Tag: geva mentor

Firebirds come from behind to win final match of season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vixens

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

Firebirds

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

2020 Suncorp Super Netball preview: Round 14

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

Collingwood Magpies v. Queensland Firebirds
Saturday, 26 September

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

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

NSW Swifts v. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, 26 September

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

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

West Coast Fever v. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Saturday, 26 September

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

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

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Melbourne Vixens
Sunday, 27 September

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

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

2020 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.

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.

SSN Momentum Shifts: Round 13

THE penultimate round of Suncorp Super Netball saw some phenomenal matchups across every games and some highly talented players take the court. The condensed fixture and introduction of rolling subs this year have seen plenty of young names already jump on the court and have a huge impact despite their lack of experience. We take a look at each game and note which players shifted the gears and switched up the momentum.

Collingwood Magpies (53) defeated by Sunshine Coast Lightning (63)

The positional switch through the midcourt for the Lightning changed the momentum early as the connection between Laura Langman and Steph Wood impressed. Playing in wing defence to start the match, Langman’s drive and class was missed through the attacking third as Maddy McAuliffe got the nod in centre before moving back into the wing defence slot. But once the change was made the Lightning clicked into gear, finding space in the attacking third as Wood and Langman linked up with ease while Cara Koenen dominated under the post with her sidestep on Geva Mentor. The fast moving Sunshine Coast frontline seemed to be humming as they had the ball on a string and capitalised on their opportunities as the likes of Jodi-Ann Ward struggled to inject herself into the game.

West Coast Fever (71)  defeated GIANTS Netball (66)

The introduction of Kaylia Stanton seemed to be the piece missing in the Fever attack line with Alice Teague-Neeld held goalless and unable to have her usual influence out the front in terms of goal assists. Stanton came to life in the second quarter, subsequently forcing the hand of the GIANTS with April Brandley entering the game as they reshuffled the defensive cards. Stanton’s influence started to come into play with the goal attack spotting Jhaniele Fowler with relative ease and most importantly hitting the scoreboard herself. The cogs started to tick over in the Fever frontline as the move of Verity Charles into wing attack and Jess Anstiss into centre really started to motor and swing momentum into their favour. Fowler’s dominance was paramount, overcoming the physicality of Sam Poolman as the Fever piled on 21 goals in the third term to steal the lead and flex their muscles.

Adelaide Thunderbirds (54) defeated by NSW Swifts (57)

After playing majority of the game in wing attack, Georgie Horjus slotted into her more familiar role of goal attack in the final quarter and made a real difference. Although the Thunderbirds fell agonisingly short, going down by three goals, the youngster shifted the momentum into the favour of Adelaide with her long bomb shooting coming to the fore. The final minute and half of the game however was played on the Swifts terms with the reigning premiers showcasing why they are finals bounds with their composure and ability to treasure possession to keep the Thunderbirds at bay. The defensive pressure from Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner was testament to the Swifts skill while the accurate shooting from Sophie Garbin and Helen Housby put a dampener on the Thunderbirds come back.

Melbourne Vixens (58) defeated by Queensland Firebirds (64)

The defensive pressure stemming from Kim Jenner, Tara Hinchliffe and Gabi Simpson across the four quarters was undeniable. After coming off a relatively quiet performance Simpson was on fire throughout their clash with the minor premiers forcing Tayla Honey to the bench and steadily nullifying the influence of Elle McDonald around circle edge to pick up a wealth of ball. Her effort out the front alongside Mahalia Cassidy enabled the likes of Jenner and Hinchliffe to go to work and collect intercepts and deflections aplenty down back. Their constant physicality and arms over pressure caused the Melbourne Vixens to tinker with their shooting combinations as Tegan Philip, Caitlin Thwaites and Mwai Kumwenda all rotated through the circle but failed to get the wood over their opponents as the Firebirds defenders consistently sensed the switch in momentum and stopped the Vixens in their tracks to get the win.

SSN Stats wrap: Round 12

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

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

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

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

Lightning grind out 10-goal win against Collingwood to hold onto second spot

KICKING off Indigenous Round in style, the battle between the Sunshine Coast Lightning and Collingwood Magpies was tight to start with before the two-time premiers showed their class and poise to secure a 10-goal victory (53-63). The momentum shifted slightly throughout the game however the Lightning maintained relative control unfazed by Collingwood’s attempts.

