Tag: karla pretorius

Vixens reign supreme in minor semi-final preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STARTING SEVEN:

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

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

Melbourne Vixens

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

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.

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 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

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.

Lightning strike in Pretorius’ 100th

THE Queensland derby was just as good as expected, with the Queensland Firebirds coming out strong but unable to weather the Sunshine Coast Lightning storm, falling short by eight goals (75-67) in Karla Pretorius’ 100th national game.

It was a hard and fast start from the Firebirds, with the defensive connections forcing early errors and clogged space while the confidence out the front was huge. But sure enough, Pretorius was in everything early, testing Romelda Aiken’s hands and getting hands to ball thanks to Phumza Maweni’s ability to force Aiken high. But up the other end Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe would not be outdone, strong as ever forcing turnovers. Peace Proscovia was a huge target out the front for the Lightning but did not receive any favours from Cara Koenen out the front, with the duo struggling to set up plays in attack and seeing Steph Wood take the court to inject some extra speed and agility. Wood’s impact was immediate as was her connection with Laura Langman, with the duo combining well as the Lightning inched back the margin. The improved connection out the front was not enough though, with the Lightning trailing by seven goals at the first change.

Both sides had some issues getting on the board early in the second, with the defensive effort continuing to dominate for both sides. The improved movement from the Lightning frontline was paying off although Lara Dunkley’s stellar few rounds continued with a great start once more on circle edge for the Firebirds making it hard to split the two sides. A five goal buffer was enough to maintain the Firebirds momentum but the Lightning’s fight back had only just begun with Koenen at the post using her body well on Hinchliffe to limit the goal keeper’s chances for the loose ball. What had been a seven goal game at the first break turned into just two goals as the Lightning continued to fire, both in defence and offence. Tippah Dwan had a huge start but was quiet for much of the second credit to Pretorius’ ability to keep the youngster away from easy possession. Jemma Mi Mi was injected to add some speed in attack and while she did not find a heap of ball, when she did it allowed Dwan to find pockets of space putting up two straight super shots to ensure the Firebirds stayed in the lead going into half time. 

Macy Gardner headed into wing attack to start the third, with the constant effort from Maddy McAuliffe forcing a third change in the position. The Lightning’s class came to play early in the third, with the attack moving much better and Koenen winning the battle over Hinchliffe with her excellent goalline drive. A couple of big moments from the Lightning saw the scoreline reduce to just one goal with a Firebirds tactical timeout imminent, while a couple of great defensive moments from Pretorius and Maweni allowed the Lightning to capitalise off the Firebirds centre and draw ahead for the first time all game midway through the third. 

Rudi Ellis made her way onto the court in goal keeper to add some extra height and hands over pressure on Koenen, while Hinchliffe stepped out to goal defence as Jenner headed to the bench, such was Wood’s dominance out the front. While Mahalia Cassidy and Langman were both starring in their respective attacking thirds, the Firebirds wing attack woes continued, with Gardner hesitating on the feed allowing the defenders to get the upper hand. The super shot was the saving grace for the Firebirds with Dwan putting one on the board although Wood did the same at the other end, with neither team letting up on the scoreboard and as the Lightning held a three goal lead heading into the final term.

The stifling defence from the Lightning was relentless, and with a finals berth on the line the home side’s final quarter effort was testament to the buildup from defence. While Aiken was continuing to fire from all cylinders, the defensive effort outside the circle was just as strong as within, not letting anywhere near as much ball into the circle as they did early on. Dwan came off the court with minor shoulder pain requiring strapping, seeing youngster Mia Stower take the court, and while the goal attack put up a few shots the unintended change did not do the Firebirds any favours as the Lightning extended to a six goal lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock. 

With both Lightning goalers on fire, the Firebirds defenders did not know where to look. Despite constant efforts from Gabi Simpson, the Firebirds looked tired and could not seem to find the intensity they needed despite a super shot from Dwan who returned to the court heavily strapped. Jacqui Russell came alive in the dying minutes, turning over the ball multiple times and while an Aiken super shot kept the Firebirds in touch it was not enough as the Lightning kept their season alive with a 75-67 victory. 

