Tag: olivia lewis

Top 20 players over 30: #20 Stacey Francis

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Kickstarting the countdown at number 20 is West Coast Fever and England Roses defender, Stacey Francis.

Francis has been a staple hold in the Fever defence line-up since their inception with her aerial ability and physicality a couple of her characteristics. She is not afraid to use her body work to get under the skin of her opponents and while she is not the tallest defender it is her speed and skill to read the play that makes her one to watch. The 32-year-old is electric on her feet able to cover the court with ease and can rotate through the defensive positions with ease. While goal defence is her preferred position, Francis has shown that she is more than capable of playing her role in wing defence with her nagging style of defence and nous to block her opposition’s space and vision.

She has shown no signs of slowing down leaving her mark in the England Roses team with her constant hands over pressure and desperation to have a flying shot at anything that goes past her. Francis is light on her feet able to burst out of the blocks and gobble up the cross-court ball. Standing at 180cm Francis uses every inch of her height to cause turnovers and create tips across the court while her tenacity to chase down the loose ball also makes her an integral member in any side.

Her combination with Fever teammate and Australian goal keeper Courtney Bruce is highly impressive, with the two able to rotate through the space and cause confusion with their high intensity and general netball smarts. Her connection with fellow West Coast teammates such as Shannon Eagland and Olivia Lewis is also strong with the defender using her experience to dictate space and create a calming presence down back. She is agile but most importantly is strong, not often out-bodied by opponents especially around circle edge Francis can have a profound impact in disrupting the attacking flow and creating issues for opposition teams trying to push forward. Francis uses her balance and quick footwork to dance around her opponent and while she is towards the twilight of her career has shown that she still has a few tricks up her sleeve.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)

Top 15 SSN training partners: #10 – Sunday Aryang

WITH a number of netball leagues across the world being suspended due to COVID-19, the Draft Central team is making a case for the top 15 training partners stepping up to the Suncorp Super Netball plate in 2020. Heading up the top 10 is 2019 West Coast Fever debutant Sunday Aryang. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Ethiopia-born Aryang may be young but what she lacks in age she well and truly makes up for in talent, with impressive speed and elevation. The defender can be a threat both inside and outside the circle with her lanky arms and ability to cover ground, able to apply impressive pressure on the shot or deny entry to the circle depending on what her team needs. Aryang may not have a wealth of experience at the top level, but training behind Australian Diamonds goal keeper Courtney Bruce and against the likes of 198cm Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler in the circle, her development with this Fever unit will be crucial. 

Fellow West Australian pathway athlete Olivia Lewis is a handy player to follow the footsteps of, with the fellow defender earning her place on the bench and a playing a crucial role in helping Aryang up through the ranks. Aryang is a key member of the Western Sting side playing in the Australian Netball League (ANL) and a member of the 2019 Under-19 Australian squad. With clean hands and good anticipation of the play, Aryang is a great defensive prospect for the future, while her versatility will come in handy throughout her development with plenty of rotational options giving her plenty of opportunity to gain valuable court time.

TOP 15 SSN TRAINING PARTNERS SO FAR:

#15 Ashlee Unie (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
#14 Ruby Barkmeyer (Melbourne Vixens)
#13 Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
#12 Matisse Letherbarrow (GIANTS Netball)
#11 Chelsea Blackman (Adelaide Thunderbirds)
#10 Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)

2019 SSN season team review: West Coast Fever

COMING off a 2018 grand final defeat, the West Coast Fever were brought back down to earth in 2019, unable to reach the heights of the previous season and only notching up two wins for the year. The Fever’s successful game style from 2018 was worked out, with the West Australian side unable to get their signature ball movement up and running for four quarters consistently and impose themselves on the contest.

Position: 6th
Percentage: 90.82%
Win-loss: 2-3-9

Overview:

It was a disappointing season for last years grand finalists, with the Fever only managing two wins while also playing out three draws, unlucky at times to have not come away with the four points. The Fever had an inconsistent year at best with captain Courtney Bruce forced to the bench for large chunks of the season. Her presence was sorely missed in the defensive end with the likes of Stacey Francis, Shannon Eagland and Olivia Lewis forced to carry the load down back. Lewis showed plenty of promise, standing up to the occasion and backing herself, while up the other end Jhaniele Fowler continued on her merry way with a season best 709 goals to to the Super Netball leaderboard once more. With Nat Medhurst departing the club, the goal attack role chopped and changed between Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton with the side struggling to find consistency. Through the midcourt Verity Charles, Ingrid Colyer and Jess Anstiss had moments of magic but also went missing for large parts of 2019, but when on song proved hard to stop with their speed and solid connections.

