Swifts)
Liz Watson (Melbourne Vixens)
Jo Weston (Melbourne Vixens)

2019/20 Samsung Australian Diamonds Squad Members:

Kiera Austin (GIANTS Netball)
Emily Mannix (Melbourne Vixens)
Kate Moloney (Melbourne Vixens)
Gabi Simpson (Queensland Firebirds)
Steph Wood (Sunshine Coast Lightning)

SSN Bottom 4: Team of the Year

WITH the GIANTS, Adelaide Thunderbirds, Queensland Firebirds and West Coast Fever all missing out on finals action we assembled a Team of the Year comprised only of bottom four team players. After narrowly missing out on finals, the GIANTS have four players named in the squad with Queensland, Adelaide and West Coast featuring two players apiece.

GK: Shamera Sterling (Adelaide Thunderbirds)

Sterling immediately found her feet in Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) setting records and posing a dominant threat in the defensive circle for Adelaide. She was not afraid to contest every ball that came her way while her aerial skills were second to none leading the way with 120 deflections, 68 intercepts and 35 rebounds. She was a lynchpin down in defence owning the circle with her timing, quick footwork and ability to read the play and impact the flow. She created plenty of hesitation on the feed and capitalised on her opportunities to get tips and deflections to help propel the ball back down the court.

GD: Layla Guscoth (Adelaide Thunderbirds)

Prior to rupturing her Achilles in the World Cup, Guscoth was instrumental for the Thunderbirds. She oozed plenty of experience and class with ball in hand to regain possession for her side with her commitment to the take impressive. Guscoth was key through the midcourt providing plenty of back-up play and help with transition down the court.

WD: Amy Parmenter (GIANTS Netball)

In her first season with the club Parmenter did not leave any stone unturned with the young wing defence putting her opposition through their paces. She showcased her speed off the mark and skill to get hands to ball time and time again for the GIANTS and while she started in centre she well and truly found her feet in at wing defence. Parmenter was key to the GIANTS defence end applying good hands over pressure and shadowing her opponent’s every move to limit easy access into the circle. Her transition down court was also a focal point of her game throughout the season providing that dynamic movement in the middle third.

C: Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS Netball)

The switch up paid dividends with Price relishing the extra space across the court. the former wing defence made the move into centre for the GIANTS and has not looked back with her offensive work just as impressive as her defensive craft. Though she still has plenty to learn Price has shown that she is a game changer given her athletic ability and vision into the circle making her a real threat for opposition teams.

WA: Kim Green (GIANTS Netball)

In her last season, Green left nothing in the tank with the veteran putting on a show in the attacking third. Her commitment to the ball, strength and pin point precision passes are second to none often slicing through opposition defence. Her drives to the top of the circle were a key feature of her game along with her quick hands circle edge to feed the ball into the shooters.

GA: Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds)

The Firebirds goal attack had a stellar 2019 season often steering the ship in attack. She was the first Australian to shoot 100 consecutive games at national level highlighting the impressive nature of her season. Tippett well and truly lifted her load in attack and backed herself from range credit to her growing confidence and plethora of skills. Her sheer athleticism and attacking flair proved hard to stop once again in season 2019 with Tippett taking her game to new heights.

GS: Jhaniele Fowler (West Coast Fever)

Fowler was the mainstay for the Fever under the post with the Jamaican shooter leading all comers with a season high 709 goals. She was cool, calm and composed with ball in hand and while at times she was forced to change up her game play and come out the circle she relished the opportunity to add another string to her bow. Fowler used her strength to hold space close to post and showcased her aerial skills continuously throughout the season to reign in errant passes.

