Tag: mleague

Elle McDonald ready for the next step

A NEW addition to the Melbourne Vixens ranks in 2020, training partner Elle McDonald has had an explosive past year, selected for the 2019 Vic Fury squad in the Australian Netball League (ANL) and subsequently getting the call up to the Vixens for the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season.

McDonald has not followed the typical state talent pathway, instead working her way up the ranks through the Victorian Netball League (VNL), honing her craft through the Under-19s to division one and then championship, winning a premiership with North East Blaze in 2017. 

“When I was younger I didn’t go through the state teams pathway that most of the other athletes would have but I was really lucky to still be playing in the VNL. And I thought I’d just work my way through the Under 19 Division and then was aiming for playing in that championship team and then once I was playing that championship team I was, you know, always trying to do the best I can,” McDonald said. “From there, I kept pushing myself and was lucky enough to be named in the team of the year for the last two years, I think, so I’ve just always been trying to improve myself and go one step further.”

The speedy midcourter has no issue traversing the court, able to ply her trade in both centre and wing attack, using her speed off the mark to enter the contest and be a real workhorse in attack.

“Last year I was really lucky to be asked to play in the ANL with Vic Fury, and win the Premiership with them too … I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s been challenging, of course, I’ve had my setbacks like many other people but in a way it just made me work harder and stronger and become a better player.”

But what should have been an exciting start to the year with Super Netball coming up, has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with teams having to switch out regular face-to-face training for backyard workouts and video meetings.

“Yeah, it’s been challenging, but also good I think. Obviously having to train by yourself is very different, especially being used to a team sport and really supporting each other through tough training sessions and things like that,” McDonald said. “I think we’ve been very accountable, and we knew how important it was to maintain our fitness levels during isolation so we can come back as strong as possible when we were allowed to.”

Despite the challenge of taking on her first season of elite training at home, McDonald said that the team was able to conduct virtual training sessions via Zoom.

“I think we were lucky to try and squeeze in … things like that, to really get our feet moving, doing lots of footwork and ball skills against the wall or someone at home, if you had someone to pass with you occasionally, that was really helpful and I think for me, really important to try and keep up.”

That being said, the Vixens are back regularly training now meaning the midcourter can really work on those skills with a plethora of experienced players to learn off, with the likes of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney two prominent figures in the Vixens midcourt unit.

“Just being part of that environment is quite surreal sometimes but I think having role models like that to look up to and, as you said they’re so experienced, but they’re also just so encouraging and they’re really supportive of everyone.I think just being able to train alongside them and be challenged and challenge them is totally our role as a training partner and, yeah, as I said, it’s just such a good and professional environment to be a part of. I’ve been loving every minute of being part of the Vixens.”

McDonald said she is in the team to become the best player she can be, always pushing herself regardless of the level. While she has been exposed to elite pathways in the VNL and ANL along with the impressive coaching at that level, the midcourter says that the training environment with the Vixens is “amazing”.

“I just want to, you know, learn as much as I can from the coaches and the players that we have there … I’ve never had access to the facilities and the strength and conditioning coaches and programs that are put in place before, so I’m really just trying to make the most of it and just absorb as much as I can in that training environment.”

“I think we have been chosen as training partners for a reason. I think they obviously see some potential in us and we want to, you know, be the best we can,” McDonald said. “When you are going up against one of those experienced international players [you want to] to challenge them, because the more we challenge them the better we become as well.”

With significant breaks between seasons, many players pick up other fitness regimes and exercise to do away from the netball court. But for McDonald, mixed netball was a great way to keep up that match fitness and skill over the off-season, drawn to the speed and physicality of the game.

“I played mixed my last year of high school. I sort of was introduced to it and I just thought it would be fun, would get to play with a few of my friends and then I quickly realised just how talented some of the mens and mixed netballers were and how competitive that league was,” McDonald explained. “So to me, when the VNL season stopped, being able to play in the M-League competition was a really good opportunity.”

McDonald was part of the grand final winning Parkville Panthers in the 2019 Victorian M-League Mixed Premier Division, winning the female most valuable player award for the season. She said the physicality of the mixed competition helped improve her speed and ability to attack the ball strongly.

