Tag: kalifa mccollin

Fever torch Pies to remain undefeated in season 2021

WEST Coast Fever made it six on the trot with a strong performance against Collingwood Magpies (78-55). It was all one way traffic and while the Pies made somewhat of a comeback in the third term it was not enough to ruffle the feathers of the Fever who had the game on their terms from go-to-woe.

Boasting two power shooters in Jhaniele Fowler and Shimona Nelson for West Coast Fever and Collingwood Magpies respectively it a battle of the towering goalers. Fowler was a rock in the goal circle using her added centimetres to reel the high looping pass in while the predictable nature for Collingwood allowed Courtney Bruce to get hands to ball. Despite Bruce having an influence early the Pies were not fazed as they continued to bomb it long. It was goal for goal for majority of the term before the Fever started to pull away thanks to some strong hands over pressure.

Getting the nod at goal attack this week Sasha Glasgow made her mark felt landing the first super shot of the game to keep the Fever ticking along. West Coast nudged out to a five goal lead before Gabby Sinclair got one back for the Pies. It was becoming the Fowler show with the towering goaler shaking up her game style up to play not only a holding goaler but so too a moving one, not afraid to dart out of the circle and then lead back in. The transitional play from the Fever was causing all sorts of pain for Collingwood as the ball darted from one end of the court to the other in a heartbeat. Jess Anstiss showcased her dare to come screaming through for an intercept with Fowler converting under the post. the Fever monopolised the play for the final minutes, heading into the break with a 10-goal lead.

Ash Brazill came out with a point to prove in the second term getting hands to ball nice and early but the ball was lost in transition with the Fever able to extend their lead once again. it was laboured in attack for the Pies as Bruce, Sunday Aryang and Stacey Francis-Bayman won ball back time and time again. the trio were causing all sorts of chaos down back, stopping Collingwood in their tracks and then transitioning through court with great speed. fowler was in dominant form with the goal shooter nailing 22 goals straight and proving to be a real thorn in the Pies’ side.

The wheels really started to fall off for Collingwood as West Coast Fever snuck out to a 16-goal lead. Kelsey Browne was struggling to find her timing in attack with her second phase drives a couple of seconds off as Francis-Bayman used her long arms to get in Browne’s head. With the super shot period in play, Sinclair nailed a handy two-point goal before Kalifa McCollin was injected into the goal shooter position. but she lacked the potency, with her first shot an airball. The changes did not step there as Jodi-Ann Ward swung out to wing defence as Jacqui Newton pulled on the goal defence bib. Bruce was making a nuisance of herself with the Fever goal keeper wearing McCollin like a glove and imposing herself with her three-foot mark over the shot. The lead pushed out to 19 goals with Glasgow sinking consecutive super shots as the Fever oozed control and class.

The Fever continued their merry way with their silky connections through the midcourt coming to the fore. The decision to have Jess Anstiss through the centre and Verity Charles in wing attack worked wonders as the duo found Fowler with great ease. Speaking of dynamic midcourts, Collingwood’s duo of Browne and Brazill increased their load in attack with their footspeed and vision bringing Nelson into the game. Collingwood managed to peg back the lead to 17 goals credit to some strong attacking passages but any errant landed in the hands of the Fever. Collingwood’s fightback continued as Geva Mentor asserted herself on the contest to swing the momentum in favour of the black and white for the first time since the opening quarter.

The Fever went back to basics as Glasgow proved to be an integral link between the midcourt and goal circle but Collingwood’s mini charge continued slowly pegging away at the deficit. The Fever maintained a 17-goal buffer and with the Pies needing a change in the goal circle, McCollin made her way back onto the court. Brazill pulled out some Brazill magic with a crafty intercept to inspire her side as Collingwood closed the gap to 14 goals at three quarter time.

With it all to play for in the final quarter, Alice Teague-Neeld made her way onto the court in goal attack and found her groove relatively quickly to dish the ball off to Fowler. Bruce was unstoppable with her hunt and tenacity on full display but McCollin proved anything you can do, I can do better with a deflection. Mel Bragg was injected into the game in hope to limit the speed in attack but the Fever looked unfazed able to go about their business in a cool, calm and collected manner. Teague-Neeld was having a field day with her to secure a 23-goal win.

Fowler finished with 59 goals from 60 attempts while Glasgow was incredibly accurate from super shot range managing five goals. Charles was a force to be reckoned with around circle edge amassing 20 goal assists while defensively Bruce was a menace racking up eight deflections, 11 gains and five intercepts. For the Pies, Nelson was the prominent goaler sinking 39 goals from 41 attempts. Browne was the driving force in attack thanks to her 26 goal assists as Brazill also featured highly with her three intercepts.

COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 14 | 11 | 20 | 10 (55)
WEST COAST FEVER 24 | 20 | 15 | 19 (78)

STARTING SEVEN

Magpies:

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

Fever:

GS: Jhaniele Fowler
GA: Sasha Glasgow
WA: Verity Charles
C: Jess Anstiss
WD: Stacey Francis-Bayman
GD: Sunday Aryang
GK: Courtney Bruce

Photo credit: Jason McCawley

Richardson looking to build on Magpies consistency in 2021

FINISHING the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season as wooden spooners, the Collingwood Magpies have had a better start this season, currently sitting at 5th on the ladder – a position which coach Nicole Richardson is happy with for the time being.

“If you look at the top four teams (GIANTS, Lightning, Swifts and Fever), they’ve always had a consistent playing group, so it’s always going to take a little bit of time to gel on court…I think the more that we can play, the better the connections and combinations are going to work on court.”