BENCH: Gabi Simpson (Queensland Firebirds), Caitlin Bassett (GIANTS), Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever)

Simpson, Bassett and Bruce all played a huge role for their respective sides throughout 2019. Bruce missed large chunks of the season with an arm injury sustained early in the season and then a punctured lung. Although she had a relatively interrupted year she made the most of it when on court with her leadership and defensive prowess on full display. The Fever goal keeper notched up 77 deflections for her efforts displaying her ability to win ball back for her side. Sticking with the defensive element Simpson had a testing year with the Firebirds only managing the one win but led from the front. The Queensland wing defence worked tirelessly across the court to assist with transition while also applying strong defensive pressure to nullify her opponent earning herself a spot in the Draft Central Team of the Year. Australian Diamonds captain and GIANTS recruit Caitlin Bassett also left her mark on the competition with 492 goals. She adjusted her game play throughout the season working with English international Jo Harten with the two proving to be an ominous threat when on song.

NSW swiftly move onto finals after close encounter with Firebirds

NSW Swifts fans will be collectively sighing with relief after a heart-stopping one-goal win over Queensland Firebirds, 64-63. The teams might be pitted at opposite ends of the table, but with the Firebirds coming off their first win of the season last round, and the Swifts suffering a shock loss to Collingwood Magpies, the clash was a lot closer than ladder positions might suggest. Spectators at Qudos Bank Arena got everything they bargained for and more with arguably one of the most intense games of the season.

At first the Swifts raced away to a four-goal quarter time lead, having moved to as much as three goals ahead in the opening few minutes with English international star Helen Housby back in the fold after missing three weeks through injury. The goaling combination of Housby and Sam Wallace was back in full swing as the Swifts took control, but not before Gretel Tippett had a say midway through the term to level the scorers at eight goals apiece. A couple of crucial misses to Romelda Aiken was the only blemishes for the shooters, as Housby and Wallace shot six of the next seven goals after Aiken levelled the scores at 11-11. Trailing 17-12, the Firebirds managed to bridge the gap by one with an Aiken goal on the final whistle making the scores 18-14 at quarter time.

Wallace was firing on all cylinders with 11 goals from 11 attempts at 100 per cent, as Housby produced seven from seven and Tippett likewise six from six in a shooting masterclass. Natalie Haythornthwaite enjoyed having her countrywoman back in the goal circle, providing a remarkable 11 goal assists from 13 feeds, while all three of Paige Hadley‘s feeds resulted in goals, picking up an intercept at the same time. For the Firebirds, Caitlyn Nevins continued her terrific form from last game with four goal assists from nine feeds in the first term, as Jemma Mi Mi had six from eight, while Tara Hinchliffe picked up a crucial intercept.

The Firebirds owned the second quarter, with the visitors cutting the deficit to two in the opening couple of minutes, and by the four and a half minute mark of the term, scores were level. The Swifts goal combination was restricted to just seven goals in the first 10 minutes as the Firebirds raced out to a three-goal lead. Back-to-back goals and then four of the next six goals cut the deficit back to just one, before three consecutive Firebirds goals handed them a four goal lead. Wallace took two attempts to reduce the margin by the main break, but got it done with two seconds left on the clock.

Nevins was the star of the quarter with 12 goal assists from 15 feeds, while Tippett (10 goals from 12 assists) and Aiken (nine from 10) got the job done in the circle. Gabi Simpson locked down Haythornthwaite in the second term to restrict her to just three goal assists from six feeds after that massive first quarter, picking up an intercept and having a bigger role through the midcourt. Sarah Klau and Katrina Rore picked up a massive combined 17 penalties in the quarter, more than the entire Firebirds side as the likely wooden spooners held a remarkable 33-30 lead over the second placed Swifts at half-time.

The home crowd expected a big response from the Swifts to open the third term, but instead it was the Firebirds who came out with the intensity, firing off the first three goals of the quarter to stretch their lead out to a match-high six goals. It lit a fire under the Swifts belly as they sank 10 of the next 13 goals to not only eat into the deficit, but hit the front, 40-39. With the crowd up and about, the Firebirds needed a response of their own, and it came, with Aiken and Tippett adding three consecutive goals to push the margin back in their favour. The remainder of the quarter was largely goal-for-goal, with Wallace having a massive purple patch near the end of the term, scoring four of the last five goals as her side lead by one at the final break.