Shining light:

While 198cm shooter Fowler provided a commanding presence under the post for the Fever, reining in passes with ease and taking full control in the attacking third. Fowler showcased her versatility, shaking up her usual holding style to come out of the circle and allow Teague-Neeld or Stanton to drive into the ring. Her strength and body positioning under the post was key for Fever throughout the season, reeling in errant passes and using her footwork to get to the loose ball.

2020 predictions:

Despite having an off-season, Anstiss still has plenty to offer with the young wing defence filled with plenty of potential. She will look to recapture her dominant form from last year that saw her side rise up the ladder and put her name on the map. Known for her defensive pressure, smothering movement and ability to clog up space, Anstiss could be a force to be reckoned with come 2020.

2019 Australian Development Team & Squad

WITH a big season of international netball set to commence, the Australian Diamonds have released a Development Team and Squad consisting of 20 players. The side is dedicated to strengthening the Aussie stocks and fostering the talent of young up-and-coming players to become future Diamonds.

Experienced heads Gabi Simpson, Kate Moloney and Emily Mannix have all been named in the team after missing out on Constellation Cup selection. The trio are renowned for their hard work, endurance and craft in their respective positions and will provide plenty of composure and wisdom on the court given the youth and inexperience.

After a breakout season, it is no surprise Sunshine Coast Lightning versatile shooter Cara Koenen got the nod in the team. The 23-year-old played an integral role in the Lightning’s finals berth with her accuracy, clever footwork and strong holds all but cementing her spot in the starting side. Given her scope the training squad could be just the beginning and a stepping stone for the talented goaler who oozes composure and class. Teammate Maddy McAuliffe also got the call up with the wing defence plying her trade credit to her hands over pressure and tagging style of defence.

Despite of a lack of court time in 2019 through injury Matilda Garrett has been named in the Development Squad thanks to her defensive pressure while fellow Magpie Gabby Sinclair has also secured a spot. After coming in as a replacement player for Maddy Proud at the Swifts youngster Tayla Fraser has earned a spot in the squad with her dynamic movement and speed to boot a real feature of her game. Fellow Swift, Sophie Garbin also got the nod in the Development Team after an impressive season with her accuracy and strength on full display throughout the year. Other shooters such as Kiera Austin and Alice Teague-Neeld have also been selected with Austin renowned for her versatility, silky movement and general netball know how able to adapt to just about any situation on the court.

Queensland Firebirds defensive duo Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe also landed a spot in the Development Team with their hard work throughout the season well and truly recognised. Both Hincliffe and Jenner have plenty of class paired with tenacity and a desire to hunt any cross-court ball making them a promising combination. Teammate Jemma Mi Mi also caught the eye of selectors with her speed, agility and ability to stop on a dime.

The GIANTS are well represented with Kristiana Manu’a and Amy Parmenter both in the team, along with 28-year-old goal keeper Sam Poolman who was selected in the squad. Parmenter burst onto the scene this season with her speed off the mark, ability to read the play and skill to cover the court. West Coast Fever duo Jess Anstiss and Olivia Lewis will also be hoping to have an impact while Hannah Petty is the only representative from the Thunderbirds after having a solid season in the midcourt with her drives and speed.

2019 Australian Development Team
Jess Anstiss
Kiera Austin
Sophie Garbin
Tara Hinchliffe
Kim Jenner
Cara Koenen
Emily Mannix
Kristiana Manu’a
Maddy McAuliffe
Jemma Mi Mi
Kate Moloney
Amy Parmenter
Gabi Simpson
Alice Teague-Neeld

2019 Australian Development Squad
Tayla Fraser
Matilda Garrett
Olivia Lewis
Hannah Petty
Sam Poolman
Gabby Sinclair

GIANT victory but fall agonisingly short of finals berth

WITH a top four spot up for grabs, the GIANTS made the most of their opportunities to run out 10-goal victors against West Coast Fever (70-60). But they did not have it all their own way with Fever pushing them to their limits and ultimately knocking them out of finals contention by denying them all four bonus points. In her farewell game Kim Green left a remarkable legacy and drew upon every inch of her experience and class to spur her side on.