Taking over from Rob Wright as head coach at the end of last year, Richardson and her assistant coach, Kate Upton, are the only two full time staff members at the club, with a lot of new part time staff joining the team this year. Adjusting to her new role, the high turnover of staff has been an off court obstacle that has gone unnoticed to the public eye.

“From that perspective, it’s been challenging, but in terms of the court stuff, I’ve throughly enjoyed the challenge.”

Richardson had a real challenge ahead of her at the start of the season, with the Magpies only having one win in 2020 against the Queensland Firebirds in Round 3. However, this year, they have welcomed back foundation player Ash Brazill, as well introducing defender Jacqui Newton from the Vixens and Trinidad and Tobago goaler Kalifa McCollin from New Zealand’s ANZ Premiership league.

“The girls have responded really well, they have really embraced the game plan which is exciting, and I think we are playing a good brand of netball at the moment, just need to continue to find that consistency week to week.”

Despite going down to the NSW Swifts on the weekend, the Pies were on a real roll, first beating the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Round 3, then the Firebirds in Round 4.

The depth for the Pies lies in their defensive end at the moment, with netball veteran Geva Mentor and international import Jodi-Ann Ward dominating in the ring. So for Richardson, a lot of the game plan she is trying to implement now is focused on the attacking end.

“Trying to let them play like a free game of netball, and you know, one of our big things we talk about being off the leash a little bit. So it’s that fine line just making sure that they get out on court and feel like they can play freely and play their natural game of netball rather than feeling under pressure or fearful of making errors,” she said.

“In order to challenge the top four teams from last year, we need to have a centre pass conversation up and around 70-75 percent, so that’s something we are going to focus on in our remaining matches.”

The training environment for the players has also been a major focus for the Pies this season as they look to add more strings to their bow to really challenge the top teams.

“We’ve brought some boys into our training environment which has really challenged the girls as well week in week out, so we are trying to replicate a training environment that’s actually tougher than match day,” Richardson said.

Looking forward to the rest of the 2021 season, there are a number of things that Richardson hopes to improve with the team.

“We still need to continue to find ways to win ball, and that might be having the courage to fly at something which might create something down the court as well…I think the main area for us and the main goal for us is to find consistency, not only week to week, but consistency across the four quarters as well,” she said.

“In order to be successful against [the top teams] and really challenge the top four, we need to really have a look at ways to reduce our turnovers, so being a little more patient in attack, and making sure we see all options and have our decision making sound.”

Collingwood take on the undefeated West Coast Fever this week and will be hoping for a full four quarter performance to topple the in-form side of the competition.

Picture credit: Collingwood Magpies

Swifts’ stellar final term pips Pies at the post

IT was a seesawing affair between NSW Swifts and Collingwood Magpies in Round 5 of Suncorp Super Netball, but in the end it was the former that prevailed thanks to a dominant final term of play to run out 62-53 victors. The Swifts were put through their paces as the Pies left nothing to chance but just did not have the gas to run with the silky Swifts.

Molly Jovic got proceedings underway in the middle with her hot hand and speed seeing the ball down the court and land into the hands of Shimona Nelson who made no mistake from directly under the post. Moments later Ash Brazill showcased her class to pickpocket Nat Haythornthwaite around circle edge and send the Pies into attack once again. Collingwood were reaping the rewards of uncharacteristic Swifts turnovers with the absence of Maddy Proud coming to the fore. Sophie Garbin got the nod in at goal attack but lacked some finesse on the shot missing her first couple of attempts and leaving Sam Wallace to pick up the pieces and keep the scoreboard ticking over for the home side.

Collingwood maintained their three-goal buffer as their attacking unit found their groove with Nelson holding her own up against Sarah Klau. Up the other end things got a bit scrappy for the Swifts as they struggled at the centre pass credit to the strong work of the Pies. With Garbin unable to impact the play Briony Akle pulled the trigger with England international Helen Housby making her way onto the court, and momentum started to shift as a wayward pass landed in the hands of Lauren Moore and Klau asserted herself in the defensive third to come out hunting. The Swifts got back to within a goal but the Magpies found a way to edge ahead ever so slightly. A frantic minute of play saw Wallace nail a super shot before Garbin finished things off with a beautiful drive into the circle to level the scores heading into the break.

The second quarter saw much of the same with neither side really able to claim the ascendancy as they engaged in a scrappy brand of netball. The ball ping-ponged up and down the court with Haythornthwaite and Brazill locking horns time and time again with the latter well and truly winning the battle credit to her great hands over pressure and sheer athleticism to out-manoeuvre her opponent at every turn. Geva Mentor worked her way into the game owning the front space and picking off passes at will to halt the Swifts in attack. Kelsey Browne was running riot out in wing attack for the Pies with the speedster delivering the ball on a silver platter to Nelson to keep Collingwood’s noses in front by five goals.

Needing a change in attack, Tayla Fraser made her way onto the court with the wing attack using her fancy footwork and speed to shake things up. After a relatively quiet start to the game Maddy Turner got involved in the action using her outside arm to bat the ball down to herself and win possession for the Swifts. A costly footwork call from the Pies gifted the Swifts another chance to capitalise as the home side piled on four goals straight to eat into the deficit with the changes in attack working wonders. The cool, calm and collected Housby rose to the challenge nailing the first super shot of the term to steal the lead for the first time in the quarter. The tables started to turn even further as the Swifts crept out to a four-goal lead.