It was a goal attack shoot out to start the game as both Gabby Sinclair and Steph Wood opened the accounts for their respective sides before the goal shooters injected themselves into the game. Collingwood applied a wealth of pressure in defence, clogging up the space for the Lightning attackers and forcing them to work in overdrive to hit circle edge. A missed shot at the hands of Shimona Nelson sent the Lightning into transition as they skipped out a to a two goal lead thanks to Cara Koenen finding her groove under the post with her impressive timing and baseline drives. Up the other end, Phumza Maweni was proving to be a menace creating doubt in the feeders’ minds and most importantly winning back a wealth of ball.

The Lightning seemed to swing the ball across the court with great ease and precision to open up the options in attack and keep the Collingwood defenders guessing. Playing out in wing defence, albeit not for long, Laura Langman was proving to be a handful with the Kiwi international showcasing her hands over pressure to create turnovers. Establishing a five goal lead in favour of the Lightning, the Magpies called a timeout and capitalised instantly. Their purple patch continued as they pegged the margin back to two goals as the momentum ebbed and flowed throughout the quarter. With less than five minutes on the clock Collingwood drew level but Sunshine Coast fought back with Koenen leading the way under the post with her fancy footwork and shooter to shooter interplay with Wood. A rush of blood seemed to plague both teams as the ball trickled over the boundary line however the Lightning’s control gifted them a four goal buffer.

A couple of changes in attack did not seem to faze the Lightning with Peace Proscovia entering the game with great confidence while Koenen continued her merry way in goal attack. Maweni came out with a real fire in the belly taking a huge intercept in the opening minute of the quarter as Sunshine Coast looked to put the foot down. Laura Scherian started to motor in wing attack after being well held by Mel Bragg in the opening term with the wing attack finding good space in the pockets. The Lightning had a point to prove pushing out to a seven goal lead as their connections in the goal circle started to settle. However, Collingwood continued to tussle and while they laboured down the court Nelson managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Wood made her way back onto the court combining with Proscovia while for Collingwood Kelly Altmann and Molly Jovic swapped bibs. Altmann had an immediate impact in centre picking up a loose ball in defence as the Pies scored back-to-back goals to cut the margin to six goals. Jodi-Ann Ward worked her way into the contest, getting hands to ball to create timely tips but the Magpies seemed relatively disjointed through the centre. Bragg injected some defensive flair with her work around circle edge to throw herself at everything as Sinclair delivered up the other end with the super shot. But the experience of Wood came to the fore as the goal attack sunk consecutive super shots allowing the Lightning to regain an eight goal lead.

Bragg came out with a spring in her step, gobbling up a couple of huge intercepts and sending the Pies into attack. She was involved in just about everything with her drive out muscling Scherian. Binnian Hunt made her way onto the court and was involved in the action straight away with a huge rejection and follow up hustle to regain possession. After somewhat of a quiet first half Karla Pretorius sprung into the game with an intercept as increased defensive pressure seemed to be the method for both sides. It was goal for goal for the first five minutes or so as neither team could assert themselves however the Lightning retained their eight goal margin.

Still trying to wrestle momentum into their favour Collingwood pulled the trigger with Nyah Allen making her way onto the court, replacing Sinclair as Matilda Garrett also pulled on the goal defence bib. Geva Mentor continued to be a ball winning machine for the Pies with her work to read the play and swat away ball time and time again to try and slow down the Lightning attack but it was simply not enough as they trailed by nine at three quarter time.

The last quarter continued at a relatively frantic pace however the Lightning managed to extend the lead as their cleanliness came into play. The shooter to shooter interplay between Wood and Koenen was near on unstoppable as Mentor and Garrett continuously got caught out by their speed. both sides rung in the changes with Ashlee Unie getting the nod at goal defence and starring with a huge intercept while for Collingwood Tyler Orr pulled on the centre bib in the second half of the quarter. Collingwood really rallied in the backend of the term with the defence taking it up a notch as Sinclair sunk a timely super shot to get back within six. In the end, the Lightning flexed their muscles running away with a 10-goal victory with the stellar performance from Maweni playing a key role.

Koenen continued to be a menace under the post, picking up where she left off last round with 41 goals at 91 per cent while Wood was equally as impressive especially from range nailing four super shots from five attempts while also recording 21 goal assists. Nelson was the main avenue to goal for the black and white with the goal shooter converting 40 goals from 44 attempts while Sinclair was crafty out the front amassing 17 goal assists to accompany her 10 goals. In defence, Mentor was a lynchpin for the Pies collecting two intercepts and nine deflections as the Lightning defensive duo of Pretorius and Maweni picked up plenty of ball, with the latter walking away with the player of the match thanks to her stats-stuffing performance of five intercepts, four gains and 10 deflections.

