Tag: suncorp super netball

Is Australian netball moving too far from the regular game?

WITH the introduction of the two goal Super Shot to the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) for season 2020, we delve into the rule changes in the SSN in recent seasons. While some rules have less impact than others, there is plenty to unpack when it comes to why fans and players alike are so frustrated with the changes to netball in Australia.

Starting with ultimately the most controversial and unpopular rule to-date, the two goal Super Shot. Its introduction has thrown a huge spanner in the works for clubs, coaches, players and fans alike six weeks out of from the beginning of the season. Already a contentious announcement, players were blindsided by the rule change, not consulted prior to the announcement on Tuesday and leaving many up in arms and confused by the decision to go ahead with the major rule change. 

With fan engagement one of the most important factors in Super Netball’s success, the league’s deliberate decision to go ahead with the rule change regardless of the unpopularity as shown in an earlier survey conducted by SSN itself, has alienated many fans and could see many turn away from the competition because of it. With a lot of netball fans real traditionalists in the way the game is played, a massive change like this will leave a lot of fans wondering whether they will continue to financially support a league that continues to move further and further away from the typical netball game.

In a media release issued by the Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) on Wednesday, ANPA President and former Diamonds representative Nat Medhurst said that the lack of communication from the Suncorp Super Netball is not good enough, while New Zealand Silver Ferns coach, Noeline Taurua also disagreed with the significant change in rules.

“For a decision of this significance to be made and announced without any engagement with the players, just six weeks out from the start of the season, is extremely disappointing and disrespectful,” Medhurst said.

“The players believe this initiative has been handled poorly, not for the first time, and it cannot happen again. We have written to the SSN Commission to seek their formal assurance on that.”

Another decision made ahead of the season’s start is the introduction of rolling substitutions, though the difference here is that the announcement was made far in advance and off the back of testing in the Australian Netball League (ANL) in 2019. A huge change to the way the sport is played, rolling subs could be a massive game-changer in the Super Netball given it will be an entirely new aspect to the sport that many have not yet seen in action and may not be entirely happy about. With so much changing at once, there is potential for the 2020 version of Suncorp Super Netball to look like an entirely different sport – which then brings us to the next rule change over the past seasons, the tactical timeout rule.

An adaptation over recent years that many have noticed impacts away from the Super Netball competition, the tactical timeout rule allows teams to call two tactical timeouts per quarter, typically adding up to eight timeouts with coach guidance per match. But on the international stage those same rules do not apply, meaning players do not have the same access to coaches and changes to game plans, limiting communication between players to those within the same areas of the court. 

While this example is not as significant as something like the Super Shot, questions can be asked of how the lack of tactical timeouts on the international stage actually benefits teams other than Australia, with the entire Diamonds cohort unused to going full steam for the full quarter without that extra guidance. This is not to call the professionalism or skill of the players into question because realistically these are talented athletes who can buckle down to get the job done, but instead bring up an aspect of how it can have a negative impact on the game, especially when having to swap and change between competitions with different rules.

One of the only decisions that has not significantly changed Australian netball is the introduction of bonus points per quarter won during a match. Where the aforementioned rules can arguably change games for the worse and have a negative impact on Australia’s performance at an international level, this is one of the changes that can actually boost the Diamonds’ chances of success. 

After two seasons with bonus points, many players are now well and truly used to kicking their game up to the next gear to ensure they win that bonus point and climb up the ladder or deny their opposition a chance at full points per round. But this change arguably does not have a bad impact on the nation’s potential internationally which is what makes it one of those rules that does not fundamentally change the game, instead just a point of difference for the competition compared to other domestic leagues.

Where rules such as the bonus points for winning quarters could actually be a booster to Australia’s chances internationally, huge changes like Super Shots and rolling subs could seriously hurt Australia on the world stage. While Super Netball players are professional enough to not need to rely on double goals or constant substitutions to win games, the further that Australia’s domestic netball moves away from the traditional game so do the Diamonds, having to constantly readjust to different rules.

For such a major adaptation to the game to be made with little to no communication to clubs, players and coaches – less than two hours notice of the announcement, in fact – is a real slap in the face with just six weeks left before the season starts. Factor in the need to now add a new element to team strategies that have already had to adapt to the rolling subs rule, and teams have very little time to prepare for a competition that will look very different to past Super Netball seasons. 