“I think it’s definitely improved my speed, just because I found like some of the boys, you know, they’re very athletic so being able to just turn and feed things quickly. As well as that, the physicality – just really having to claim that ball and pull in strong with two hands.”

While the 2020 ANL season will not go ahead, McDonald will hope to continue improving with the Vixens and prove herself among the main group, still able to play in the VNL this year. With the addition of rolling subs and the two goal Super Shot to the Super Netball season, the midcourter said that the Vixens are one of the teams in a good position with the wealth of talent at their disposal.

“I’m sure they [the Vixens] will adapt to whatever they need to, in a really positive way and I think if you look at the shooters in that team, you know, they’re very lucky to have some accurate long-bomb shooters.”

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s/Mixed Division 1 Grand Final wrap – Northern Titans and Fitzroy Phoenix prevail

PLENTY of action across two massive Division 1 matches saw Men’s Division 1’s Northern Titans go back to back and Mixed Division 1’s Fitzroy Phoenix win an elusive first premiership after coming close on multiple occasions. Both matches started close before leads extended, making for two massive grand finals to finish the 2019 season on the ultimate high.

Men’s Division 1

Northern Titans Men’s (44) defeated DDNA Teal (38)

Despite a strong first quarter effort DDNA were unable to hold on for victory, with Northern Titans proving why they were at the top of the ladder with a dominant defensive effort through the second and third and ultimately holding onto victory despite DDNA’s late fight back. It was a slow start to both sides with only one goal scored apiece at the three minute mark of the match, a testament to the defensive effort and intensity from every player on court doing their bit to create turnover ball. DDNA kept it consistent across the court for the full four quarters, with each combination working hard to ensure the ball was shared around well. Thomas Fisher and Brent Pace put in the hard yards in the goal circle sharing the load but it was the defensive effort from Titans’ grand final MVP, Ben Bruitzman rotating through goal defence and centre that really drew attention, winning valuable ball back and forcing turnovers again and again. Titans’ Andrew Baker in goal shooter found plenty of the ball, nailing 31 goals and providing a solid option in the circle while Matthew Le Gassick was a handy option on circle edge able to find targets in the goals. The feisty match was vocal with both teams putting their voices to the test, propelling their side on and directing play across the court. While DDNA ended the match with a goal on the siren it was not enough, with Titans just too strong in the second half for their second grand final victory in two seasons.

GF MVP: Ben Bruitzman (Northern Titans)

Season MVP: Ben Bruitzman (12 votes)
Runner up: Ronan Pring (11 votes)
Equal third: Trent Morrison, David Capron (10 votes)
Equal fifth: James Sutton, Cameron Hughes (9 votes)

Mixed Division 1

Fitzroy Phoenix (44) defeated Ariels Mixed (33)

A massive first quarter effort from the Ariels saw the Fitzroy Phoenix have flashbacks of their 2018 grand final choke, seeing the ladder leaders lift their game from then on and running away with an 11 goal victory in what was a fairly close affair early. Both sides had some unsteady moments speeding down the court, making uncharacteristic errors and creating turnovers with the ball moving down the court quicker than necessary in the heat of the pressure. Grand final MVP, Andrew Lewis was the key cog in goal shooter, putting up a whopping 40 goals thanks to the immense feeds from fellow goaler, Shae Gee and rotating midcourters, Kate Patterson, Colin Croft and Joss Roche who found circle edge again and again despite the best efforts of the Ariels, with James Hertan in goal keeper having the tough job of denying easy entry into Lewis. While the Ariels shared the load better to post it was to no avail, though Kurt Thompson provided a solid target to finish with 27 goals to his name. Through the midcourt, Lorna Clark worked well to drive across the court with speed and game smarts to boot, sharing the centre-court effort with Anthony Williams who was equally as valuable, while Renae Pickering was consistent through wing defence with solid hands over pressure on circle edge and Kirsty Clark gave every inch back when near the ball. While Ariels were impressive early it was ultimately the Phoenix who wanted it more, prevailing and finally getting their hands on the gold.