Pretorius and Wood were the difference in this match and Pretorius deservingly won player of the match honours for her effort, with three intercepts and six deflections resulting in six gains, while Wood finished with 19 goals (five super shots), 24 feeds and 20 centre pass receives to her name. Koenen starred at the post with 41 goals at 100 per cent, while Langman racked up 27 assists from 47 feeds. The Lightning defensive unit of Pretorius, Maweni, McAuliffe and Russell carved up the Firebirds attack with a huge nine intercepts between them, three apiece to Pretorius and Maweni while Russell managed two in 19 minutes on court. For the Firebirds, Aiken was huge with 47 goals from 52 attempts at improved 90 per cent accuracy, including her one super shot, while Dwan was well and truly nullified by Pretorius to finish with 11 goals at 52 per cent (five super shots). Cassidy finished with 24 assists while defensively it was a much quieter one than typically seen from the purple, with the combination of Jenner, Hinchliffe and Ellis only picking up an intercept apiece.

>>>LIGHTNING TEAM PAGE
>>> FIREBIRDS TEAM PAGE
>>> FULL MATCH STATS

SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING 13 | 19 | 23 | 20 (75)
QUEENSLAND FIREBIRDS 20 | 17 | 15 | 15 (67)

STARTING SEVEN

Lightning

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

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 12

ROUND 12 sees some big match-ups as clubs look to keep their finals hopes alive with the Thunderbirds, GIANTS and Firebirds all teetering on the edge of a finals berth with four wins apiece. West Coast will be out to leapfrog their opponents and steal second spot on the ladder as the Vixens hope to hold onto top spot.

West Coast Fever v. NSW Swifts
Saturday, 12 August

The Fever will be on a high heading into their clash with the reigning premiers after trouncing their Round 11 opponents by 20 goals. Meanwhile the Swifts will be hoping to work their way back onto the winners list and find some continuity in what has been an up and down season.

Jhaniele Fowler is an unstoppable force under the post, consistently recording ridiculously high numbers however the work out the front from Alice Teague-Neeld has enabled the goal shooter to recapture elements of her 2018 form. The chopping and changing in defence for the Swifts in the way of Lauren Moore and Maddy Turner is something to keep an eye on as they look to offset Teague-Neeld or potentially help Sarah Klau by doubling back on the Jamaican shooter.

The Swifts are gifted with a multitude of options through the midcourt with Paige Hadley, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Maddy Proud and Tayla Fraser all handy choices and have proven they can come on and have an impact. With no Ingrid Colyer, Emma Cosh has well and truly stepped up to the plate and is getting better and better with more court time while Verity Charles is arguably in career-best form in centre. When it comes to the shooting circle the Swifts have lacked a bit of cohesion with Sam Wallace, Helen Housby and Sophie Garbin all labouring and clumping together which will play into the hands of the Fever defence as Courtney Bruce and Stacey Francis are master-readers of the play. Even if Bruce and Francis are not up to the challenge, Sunday Aryang has been a revelation this season while Olivia Lewis has shown she is no slouch down back.

Collingwood Magpies v. Melbourne Vixens
Saturday, 12 August

Having not played each other since Round 1, a lot has changed with the Magpies losing a couple of integral members through the midcourt in Madi and Kelsey Browne while the Vixens have really kicked into gear. The Vixens hold a firm grip on top spot while the Magpies languish down the bottom of the table, however that will not stop either side from putting on a show given their crosstown rivalry.

There is no denying that the combination between Mwai Kumwenda and Caitlin Thwaites has developed at a rate of knots in 2020 with the two effortlessly pairing in the goal circle while the injection of Tegan Philip’s speed can slice a game right open. Geva Mentor has been a consistent factor for Collingwood down back as Jodi-Ann Ward powers through in goal defence out the front. The Magpies will be hoping to find an answer in the form of Mel Bragg to shut down Liz Watson with the wing attack in hot form and often setting up the attacking forays for the Vixens. Partner in crime Kate Moloney is another player Collingwood will hope to contain given her explosiveness and ability to break a game wide open, meaning the responsibility will land on either Kelly Altmann or Molly Jovic to quell her influence through the middle.

Shimona Nelson has had a rocky 2020 season, often fading in and out of games which is an area she will be hoping to rectify while Gabby Sinclair has proven more than once she is up to the challenge especially when it comes to the super shot. Emma Ryde has also been a good impact player for the Pies however the Vixens have an extremely cohesive defensive unit, even if Emily Mannix is missing, with Simone McKinnis able to shuffle the cards between Kate Eddy, Jo Weston, Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Allie Smith.

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Queensland Firebirds
Sunday, 13 August

The Lightning have struggled to generate their usual dominance this season and are coming off another heavy loss at the hands of the Fever. On the other hand, the Firebirds have found their groove and confidence making for an intriguing battle between the two Queensland sides.