Suncorp Super Netball introduces two-goal Super Shot

IN a surprising addition to an already compromised season, the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) has today announced it will go ahead with a two-goal Super Shot in the 2020 season. This is the third new rule confirmed for 2020, with rolling substitutions and extra time also implemented ahead of the season start.

According to a statement put out by the Suncorp Super Netball on Tuesday, the two-goal Super Shot will add a new element and remove predictability to the Super Netball competition, with Suncorp Super Netball CEO Chris Symington saying today that “90% of goals scored during Suncorp Super Netball matches were within three metres of the goal post”.

“With the ever-growing competition for the attention of fans, the time is right to introduce an innovation that will make the game even more dynamic and unpredictable.” 

Active in the final five minutes of each quarter, the Super Shot will see teams able to add an extra two goals to their tally from a designated zone within the goal circle. In the instance of tied scores at the end of a match, teams will play five minutes of extra time with the Super Shot active for the entirety of the extra time. Trialled in early March for the Diamonds versus SSN All Stars Bushfire Relief match, the switch-up saw plenty of goalers try their hand at the long shot.

There are plenty of pros and cons to rule changes, though this one seems to be a real contentious decision that much of the netball public does not agree with. In what has been a widely critiqued announcement, many are also wondering why the change has been made now, given the 2020 season has already had to reschedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what does this mean for the competition as a whole?

Well on one hand, it will bring a new layer to the Super Netball competition which is arguably the greatest in the world. It could be an interesting growth point for netball in Australia given the nation’s current mainstay of tall timbers holding space in the goal circle. In the long term, this could be a great boost to the Australian pathways in providing more versatility inside the circle and growing players to adapt. It also adds another dimension and theatrics to the game, meaning teams can adapt to the match at hand and switch up their attacking style. 

However, what needs to be taken into consideration is the impact this could then have on Australia’s future in international competitions, with the domestic competition moving further and further away from the sport as seasons go on. To add another layer, this ruling will only come into fruition in the Super Netball competition and none of its feeders, though the Australian Netball League (ANL) will not go ahead in 2020.

It has also now been confirmed on social media that clubs and players were seemingly not alerted of the change, with Melbourne Vixens stating on Twitter that “Vixens coaches and players have been left shocked with only 6 weeks until R1.”

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Suncorp Super Netball returns to court on August 1

AUSTRALIA’S top netball competition returns August 1.

In a massive announcement by the Suncorp Super Netball today, fans of the world’s top ranked league will have to wait just two months until they see their favourite stars out on court again. The other two major leagues in the world – the ANZ Premiership and Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) – had both made decisions on their returns in the past two weeks. While the VNSL opted to cancel the season citing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, the ANZ Premiership will return on Friday, June 19.

The 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season will be a full 60-game season – which means 14 rounds where teams face off against the other seven teams twice – as well as the four-game finals series for the top four sides. The fixture is yet to be announced, but the timing of the announcement today – May 31 – is for clubs to train together from tomorrow – June 1 – whilst sticking to social distancing guidelines.

Suncorp Super Netball CEO Chris Symington said in the release on the Suncorp Super Netball website that the season start represents a significant step forward on the road to getting back on court.

“We’re thrilled that a season start date has been locked away, now all our stakeholders have a date to work towards and fans can start to get excited for the start of the season,” he said. “We are planning to play out a full home and away season, and we are confident that our start date gives us the best opportunity to achieve that.

“Our guiding principles throughout this process have never changed, those being the health and wellbeing of the community alongside the financial viability of our sport. “There has been a collective commitment to those principles from the whole system including players, teams, partners and broadcasters and we will continue to take that approach as we look to get our season underway.

“I would like to thank our dedicated members and fans who have stuck by their teams and the sport through an incredibly challenging period. We look forward to showcasing our world class athletes once again from August 1.”

For full player profiles on each Suncorp Super Netball team, check out our team pages:

Adelaide Thunderbirds | Collingwood Magpies | GIANTS Netball | Melbourne Vixens | NSW Swifts | Queensland Firebirds | Sunshine Coast Lightning | West Coast Fever


Furthermore, the 2020 Constellation Cup between the Australian Diamonds and New Zealand Silver Ferns will take place later this year, whilst the 2020 Quad Series that was meant to take place between the world’s top two nations, as well as England and South Africa, has been cancelled due to the impact of COVID-19 on international travel.