Wallace was the standout shooter in the term with 16 from 17, while Sophie Garbin took to the court and shot three from three, along with nine goal assists from 11 feeds to provide that spark in the attacking end and allowing Housby to take a break. Haythornthwaite managed six goal assists from 10 feeds, while Klau and Rore were both more efficient staying away from the whistle, only giving away a combined eight penalties in the quarter. Tippett continued her great accuracy with eight from eight, while Aiken had seven from eight, but the Firebirds struggled to penetrate the circle. Aiken had an equal team-high four goal assists to share the load with Tippett.

The final term was as even as they came with no more than two goals separating the sides at any one stage. Aiken put the visitors up by two, four minutes into the game, and while Wallace was able to level the scores, it was goal-for-goal for the most part right up until the end. Tippett took a huge intercept in the centre third and quickly transitioned down the court to put the Firebirds up by one with two minutes remaining, before Wallace levelled the scores, and then Housby sank the winner with 33 seconds on the clock, the Swifts defensive pressure enough to see them home. Wallace’s eight goals from eight attempts was superb as Housby re-entered the game in hot form contributing strongly with five goals, while Hadley had five goal assists from 13 feeds. Tippett again ran at 100 per cent with nine goals from nine attempts, while Nevins had a really productive seven assists from nine feeds, and Mi Mi produced four assists from her four feeds.

Tippett was announced Player of the Match despite the loss, for her 33 goals from 35 assists, as well as seven goal assists from 22 feeds, one intercept and one rebound. Nevins was also superb in her farewell game with 27 goal assists from 40 feeds, as Aiken shot 30 goals from 35 attempts, assisting Tippett on eight occasions from 10 feeds. For the Swifts, Wallace managed 43 goals from 45 attempts, both of her feeds were goal assists, and she picked up a feed and an intercept. Haythornthwaite and Hadley were still productive in the midcourt with a combined 37 goal assists, while the defensive end was penalised more than they would have liked with Diamond, Klau picking up a couple of cautions to go with her 21 penalties. Overall the Swifts move through to face Sunshine Coast Lightning for a spot in the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final, while the Firebirds season comes to an end.

STARTING LINE-UPS:

NSW Swifts:

GS | Sam Wallace
GA | Helen Housby
WA | Natalie Haythornthwaite
C | Paige Hadley
WD | Maddy Turner
GD | Sarah Klau
GK | Katrina Rore

Queensland Firebirds:

GS | Romelda Aiken
GA | Gretel Tippett
WA | Caitlyn Nevins
C | Jemma Mi Mi
WD | Gabi Simpson
GD | Kim Jenner
GK | Tara Hinchliffe

SSN Round 14 Preview – Final round to determine minor premier

THE final round of 2019 has hit Suncorp Super Netball, with both Collingwood Magpies and GIANTS Netball still fighting for one spot in the top four while the title of minor premiers will be decided by this round’s results. The only position secured in the top four is the Melbourne Vixens in third, while all three of their fellow top four sides will take on teams far below them on the ladder.

GIANTS Netball v. West Coast Fever

The opening match of Round 13 will see GIANTS fight for their spot in finals, currently sitting in fourth but needing a big win to ensure they finish ahead of the Magpies on the ladder. The Fever are well and truly out of the finals race after a breakout season last year crumbling with injuries aplenty in 2019, once again missing Courtney Bruce this round after scans revealed a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) meaning she is unable to fly, let alone play. While the GIANTS’ physicality on court has been called into question in recent weeks, their ability to get the job done under pressure is credit to their connections and combination of experience and youth across the court. Amy Parmenter has starred this season in wing defence, adding a new element to the GIANTS’ defensive lineup while Kim Green will play her final home game – and potentially final game altogether – after announcing her retirement today. While goalers Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett had a shaky start to the season there is no questioning their ability to turn and shoot, while Kiera Austin continues to provide an exciting alternative rotating through both goal attack and wing attack. For the Fever, Olivia Lewis is another youngster coming through the ranks with adaptability and talent to boot, and while lacking experience Lewis has been a solid option in Bruce’s absence this season pairing with the likes of Stacey Francis and Shannon Eagland. Ingrid Colyer has had a mostly inconsistent season and was held well by Firebirds’ Gabi Simpson last round so will be under the pump against Parmenter.