The Swifts came out with a point to prove in the third term as they nudged ahead by three goals. Fraser was a real barometer for the attacking end with her speed and tenacity enabling her to hit circle edge with ease and look to constantly re-offer. Wallace pulled out the party tricks with an impressive one-hand take under all sorts of pressure as the Swifts continued to hum in the front-end. Gabby Sinclair proved that she was not afraid to unleash delivering a number of long bombs into Nelson with the goal shooter standing up under the pressure and displaying her improved hands on the take. The contest between Brazill and Fraser was tantalising as both players flexed their muscles in the air to steal intercepts and send fans into a frenzy.

Scores were tied at 41 goals apiece as tensions rose even further. Emily Burgess made her Swifts debut with the wing defence up against Browne as the pair engaged in a footrace. It was turning into a goal keeper’s masterclass as Mentor reeled in an intercept before Klau did the same up the other end, and the seesawing contest continued as Swifts hit the lead before once again the Pies levelled the playing field.

The Pies were looking for a spark in attack with Trinidad and Tobago livewire Kalifa McCollin entering the game for the first time. The Swifts defence upped the ante with Paige Hadley increasing her workload and flying through for an intercept. Quiet for much of the game, Jodi-Ann Ward sensed the moment tiptoeing along the goalline to steal an intercept and send the Pies into attack as they reduced the margin back to two goals. A flurry of Swifts goals sunk Collingwood hearts as they wrestled back the momentum and forced the Pies into copious changes as Brazill pushed into centre and Mel Bragg pulled on the wing defence bib. Jacqui Newton came on while Sinclair reentered the fore but it was all one way traffic as the Swifts put their foot down to win by nine goals, a testament to their hunt and the home crowd behind them.

Wallace was a force to be reckoned with credit to her 43 goals from 45 attempts with her super shot shooting also on point nailing three straight. Housby and Garbin played second fiddle thanks to their eight and three goals respectively. The injection of Fraser was exactly what the doctor ordered as she amassed 11 goal assists and an intercept while down back Klau had a game to remember with nine gains, six intercepts and seven deflections. Nelson was unstoppable for Collingwood draining 41 goals at 95 per cent while Sinclair finished with seven goals but at a lowly 64 per cent. Jovic led the charge with 21 goal assists as Brazill had a day out with four intercepts and five deflections. Mentor was at her best picking up seven gains and four intercepts.

NSW SWIFTS 14 | 19 | 12 | 17 (62)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES 14 | 15 | 15 | 9 (53)

 STARTING SEVEN:

 Swifts:

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Sophie Garbin
WA: Nat Haythornthwaite
C: Paige Hadley
WD: Lauren Moore
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Sarah Klau 

Magpies:

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

Photo credit: Mark Evans/Getty images

Lightning strikes more than twice in dominant four-quarter win over Magpies

SUNSHINE Coast Lightning have spoiled the party in Nicole Richardson‘s debut as Collingwood Magpies coach, winning 67-56 in a comfortable four-quarter performance. Led by a shooting combination of Steph Wood and Cara Koenen, the Lightning punished the Magpies on turnovers, running away victors thanks to a 34-26 second half.

It was a remarkable first term as both sides had their fair share of impressive and forgettable moments, that saw multiple goal runs in the first 15 minutes. The Magpies had the first centre pass but an immediate turnover and transition play from the Lightning saw Wood nail her first, then set up Koenen to make it 2-0. When Shimona Nelson could not quite grab it close to the post and it went out for a second turnover, the Lightning had a chance to go 3-0 up but missed. It proved a blessing for the Magpies who started strong from a scoring front as Nelson piled on three consecutive goals to help the Magpies to the lead.

Such was the up-and-down term for Nelson, a third turnover for the Jamaican resulted in the Lightning adding three of their own and regaining the lead. Gabrielle Sinclair got on the board five minutes in, and the Magpies once again took control with some slick movement going forward through the midcourt for a 6-5 lead. The Magpies shooters – considered as a potential weakness for the side heading into the season – were on target. It was their turnovers that were hurting them, as Sinclair turned it over and the Lightning made them pay.

The visitors were not without mistakes themselves as Karla Pretorius even recorded a turnover, but the Magpies – who perhaps were distracted by the announcement of the Super Shot period – miscued a pass through midcourt. The first Super Shot came through Sinclair who made no mistake from range to level the scores at 12-apiece, with Nelson putting her team up following a trademark Ash Brazill intercept. Koenen scored the Lightning’s first two-pointer in a bit of a surprise considering Wood’s practice from range during the match, but Wood’s hesitation in the final seconds rather than shoot resulted in no score and the Lightning heading into the break with a one-goal lead.

Nelson had shot a confident 11 of 12 goals in the opening term, but had three turnovers with Sinclair (four of six) aiding her well. Koenen could hardly miss with 13 from 13 while Wood had the three of four. Laura Scherian was busy at wing attack with seven goal assists from nine feeds, as Kelsey Browne had five of seven for the Magpies.

The early going in the second term saw everything go the way of the Lightning, piling on four straight goals, and eight of the first 10 to race out to a 25-18 lead. Brazill was rotated off the court for Mel Bragg in wing defence, before returning straight on for Molly Jovic in centre. As the Magpies cut the deficit to four points, the Lightning called a time out of their own, with Peace Proscovia coming on for Koenen in goal shooter.

Both Wood and Nelson missed chances before the Super Shot came in, and then Sinclair once again was the first one to nail a long-range shot, cutting the deficit to just three with her successful make. Yet another Magpie turnover saw the Lightning punish the Magpies and race out to a 33-27 lead. Kalifa McColin came in for her debut in the Super Netball and did not only make an impact with an early goal, but then nailed a Super Shot confidently, to single-handedly drag the Magpies back to within a manageable three goals at the main break, while Proscovia nailed her first six goal attempts. At the main break it was 33-30 in favour of the visitors.