Top 15 SSN training partners: #2 Beth Cobden

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. Coming in at number two is injured Adelaide Thunderbirds and England Roses midcourter, Beth Cobden. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

While a somewhat contentious and questionable player to not make the top of the list given she has international caps with the Roses, Cobden is only a training partner while she is currently down and out of the squad with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, the likelihood of her making the cut earlier in the Super Netball season is questionable because she is still going through rehabilitation. However, the aim with Cobden being a training partner is to enable her to work back up to match fitness through the Australian Netball League (ANL), which could see her return to the fray at some point during the season. 

A highly talented defensive midcourter, Cobden’s speed and agility allows her to impact both on and off the ball, using her lithe frame and tactical mindset to create plays down the court. With plenty of experience behind her, the 27-year-old midcourter can dominate by shutting down her attacker, not always playing the obvious game by intercepting and deflecting but instead using her body work to block easy drives.

With plenty of versatility to rotate through the midcourt, Cobden is just about a shoe-in to make it onto the Super Netball stage once more in 2020 if a position opens up, able to have an impact in any midcourt position thanks to her clever read of the play and ability to transition between attacking and defensive mindsets.

Thanks to solid Roses partnerships across the court – namely Chelsea Pitman through the midcourt and Layla Guscoth and Kate Shimmin in defence – not to mention Cobden played and trained with the Thunderbirds before she went down to injury last year, Cobden will well and truly slot right into the side if she is required.

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)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)
#7 Jacqui Newton (Melbourne Vixens)
#6 Allie Smith (Melbourne Vixens)
#5 Elle Bennetts (GIANTS Netball)
#4 Brooke Allan (Magpies Netball)
#3 Tayla Fraser (NSW Swifts)
#2 Beth Cobden (Adelaide Thunderbirds)

Top 15 SSN training partners: #8 Sharni Lambden

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. Coming in at number eight is Collingwood Magpies midcourter, Sharni Lambden. This countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

A talented defensive midcourter, 22-year-old Lambden has caught plenty of attention on the international stage from a young age, part of the Australian Diamonds Development Squad 2016 with plenty of drive to improve and consistency through the centre despite not yet having that big opportunity to line up in the Super Netball. Lambden is a valuable partner with the Magpies, able to apply pressure on both the ball and the player while also being able to be that impact player where required. While unlucky on the Magpies part with injuries aplenty over the court last season potentially impacting the side again this season, Lambden could have a real chance to break into the Collingwood side if she puts her best foot forward at training.

With an ability to switch between centre and wing defence, Lambden can be a crucial link-up through the midcourt with her drive down the court and ability to switch between offensive and defensive mindsets with relative ease. Already familiar with the training partner role after being on the list for the past two seasons with the Magpies, Lambden will look to continue her development alongside midcourt injury returnees Madi and Kelsey Browne while Ash Brazill is sure to be a solid mentor playing a similar role at the club despite being highly unlikely to make her return in 2020. A crucial link through an already star-studded midcourt at the Tasmanian Magpies in the Australian Netball League, Lambden has been touted as a massive threat for a while coming so will look to put that into practice this year.

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)
#9 Latika Tombs (GIANTS Netball)
#8 Sharni Lambden (Collingwood Magpies)

Malawi shooter focused on SSN return

WITH netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak we take a look back at our interview with star Malawi goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda which appeared in our 2019 Netball World Cup magazine.

THE 2018 year was a big one for netball, and no less for Malawi Queens’ star goal shooter, Mwai ‘MJ’ Kumwenda who took the netball world by storm with her flair and accuracy to post. The star goaler single handedly tore games apart with her dynamic movement and laid back style making her an integral member in both the Melbourne Vixens and Malawi sides.

Kumwenda’s form in recent years helped Malawi beat the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, while her performance in the 2015 Netball World Cup saw her awarded ‘Player of the Tournament’, putting her skills on show again and again credit to her accuracy, consistency and phenomenal footwork on court.

“Playing in the World Cup was a good experience for me – that was my second World Cup with Malawi. It was good to play in Australia as I had been playing for Peninsula Waves and the Victorian Fury before being in New Zealand, so it was like playing at home,” she said. “In 2015 I stayed in New Zealand to train and prepare; just like the Commonwealth Games last year, I trained with the Vixens until very close to the tournament.”

“Getting Player of the Tournament was a surprise to me because there were so many good players from all the countries there.”

The humble goal shooter said representing Malawi is a big honour, especially knowing she is a role model for young women.

“I was so excited because I was representing my country and playing with my Malawi girls so to know I tried hard enough for them was good.”

