THE Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season kicks off this Saturday, with Round 1 shaping up with some exciting matches across the board. Audiences will see some familiar faces as well as a number of newbies take to the court, with the opening game a grand final replay showdown.
Melbourne Vixens vs. West Coast Fever
Saturday, May 1 @3:00pm
In this 2020 grand final rematch, both teams are expected to come out fighting in a huge Round 1 clash. Fever have had a rough week in the lead up to this game, as Perth went into a three-day lockdown over the weekend and their plans were thrown into disarray. However they will now land in Melbourne on Friday, and have been training in closed quarantine conditions. Fever also start the season on negative 12 points after serious salary cap breaches in previous seasons, which means they really need every win on the board to make their season count.
A key match-up to watch will be between Fever shooter Jhaniele Fowler and Vixens defensive duo Emily Mannix and Jo Weston. Fowler is an absolute powerhouse under the ring, with her height and strong hold making life difficult for her opponents. However, she may just be put to the test with Mannix and Weston, who have a great understanding of each other in the circle. Weston’s long arms and willingness to hunt make her dangerous for attackers, and Mannix’s hold over the ball and ability to jump creates a problem as well.
With Liz Watson out for the season with a foot injury, and the retirement of Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip at the end of last season, the reigning premiers might not be up to the same level they were at last year. Mwai Kumwenda is the only remaining shooter, now joined by Ruby Barkmeyer and former Fever player, Kaylia Stanton, who will be looking to put her best foot forward in her new colours. They will have their work cut out for them against a strong Fever defensive unit in Courtney Bruce, Stacey Francis, Olivia Lewis and youngster Sunday Aryang.
Collingwood Magpies vs. Sunshine Coast Lightning
Saturday, May 1 @7:00pm
Finishing on the bottom of the ladder at the end of 2020, the Magpies will be looking to have a better season this year. With Nicole Richardson appointed as their new head coach, and the return of guns Ash Brazill and Kelsey Browne from injury, the season may be looking up. Lightning only just missed out on a place in the grand final last year, and actually finished in second spot on the ladder, so they will be fighting hard to make sure they do not miss out on that opportunity again.
All eyes will be on the midcourt as Laura Scherian and Brazill are likely to go head to head. Brazill missed all of last season, sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained during an AFL Women’s match, so she will be eager to get back on court. As a strong, fast-paced player, she will certainly be an interesting match for Scherian, who steps up this season after the retirement of New Zealand great, Laura Langman. Cara Koenen will have her work cut out for her on Magpies veteran Geva Mentor, while new Lightning captain Karla Pretorius will hope to start her season on a high.
Queensland Firebirds vs. NSW Swifts
Sunday, May 2 @1:00pm
The Swifts were a strong but inconsistent team last year, and will be looking to push past that coming into Round 1. However, having just missed out on a finals outing last season, the Firebirds will be hungry for a few more wins this year. Sporting an amazing lineup, they welcome back Gretel Bueta after having a baby, and are joined again by Kim Ravaillion, who most recently played with the Magpies before also having a child.
A key matchup in this game will be Swifts’ Sarah Klau and Firebirds’ Romelda Aiken. On the Australian Diamonds international team as one of the developing defenders, Klau has an amazing ability to read the ball, and at 190cm, is a real challenge for her opponents. However, at 196cm, Aiken’s height and ability to take those long, obscure passes will really give Klau a run for her money.
Klau is joined in the defensive end by Lauren Moore and Maddy Turner, while Aiken will work alongside Bueta and young gun Tippah Dwan, who took the SSN by storm in her debut season last year by sinking super shots left right and centre. Both sides have incredibly versatile midcourts with Lara Dunkley, Jemma Mi Mi, Ravaillion and Gabi Simpson all formidable forces for the Firebirds while for the Swifts Paige Hadley, Maddy Proud, Natalie Haythornthwaite and Tayla Fraser are reliable through the centre third.
Adelaide Thunderbirds vs. GIANTS
Sunday, May 2 @3:00pm
Neither the GIANTS nor Thunderbirds had a stellar season last in 2020, both ending up in the bottom three of the ladder. The GIANTS came under a bit of fire last year after benching Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett for the majority of the season, and losing her to the ANZ Premiership’s Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic.
It will be interesting to watch the matchup of GIANTS captain, Jo Harten and Thunderbirds defender Shamera Sterling. Sterling had a slow start to last season, but as the games went on, she pushed harder, and showcased her spectacular jump and defensive skills. Harten is a strong shooter, with fast footwork skills and an ability to set up play in the circle. While she was not a fan of the super shot last year, she still managed to use it to her ability, pairing well with Kiera Austin out the front.
With Kate Shimmin heading to Lightning, the Thunderbirds have brought in Jamaican Latanya Wilson, who played in the Vitality Netball Superleague last season. She has been described as a ‘hunter’ on the court, and will be a great asset to the Thunderbirds defence end. The GIANTS have a different defensive setup with Amy Parmenter and Jamie-Lee Price creating the physical midcourt to create turnover ball before it hits the goal third.