Once again it was the Lightning who raced out of the blocks scoring 10 of the first 13 points for a seven-goal lead, and as much as an eight-goal advantage at one stage. The Magpies were back with the starting seven, though changes took place in the first half of the term as Jacqui Newton replaced Geva Mentor at goal keeper, and later Brazill came on as centre again with Bragg back to wing defence. The Lightning were still holding sway though as first Wood – five goals of five attempts early – and then Koenen – reaching double-figure goals with still a few minutes left in the term.

For the Lightning, Kate Shimmin came on in goal defence allowing Pretorius to head out to wing defence, and Maddy McAuliffe having a rest. A third Super Shot from Sinclair drew the Magpies within seven, and then a Jovic intercept – as she returned to the court at wing attack – had the crowd at peak volume. The Magpies were unable to capitalise though, as Sinclair’s Super Shot attempt went off the net and out. The Lightning were not missing though, shooting 19 of 21 for the term, and had opened up a pretty handy eight-goal lead at the final break, 54-46.

Mentor returned to the court in goal keeper as Newton went out to goal defence. A rare turnover from Scherian opened the door for the Magpies early in the term, but yet again despite capitalising through Nelson, were unable to double-up and chew into the deficit immediately after another turnover. The Lightning were making multiple turnovers now however, and soon the lead was back within six points. As was the case all night, the Lightning kept pressing and after a couple more Magpies mistakes, the Lightning opened up a huge double-digit lead five minutes into the term, then the visitors called a time out.

The game was winding down with the Lightning well and truly in control and the Magpies needing a miracle. With five and a half minutes on the clock, the Lightning had scored 10-7 and were out to a 64-53 lead. The Lightning called a late time out for Mahalia Cassidy to have a rest and McAuliffe come on in centre, whilst McCollin returned to the court for Nelson to try and roll the dice with the Super Shot, though Sinclair missed the first chance, but scored the second to cut it to single digits with 2:15 on the clock, but it was just a bridge too far, with the Lightning getting up 67-56 in the match.

Koenen finished with 38 goals from 44, while Wood nailed 20 of 24, had 20 goal assists from 29 feeds and a rebound to be a standout player for the winners. Scherian had a game-high 22 goal assists from 30 feeds, while Cassidy made a successful debut for the Lightning, providing 17 goal assists from 28 feeds. In defence, Maweni had four deflections, two rebounds and two intercepts. For the Magpies, Nelson shouldered the bulk of the load for 39 goals from 43 attempts, three rebounds but five turnovers, while Sinclair (10 of 18) was also lively. Browne played just over a half for 17 goal assists from 28 feeds, while Brazil returned from a long-term knee injury to have eight goal assists from 17 feeds, one intercept and one deflection.

The Magpies will head north to take on the GIANTS Netball next week, whilst the Lightning remain in Victoria for Round 2, taking on Melbourne Vixens.

MAGPIES 16 | 14 | 16 | 10 (56)
LIGHTNING 17 | 16 | 21 | 13 (67)

STARTING SEVEN:

MAGPIES:

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

LIGHTNING:

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

Browne backing reinvigorated Pies

ROUND 1 has been a long time coming for Collingwood Magpies and Australian Diamonds midcourter Kelsey Browne who missed a large chunk of the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season, recovering from an aggravated anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. A lot has changed since the last time she stepped out on court with a new coach at the helm and some fresh faces set to don the black and white dress for the upcoming campaign. Browne is excited about what the new group of Pies can deliver after a bit of a different preseason to previous years.

“We did three double session days which is a bit different for us. We would normally train six days a week but our scheduling was a little bit more than normal. We changed our weights program a little bit during the preseason as well and I think everyone is feeling really strong and fit and just comfortable in their bodies.”

“We’ve been playing some decent netball throughout the preseason, we’ve had a lot more practice matches than we got in 2020, as is the same with other teams but I think to have that match practice under your belt once again really puts you in good stead for Round 1.”

On a personal level, Browne is raring to go and as one of the more experienced heads in the attacking unit, will have to lead by example amongst the likes of Shimona Nelson, Molly Jovic and Gabby Sinclair who are still honing their craft.

“Obviously I got eight games in post my ACL last year but just never fully felt like I was playing at 100 per cent and I think knowing how I feel now in my body, obviously last year in any of the games I just didn’t really feel right but I’m really excited to start the season,” Browne explained. “We’ve had an awesome preseason at the Magpies, it’s been a bit different, very hard, but I think we are all ready and raring to go and ready to transition from preseason into the season.”

Also on her way back to the netball court after an ACL injury is dual-sportswoman Ash Brazill, who was unable make her way up to the hub last year and has spent over a year on the sidelines. However, she did get her chance to shine on the football stage for Collingwood on return from injury, with her reintroduction into the Super Netball scene long awaited not only internally by players, but fans alike given her impressive level of athleticism and endurance.

“She didn’t spend last year’s season with us so having her back in the group has been awesome. She loves to work really hard and is always really infectious with her energy,” Browne said.

“She just brings a bit of spark and we love having her around the club. So having her back from injury and she doesn’t even look like she’s missed a beat is really exciting for us.”

When it comes to fresh faces, youngster Jacqui Netwon takes the mantle in defence while Trinidad and Tobago product Kalifa McCollin is the other one to keep an eye out for with Browne highlighting just how quickly they have adapted to life at the Holden Centre.