The Fever were determined to end their season on a high edging out to a three goal lead midway through the first term. Jamaican powerhouse, Jhaniele Fowler was on song early owning the goal circle with her height, athleticism and strength to wrestle the ball out of mid-air and slot it through the net with 16 goals straight. Alice Teague-Neeld had a hot start to the game for the Fever with her dynamic movement and ability to find Fowler with ease in the circle amassing a team-high seven goal assists for the opening term. Although she did not find the net only managing one goal for the quarter she did the little things well, driving hard into the circle and providing an option in the attacking third. In Courtney Bruce’s absence, youngster Olivia Lewis also left her mark on the game in the opening quarter getting hands to ball and reading the play exceptionally well to stifle the GIANTS movement in the circle picking up two deflections, one intercept and three deflections. For the GIANTS Kristiana Manu’a worked tirelessly to try and quell the influence of Teague-Neeld out the front while also dropping back on towering shooter, Fowler. But neither team could be separated going into the quarter time break with 17 goals apiece.

The GIANTS went bang in second quarter piling on a whopping 21 goals to 11. They were more composed with ball in hand while their connections down the court intensified finding each other on the drive and linking up with ease. The connection between both Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett lifted with the two hard to stop credit to their sheer class and netball nous. Only three goals were missed between the two shooters with Bassett nailing 15 from 17 while Harten converted six of her seven shots. Retiree, Green had a vintage performance in the attacking third with her silky footwork, fight for the ball and bullet passes on full display. Green showed that she still had plenty to give in what was to be her final game with six goal assists along with two gains and two intercepts. With the wheels starting to fall off in the attacking third for the Fever, Stacey Marinkovich made a host of changes in the dying minutes of the quarter bringing on Kaylia Stanton and pushing Teague-Neeld out to wing attack but it was to no avail with the side unable to eat into the 10-goal margin heading into half time.

With another bonus point up for grabs the GIANTS made no mistake claiming their second for the game. Although the Fever upped their intensity across the court with Stacey Francis putting Harten through her paces thanks to her physical nature it was not enough to disrupt the GIANTS who were humming. Ingrid Colyer made her way back onto the court in wing attack for West Coast using her drive and speed to hit the circle edge but the placement of her feeds at time were a bit off allowing the likes of Sam Poolman and Manu’a to pick off passes and force turnovers. Stanton injected herself into the game nailing four goals from six attempts but lacked that drive and movement in the circle. For the GIANTS, Jamie-Lee Price turned on the afterburners picking up her work rate both in attack and defence. Price showcased her skill to win ball back with one gain and one intercept while also displaying her impressive vision into the circle with five goal assists. Amy Parmenter continued her blistering season covering Colyer’s every move and applying strong hands over pressure to regain possession for her side.

The Fever made the most of their opportunities in the last quarter to run out with a bonus point after an 18 goals to 16 term. Fowler proved unstoppable under the post once again, nailing another 16 goals from 17 attempts. Jess Anstiss lifted her work rate after a relatively quiet three quarters picking up a timely intercept and a gain. But in the end the GIANTS were just too strong holding on to their 10 goal lead. Fowler finished with 50 goals from 52 attempts at 96 percent both Stanton and Teague-Neeld converted five goals from seven attempts at 71 percent. Harten (23 from 29) and Bassett (47 from 50) were accurate to post helping to get the GIANTS over the line.

STARTING LINE-UP:

GIANTS Netball:

GS | Caitlin Bassett
GA | Jo Harten
WA | Kim Green
C | Jamie-Lee Price
WD | Amy Parmenter
GD | Kristiana Manu’a
GK | Sam Poolman

West Coast Fever:

GS | Jhaniele Fowler
GA | Alice Teague-Neeld
WA | Ingrid Colyer
C | Verity Charles
WD | Jess Anstiss
GD | Stacey Francis
GK | Olivia Lewis

SSN Round 14 Preview – Final round to determine minor premier

THE final round of 2019 has hit Suncorp Super Netball, with both Collingwood Magpies and GIANTS Netball still fighting for one spot in the top four while the title of minor premiers will be decided by this round’s results. The only position secured in the top four is the Melbourne Vixens in third, while all three of their fellow top four sides will take on teams far below them on the ladder.