GF MVP: Andrew Lewis (Fitzroy Phoenix)

Season MVP: Andrew Lewis (17 votes)
Female season MVP: Kate Patterson (10 votes)
Runner up: James Sutton (16 votes)
Third: Zac Nathan (14 votes)
Equal fourth: Teah Edelmaer, Kate Patterson, John Tran (10 votes)

VIC M-League 2019: Mixed Premier Division Grand Final wrap – Parkville Panthers go back to back

THE Premier Mixed Division grand final saw plenty of intensity, action and push and shove between both Parkville Panthers and Geelong Cougars, with Parkville running out premiers for the second year running despite a strong effort from the Cougars. Two sides packed with Victorian talent, this match was one to watch regardless of the final score, and with plenty of players on their second grand final for the night the match was tight from the get-go, with fatigue sure to set in sooner rather than later after a rollercoaster Men’s Premier Division grand final directly prior

Parkville Panthers (55) defeated Geelong Cougars (39)

Though the end score suggests an uneven match, it was nothing of the sort with Parkville Panthers well and truly tested early by their counterparts. While the Panthers had the lead for majority of the match the Cougars ensured they kept on their toes, trailing by one goal throughout the first half before the Panthers managed to pull away in the third. Defensively, Geelong’s Luke Rawlings, Jake Noonan and Sarah Szczykulski could not be faulted early, causing mishaps and inaccuracy to post for the Panthers. Neither side looked after the ball early with disrupted ball flow from both teams and every player on court going hard into the contest. A feisty contest from the get-go saw Dylan Nexhip and Brayden Pastore (19 goals) go head to head for the  second time that night, with Nexhip and fellow defender Georgette Paatsch double teaming Pastore and Julia Woolley (15 goals) to deny any easy access to ball in the circle. 

The second quarter continued much the same while the tenacity on court hit another level as the scores remained relatively level. Geelong wing defence, Laura Giles had the upper hand in the second term over speedy Elle McDonald in wing attack, cutting off strong drives, applying great hands-over pressure and sticking like glue around circle edge. While both sides continued to fight for every ball, Panthers brought back some classy play thanks to the constant drives and second efforts from grand final MVP Brodie Roberts (32 goals) in at goal attack, aided by Riley Richardson’s ability to come off the body and take up loose ball. The game was not over, however, with Geelong continuing to play hard and Noonan rotating through where required, switching from goal defence to centre to add an extra burst of speed through the midcourt alongside Vanessa Augustini who played out a consistent four quarters with speed, strength and game smarts to boot. 

The third quarter saw Panthers switch it on, shooting 14 goals to six to pull ahead to a lead they ultimately maintained for the rest of the match. That being said, the amount of pressure piled on from Geelong defensively was palpable with the Panthers’ ball skills spot on until they reached the goal circle, faltering and wasting precious ball before winning it back through the midcourt. Uneeq Palavi and Roberts worked well in tandem despite constant pressure in the circle, before Amy Starzer took the court in goal shooter to provide some versatility in her movement. While Woolley kept up her strong movement and Pastore used his speed to find plenty of ball, the defensive pressure from Paatsch, Nexhip and wing defence, Casey Adamson saw the Cougars pair struggle to continue their early form and Pastore subbed off late in the quarter before returning for the final minute of the match. 

While the Panthers were unable to settle in the third they well and truly ran away with it in the final quarter, shooting 16 goals to nine in a dominant display. Despite efforts from Rawlings, reaction time on point for intercepts all across the court and more missed opportunities from Parkville, the Cougars were unable to fight their way back into contention and ultimately went down by 16 goals in a final quarter that definitely was not indicative of the overall match quality. 

Grand Final MVP: Brodie Roberts (Parkville Panthers)

Season MVP: Brodie Roberts (Parkville Panthers, 23 votes)
Female Season MVP: Elle McDonald (Parkville Panthers, 13 votes)
Runner up: Brayden Pastore (Geelong Cougars, 14 votes)
Third: Alastair Punshon (Valley Wolves, 13 votes)
Fourth: Elle McDonald (Parkville Panthers, 13 votes)
Fifth: Riley Richardson (Parkville Panthers, 12 votes)

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division Grand Final wrap – St Therese win in overtime

A MASSIVE season of Men’s Premier Division action came to a head on Wednesday night, with premiership favourites, Geelong Cougars challenged every step of the way by St Therese after they finished top of the ladder once more. The Saints chewed up Geelong’s back-to-back finals hopes, however, keeping ahead of the Cougars at every turn and drawing back the margin time and time again to get their first win of the season against the Cougars in the best possible scenario. The two sides were unable to be split on multiple occasions, with the contest ultimately finishing in a draw and two action-packed halves of overtime before the Saints were named well-deserved 2019 premiers.