“Both of them have come and done such a good job of coming into the group and really feeling a part of it. They both bring very different styles of play and both have incredible strengths that I think we’ve been able to capitalise on.”

“Kalifa is a really smart attacker, she can shoot the long bombs which is really exciting for us. She’s just an awesome person to have around the club and I think with Jacqui as well, this is her first contract, she’s spent a few years with Vixens as a training partner so she’s just really hungry to play. I just absolutely love having both of them a part of it. They have incredible playing skills and I’m really excited to see what they can do this year at SSN.”

Staring down the barrel of Round 1, Browne highlighted a couple of key learnings she and the Magpies playing group took from their numerous practice matches throughout the preseason.

“I think we’ve managed to find a bit of a groove as a new group. We were extremely new last year and we’ve got some time under our belts as a team now so just working through some combinations, really trying to refine what our style of netball is going to be for Collingwood in 2021. I think everyone is really confident in our game plan and it’s really exciting I think we’ve got a lot of trust and confidence out of our preseason games so that’s probably the main things that we’ve taken from those.”

It was a disappointing 2020 season, with Collingwood only registering one win and looking to improve on that feat this season given new and improved connections across the court.

“I think for us it’s been a little bit predictable for teams to play us in years before but I think we’ve got so many different players that can bring different things and have different strengths and I think it’s utilising that this year. We want to bring a fast game, be known for our intensity and that when you come up against the Magpies it’s going to be a hard game. I think if we can stick to that we will be going really well in 2021.”

With a new coach steering the ship, comes a new game plan and an overall new way of looking at things with Nicole Richardson focusing on providing players with confidence to unlock their full potential. Richardson’s clarity in relation to the direction of the club is another key aspect Browne highlighted as the side prepares for a big season of action.

“Richo has a really strong sense of where she wants to go and where she wants the club to go and the directive she wants to go in. I think for us that confidence in knowing exactly what game and what style of netball we want to play has been awesome. She’s chipped away at giving us you know, little tools and little titbits on how we can improve our game and I just think everyone has taken a huge leap forward in the growth of their personal game.

“But I think the biggest thing she has done is that she brings a lot of confidence to each player and really values each and every one of us. She has a really strong connection with the group, she’s been coming to all of our 7am weight sessions which I think for us says she really does care about us and I think that respect and that confidence and feeling valued by your coach is something that’s going to be really important for us this year.”

Set to face off against Sunshine Coast Lightning in the opening round on Saturday afternoon, Browne and the Magpies have one thing in mind and that is to improve their win-loss record from last year.

“I think for us it is about winning more games. But I think the process is that if we can stick to what we’ve decided to do as a group those will come and that will be really exciting. If we can get a few early wins it’ll build the confidence and hopefully we can see what we can do in the back-end of the year.”

2021 SSN Preview: Collingwood Magpies

THE Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season has swung around once again with teams shaping up for an exciting year of netball. Having played through a global pandemic last season, the 2021 campaign will be hoping to restore a bit of normality to the netball world as the eight sides compete for that all-elusive premiership.

Coach: Nicole Richardson
Captain: Geva Mentor
2020 finish: 8th

The Magpies realistically have nowhere to go but up after a shoddy season 2020, with just one win going their way in a disappointing year for the club, which had a constant injury cloud overhead to go in hand with a highly inexperienced list. While the injury list grew periodically, with first Ash Brazill out prior to the season proper and then the imminent losses of Madi and Kelsey Browne in consecutive weeks, something the Magpies did really well in 2020 was blood up an exciting list of talented training partners, with Molly Jovic and Mel Bragg two players who well and truly stepped up to the task, week in, week out. But with youth and a quick recovery period between games, the side just did not quite have the oomph to retain pressure across the full 60 minutes, rendering them to a frustrating season.

2021 predictions/expectations:

The Magpies are looking a lot more potent heading into 2021, with the return of Kelsey Browne and Brazill, as well as new Trinidad and Tobago acquisition Kalifa McCollin, who will add an extra prong to an already exciting front-line. Whilst Browne’s speed and energy is sure to play a huge role out the front, the return of her pinpoint precision feeds to Shimona Nelson are sure to pay off in spades with Gabby Sinclair also more than capable of providing that extra attacking option alongside McCollin. Also through the centre, the injection of Jovic and Bragg with extra preparation and connection is sure to pay dividends, especially with the huge return of Brazill which is already sending tongues wagging. At the back-end, there is no doubt captain Geva Mentor will look to fly out of the blocks and be a key figure down back once more, especially with a new-look combination in defence with Jodi-Ann Ward and Jacqui Newton. Whilst Ward is likely to receive the starting bib given her added experience, Newton is also a viable option out the front, especially in a side which has nothing to lose this year.

Key player to watch:

When it comes to players to watch, one cannot go past the excitement fan favourite Brazill brings to both the playing group and fans alike. With over a year and a half since she took the court at Suncorp Super Netball level, there is no doubt Brazill’s star power and versatility will really boost the Magpies squad this year, playing with an element of excitement and the aerial leap which saw her admission into the Australian Diamonds squad a couple of years back. Whilst she may not yet have the court fitness after making her return to AFL Women’s midway through the 2021 season, she will certainly bring her excellent endurance base and work rate to every match. Brazill is one of the big returnees in 2021 and is sure to do big things when given the chance, with her vision and workhorse attitude allowing her to consistently turn over ball for her side.