GIANTS Netball v. West Coast Fever

The opening match of Round 13 will see GIANTS fight for their spot in finals, currently sitting in fourth but needing a big win to ensure they finish ahead of the Magpies on the ladder. The Fever are well and truly out of the finals race after a breakout season last year crumbling with injuries aplenty in 2019, once again missing Courtney Bruce this round after scans revealed a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) meaning she is unable to fly, let alone play. While the GIANTS’ physicality on court has been called into question in recent weeks, their ability to get the job done under pressure is credit to their connections and combination of experience and youth across the court. Amy Parmenter has starred this season in wing defence, adding a new element to the GIANTS’ defensive lineup while Kim Green will play her final home game – and potentially final game altogether – after announcing her retirement today. While goalers Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett had a shaky start to the season there is no questioning their ability to turn and shoot, while Kiera Austin continues to provide an exciting alternative rotating through both goal attack and wing attack. For the Fever, Olivia Lewis is another youngster coming through the ranks with adaptability and talent to boot, and while lacking experience Lewis has been a solid option in Bruce’s absence this season pairing with the likes of Stacey Francis and Shannon Eagland. Ingrid Colyer has had a mostly inconsistent season and was held well by Firebirds’ Gabi Simpson last round so will be under the pump against Parmenter.

NSW Swifts v. Queensland Firebirds

In a big switch compared to the last time these sides met, the Swifts come in to Round 14 after a loss last week while the Firebirds finally got their maiden win for the season against the Fever. With NSW looking for a home final, this match will also see the Swifts look toward a top spot finish after being bumped into second by the Lightning. Last time these sides met the Swifts came out 22 point victors despite captain Maddy Proud going down with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. They will welcome back dominant shooter Helen Housby after missing the past two rounds with injury. While both Sophie Garbin and Nat Haythornthwaite have rotated through goal attack in recent weeks with relative success, it does mean more pressure is on Sam Wallace at the post. The big goal for the Swifts will be to stop Gretel Tippett, who has been arguably the best goal attack in the competition this season with accuracy, volume and excitement going in her favour. Katrina Rore has been a big in for the Swifts in recent weeks with her versatility key, meaning she could line up against Tippett if the scales start to tip, making for an interesting contest. Meanwhile, this will be the Firebirds’ final match for the season with Caitlyn Nevins and Laura Clemesha pulling on the purple dress for the final time before retirement. Romelda Aiken did not play last time the Firebirds took on the Swifts, meaning Sarah Klau will be under some pressure to keep her at bay while Lenize Potgieter can also provide a big threat at the post with her low-release shot and quick footwork.

Sunshine Coast Lightning v. Adelaide Thunderbirds

Sunshine Coast may already know prior to their match whether they have secured the minor premiership, however they are sure to finish the season strong regardless after another impressive season. Lightning are still the only side that has not played in a draw this season showing their ability to close out games. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds have showed some impressive fight this year but have well and truly succumbed to injury with Sasha Glasgow and Emma Ryde both out of the side with knee injuries suffered in Round 13, adding on to their already extensive list. While the Thunderbirds put up an impressive performance last time they met, going down by six goals after leading at three quarter time, the Lightning came back from a 10 goal deficit last week against the Vixens to win and are sure to switch on early this match to ensure they get a win on the board. The real question in this match is who the Thunderbirds will bring in as injury replacements, with both Charlee Hodges and Cody Lange viable options to rejoin the gameday squad. Maria Folau has been in form all season shooting a bag of goals every round from all over the ring while Shamera Sterling continues to prove a massive threat in defence with her height and agility to get plenty of ball back an asset for the Thunderbirds. But while the T’birds have plenty up their sleeve, Lightning not only match it defensively thanks to the skill and timing of Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni creating turnovers out of nothing, but also have Laura Langman‘s speed through the midcourt and versatility in attack to be threatening all over the court.

Collingwood Magpies v. Melbourne Vixens

The final match of the season pits the two Victorian teams against the other once more, but this time with different stakes – the Vixens have already secured a home final, while the Magpies need a win to jump the GIANTS and make finals. While the Vixens will want to get one back after losing to the Pies for the first time in SSN history in Round 7, it will be interesting to see whether they look to try and knock the Magpies out of contention or rest some of their big name players in time for finals. The Magpies will be missing Kelsey Browne with their star wing attack going down with a devastating ACL injury last round against the Swifts. Defensive midcourter Ash Brazill has been in exceptional form since the Netball World Cup break, playing out in centre for the past few weeks and providing a massive threat through both attack and defence. Veteran defender Geva Mentor put out a vintage performance last week to spur the Pies to victory, meaning the Vixens will really be under the pump this week if she is on song. The Vixens have been feeling out different attacking connections in recent weeks with Mwai Kumwenda back in the mix with Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip, and while that is a huge luxury and threat to their opposition it has been their downfall against both the Swifts and Lightning over the past few rounds. Meanwhile Shimona Nelson and Nat Medhurst have been in great form over the past few rounds, finding the ball with ease making it a tough job for Jo Weston and Emily Mannix in defence.