>>> MAGPIES TEAM PAGE
>>> LIGHTNING TEAM PAGE
>>> FULL MATCH STATS

— 

Collingwood Magpies 12 | 15 | 13 | 13 (53)
Sunshine Coast Lightning 16 | 19 | 14 | 14 (63)

STARTING SEVEN: 

Collingwood Magpies:

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

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

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

Future Roses: Who will make their mark for England in the coming years?

DESPITE the cancellation of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) this year, several of the up and coming stars for England have still had the opportunity to train at the elite level in 2020 through the Roses Futures programme. We at Draft Central cast our eye over some of those athletes, along with a couple of names who we are likely to hear more from over the coming seasons. The Roses Futures programme over the past few years has helped to nurture a strong cohort of athletes who will be ready to step onto the international stage when their time comes.

ATTACK

The future shooting circle of the Roses is looking bright, with several youngsters already making their mark on the Superleague stage and gaining valuable experience under pressure. Whilst we are likely to see Jo Harten, Helen Housby and George Fisher around for the next few years, there are a few players who will be snapping at their heels for a starting spot in the years to come. 

Olivia Tchine – London Pulse

Standing at 191cm, Tchine is a tall shooter of high calibre. This is her second year in the Roses Futures programme and she was due to compete at the World Youth Cup in Fiji in 2021. While the competition is currently postponed, her strong hold and accuracy to post would make her a useful option for the Roses, and she will have enjoyed the chance to learn from an experienced international level shooter in Sigi Burger whilst at London Pulse this season. 

Berri Neil – Manchester Thunder

There’s a lot to like about this young shooter who made her mark at the senior Netball Europe Open competition when she was just 16. Tipped by some as the next Housby, Neil’s clever movement and strong drives in attack are a standout of her game. Whilst she has not yet been named in the Roses Futures programme, her journey through the Roses Academy and Under 21s level is already progressing well beyond her years. She was recently promoted from being a training partner to earning a place the senior squad for Manchester Thunder, and her talents will only grow with more exposure at the elite level. 

MIDCOURT

Through the midcourt, England are developing a number of potential stars of the future. These youngsters are able to learn from some of the world’s best in Jade Clarke, Serena Guthrie and Chelsea Pitman. The midcourt has historically always been an area of strength for England, and alongside the full-time senior Roses, these talented athletes are likely to continue that trend beyond the Netball World Cup in 2023. 

Kira Rothwell – London Pulse

Similar to the likes of a Nat Haythornthwaite or Kiera Austin, Rothwell is confident to swing between wing attack and goal attack, making her a threatening option in any lineup. She has the speed to burn and whilst she is not the tallest player her nippy footwork and confidence to shoot from range make her a valuable asset. She has been on the England scene since she was selected for the EN National Academy in 2016 and has performed with confidence whenever she has stepped out onto the VNSL court. 

Amy Carter – Manchester Thunder

Carter impressed fans at the 2020 Netball Nations Cup with her gutsy performance and energy in the midcourt. She is a workhorse and the sort of player who can dig deep when a game gets tough in order to lift the team. Carter was also part of the 2019 VNSL Championship Thunder team and has already tasted success for England at U21 level. She is a tenacious and talented player, who can tire out her opponent and also make use of her excellent vision when feeding the circle. We are likely to see a lot more of her on the international stage over the next few years. 

Iona Christian – Wasps Netball

A product of the Manchester Thunder Pathway and England Youth setup, Christian has plied her trade on the Superleague stage for several years. She is a classy player who can provide a huge amount of consistency and easily dictate the tempo of the match. Having moved from Severn Stars to Wasps Netball in 2020 she has the opportunity to cement her place as a core part of the two time Superleague Championship side. This exposure will be a chance for Christian to grow in confidence and demonstrate her experience on court when it comes to senior England selection. 

DEFENCE

Defensively the Roses have a number of very exciting young athletes in the development pathway. Under the tutelage of England legend Sonia Mkoloma, who was named as an Assistant Coach for the most recent test series, these players have the best chance of fulfilling their huge potential. From Geva Mentor and Stacey Francis to players like Fran Williams and Razia Quashie coming up the ranks, the defensive end for England is extremely competitive, and the addition of the youth coming through will cause headaches for selectors. 

Halimat Adio – London Pulse

With her height and physical presence on court, Adio has all the components of a very strong defender at the elite level. Having moved to Pulse for the 2020 season, Adio was awarded the responsibility of co-captain, an appointment which demonstrates her leadership ability at such a young age. She is a leader both on and off the court, and having not played a full season at Superleague level due to the cancellation, it is impressive how she has managed to make such an impression on the UK netball scene.