Team list:

Geva Mentor
Ash Brazill
Kelsey Browne
Molly Jovic
Melissa Bragg
Gabby Sinclair
Shimona Nelson
Jodi-Ann Ward
Jacqui Newton
Kalifa McCollin

Youth and unpredictability headline the Southern Steel in 2021

DEVELOPMENT is key for the Southern Steel heading into the 2021 ANZ Premiership season according to co-captain Shannon Saunders. There was a significant amount of player changeover at the end of last season with Gina Crampton and Kalifa McCollin departing, however those holes made way for youth to shine through, with the side boasting seven players under the age of 21 in a real showing of faith and excitement. With youth comes an element of unpredictability, something the Steel will be hoping to capitalise on to exploit opposition sides.

“Yeah, it’s (the team is) extremely young but I think it’s quite exciting. They bring so much energy and are just so enthusiastic and like sponges,” Saunders said. “They just want to learn which is really cool and I think it just creates a new environment for us, which is exciting.”

“Lots of other teams don’t really know how we’re going to come together or what type of game we’re going to play, so I think that’s really exciting because we’re a lot of unknown for everyone so I think that will provide a good challenge for other teams playing us.”

The new faces include the likes of two-time premiership players Tiana Metuarau and Renee Savai’inaea who both made the switch from the Central Pulse while Kate Heffernan, Taniesha Fifita and Kiana Pelasio return for another season with the Steel. The likes of Ali Wishier and Sarapheinna Woulf also feature in the under 21 brigade and with each player bringing their own natural flair the Steel will have to work in overdrive to find a winning combination.

“Steel is renowned for holding onto position and just keeping hold of the ball so we’d like to stick to that. But obviously with so many new players we kind of need to create our own brand as well,” Saunders said.

“I think the main thing is playing to each other’s strengths so just really bringing out the best of each person, and allowing them to flourish out on court and bring the talents and the strength that they have, so just trying to kind of make everyone look good and feel good and then we’ll play games so that’s probably the main thing.”

Speaking of new recruits, one of the most exciting acquisitions heading into the season is England Roses goaler, George Fisher. The towering goal shooter is set to be a lynchpin in attack for the Southern Steel with her height and commanding nature a couple of focal points in her game play. But it was a long time coming for Fisher and the Steel as a whole, with the England international only getting out of quarantine a couple of weeks ago.

“Yeah, it’s very exciting and she only kind of arrived out of quarantine. We’re still getting to know her as a player and how she likes to play the game and everything like that. But it’s been good, we were waiting a long time for her to kind of get here, so it’s nice to finally feel like our team’s whole and everyone’s here and ready to get stuck in.”

Travelling from the UK to New Zealand posed a number of challenges, and Fisher’s absence caused a few obstacles for the Steel, forced to make do without her for a large chunk of the preseason.

“Yeah, we tried to include her as much as we could in all of our Zoom meetings and just kind of keep her up with what we were doing. But you know, all we could do was just focus on other combinations because we can’t really rely on certain players and I think we kind of learnt that last year, with so many injuries, that everyone in the team can take the court at any time,” Saunders said.

“We need to be prepared for that, so it was good to just settle with so many other new girls coming in as well, so we’re just settling on combinations and connections and now George can just sort of slot in and suss it all out from there.”

Although last year did not go to plan for the Southern Steel with the side marred by a number of season-ending injuries to their goalers, one key thing that Saunders took out of their campaign was the importance of readiness and versatility. This mindset has somewhat spurred Saunders and the Steel on ahead of the upcoming season.

“Everyone needs to be kind of ready to take the court and everyone needs to kind of be prepared, across the game plan, like training really hard and pushing each other and training so that whenever, whoever goes out on court that they’re ready to go. So I think that’s been a really big, learning not to get too comfortable if you’re not on the court at the start – that doesn’t mean anything right, you could be on later on.”

The intention of winning is at the forefront of every team’s mind ,however the Steel are also focused on development and ensuring that their young players get a chance to ply their trade on the big stage.

“Ideally we would love to win, we always go out there to win the championship and I think that’s like our big overall goal. But I think the main thing we kind of talked about was just making sure we learn each week and progress and develop.

“I think that’s really crucial, if we’re not learning from our mistakes then we’re not doing something right there. So I think as long as we see progression of people learning and improvement then we can only be happy really.”

Holding the co-captaincy title this year alongside veteran Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, Saunders will be hoping to use her years of experience to set the tone through the midcourt, whether it be playing centre or wing attack, and provide that calming presence.

“I think just being one of the older players anyway, I just kind of need to lead by example. Just share my experiences with the girls and provide that kind of calm presence out on court. I’ve been in those situations, done it before so you know, lead from the front and really speak with my actions.”

“I think we are definitely still in the figuring out combination stage. I quite like the mix between both. I think I bring different strengths to each position, and it can change the game depending on who’s where so I think that’s a really good thing especially with lots of young girls. We might not be able to be consistent for a full 60 minutes so if we can keep changing our line-ups and things like that I think that will be a really effective way that we can play,” she said.

Southern Steel open their account against grand finalists Mainland Tactix in what will be a great showing of youth and experience on Sunday, April 18.

Collingwood Magpies star against undermanned Swifts side in preseason clashes

COLLINGWOOD Magpies made light work of the NSW Swifts in both of their preseason matches in Tasmania over the weekend, highlighting some developing connections and the side’s scoring prowess. The Pies had a relatively stacked line-up in comparison to the Swifts who were missing a number of key players such as Maddy Proud, Paige Hadley and Sarah Klau given their Australian Diamonds commitments, while Helen Housby and Nat Haythornthwaite were also missing from the side.

Game 1 saw the Magpies romp home a 30-goal win (75-45) with their experienced heads leading the charge and impressing across the court to keep the young Swifts side at bay. Boasting an incredibly raw side with a number of fresh faces taking the court and new partnerships in each third, the Swifts struggled to keep up with the Magpies who were flying and ironing out the creases ahead of the upcoming 2021 Suncorp Super Netball season.