SSN: Possible trade options heading into 2020

WITH the end of the season quickly approaching and the list of uncontracted players from each team officially announced we analyse what each side may look for heading into 2020 and which players could fill that role.

FOR NOTIFICATIONS ON MORE NETBALL CONTENT, JOIN OUR NETBALL DRAFT CENTRAL FACEBOOK GROUP.

Adelaide Thunderbirds:

Beth Cobden
Maria Folau
Kelly Altmann
Chelsea Pitman
Layla Guscoth

Five players are out of contract for the Adelaide Thunderbirds who steadily built into the season, showcasing glimpses of brilliance throughout the year. The Thunderbirds have already signed South African international Lenize Potgieter for 2020 with the goal shooter no stranger to the Suncorp Super Netball stage after coming in as a replacement player with the Firebirds. Sasha Glasgow has already committed to the club however will not take the court next season after suffering an ACL injury in Round 13 meaning the Thunderbirds could be looking for another shooter if Folau does not sign on. The Thunderbirds will be wanting to top up their stocks and retain players through the middle third with Altmann, Pitman and Cobden all out of contract at season’s end. The midcourt has been the Achilles heel for Adelaide throughout the season, unable to transition the ball down the court with ease, making this a likely focal point heading into next season.

GIANTS Netball:

Amy Parmenter
Kristiana Manu’a
Sam Poolman
Matilda McDonell

The GIANTS had a major shakeup at the end of 2018 and are still in an adjustment period but have plenty of star power across the court despite Jo Harten and Caitlin Bassett still finding their feet in the circle. But with all four defensive players out of contract they could be searching for someone like April Brandley to provide that experience down back. Brandley is out of contract with the Magpies and could be a crucial member in the GIANTS defence if she was to defect to NSW, given her read of the play and impressive timing. The GIANTS have struggled with consistency through the midcourt during the season but given Amy Parmenter’s exciting start to her career she could be one the GIANTS look to quickly sign on once more for coming seasons.

Collingwood Magpies:

April Brandley
Gabrielle Sinclair
Kim Ravaillion
Madi Browne

With a relatively inconsistent season in 2019 the Collingwood Magpies will be looking to build consistency and narrow the gap between their best and worst form. Although Madi Browne has been out for the season with an ACL injury she could be a key cog in attack for the Magpies next season given her experience and class with ball in hand. That being said, Kelsey Browne has been a key player this season in the Magpies lineup and has resigned to the Pies, meaning there could be some intteresting news to come. With Matilda Garrett on the bench and Brandley out of contract the Magpies could have a new look defensive line-up if Brandley moves on, allowing the youngster to take the starting position in front of Geva Mentor.

Melbourne Vixens:

Caitlin Thwaites
Tegan Philip
Ine-Mari Venter
Mwai Kumwenda
Renae Ingles (retired)
Kadie-Ann Dehaney

The Melbourne Vixens have maintained a relatively steady line-up but could be hit hard during the trade period with five players out of contract – and none of their four current goalers signed back to the club as of yet. The Vixens are on the brink of farewelling fan favourite Renae Ingles after announcing her retirement, meaning the wing defence position has well and truly opened up. With the Vixens searching for someone to fill the void Swift, Kate Eddy could be a shoe in. The former Victorian Fury player offers plenty of skill and versatility – something that the Vixens have lacked at times throughout the season and ultimately something they will need to address.

NSW Swifts:

Kate Eddy
Sarah Klau

The Swifts’ main aim heading into season 2020 will be to retain their key players, with each member of the squad playing an integral role in their rise to the top. Newly appointed Australian Diamond, Sarah Klau will be a hot commodity but given her connection with the Swifts she could be hard to lure across. Sophie Garbin and Natalie Haythornthwaite have signed back with NSW showing their commitment to the club meaning their front end will stay relatively the same, while the Swifts’ youth they have weaned up in 2019 could make a case for regular starting positions.