“It means a lot. Most of the young Malawi players look up to us to know that if you train hard, you can do very good things with your netball. I grew up in a village 10 hours drive to where I played netball in Blantyre City so I like to show girls especially from my area that they can do amazing things in life. I am so lucky.”

But while Kumwenda has proved she has the skill and work ethic to be a phenomenal player, a devastating fall in Round 13 of the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball season saw her rupture her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Despite injury and missing out on the World Cup, Kumwenda’s outlook and recovery so far is admirable.

“It’s going well. I’m spending time in the gym every day with the Victorian Institute of Sport and Vixens high-performance team. I am working with Tayla Honey and Rahni Samason every day. I’ve started running again and it feels good,” she said. “I don’t know when I’ll be back on court but I can’t wait!” 

“The support I get from the Vixens players and coaches is amazing. I still feel a part of the team and I’m so proud of how the girls are going in Suncorp Super Netball.”

“With the Vixens, I have been able to talk to physios and strength and conditioning coaches but in Malawi we don’t have that. They have a team doctor who travels but the recovery after each game is up to the individual player.”

Despite not having a role in the Malawi Queens’ 2019 Netball World Cup campaign, Kumwenda is keen for the competition to begin and says the Queens have the talent to get the job done.

“If Malawi train hard, they will be top five of the tournament … They are very talented girls, they are a good team so I think if they train hard, they can do well. I think Joyce Mvula will do very well because she has been outstanding in the English league. She’s a good goal shooter.”

“The best team will win – ha! I think it will be very tough and I’m excited to watch.”

Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns countdown: #1

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 25 players under 25-years-old across the netball world. With so much talent at our disposal, this countdown is purely opinion-based, taking into consideration recent form, individual potential and future development.

Draft Central’s Top International Young Gun is Shamera Sterling! Sterling is just on the cusp of the age bracket, and with some of the most impressive raw talent going around in the goal keeper position there was no way she could miss out on top spot. 

Arguably one of the biggest stars in international netball at the moment, the 24-year-old Jamaican jumped onto the international scene with her daring and personality and has not looked back since. Sterling is a player that has the whole crowd holding their breath, waiting for her to make that big show-stopping intercept that will change the game – and nine times out of 10, she will do just that, making her an excitement machine working off the crowd with confidence coming in drove.

Standing at 190cm, Sterling is all arms and legs but makes it work, with an impressive burst of speed proving crucial in defence while her phenomenal hands over pressure makes her a massive threat to any player she comes across. Unfazed going into the contest, Sterling is quick and agile and while she finds herself contesting plenty of ball, her relative cleanliness is impressive. With plenty of personality coming out on the court, Sterling has plenty to improve on in the attitude department but that just goes to show how much room she still has to grow – making her a massive point of development with more time on the international stage.  

Sterling has the speed off the stop to be the crucial link for any defensive unit, finding a load of loose ball with her long limbs and timing to intercept or deflect and gather the netball to take control and send the ball back up to attack. Sterling ended her debut Suncorp Super Netball season at the top of the 2019 leaderboard for deflections and defensive rebounds, storming onto the court and well and truly making each match her own with an ability to dominate the contest and change up the game with ease.
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Draft Central’s Top 25 International Young Guns:

25. Latanya Wilson (Jamaica)
24. Summer Artman (England)
23. Sophie Drakeford-Lewis (England)
22. Matilda Garrett (Australia)
21. Razia Quashie (England)
20. Sophie Garbin (Australia)
19. Imogen Allison (England)
18. Kelly Jury (New Zealand)
17. Tara Hinchliffe (Australia)
16. Aliyah Dunn (New Zealand)
15. Whitney Souness (New Zealand)
14. Amy Parmenter (Australia)
13. Cara Koenen (Australia)
12. Kate Eddy (Australia)
11. Kiera Austin (Australia)
10. Grace Nweke (New Zealand)
9. Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Jamaica)
8. Ine-Mari Venter (South Africa)
7. Kimiora Poi (New Zealand)
6. George Fisher (England)
5. Kim Jenner (Australia)
4. Maia Wilson (New Zealand)
3. Fran Williams (England)
2. Sigi Burger (South Africa)
1. Shamera Sterling (Jamaica)

2020 Suncorp Super Netball fixture released

THE full 2020 Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) fixture has been announced, with a new structure set for the biggest season yet after a disrupted 2019.

The season will commence on May 2 with the final round of the home and away season spread across three days on August 7-9. The season will consist of 14 rounds and three weeks of finals, with a newly created split round in Round 8 to enable a much-needed mid-season June bye for each team.