Although it was a relatively scrappy start to the match, the Swifts settled first nailing the first two goals of the match with youngster Kelly Singleton taking no time to showcase her range and accuracy to post. There were a number of turnovers that littered the first five minutes of the game but Sam Wallace provided a steady head under the post as the New South Wales side skipped out to an early four goal lead. The new-look defensive combination of Jodi-Ann Ward out in wing defence and Jacqui Newton in goal defence started to impress with the Collingwood duo winning ball back and putting in the hard yards to nullify the influence of the Swifts attackers. Ward’s aerial ability came to the fore throughout the match and was a key reason for the momentum swing for the Pies as she capitalised against Courtney Castle who was still trying to find her rhythm at the elevated level.

Collingwood’s ability to put the foot down in the final five minutes of each quarter proved to be the difference with Gabby Sinclair highlighting her accuracy from long range to nail the two-point shot and increase the lead. Trinidad and Tobago star Kalifa McCollin made her debut for the black and white, quickly finding her rhythm under the goal post and using her creativity to keep the Swifts defenders in Lauren Moore and Maddy Turner guessing. Unfortunately for the Swifts, Collingwood grew with confidence as the game went on, moving the ball with freedom down the court and picking apart their defensive unit to gain easy access into the goal circle. The midcourt battle was enthralling as a couple of young guns in Molly Jovic for the Pies and speedster Tayla Fraser for the Swifts went head to head. The two did not take a backwards step, constantly engaging in an arm wrestle around the circle edge and using their fancy footwork to create attacking forays for their respective sides while Mel Bragg also chimed in with her tireless work through the centre to hit circle edge with great conviction and pinpoint accuracy.

Neither side was afraid to pull the changes as training partners Nyah Allen and Emma Ryde made their way onto the court for the Pies and did not miss a beat as they continued to pepper the post with goals. The Swifts seemed to be all out of answers for Collingwood as they posted a convincing win credit to their silky transitions and surety on the pass.

STARTING SEVEN:

COLLINGWOOD:

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

NSW SWIFTS:

GS: Sam Wallace
GA: Kelly Singleton
WA: Courtney Castle
C: Tayla Fraser
WD: Emily Burgess
GD: Maddy Turner
GK: Lauren Moore

 

Game 2 had a similar ending, as the Pies collected a whopping 41 goal victory over the Swifts to make it a clean sweep (83-42). The explosive nature of the Pies was too much to handle for the Swifts who simply could not stop the quickfire connections down the court especially given the number of developing connections across the court.

After impressing in Game 1, McCollin got the nod in goal attack with her connection with Nelson steadily building as the game went on and the Pies eager to allow their partnership to continue to foster. Sinclair proved handy out in wing attack with her court coverage, dynamic movement and spatial awareness to continuously deliver into the circle for Collingwood. The Swifts on the other hand could not get their signature game play up and running, forced onto the backfoot by a well versed Collingwood side that was intent on using its experience to inflict pain. Goal keeper, Geva Mentor was up against Sophie Fawns for the Swifts with the level of exposure for the two players at complete opposite ends of the scale and ultimately reflected in the scoreline.

Olivia Coleman secured the starting goal keeper position and was forced to use every bit of her athleticism to match Nelson in the air while Leilani Rohweder also got the nod at wing defence replacing former Northern Mystics defender Emily Burgess from Game 1. The new look defensive unit meant it took a while for all the pieces to click and really limit the fluidity of the Collingwood line-up which was playing with confidence given their performance only days before. Although the Swifts were blown out of the water on both occasions by Collingwood it was an all-round great opportunity for both sides to try out new combinations across the court and give young up and coming players a chance to ply their trade for their respective sides, putting their best foot forward in the absence of marquee players.

STARTING SEVEN:

COLLINGWOOD:

GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Gabby Sinclair
C: Molly Jovic
WD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GD: Jacqui Newton
GK: Geva Mentor 

NSW SWIFTS:

GS: Sophie Fawns
GA: Kelly Singleton
WA: Courtney Castle
C: Tayla Fraser
WD: Leilani Rohweder
GD: Lauren Moore
GK: Olivia Coleman

Top 10 teams we are looking forward to seeing in 2021: #5 Southern Steel

IT has been an unconventional year of netball and as 2020 comes to a close the Draft Central team casts an eye to the future and which teams we are excited to see take the court for the 2021 season. There has been a number of player changes throughout the offseason across the ANZ Premiership, Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) with retirements, pregnancies and injuries impacting some teams. But that does not mean that next year will not be action packed with some fresh faces elevated to full time rosters and internationals joining new leagues. Entering the top five is  ANZ Premiership side Southern Steel.

It was a trying season for the Southern Steel with a couple of key pillars going down with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and therefore forcing the side to reassess their options and look elsewhere for replacements. Prior to both players being struck down with injury Jennifer O’Connell was a commanding presence under the post while Georgia Heffernan was a handy cameo. Livewire and Trinidad and Tobago product Kalifa McCollin provided plenty of flair and excitement inside the goal circle, taking the brunt of the action with her teammates going down around her. However the Steel have a very different look heading into season 2021 with a number of new faces joining the squad and generating plenty of excitement, with the aforementioned trio not apart of next year’s squad.