NSW Swifts v. Queensland Firebirds

In a big switch compared to the last time these sides met, the Swifts come in to Round 14 after a loss last week while the Firebirds finally got their maiden win for the season against the Fever. With NSW looking for a home final, this match will also see the Swifts look toward a top spot finish after being bumped into second by the Lightning. Last time these sides met the Swifts came out 22 point victors despite captain Maddy Proud going down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. They will welcome back dominant shooter Helen Housby after missing the past two rounds with injury. While both Sophie Garbin and Nat Haythornthwaite have rotated through goal attack in recent weeks with relative success, it does mean more pressure is on Sam Wallace at the post. The big goal for the Swifts will be to stop Gretel Tippett, who has been arguably the best goal attack in the competition this season with accuracy, volume and excitement going in her favour. Katrina Rore has been a big in for the Swifts in recent weeks with her versatility key, meaning she could line up against Tippett if the scales start to tip, making for an interesting contest. Meanwhile, this will be the Firebirds’ final match for the season with Caitlyn Nevins and Laura Clemesha pulling on the purple dress for the final time before retirement. Romelda Aiken did not play last time the Firebirds took on the Swifts, meaning Sarah Klau will be under some pressure to keep her at bay while Lenize Potgieter can also provide a big threat at the post with her low-release shot and quick footwork.

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Adelaide Thunderbirds

Sunshine Coast may already know prior to their match whether they have secured the minor premiership, however they are sure to finish the season strong regardless after another impressive season. Lightning are still the only side that has not played in a draw this season showing their ability to close out games. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds have showed some impressive fight this year but have well and truly succumbed to injury with Sasha Glasgow and Emma Ryde both out of the side with knee injuries suffered in Round 13, adding on to their already extensive list. While the Thunderbirds put up an impressive performance last time they met, going down by six goals after leading at three quarter time, the Lightning came back from a 10 goal deficit last week against the Vixens to win and are sure to switch on early this match to ensure they get a win on the board. The real question in this match is who the Thunderbirds will bring in as injury replacements, with both Charlee Hodges and Cody Lange viable options to rejoin the gameday squad. Maria Folau has been in form all season shooting a bag of goals every round from all over the ring while Shamera Sterling continues to prove a massive threat in defence with her height and agility to get plenty of ball back an asset for the Thunderbirds. But while the T’birds have plenty up their sleeve, Lightning not only match it defensively thanks to the skill and timing of Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni creating turnovers out of nothing, but also have Laura Langman‘s speed through the midcourt and versatility in attack to be threatening all over the court.

Collingwood Magpies v. Melbourne Vixens

The final match of the season pits the two Victorian teams against the other once more, but this time with different stakes – the Vixens have already secured a home final, while the Magpies need a win to jump the GIANTS and make finals. While the Vixens will want to get one back after losing to the Pies for the first time in SSN history in Round 7, it will be interesting to see whether they look to try and knock the Magpies out of contention or rest some of their big name players in time for finals. The Magpies will be missing Kelsey Browne with their star wing attack going down with a devastating ACL injury last round against the Swifts. Defensive midcourter Ash Brazill has been in exceptional form since the Netball World Cup break, playing out in centre for the past few weeks and providing a massive threat through both attack and defence. Veteran defender Geva Mentor put out a vintage performance last week to spur the Pies to victory, meaning the Vixens will really be under the pump this week if she is on song. The Vixens have been feeling out different attacking connections in recent weeks with Mwai Kumwenda back in the mix with Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip, and while that is a huge luxury and threat to their opposition it has been their downfall against both the Swifts and Lightning over the past few rounds. Meanwhile Shimona Nelson and Nat Medhurst have been in great form over the past few rounds, finding the ball with ease making it a tough job for Jo Weston and Emily Mannix in defence.

