ANOTHER huge round of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) is set to go ahead this weekend, with Round 7 seeing the Melbourne derby – played interstate due to Victorian restrictions – as three matches play out on Saturday afternoon and just one game is set for Sunday across the rearranged fixture.
GIANTS Netball vs. Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday, June 12 @3:00pm
Expect a huge clash between the GIANTS and Lightning to open the round, with both sides coming into this one off the back of losses over the weekend and one-goal margins the round before. Expected to be one of the matches of the round, both sides have plenty to prove after a less than convincing performance apiece in Round 6 and home court advantage could well and truly prove critical as the GIANTS look to regain their early season form.
There are a number of viable game changers in this clash but none more damaging than Karla Pretorius. Pretorius may not quite be performing to her lofty standards this season, but when she is on, she is on, and taking on young gun Sophie Dwyer could be exactly what the South African goal defence needs to really lift and prove a point to the competition. While Dwyer has had an excellent start to her SSN career, there is no doubt that the likes of Pretorius could prove a real buffer for the young goal attack while the long arms of Phumza Maweni will go a long way to limiting the impact of Jo Harten especially on the long shot. Do not be surprised if Kate Shimmin enters the fray in wing defence as she has done for the past few rounds, with her long arms a handy buffer to block the likes of Maddie Hay, who can propel ball into the circle with ease.
Expect a tough battle between Amy Parmenter and Laura Scherian with the wing defence and wing attack sure to set the court alight, while Jamie-Lee Price and Mahalia Cassidy are very well matched in the centre making for a huge contest. There is no doubt Steph Wood and Cara Koenen will want to lift their output in the Lightning goal circle this week, and showcase their accuracy and range, although the GIANTS defensive effort has been very impressive this season so far with Sam Poolman and April Brandley providing a huge buffer in defence.
Collingwood Magpies vs. Melbourne Vixens
Saturday, June 12 @5:30pm
Originally set to play on the Queens Birthday Monday public holiday, the Magpies and Vixens will suit up on Saturday afternoon instead in the second match of the round. Expect a huge clash here between the two Victorian sides with more than bragging rights on the line, as both sides trail the rest of the pack and could get closer within touching distance with a win here.
There are a number of critical matchups in this game with none more so than that of Ash Brazill and Hannah Mundy. While Brazill is a livewire and one of the key Magpies who has stepped up in every game this season, Mundy is currently playing her first season and will have a real test in this match up against Brazill, despite putting out one of her more complete performances last round. This matchup could realistically set the tone for the entire match. Meanwhile, the Magpies defensive combination of Jodi-Ann Ward and Geva Mentor is always tough to work around and the duo will work hard to make it difficult for the Vixens goalers in Rahni Samason and Mwai Kumwenda to find purchase.
While the Vixens have been making good use of the ball that enters the goal circle, the real struggle has been finding easy purchase at circle edge, and Kate Moloney will really need to utilise her experience when she takes on Molly Jovic to find that edge with ease. While Kate Eddy is the Vixens go-to starting wing defence, Allie Smith could be a better physical match up on Kelsey Browne, with the two players matched for speed and able to supply that burst of energy where required. The most important cog for the Magpies out the front will be the likes of Shimona Nelson who has really lifted her offensive output this season, although the Vixens could switch things up to test the goal shooter in this one, with Emily Mannix a potential to rejoin the squad following injury.
Adelaide Thunderbirds vs. NSW Swifts
Saturday, June 12 @7:30pm
If the Swifts put out a performance to rival that of their Round 6 outing last weekend, the Thunderbirds have little chance of getting up here with the slick Swifts coming for the crown. But the Thunderbirds are also coming in off the back of a win last round, coming from behind to overtake the Vixens, and proving that they are certainly capable of more than what they have produced this season so far.
There are a number of players from both sides who have really stepped up over the past few rounds, but none more so than Sarah Klau. The Swifts’ goal keeper will provide a huge buffer coming up against Lenize Potgieter for the Thunderbirds, with her great read of the play and long arms over the ball. Meanwhile, Maddy Turner is a really good match for Thunderbirds youngster Georgie Horjus, and could prove crucial in this encounter given her ability to combine seamlessly with Klau downback. Expect a huge battle through the midcourt with Hannah Petty and Maddy Proud likely to start in centre, with both players providing plenty of hunt and willingness to do anything to get possession of the ball. A potential battle between Maisie Nankivell and Paige Hadley could also set the court alight.
Sam Wallace has been huge for the Swifts this season and has shown no signs of slowing down thus far. That could all change in this matchup when the goal shooter comes up against ball-hungry Shamera Sterling, with the goal keeper able to read the play with ease. The likes of Helen Housby could be crucial, especially if the England goaler can assert herself against the exciting form of Matilda Garrett, while Nat Haythornthwaite will want to ensure her fast feet do not get the better of her potentially coming up against the likes of Latanya Wilson or Shadine Van Der Merwe, who both offer different options in wing defence.
Queensland Firebirds vs. West Coast Fever
Sunday, June 13 @1:00pm
Both the Firebirds and Fever come into this matchup off the back of impressive wins, making the final match of the round potentially the one to watch. With the home court advantage and a renewed sense of confidence, the Firebirds will be out hunting for a back-to-back win, although the Fever are more than capable of making this one a bloodbath, especially with the form they are in, remaining the only undefeated side despite sitting fourth on the ladder.
One of the best overall circle matchups of the round is set to go head to head in this contest with the attacking combination of Gretel Bueta and Romelda Aiken coming up against the likes of Courtney Bruce and Sunday Aryang. The Bruce and Aryang defensive combination has starred across their opening rounds of action and while the Fever front-end gets a lot of the credit, there is no doubting the ball-winning ability of their backline. If Bueta and Aiken can showcase the same form they had last round they could be a real lock against the Fever defence, especially if centre Kim Ravaillion is firing, and the likes of Jemma Mi Mi and Lara Dunkley are creative on the feed.
At the other end there is no doubting the impact and consistency of Jhaniele Fowler at the post, with the Jamaican as reliable as they come. What makes the Fever so tough to match this season though is the workrate of Sasha Glasgow, who has slotted in seamlessly out the front and is a consistent firepower for the side – most importantly forcing her opposition to take notice of her. Expect Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner to work hard to deny any easy passes into the circle, although they will require a huge match from Gabi Simpson up against the likes of Verity Charles or Emma Cosh to really drive home that defensive effort and limit both the long and short ball into Fowler.
Picture credit: Darren England/AAP