In terms of new faces there is none more promising than former Saracens Mavericks and England Roses goal shooter George Fisher with the youngster committing to come and ply her trade out in New Zealand. She is a rock under the post able to withstand the physicality and use her height to full advantage to reel in the high passes and more importantly score at a high rate. She will be partnered alongside two-time premiership player Tiana Metuarua who has made the jump from the Central Pulse to the Steel. The young goal attack is highly versatile, crafty with ball in hand and a real smooth mover that can slot them from range or directly under the post making for an exciting shooting combo.

The fresh faces do not stop there with Renee Savai’inaea joining the club and set to bring plenty of dynamism through the midcourt with her change of direction and quick hands. Her partnership with Metuarau could be one to watch out for given their ability to read the play and link-up. The formidable combination of Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton will no longer exist at ANZ Premiership level with the latter joining the Northern Stars meaning Saunders will have to up the ante in 2021.

There are a number of promising defenders for the Steel with Taneisha Fifita a real excitement machine with her intercepting ability and lean over the shot. Fifita can turn a game on its head and with another preseason under her belt will be aiming to have even more of an influence alongside the ever-reliable Te Huinga Selby-Rickit down back. Kate Heffernan had moments of magic throughout the 2020 season and will be eager to elevate her game to the next level in the upcoming season. She is a real energiser bunny that has deceptive speed and an uncanny ability to use her long arms to cause chaos and create turnovers.

It has been a complete overhaul of players across the off-season with the Southern Steel bringing in a wealth of young up and coming players that have no shortage of star power and potential making for an exciting 2021 season. It will be interesting to see how they connect across the court with a new face in each third of the court.

EXPLAINER | Pocket Podcast: Fantasy Netball Draft – Bench 3

WITH netball done and dusted for the 2020 calendar year, the team at Centre Pass have decided to create a Netball Fantasy Draft that includes a series of mini-podcasts delving into the reasoning behind player selections. Following suit with the extended benches in Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and given the high calibre of players to choose from each person will have a 12 player roster and one position will be discussed per episode. The lists are just about complete with the third bench position filled in this episode.

It was once again a mixed bag of results for the Centre Pass Podcast team with each person selecting a variety of players to fill the apparent holes in their respective sides. One midcourter and two goalers were selected to join the bench with each player renowned for their flair and ability to change the course of a game in an instant.

Picks

1st Jarrad – Amy Parmenter
2nd Sophie – Mwai Kumwenda
3rd Taylah – Kalifa McCollin

Amy Parmenter

Nothing short of a fan favourite, Parmenter is still an up and coming prospect for Australian netball but definitely has the star power and calibre to wow each time she steps out on court. She is a real ball magnet that has an uncanny ability to snatch up the loose ball or slot into the right space at the right time. She is an exciting youngster who reads the play exceptionally well and does not take a backwards step throwing herself head first into every contest. Parmenter has great versatility able to switch into both centre and wing attack but does some of her best work when stationed in at wing defence able to swat away balls or create deflections to then regain possession and send the ball back into attack. She is an energiser bunny that can really set the tone defensively with her ball winning capabilities while is also strong through the midcourt with her transitional play.

2020 SSN stats:
25 intercepts, 62 deflections, 22 feeds

Mwai Kumwenda

The Malawian international is a star in her own right, able to reel in the high ball credit to her impressive leap and overall athleticism. Although light in stature, Kumwenda is incredibly strong and does not get pushed off the ball using her nifty footwork to keep the defenders guessing. She is one of the most accurate shooters going around, able to hone in on the post and deliver time and time again at a high volume. Her split is second to none, able to edge closer to the post each time she receives the ball while her spatial awareness is also excellent. She dictates the space with her clever holds and body positioning to ward off the defenders and protect the drop of the ball into the backspace. Her strong hands enable her to absorb the frequent physical attention and provide that element of consistency and stability under the post.

2020 SSN stats:
430 goals (92 per cent), 24 super shots (56 per cent), 22 rebounds

Kalifa McCollin

Somewhat of an underestimated player, McCollin is incredibly light on her feet and is quite nimble able to change direction in the blink of an eye. She is a real playmaker with ball in hand and has impressive timing along the baseline to pop out when needed. The Trinidad and Tobago product oozes a wealth of flair and dynamism able to light up the attacking third with her speed and aerial tricks despite being on the shorter side. She is quite versatile able to slide back into the goal shooter position and hold her own thanks to her high netball nous and smarts to create space. Although her accuracy can falter at times, McCollin is a consistent threat both out the front and under the post given her ability to command the ball and put up a decent amount of goals to keep the opposition guessing.

2020 ANZ Premiership stats:
262 goals (84 per cent), three rebounds, 90 centre pass receives,

The three players selected all boast one similarity and that is their energy and flair, able to bring a wealth of movement and dynamism with them each time they step onto the court. Parmenter was an easy selection for Jarrad given her explosiveness and stellar court coverage which will pair well with the likes of Ash Brazill or Paige Hadley in the centre. For Sophie, the acquisition of Kumwenda was a no brainer with the Melbourne Vixens goaler able to inject a point of difference into the frontend to replace the likes of Maia Wilson and connect with Silver Ferns star Ameliaranne Ekenasio with plenty of accuracy. McCollin is an exciting prospect for Taylah’s side given the Trinidadian provides that short, sharp movement inside the circle to shake up the tall timber in Cara Koenen and Gretel Bueta. McCollin is a real speed demon that can light up a court within an instant which is exactly what was needed in that frontend.

 

To catch up on the rest of the selections, tune into our other episodes:

Centre
Goal shooter
Wing attack
Wing defence
Goal attack
Goal defence
Goal keeper
Centre Pass Podcast Bench 1
Centre Pass Podcast Bench 2

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Centre Pass Podcast Bench 3