Firebirds get maiden win to continue streak over Fever

QUEENSLAND Firebirds finally had the game they have been waiting for this season, running home in the final quarter to defeat the West Coast Fever by six goals (68-62). Fever were missing captain Courtney Bruce allowing the Firebirds to take full advantage of their understrength defensive unit to claim their first victory of the season – and their first in over a year. Meanwhile, this victory means the Fever are still yet to beat the Firebirds since the inception of Suncorp Super Netball.

It was an even start, with neither team able to take control but also struggling to find easy avenues into the goal circle with plenty of opportunities to feed in but ball placement not allowing the goalers to go to post. Lenize Potgieter started in goal shooter for the Firebirds with Gretel Tippett, switching up the typical circle gameplay of the Queensland side in recent weeks. Potgieter was held well early by young gun Olivia Lewis, who racked up two gains credit to her elevation and hands over pressure on Potgieter’s low-release shot. But while the Firebirds were held well early in the quarter, a big change in the opening minutes saw Romelda Aiken take the court in goal keeper to line up on her Jamaican teammate, Jhaniele Fowler. Aiken’s height gave her the advantage the side was missing, picking up a valuable rebound to send the ball back up the court and spur her side into action in attack. The second quarter saw Fever wrestle back some control, gaining some important ground and narrowing the margin heading into half time down by only three goals. Fowler continued to rule the roost in goal shooter, shooting 15 goals helping her side claim their first bonus point of the game. Meanwhile Potgieter and Tippett shared the load at the other end shooting at 100 per cent for the quarter with 14 goals. Although Fowler still gained plenty of ball, Aiken’s stature in goal keeper went a long way in confusing the Fever feeders and forcing them to think before passing into the circle.

Both sides made a smattering of changes in the third term, unafraid to shake things up. Aiken returned to her regular starting position in goal shooter, teaming up with Tippett for another accurate quarter, while Fowler found plenty of ball in the circle against Tara Hinchliffe in goal keeper but to no avail, uncharacteristically missing three goals for the term. While Fever still won the third quarter, the Firebirds kept their nose in front up by two goals at the final change, giving the side something to drive with in the final term in the hope of getting their first 2019 win on the board. The final term saw the Firebirds well and truly put on the accelerator, shooting 20 goals to 16 to run away with the six goal victory. Gabi Simpson seemed to switch on in the second half, providing a massive threat through the midcourt and shutting down both Ingrid Colyer and Verity Charles in turn – limiting Colyer to only 11 assists from almost three quarters in wing attack. Fever were well and truly disheartened in the final term while Firebirds seemed to be brimming with confidence, seeing both Tippett and Aiken taking shots from distance safe in the knowledge that Simpson would lead from defence and find a way to turn the ball back over.

Caitlyn Nevins was back to her usual form ahead of retirement in the coming weeks, finishing with 23 assists from 38 feeds and 36 centre pass receives, finding good space around the circle and firing on all cylinders in the final quarter. Tippett finished yet another game at 100 per cent accuracy, shooting 30 goals and aided by both Potgieter (19 from 21) and Aiken (19 from 22) who in turn provided valuable yet different options at the post to keep the home side on their toes. For Fever, Fowler was prolific with 58 goals from 65 attempts at 89 per cent, while Alice Teague-Neeld only put four goals on the board from seven attempts but collected 22 goal assists and 18 centre pass receives. While it certainly was not the cleanest victory they could hope for, the Firebirds got away with their first win for the season along with six ladder points that may not elevate them off the bottom of the ladder but certainly put a spark back into an ultimately lacklustre season.

STARTING SEVEN

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

Queensland Firebirds
GS | Lenize Potgieter
GA | Gretel Tippett
WA | Caitlyn Nevins
C | Jemma Mi Mi
WD | Gabi Simpson
GD | Kim Jenner
GK | Tara Hinchliffe