Funmi Fadoju – London Pulse

After an outstanding performance at Netball Europe, followed by breaking onto the Superleague scene in 2020 it was surprising that Fadoju was not selected for the Roses Futures programme. The young defender is a natural ball winner, with fantastic athletic ability and a read of the game which is well beyond her years. She is a player with an enormous amount of potential and someone we will most likely see dominate in the red dress over the coming years.

2020 SSN Preview: Round 13 – Collingwood Magpies vs. Sunshine Coast Lightning

IN the standalone midweek game, Collingwood Magpies and Sunshine Coast Lightning are set to lock horns with the latter hoping to secure second spot on the ladder. It has been a trying season for the Magpies, losing a couple of key cogs over the off-season and then being marred with injury throughout their 2020 campaign while the Lightning have been solid, but yet to peak.

Collingwood Magpies vs. Sunshine Coast Lightning
Wednesday, 16 September

Round 13 marks Indigenous Round with the contest between the two sides taking place at Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre. Sitting at vastly different ends of the table and with pride on the line for the Magpies expect them to come out all guns blazing as Sunshine Coast hope to find some continuity heading into the finals series. Both sides have a couple of key players able to change the course of the game, however the experience and class of the Lightning could prove too much for the black and white who have had patches of brilliance have struggled with consistency.

In the goal circle, Shimona Nelson has pulled together a couple of strong performances starring in the air and most importantly converting while her connection with Gabby Sinclair is steadily developing. Sinclair has proven that she can be a real menace when it comes to the super shot, however another menace is that of Karla Pretorius with the goal defence coming off her 100th game and another strong outing. Pretorius is building some hot form at the right time for the Lightning while partner in crime Phumza Maweni has showcased she is no easy beat under the ring with her impressive positioning on the rebound and read of the play to go out hunting. The possibility of a moving circle could favour the Pies if the likes of Nyah Allen was to come onto the court and nail the super shots, and while Emma Ryde offers a similar style to Nelson, she is another option if things are not going to plan in the circle for Collingwood.

Through the midcourt the Lightning have no shortage of international experience with Laura Langman headlining the centre third. Langman is a real barometer for the side acting as the link between defence and attack while her combination with Steph Wood is next level. The duo bring each other into the game and often seem to have the ball on a string while Laura Scherian is no slouch in wing attack with her ability to dart around the court and zip into the pockets to hit up the goalers with ease, meaning Collingwood’s Mel Bragg will have her hands full. Still finding their feet but well and truly proving their worth Molly Jovic and Kelly Altmann will have their work cut out for them up against the silky Lightning midcourt who are dogged in defence and attack. Jacqui Russell and Maddy McAuliffe consistently butter up therefore the cuts and drives of Altmann, Jovic and potentially Tyler Orr will have to be on song to keep them busy.

There are options aplenty inside the circle for the Lightning with Wood a real playmaker and super shot specialist while Cara Koenen is coming off an impressive 100 per cent accuracy shooting spree. Koenen has elevated her game to a whole other level in season 2020 but will be tested against experienced campaigner Geva Mentor with the Collingwood goal keeper in ripping form, able to read the play with ease and gobble up a wealth of ball. Although not registering as much court time as last season, Peace Proscovia should not be underestimated given her strong holds and rebounding abilities. Jodi-Ann Ward will have to keep Wood busy and keep her away from entering the circle while Matilda Garrett is another option for the Pies inside the defensive circle.

The Pies are renowned for their fast starts while the Lightning have been caught on the back foot in the past couple of weeks with their slower than usual start. If Collingwood can gain some early ascendancy it could set them up for a strong game however Sunshine Coast have all the tricks of the trade and ooze nothing but composure and netball smarts to consistently work their way back into the contest.

Draft Central Courtside Comments: Round 12 – Tayla Honey

EACH week the Draft Central team will focus on one Suncorp Super Netball player across the round and take a look at their individual highlights, key moments and improvements across their match. Our Round 12 focus is Melbourne Vixens’ Tayla Honey with the young wing attack handed her first starting appearance with Liz Watson out due to injury. Each set of notes showcases the opinions of our writers individually.

The young wing attack has not had a heap of court time in 2020, after a disrupted 2019 saw her sit on the sidelines and Watson’s continued dominance seeing coach Simone McKinnis have little need to replace her. But Honey got her chance to prove she is capable in Round 12, getting the starting wing attack bib and showcasing her potential with her zippy movement and ability to adapt to play. While not her most confident and impressive performance, Honey showcased some real potential with her quick ball movement and ability to turn on the defensive gears to win ball back with her hands over pressure, finishing with 11 goal assist from 21 feeds, 15 centre pass receives and a gain, but also with eight general play turnovers in her 39 minutes on court.

