THE Collingwood Magpies have swooped on the Suncorp Super Netball competition, clinching two huge wins in as many days to give themselves a fighting chance of making the finals, downing the Queensland Firebirds in a competition-first Pride Match at Nissan Arena on Thursday night. The Firebirds suffered some key losses over the past week and it showed on the court, as the renewed Magpies came out blazing, holding on in a tight final quarter to claim the 66-59 victory.
It was a tight start between the two sides, as both teams came out firing and not giving an inch throughout the contest. Whilst it was the Romelda Aiken show out the front for the Firebirds, with the Jamaican finding plenty of space early on despite the tight marking from Geva Mentor, a shared effort from Shimona Nelson and Gabby Sinclair seemed to do the trick as the Magpies’ goalers worked seamlessly to create chances out the front, with Sinclair’s long range shooting ability on full show with a couple of early super shots on the board allowing the Magpies to get the upper hand. Kim Ravaillion worked in overdrive to find entry into the goal circle as Gretel Bueta was kept quiet by an in-form Jodi-Ann Ward, with the goal defence relentless from the opening whistle and showing no signs of stopping. While Ravaillion fired out the front, her direct opposition in livewire Molly Jovic was no slouch and wreaked havoc of her own out the front, teaming well with Kelsey Browne to find Nelson and Sinclair with ease. A Sinclair super shot put a nail in the coffin of the first quarter, as the Magpies came away with a 19-13 lead at the first break.
The Magpies had a couple early chances to pile on the pressure in the second, missing a couple opportunities with three shots within the opening minute and sinking just one as the Firebirds made them pay with three straight off the hand of Aiken. An unprecedented change was made as Sinclair was forced off the court momentarily with a dislocated finger – but fortunately was back later in the quarter – but the Magpies took hold of every opportunity that came their way as Kalifa McCollin was injected into the fray. Nelson continued to rule the roost though, working around Rudi Ellis seamlessly to find and slot into the back space, as the Firebirds made the switch in the front-end with Tippah Dwan entering the contest to create a moving circle. But every time the Firebirds looked like they were getting going, it was the Magpies that found a way, as Ward continued to be a threat in the back-line, while Ruby Bakewell-Doran tried her hand on Browne and picked up an intercept for her troubles as aa tight second quarter saw the Magpies add a goal to their lead with a 34-27 scoreline at the main break.
A goal for goal start to the second half did not last long, as Nelson continued to assert herself on the contest and wreak havoc under the post with her great reach and accuracy. Ellis worked hard to limit Nelson’s impact while Sinclair did not put up a wealth of shots but ensured she kept Kim Jenner busy and away from the action, as the goal attack fired pass after pass into the circle. A couple of Magpies runs kept the Firebirds at an arm’s length, and the Firebirds were laboured in attack as Lara Dunkley and Ravaillion continued to work in overdrive but to no avail as Ash Brazill, Mentor and Ward asserted their dominance in the backline. While the Magpies pulled away in patches, putting up two goals for each Firebirds shot, two late super shots from Dwan pulled back the margin to eight goals, and another could have chipped back the margin even further as a miss allowed the Magpies to finish off on a high with a 10-goal lead heading into the final change.
Inaccuracy was an issue for the Firebirds as the final quarter began, with Aiken returning to the fray and putting up three goals from five attempts in the opening minutes to pin back the margin slightly, as the Magpies made them pay for it with five straight to show how it was done, with Nelson’s three book-ended by Sinclair’s goals. Another miss from Aiken proved how much of an impact Mentor and Ward were having down back, as Bueta cleaned up the scraps to continue her solid outing. But while the Magpies had all the momentum early, the Firebirds clicked into gear as the quarter went on, lacking the hunt of Gabi Simpson but with Jenner and Ellis imposing themselves well. But it was too little, too late, as the Firebirds looked to the super shot to get them over the line, with a couple of chances going missing as Aiken looked to post from all around the circle, but missed six of her last 10 attempts of the match as the Magpies outlasted the Firebirds comeback to claim a seven-goal victory, 66-59.
For the in-form Magpies, Nelson impressed once more firing with 49 goals from 51attempts, as Sinclair’s hot start was hampered by her finger injury but still finished with 14 goals from 19 attempts and 18 goal assists. Browne (22 assists) and Jovic (16 assists and one intercept) were also hard to stop, while Ward was fired up finishing with five gains (two intercepts), as Mentor picked up two gains and four pickups. For the Firebirds, it was an inaccurate showing from Aiken who seemed shaky with 29 goals from 42 attempts, including two super shots, as Bueta (18 from 21) and Dwan (seven from 10) held up well. Ravaillion finished with 17 assists to lead all comers with Dunkley next in line with 12 and two gains, while Ellis held up well to record five gains (one intercept). Jenner, Dwan and Bakewell-Doran all collection one intercept apiece.
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS | 13 | 14 | 14 | 18 (59)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES | 19 | 15 | 17 | 15 (66)
GS: Romelda Aiken
GA: Gretel Bueta
WA: Lara Dunkley
C: Kim Ravaillion
WD: Gabi Simpson
GD: Kim Jenner
GK: Rudi Ellis
GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Gabby Sinclair
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Molly Jovic
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor
Picture credit: Chris Hyde/Getty Images