Queensland Firebirds:

Tippah Dwan
Jemma Mi Mi
Laura Clemesha (retired)
Caitlyn Nevins (retired)

In what has been a relatively disappointing season for the Firebirds they will be wanting to reinvigorate themselves heading into 2020, ultimately with the hope of making their way back into finals contention next year. Queensland will be wanting to add more depth to their defensive end with Clemesha retiring and young guns Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe still developing their craft. Jamaican and Melbourne Vixens goal keeper Kadie-Ann Dehaney is out of contract meaning she could be a plausible option for the Firebirds who lack an imposing defensive figure as well as height in the ring. While Erin Burger has recently been released from her contract she could return for 2020 to replace the retired Caitlyn Nevins and injured Mahalia Cassidy while Jemma Mi Mi could still sign on with Queensland.

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

Phumza Maweni
Karla Pretorius
Madeline McAuliffe
Jacqui Russell
Laura Langman

With three of their key players out of contract the Lightning will be looking to secure their services quick smart. Both Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni have proven to be a dynamic duo in the circle, causing all sorts of headaches for opposition attack and if Lightning want to maintain their winning legacy they must secure them quicksmart. It is hard to see them leaving the club given their dominance however both Klau and Dehaney could be handy inclusions if they do not stay with their current teams or find alternative clubs. All eyes will turn to Laura Langman and whether or not she will stay given coach Noeline Taurua announced that she will not be with the Lightning in 2020.

West Coast Fever:

Kaylia Stanton

After a flash in the pan season in 2018 the West Coast Fever failed to live up to the hype this year and will be wanting to make amends heading into 2020. With only Stanton out of contract, expect the Fever to have a very settled line-up and build on their inconsistent form in hope to get back to their best. Jhaniele Fowler was a standout under the post once again while they lacked versatility and excitement at times across the court. They have plenty of young up and coming players with Olivia Lewis and Jess Anstiss both a shining light down in defence.

Firebirds get maiden win to continue streak over Fever

QUEENSLAND Firebirds finally had the game they have been waiting for this season, running home in the final quarter to defeat the West Coast Fever by six goals (68-62). Fever were missing captain Courtney Bruce allowing the Firebirds to take full advantage of their understrength defensive unit to claim their first victory of the season – and their first in over a year. Meanwhile, this victory means the Fever are still yet to beat the Firebirds since the inception of Suncorp Super Netball.

It was an even start, with neither team able to take control but also struggling to find easy avenues into the goal circle with plenty of opportunities to feed in but ball placement not allowing the goalers to go to post. Lenize Potgieter started in goal shooter for the Firebirds with Gretel Tippett, switching up the typical circle gameplay of the Queensland side in recent weeks. Potgieter was held well early by young gun Olivia Lewis, who racked up two gains credit to her elevation and hands over pressure on Potgieter’s low-release shot. But while the Firebirds were held well early in the quarter, a big change in the opening minutes saw Romelda Aiken take the court in goal keeper to line up on her Jamaican teammate, Jhaniele Fowler. Aiken’s height gave her the advantage the side was missing, picking up a valuable rebound to send the ball back up the court and spur her side into action in attack. The second quarter saw Fever wrestle back some control, gaining some important ground and narrowing the margin heading into half time down by only three goals. Fowler continued to rule the roost in goal shooter, shooting 15 goals helping her side claim their first bonus point of the game. Meanwhile Potgieter and Tippett shared the load at the other end shooting at 100 per cent for the quarter with 14 goals. Although Fowler still gained plenty of ball, Aiken’s stature in goal keeper went a long way in confusing the Fever feeders and forcing them to think before passing into the circle.

Both sides made a smattering of changes in the third term, unafraid to shake things up. Aiken returned to her regular starting position in goal shooter, teaming up with Tippett for another accurate quarter, while Fowler found plenty of ball in the circle against Tara Hinchliffe in goal keeper but to no avail, uncharacteristically missing three goals for the term. While Fever still won the third quarter, the Firebirds kept their nose in front up by two goals at the final change, giving the side something to drive with in the final term in the hope of getting their first 2019 win on the board. The final term saw the Firebirds well and truly put on the accelerator, shooting 20 goals to 16 to run away with the six goal victory. Gabi Simpson seemed to switch on in the second half, providing a massive threat through the midcourt and shutting down both Ingrid Colyer and Verity Charles in turn – limiting Colyer to only 11 assists from almost three quarters in wing attack. Fever were well and truly disheartened in the final term while Firebirds seemed to be brimming with confidence, seeing both Tippett and Aiken taking shots from distance safe in the knowledge that Simpson would lead from defence and find a way to turn the ball back over.