With a new sense of confidence in the goal circle Romelda Aiken has elevated her game in 2020, holding strong under the post and dominating the airwaves allowing Tippah Dwan to be a menace out the front. Dwan has proven she is no slouch consistently tearing games apart with her two point shooting, something the Lightning defenders will have to be acutely aware of if they are to stop the Firebirds in their tracks. Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni are no easy beats, however Maweni gives away close to 10 centimetres meaning it will take a full court defensive effort from the likes of Laura Langman and the rotating wing defence’s Maddy McAuliffe and Jacqui Russell if they are to stop the ball from getting down to the inform shooter.

The Firebirds have a wealth of midcourt options and have proven they are not afraid to use the bench with Macy Gardner, Mahalia Cassidy, Lara Dunkley and Jemma Mi Mi all viable options through the centre. The Lightning on the other end tend to stick to a consistent line-up with the most changes coming in the shooting circle between Cara Koenen, Steph Wood and Peace Proscovia. Koenen has really come into her own this season however the hesitancy on the release into her under the post could play into the hands of the ball hungry Firebirds defensive unit in Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe. Pair that with their physical nature and it could upset the Lightning in attack while Gabi Simpson’s work off the ball will be integral in nullifying the impact of Laura Scherian around circle edge to limit the Lightnings’ chance of scoring.

Adelaide Thunderbirds v. GIANTS Netball
Sunday, 13 August

The final game of the round sees an intense battle between two sides hoping to keep their finals hopes alive. Adelaide and the GIANTS are evenly poised across the court and sitting just outside the top four know just how much a win means if they are to cause headaches come the pointy end of the season.

There is no denying that Georgie Horjus has been a revelation in season 2020 with her ability to sink super shots often keeping her side in touch while the connection between her and Lenize Potgieter continuously gets better. The ball placement and movement from Chelsea Pitman and Maisie Nankivell is crucial to the Thunderbirds meaning it will be up to the midcourt duo of Amy Parmenter – if she returns after missing Round 11 – and Jamie-Lee Price to shut down her drive in attack. However Kristiana Manu’a proved she is also a viable option out in wing defence if needed given the defensive capability of Matilda McDonell, Sam Poolman and April Brandley, all able to rotate through circle defence.

Shamera Sterling is a menace in the air, able to consistently win ball back for her side while Layla Guscoth, Shadine van der Merwe and Kate Shimmin are dogged in defence making for an exciting battle between the rotating GIANTS shooting trio of Kiera Austin, Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett, with the latter hoping to secure some regular court time.

SSN stats wrap: Round 10/11

TWO huge rounds opened September’s Suncorp Super Netball proceedings, with the second draw, a couple of shaky performances by finals contenders and a huge Queensland Firebirds win telling the tale of the week in netball. Instead of combining player stats from the two rounds as we did earlier in the season, we will now take a look at the two different rounds of competitions separately and delve into the top performers based on individual outings. While Nat Medhurst has not played a game in season 2020 after taking leave for her pregnancy, the Magpies goaler retired during the week marking the end of another era. A huge asset to Australian netball, Medhurst’s ability to goal from anywhere, her constant drive to be the best and her perseverance saw an illustrious career pan out over the last 17 years. 

ROUND 10

As usual, it is tough to skate past the incredible effort of Jhaniele Fowler who once again put up a huge amount of goals against the Vixens, shooting 59 from 62 attempts in the draw. Three players hit the 40-mark with Sam Wallace and Romelda Aiken both putting up 43 goals at 90 per cent and 80 per cent respectively, while Lenize Potgieter was unstoppable with 41 goals from 46. When it came to goal attacks, Kiera Austin stood up once more for the GIANTS with 31 goals to her name – including five super shots – while Tippah Dwan impressed in the Firebirds’ win over the Swifts with 26 goals (18 from 22 in regular time plus eight from nine super shots). Alice Teague-Neeld may have had a quiet game at the post but racked up 23 assists and two intercepts, while Liz Watson was held well in the first half against the Fever but still managed to lead all comers on goal assists with 25 to her name.

