IT has been a whirlwind 24 hours in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) with the COVID-19 restrictions throwing a spanner in the works and forcing wholesale fixture changes. South Australia will now form a hub with five of the eight clubs taking up residence with only the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning unable to enter the state and West Coast Fever fortunate to remain at home for the time being. Two consecutive losses from the Fever has kept the finals door ajar for the Firebirds while the GIANTS have re-kindled their winning ways.
Melbourne Vixens vs. Collingwood Magpies
Saturday, July 17 @1:00pm
The Melbourne Derby will once again be played outside of Victoria with the Melbourne Vixens taking on Collingwood. It has been a disappointing season for the Vixens while the Magpies have shown glimpses of magic but are just lacking that final level of finesse to really compete with the best in the competition.
The Vixens have found it incredibly difficult to penetrate in attack despite having the likes of Mwai Kumwenda at their disposal down in goal shooter. Neither Hannah Mundy or Kaylia Stanton have really been able to impose themselves week in week out which will allow the likes of Jodi-Ann Ward to really inflict some severe pain. Ward has been in scintillating form for the Magpies consistently getting hands to ball and combining nicely with stalwart and veteran Geva Mentor down in defence. Throw in the likes of Ash Brazill in wing defence and the Magpies may have the upper hand given just how quickly Brazill can change the course of a game with her dynamic movement and sheer athleticism.
Magpies fans will be hoping that Kelsey Browne returns to the court after missing last week with a concussion. Brown offers plenty of speed and excitement into this attacking unit headlined by Shimona Nelson in goal shooter and Gabby Sinclair out in goal attack. Molly Jovic is also another one that really relishes the presence of Browne out on court meaning that the Vixens will be hoping that Kate Moloney is able to combat that presence through the midcourt. Defensively the Vixens have been relatively strong with Jo Weston, Emily Mannix, Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Kate Eddy all able to ply their trade but will need a full 60 minutes if they are to get over the top of Collingwood.
NSW Swifts vs. GIANTS Netball
Saturday, July 17 @3:00pm
The battle between NSW Swifts and the GIANTS is going to be an exciting one with both sides coming off big wins. The Swifts toppled the Vixens in what was a one-sided affair while the GIANTS monopolised the play against the Pies. This contest however will throw up another lot of challenges as the two sides need a win to really secure their spot in the top four.
Sam Wallace only played a half of netball last week but showcased just how much damage she can do shooting at 100 per cent with 33 goals to her name and will be eager to replicate that performance in this clash. The GIANTS defence will need to really unify if they are to stop the Swifts from scoring with Helen Housby and Sophie Garbin both viable options as well. The GIANTS will need to put on a full court defensive press to stop the ball from transitioning into the hands of either Wallace, Garbin or Housby given how accurate they are to post. April Brandley will be one to watch for the GIANTS with her quick feet and tenacity while Sam Poolman will have to really contest and body up on the likes of Wallace if they are to upset the Swifts frontend. The battle between Amy Parmenter and any number of Swifts midcourters in Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud or Nat Haythornthwaite will also garner plenty of attention given just how dynamic and integral they are to their respective sides.
Up the other end of the court Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer are proving to be a match made in heaven with the pair able to rotate seamlessly through the circle and most importantly attack the goals from just about anywhere in the circle. The two ooze nothing but confidence and smarts meaning both Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau will have to be on their A-game to shut down the space and go out hunting early to send some fear into the GIANTS attackers. Maddie Hay has been somewhat of an unsung hero for the GIANTS with her crafty court play while Jamie-Lee Price is just a pillar of consistency. But one thing is for sure and that is that the Swifts are littered with versatility in the form of Lauren Moore, Hadley and Tayla Fraser who can all push into wing defence.
West Coast Fever vs. Adelaide Thunderbirds
Saturday, July 17 @8:00pm
The Fever are coming into this clash off the back of two consecutive losses and will be hoping to change their fortunes against the Thunderbirds if they are to remain in the hunt for finals. While the competition has been moved to South Australia, the Thunderbirds will travel to Perth to play as one of the only traveling teams this round.
It is going to be a battle between the two Jamaican with Jhaniele Fowler holding down the fort for the Fever and Shamera Sterling tasked with stopping the goal shooting machine. Fowler has been nothing but consistent throughout her time in the SSN with her high volume and accuracy to post something to behold meaning the Thunderbirds defence in Sterling and Matilda Garrett are going to have their work cut out for them. Luckily enough the Thunderbirds have a couple of options in defence with Latanya Wilson and Shadine van der Merwe also able to ply their trade whether it be out in goal defence or in wing defence in order to stop the Fever. West Coast also have the options of Sasha Glasgow and Alice Teague-Neeld to create a moving circle if need be which we have seen in the past couple of rounds.
The midcourt for the Fever is the real engine room as they have the likes of Verity Charles, Jess Anstiss and Emma Cosh all able to effectively ply their trade while the Thunderbirds are littered with a lot more inexperienced players. Hannah Petty notched up her 50th game last weekend and will be eager to continue that leadership role through the centre while in the attacking end for the Thunderbirds it will be up to Lenize Potgieter to really steer the ship to combat that physical presence from Courtney Bruce, Sunday Aryang and Stacey Francis-Bayman. Potgieter will need Maisie Nankivell to be firing on all cylinders in wing attack to give the T’birds a chance to score with any form of fluidity.
Sunshine Coast Lightning vs. Queensland Firebirds
Monday, July 19 @7:00pm
The Lightning are at the top of their game at the moment with their clean and clinical style of netball coming to the fore on the other hand the Firebirds have just lacked that consistency and four quarter ability to really grind out games. It is arguably a do or die clash for the Firebirds if they are hoping to make finals while Sunshine Coast are hoping to build some real momentum to solidify their standings in the top four.
There is no denying that the partnership between Cara Koenen and Steph Wood is one of the most damaging duos out on court and the pair found their groove well and truly last week. Given just how prolific the pair are to post it will be up to Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe to put in the ground work and upset the Lightning frontend with their constant niggle and physicality under the post. In fact if the Firebirds are any chance to win they will need a full court defence to stop the ball from firing into Koenen with Gabi Simpson and Kim Ravaillion likely to apply that strong hands over pressure through the midcourt.
All eyes will turn to the battle between Phumza Maweni and Romelda Aiken with both players barometers for their respective sides. Aiken is the tall timber under the post for the Firebirds and she plays some of her best netball when Gretel Bueta is up and about with the goal attack a real livewire credit to her athleticism and smarts. Maweni on the other hand is a real ball winner and can change the course of a game within an instant credit to her aerial ability and long limbs. Maweni and Karla Pretorius have been impressive throughout this season with the pair renowned for their ball winning ways and will need to stop the shooter to shooter connection if they are to upset Queensland. The Firebirds also have a great level of depth through the wing attack role with Jemma Mi Mi and Lara Dunkley viable options as for the Lightning they have Laura Scherian, Maddy McAuliffe and Mahalia Cassidy who are able to lead the charge.
Photo credit: Jason McCawley