Caitlyn Nevins was back to her usual form ahead of retirement in the coming weeks, finishing with 23 assists from 38 feeds and 36 centre pass receives, finding good space around the circle and firing on all cylinders in the final quarter. Tippett finished yet another game at 100 per cent accuracy, shooting 30 goals and aided by both Potgieter (19 from 21) and Aiken (19 from 22) who in turn provided valuable yet different options at the post to keep the home side on their toes. For Fever, Fowler was prolific with 58 goals from 65 attempts at 89 per cent, while Alice Teague-Neeld only put four goals on the board from seven attempts but collected 22 goal assists and 18 centre pass receives. While it certainly was not the cleanest victory they could hope for, the Firebirds got away with their first win for the season along with six ladder points that may not elevate them off the bottom of the ladder but certainly put a spark back into an ultimately lacklustre season.

STARTING SEVEN

West Coast Fever
GS | Jhaniele Fowler
GA | Alice Teague-Neeld
WA | Ingrid Colyer
C | Verity Charles
WD | Jess Anstiss
GD | Stacey Francis
GK | Olivia Lewis

Queensland Firebirds
GS | Lenize Potgieter
GA | Gretel Tippett
WA | Caitlyn Nevins
C | Jemma Mi Mi
WD | Gabi Simpson
GD | Kim Jenner
GK | Tara Hinchliffe

Magpies overcome the Fever in Perth

THE Collingwood Magpies stayed in the hunt for finals with a six-goal victory over the West Coast Fever, 57-63. Collingwood were without Head Coach Rob Wright who was unable to travel due to an illness in the family, leaving assistant coaches Nicole Richardson and Kate Upton in charge of the Pies.

Despite the final margin the Fever kept up with the Magpies for much of the match, winning two bonus points and drawing another. There were 10 lead changes during the match showcasing the closeness and intensity of the game, however late in the third quarter Collingwood blazed away, scoring seven goals in a row to draw out the margin.

During the first quarter Fever looked confident, quickly transitioning from defence to attack where Jhaniele Fowler dominated the circle. The Magpies had trouble moving the ball forward off their centre passes early but once the connections clicked Collingwood made the most of them with Shimona Nelson holding strong in the circle, scoring eight goals from nine attempts then going on to finish the match with 43 goals from 50 attempts.

The Magpies started with Gabrielle Sinclair on the court for the second week in a row and while she made her presence felt early, two general play turnovers and a clogged up attacking third prompted a change to start the second quarter with the two sides sitting on 14 goals apiece. Veteran Nat Medhurst took the court and instantly the Magpies looked more dangerous in attack, with Medhurst’s experience opening up plenty of space for Nelson despite the physicality of Fever’s defence. Neck-and-neck for much of the quarter, it was Fowler’s shooting and Ingrid Colyer’s speed that saw the Fever edge ahead of the Magpies by a goal at halftime.

The Magpies took control of the match in the third quarter with Ash Brazill making the centre bib her own as she zipped back and forth across the court, applying pressure to the Fever while finding the circle edge and feeding with ease. Geva Mentor did enough to cause trouble for Fever’s feeders and it was on the back of a Mentor intercept that the Magpies were able to pull away.

Fever altered their line-up to start the final quarter with Shannon Eagland coming on court into goal defence, moving Stacey Francis to wing defence and Jess Anstiss to the bench. Despite the changes, the Magpies continued to outplay the Fever with Kelsey Browne, Brazill and Medhurst starring with hard drives and pinpoint connections.

With less than five minutes on the clock, Fever head coach Stacey Marinkovich pulled the trigger on more changes moving Courtney Bruce into goal defence and sending Eagland back to the bench while Olivia Lewis came on into goal keeper. Marinkovich also moved Verity Charles to the bench with Anstiss returning to the court to take the centre position. The changes did have an impact however it was too little too late for the Fever to claw back the margin by enough to win – though they did stop the Magpies from claiming another bonus point.

Despite the victory, Collingwood still sit outside the top four behind the GIANTS by one point with two rounds left before finals. It is still possible for the Magpies to make a finals appearance but with matches against ladder-leaders the NSW Swifts and the third-placed Melbourne Vixens on the cards, the GIANTS have an arguably easier run home with the Adelaide Thunderbirds and Fever in the coming weeks. Out of finals contention, Fever will be looking to finish their season off with a high coming up against the Firebirds on Sunday before travelling to meet the GIANTS.