Emma Cosh was also in the mix for Fever with 19 goal assist in her first full SSN match, finding Fowler with ease at the post. Lara Dunkley also put in a solid performance out in wing attack with 21 assists and three deflections. Maddy McAuliffe has stepped up this season and was relentless against the GIANTS coming away with two intercepts against Jamie-Lee Price who managed five gains, while Maisie Nankivell and Mel Bragg cancelled each other out with a couple of intercepts apiece and Vixens debutant Allie Smith put herself out there with two intercepts in her half on court. When it came to circle defenders, Courtney Bruce seems to be completely over the back niggle that kept her out of matches early in the season with six deflections (four gains), while Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni were huge in the Lightning’s win over GIANTS, combining for 13 gains. Shamera Sterling came up with six gains of her own following up from an ankle injury, aided by a huge effort from Layla Guscoth (two intercepts).

ROUND 11

While both Fowler and Aiken were up there for goals scored once more in the second round of the week (55 and 45 goals respectively), Mwai Kumwenda put up a huge 48 goals from 51 attempts (one super shot) in the Vixens’ win over the Swifts, in a round that saw just about every other team share the load at the post. Youngsters Georgie Horjus and Dwan held up well once more (17 from 21 and 15 from 21, respectively), while Caitlin Bassett shone with 19 goals from 20 attempts and continued the trend of the GIANTS winning when she is on the court. In attack, Watson overcame an early ankle roll to still topscore the goal assists tally with 26 this round, closely followed by Verity Charles (23), Cosh and Nankivell (both 22). 

When it came to defensive efforts this round, it was not just the defenders who had all the fun in a solid week for midcourt defence as 12 midcourters registered at least one intercept to their name – Dwan was the outlier with three intercepts out in goal attack. Sam Poolman and Geva Mentor cancelled each other out in a tight battle between the GIANTS and Magpies with seven gains (four intercepts) apiece while Bruce tallied the highest amount of gains for the week with 11 (four intercepts, six deflections, one rebound). The Firebirds defensive unit of Gabi SimpsonTara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner was consistent as ever, combining for seven intercepts while Vixens’ Kadie-Ann Dehaney racked up four of her own in the absence of Emily Mannix. Stacey Francis was a tough opponent in goal defence, registering eight pickups such was her hunt for the loose ball, while Caitlin Thwaites racked up six pickups in her first full match in goal attack, relishing the extra space to take charge of the ball.

Courtside Comments: Round 1 – Maisie Nankivell
Courtside Comments: Round 2 – Tippah Dwan
Courtside Comments: Round 5 – Georgie Horjus
Courtside Comments: Round 9 – Alice Teague-Neeld
Courtside Comments: Round 11 – Mel Bragg

London Pulse have their eyes on the prize for 2021

FOLLOWING a tough inaugural season in 2019, London Pulse managed to turn the tables and opened the 2020 season without dropping a game in the first three rounds. With a new head coach at the helm and several star players in the lineup, it was obvious to Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) fans that the revamped London side was one to watch. Netball Draft Central spoke to CEO and head coach Sam Bird and Pulse co-captain and England Roses Futures player Halimat Adio, to get their insight on the upcoming 2021 season and how London Pulse have engaged with each other and the community over the COVID-19 break.

After the announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 Superleague season, London Pulse acted quickly to ensure their players and staff could keep connected over the lockdown. A key initiative was their “Educate, Train, and Inspire” programme, and Pulse ran over 40 online educational workshops for players, coaches and staff over the season break. This was anything from first aid courses, to performance analysis, and even personal and professional development.

In a similar way to most elite netball clubs they also set up regular virtual training sessions. However, they made the most of the opportunity to include all age groups in these sessions, which meant that the youngsters in their Performance Pathway programme were able to train ‘alongside’ the senior players three times a week, and gain valuable insight into the training aspect of playing in the VNSL.

There was a heavy focus on player welfare and supporting the athletes mentally during a very challenging time. Pulse also took the opportunity to encourage their senior squad members to engage with the community and build on their existing fan base and network.

“It was important as a club not to be too inward-looking,” Bird said. “It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself that there’s no netball and we can’t play, but we started to look at other people that were less fortunate than us and to see how we could help in the community.”

This ethos inspired Pulse to deliver adult and junior online camps, as well as virtual seated netball workshops with residents of local care homes, which will continue as part of their ongoing outreach in London.

As well as the effect of COVID-19 on the netball community, 2020 has also raised many issues worldwide surrounding racism. Bird was open about what she thought netball could do to show support for Black Lives Matter.

“Halimat, co-captain of London Pulse, put out a powerful statement about the Black Lives Matter movement and as a person and as a club we want to be able to support that movement on a practical level,” said Bird.