Here’s what we had to say:

By: Sophie Taylor, Draft Central Senior Editor

It was a relatively quiet match from Honey, who seemed to have gotten in her own head before the match started, lacking her usual composure with ball in hand. The speedster did not have a great start and really had to work hard to build into the game, while the Vixens’ slow start did not do her any favours and nor did Geva Mentor in defence, anticipating Honey’s ball placement with her high looping feeds playing into defenders’ hands at times. Kate Moloney’s confidence to pass off to Honey paid off as the first quarter went on, seeing the youngster eventually settling into the game. After amassing five turnovers in the first quarter, Honey cleaned up her act in the second to play a significant role drawing attention on circle edge to allow Moloney to control play in the Vixens’ dominant quarter. While she did make a few errors and did not re-take the court after three quarter time, Honey has plenty of development left and will relish the time she had on court to further her feeding craft, showcasing some good skills in her appearance.

By: Taylah Melki, Draft Central Managing Editor

Getting the nod in at wing attack due to Watson’s injury, Honey took a while to find her feet and overall had a relatively quiet performance. That being said, she had some good passages of play with her smooth movement to hit circle edge and secure prime spot at the top of the circle on show when on court. Honey sometimes got caught high on the transition and was unable to punch down the line in attack due to the defensive work of the Magpies to keep her out of the contest, but continued to push hard to have an influence. Her effort was unquestionable, constantly on the move and while she was not always used in attack she kept Mel Bragg busy with her footwork and hustle. Honey was not afraid to reset the play and go back to the transverse line to open up options inside the goal circle, showcasing her composure and netball smarts. Her quick and high release into Mwai Kumwenda was on song with the wing attack identifying the space and delivering the ball into the goal shooter confidence.

By: Lucy Pollock, Draft Central UK Writer

Honey took a few minutes to warm into the game against the Magpies, which is to be expected due to her limited experience playing at SSN level. With this in mind, she did well as she has plenty of speed to burn and the ability to lose her defender easily and hit circle edge. It is a difficult task to try and fill the shoes of one of the best in the game in Watson, and Honey’s nervous start led to a couple of early turnovers and misfeeds. She made up for it with her defensive hustle and was well matched for height against Bragg. Honey started to get into her stride in the second quarter as the Vixens took the lead but was still a little bit too tentative to command the attacking end and set up plays. She was almost waiting to see what Tegan Philip and Moloney would do and responding to that, rather than following her own instincts and being direct. She went to the bench in the third quarter having put out a solid performance in terms of feeds and centre pass receives, and has all the makings of a reliable and speedy wing attack. 

By: Jarrad Gardner, Centre Pass Podcast host

Honey stepped up in the absence of Watson and played a strong role in the Vixens win in Round 12. She had a few shaky moments early on as the Magpies’ defenders put on the pressure and forced multiple turnovers throughout the first quarter however once Honey settled, she was able to get the ball into her shooters with relative ease. Her speed and agility was a major asset as the Vixens looked to move the ball quickly down the court and on the defensive side, she along with Moloney were able to force multiple deflections and keep the ball in the Vixens’ attacking half. As long as she can clean up her errant passing, Honey could be a vital cog in the Vixens’ shot at the premiership.

By: Kate Cornish, Draft Central volunteer writer

It can be daunting to sit in the shadows of an established player in any netball team, however when that team is the Melbourne Vixens and the long shadow that is cast belongs to a Diamond called Liz Watson, some might find it overwhelming. In Round 12 Honey was the wing attack chosen by coach McKinnis to fill the shoes left by Watson, who was being rested after rolling her ankle in Round 11. Honey, who has been a training partner since 2017 had Bragg to contend with for the 40 minutes she was on court and while the Vixens had a slow start, Honey alone counted for five of the nine general play turnovers that her team had in the first 15 minutes, and that may have thrown her confidence for the rest of the game. When Honey was not over-thinking on court, she was good for the Vixens. She provided options in attack and when she wasn’t used the first time, she would work hard to offer again. As a feeder she was quick to find the circle after the first phase off the centre pass and she had a lovely high release of the ball from her shoulder, when she was feeding the ball to Kumwenda. Honey’s performance in this game was not reflective of the talent we know she has or how we have seen her play in bursts over this 2020 season, and while the stat of eight turnovers while on court does not truly reflect the solid work that Honey did during this very intense match, being benched for the final 20 minutes could indicate that McKinnis felt she needed to steady the attack line and it certainly gives Honey something tangible to work on moving forward.