STARTING LINE-UP:

West Coast Fever:

GS | Jhaniele Fowler
GA | Alice Teague-Neeld
WA | Ingrid Colyer
C | Verity Charles
WD | Jess Anstiss
GD | Stacey Francis
GK | Courtney Bruce

Collingwood Magpies:

GS | Shimona Nelson
GA | Gabrielle Sinclair
WA | Kelsey Browne
C | Ash Brazill
WD | Kim Ravaillion
GD | April Brandley
GK | Geva Mentor

Melbourne Vixens continue charge toward finals

THE Melbourne Vixens continued their charge towards the finals with a 12 goal win over the struggling West Coast Fever (64-52). The Vixens won three out of the four bonus points highlighting their ability to close out quarters and pile on the pressure while Fever had moments of brilliance but simply could not sustain that intensity.

Melbourne got out to a hot start establishing a six goal to one lead early in the term before the Fever worked their way back into the contest. But accuracy proved no issue for the Vixens with Caitlin Thwaites nailing 10 goals straight while her partner in crime, Tegan Philip only missed one shot for the quarter with nine from 10. The two combined effortlessly in the goal circle and created good space to capitalise on their opportunities, while their ability to turn and shoot from anywhere in the circle caused havoc for the Fever defence who were unable to quell their influence under the post from the get go. However, Fever goal keeper Courtney Bruce showcased her defensive prowess reading the play and picking off passes to amass three gains and two intercepts in the opening term credit to her slick footwork and impressive timing. Up the other end, Jhaniele Fowler was firing on all cylinders with the towering shooter nailing 13 goals at 100 percent highlighting her composure, ball control and strength to reign balls in and convert.

The intensity from the Vixens well and truly increased in the second quarter denying any easy transition down the court for the Fever and limiting their scoring opportunities only scoring 11 goals compared to 19. Goal defence Jo Weston went about her business applying strong hands over pressure and contesting every ball to force turnovers. Her strong connection with Renae Ingles and Emily Mannix helped to slow down the Fever while she racked up one intercept, two deflections and one gain for her efforts. Through the midcourt the likes of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney upped the ante delivering ball into Thwaites and Philip with ease while also using their speed and dynamic movement to open up the attacking third. Watson lead the way with 10 goal assists and six centre pass receives highlighting the work she does across the court. With the Fever struggling to make inroads into their deficit Stacey Francis made her way onto the court in wing defence replacing Jess Anstiss. Francis showcased her experience and class to try and work Watson overtime with her physicality and strong pressure but it was to no avail. The Vixens pushed out to a 12 goal lead at half time and did not look back.

The Fever won the third term 15-12 credit to Fowler in the goal circle as well as an increased work load from the defensive end. Although goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld did not put up a shot in the third she did a wealth of work out the front to feed into Fowler but was later replaced by debutant Beryl Friday who created attacking plays with her strong drives and intent. She also showed she was not afraid to back herself nailing two goals at 100 percent. She was not the only change for the Fever with Olivia Lewis brought on in goal keeper, pushing Bruce out to goal defence. The move paid dividends with Bruce highlighting her defensive and attacking attributes with two goal assists, three deflections, one gain and one intercept. Verity Charles lifted her intensity through the midcourt driving hard and tussling hard for circle edge with five goal assists while also showcasing her defensive skills with an intercept. The ball seemed to fall the Fever’s way but the Vixens toiled hard to retain their lead.

With the game all but in the bag the Melbourne Vixens did not take their foot off the pedal working hard across the court to challenge the Fever. Thwaites pushed out to goal attack in the last term while Philip swapped into shooter with the two adjusting quickly. With five minutes left, fan favourite Mwai Kumwenda returned to the court for the first time since her ACL injury last year and did not miss a beat, scoring three goals. For the Fever, Teague-Neeld made her way back onto the court but the change made little difference credit to the pressure from the Vixens.

STARTING LINE-UP:

MELBOURNE VIXENS:

GS |Caitlin Thwaites
GA |Tegan Philip
WA |Liz Watson
C |Kate Moloney
WD |Renae Ingles
GD |Jo Weston
GK |Emily Mannix

WEST COAST FEVER:

GS |Jhaniele Fowler
GA |Alice Teague-Neeld
WA |Ingrid Colyer
C |Verity Charles
WD |Jess Anstiss
GD |Shannon Eagland
GK |Courtney Bruce