“We arranged a talk from Yvonne Rhoden MBE who spoke about racism, micro-aggressions and her experience in the police service. The Netball Players Association (NPA) are working hard to support the movement and keep the conversation in the public eye.”

“Netball needs to reach out to different communities, because in netball if you’re not from a middle-class background, you’re not going to get the chance to actually play netball,” Adio said.

“We need to actively do something, whether it’s having an Equality Board at England Netball, or employing Black people and Asian people higher up, I think that would be a massive thing for people of different communities. We need to have conversations… it is an awkward conversation to have sometimes.”

England Netball have since announced a new role on their board which will focus on diversity and equality, and hopefully, this will be the sign of positive change for UK netball as a whole.

Adio started on the England Pathway when she was still a teenager.

“I got into England when I was 17. It was from an NPL tournament… I had been trying so many times to get into a regional academy … and then into the NPL tournament. Then I was selected into a positional day, then a summer camp and then I’ve been in it from Under 19s to the Roses Futures now. Hopefully, once I’m done with uni I’ll be able to actually do the full-time Roses programme.”

A talented young defender, Adio spoke about her plans for the future and whether she had her eyes on the ANZ Premiership and Suncorp Super Netball (SSN).

“Every netballer’s dream is to go over there, I’m hoping one day I’m able to go to either Australia or New Zealand. The experience is a massive thing, and just seeing how they play out there is very different to how we play in the UK.”

“With me right now, I haven’t yet marked my place in the UK as I haven’t played a full season. Once I get one or two, hopefully, I can go out there and prove myself out there as well… I played with Jodi-Ann (Ward) in Superleague and seeing the improvement from when she first came over to Severn Stars to how she is playing there, she is a completely different athlete.”

The VNSL has developed many international players who later progressed to the ANZ or SSN, including the likes of Karla Pretorious and Sam Wallace. In 2021, things might be more complicated due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. There could be administrative challenges involved in getting VISA documentation for imports sorted at a time when immigration services are under enormous pressure, not to mention quarantine rules and potential travel restrictions. However, Bird does not think that overall recruitment will be affected, as the VNSL is still an attractive prospect for international talent looking to make their mark on the world netball stage.

“There is a desire for international players to play in our league as they recognise it is growing and becoming stronger,” Bird said. “I think we will still see teams recruiting very exciting international athletes.”

The long off-season for UK netball also provides a chance for teams themselves to rebuild and restructure their roster for the 2021 season. When it came to the transfer window, Adio said she tends to stay within her own bubble and not focus too much on what is happening in the netball world.

“Everyone’s been quite secretive this year. Hopefully our squad is staying how it is, with maybe just a few changes.”

Bird said she has been recruiting during the transfer window, but was reluctant to give anything away ahead of the squad announcement in the coming weeks. She was recently appointed as the permanent CEO of London Pulse after taking over from Natalie Seaton who founded the club, and Bird will also continue to lead the team as head coach for 2021.

“I have had great support from the owners of the club, who have enabled me to recruit some very experienced staff to assist with running the club … whilst I am in the thick of coaching.”

The new squad for 2021 will be returning to face-to-face training in the first week of October, with a steady and carefully planned return to play protocol to ensure players can get back on court safely.

Preseason matches are on the cards for Pulse prior to the season opener in February, and details for these matches are currently being arranged for late November/December when England Roses athletes will also be available. In January, there may be another opportunity to get a sneak preview of the VNSL squads in action, depending on the timing of the International window, which will be hugely exciting for UK netball fans after a nearly nine-month elite netball drought.

Bird mentioned that we can expect to see a lot of exciting things coming from London Pulse over the next few months, including a brand new interactive website, a membership scheme (including behind the scenes access) as well as even more digital content and the inevitable squad announcement. The team has been extremely busy over the lockdown period and it is great to see the club develop and grow over this year. You almost forget they only began as a Superleague franchise in 2019.

Adio is confident that London Pulse can go all the way in 2021.

“Every team would like to be in the top four, but I feel like our team can definitely do it. We came into the Superleague as underdogs, due to how the first season of Pulse went, but with Sam leading us and all of us leading together I definitely think we can make it into the top four.”

There’s no doubt that London Pulse are doing everything right in preparation for the new season ahead. It is exciting to see a Superleague franchise show real commitment to the local and wider community and hopefully in return receive a boost for the sport as a whole.

Picture: Ben Lumley