Geelong Cougars (53) defeated by St Therese (59)

St Therese were in the finest form of their 2019 season when they took on the Cougars, getting off to a fantastic start to lead the Cougars by four goals at the first change. Their speedy start was punctuated by accuracy and volume from goalers, Corey Nexhip (35 goals at 81 per cent accuracy) and Connor Lilly (24 at 75 per cent) who piled on the attacking pressure from the get-go thanks to phenomenal feeds from wing attack Guy Keane, who was awarded Grand Final MVP for his effort. Neither side was willing to bend, giving no leeway down the court and seeing plenty of turnovers from both teams with plenty of haste running down the midcourt. While both sides wasted opportunities and made some uncharacteristic errors across the court it was St Therese that took control to convert, with a zoning defence allowing Dylan Nexhip to pick off vital turnover ball in defence. Geelong’s attack had a slow start, too hasty to feed into the circle and giving Saints plenty of opportunity to turn over the ball. Key goaler Brayden Pastore had a slow start before warming into the match, only putting three on the board in the first before finishing with a tally of 20 while Cameron Allum provided a solid target in at goal shooter (33 goals).

Geelong came back in the second quarter, evening up the ledger early and well and truly putting Saints under the pump, reducing the accuracy of St Therese’ goalers thanks to the defensive prowess of Luke Rawlings who joined the fray to apply the aerial pressure Saints took advantage of early. The Cougars showed plenty more tenacity up the court in the second, splitting the centre court to drive to the circle and breaking away from the Saints’ zoning defence. Gerard Murphy put in the hard yards brimming with experience, calling plays and creating vital opportunities for the Cougars to get back into the game and ultimately evening up the ledger less than five minutes into the quarter. Jed Christian did a good job on speedster, Riley Richardson, forcing some errant passes here and there before the Saints tidied up their act once more, drawing level to finish the first half on 24 goals apiece.

With calls for overtime already being tossed up thanks to the closeness of the match, the third quarter saw both sides continue on their merry way creating an intense contest with plenty of players stepping up. Saints’ Matthew Longhurst was key shutting down easy access through the goal third in at goal defence alongside Dylan Nexhip, seeing the side steal back the contest once more to finish the quarter with the same quarter-time deficit for the sides heading into the final quarter. An injection of youth seemed to be exactly what the Saints needed in the third with Tristan Comans entering the fray, and while neither side could be separated for long it was a goaling showdown with accuracy to post from both teams. Geelong continued to put in the hard yards, rotating players through defence and showcasing both their versatility and individual ability to impact the contest regardless of the combinations. 

With a four goal margin heading into the final term, the last quarter saw St Therese come in ahead with the pace quickening and passes flying down the court. While the Saints were impressive delaying Geelong’s movement down the court, It was a battle of goal keepers with Rawlings and Dylan Nexhip rebounding well and creating opportunities plenty while Geelong’s Alastair Punshon and Jake Dambrauskas switched on to propel the ball up the court. Inaccuracy caused issues for both sides but with the frenetic nature of the game goals were scored back quickly and efficiently, with the two sides going goal for goal to finish. 

Sitting at 47 goals apiece come full time, on came the overtime with two seven-minute halves to decide the 2019 Men’s Premier Division victors. St Therese doubled Geelong in overtime, shooting 12 goals to six to finish off the match on a high with Keane and both Nexhips pulling out all the shots to ensure the Cougars did not go back-to-back. While both sides pulled off some impressive manoeuvres in the extra time it was Saints to played through it better, finding the form to finish well and come away with the elusive grand final victory, 59-53.


Grand Final MVP: Guy Keane (St Therese)

Season MVP: Brodie Roberts (Sirens Netball, 18 votes)
Runner up: Alastair Punshon (Geelong Cougars, 17 votes)
Third: Matt Doyle (Melbourne City Blackhawks, 15 votes)
Fourth: Riley Richardson (St Therese, 13 votes)
Fifth: Joshua Burns (Geelong Cougars, 12 votes)