There are two themed rounds during the season, with Indigenous Round in Round 5 and Confident Girls Round in Round 9, while the Queens Birthday public holiday clash between Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies returns for a second year.

Round 1 sees a grand final rematch between NSW Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning, with the reverse fixture setting up a massive finals series with the two sides not facing each other again until the final round of the season.

With three states hosting two teams, there are a number of big clashes between rivals with Sydney derby’s in Rounds 6 and 12, while Queensland derby’s take place in Rounds 4 and 9. As for the Melbourne clashes, the rival clubs will play in Rounds 6 and 14.

In an interesting development, Melbourne Sports Centre – until now known as the State Netball Centre – will see the Magpies host the reigning premiers, Swifts in Round 2, a venue that for many is known as the Melbourne Vixens’ home court. While Queensland Firebirds’ home venue has been renamed Nissan Arena, they do not have any further changes to their typical home court.

Sydney’s Quay Centre will not see any SSN matches next season, with all Sydney matches – for both GIANTS Netball and NSW Swifts – taking place at Ken Rosewall Arena. Perth’s RAC Arena is listed on the fixture but unconfirmed at time of publish, with all West Coast Fever home games likely to play there.

Two matches will be played by clubs in their feeder states, with Collingwood Magpies hosting a match in Launceston, Tasmania in Round 4 against GIANTS Netball, while the GIANTS will then go on to host a match at AIS Arena in Canberra against Queensland Firebirds in Round 5.

With so many big matches heading up the 2020 season, we take a look at some the Super Netball teams’ individual fixtures.

The Adelaide Thunderbirds have a real mix early in the 2020 season, playing two of their first five matches at home but ultimately their strongest foes early the two Victorian teams based on their 2019 performances. Though back to back matches against last year’s premiership sides may throw a spanner in the works, they should have a relatively solid run through the middle of the season before taking on Vixens, Lightning and Swifts in three of their last five rounds.

For the Collingwood Magpies, Round 1 will set up their season with the hope they can continue their solid 2019 end of season form against the West Coast Fever. Matches against the Swifts and Lightning in Rounds 2 and 5 will challenge the Magpies, while four away matches in the final five rounds could throw a real spanner in the works.

GIANTS Netball have an interesting start to the season, with two away matches before they host their first home match of the season in Round 3. Though they ultimately play three of last season’s lower sides to open their 2020 campaign, the GIANTS only have two home matches in the first five rounds of the season and will take on NSW Swifts and Sunshine Coast Lightning in Rounds 12 and 13, making for a tough run home.

Melbourne Vixens have one of the most unpredictable fixtures, which makes sense given the side in recent years has had a mix of consistency. While the Vixens are fortunate in that they won’t face last year’s finals sides consecutively, they only have two home matches in the final five rounds making for a very interesting finish to the season, with a final round battle against the Magpies similar to the 2019 season.

For the NSW Swifts, Rounds 1 and 14 are set to be the big ones against Sunshine Coast Lightning but aside from those matches and the annual Sargeant-McKinnis Cup matches against the Melbourne Vixens in Rounds 5 and 11, the Swifts have one of the more settled fixtures next season. With a good mix of consecutive home and away matches, they should have a solid run in 2020.

Queensland Firebirds have a relatively easy fixture given they finished towards the bottom of the ladder, with matches against 2019’s higher teams predominantly throughout the middle of the season and hosting three of their last five matches. The Firebirds will likely travel the most compared to other sides, not playing back-to-back home matches until Rounds 12 and 13.

Sunshine Coast Lightning have a very interesting start to the season, traveling for a Grand Final rematch in Round 1 before going down to Melbourne to face the Vixens in Round 2 – a fellow finals side from last season. Lightning are fortunate to have two home matches in a row to finish their season, facing both NSW-based sides to finish off the season.

Similar to the Firebirds, West Coast Fever have one of the easier fixtures, playing last season’s grand finalists back to back in both their home and away fixtures, but will have a relatively easy start and end to the season. The side is at their best at home in Perth, and with some consistency and back-to-back home matches they should be able to string along some good wins while they’re at it.

For the full 2020 SSN fixture, head to the Suncorp Super Netball website.

Side by side the Magpies march to finals

WITH finals on the line the Collingwood Magpies rose to the occasion defeating the Melbourne Vixens by 11 goals (58 – 47) at Melbourne Arena on Sunday.

The Magpies needed to win at least three quarters and the match by seven goals or more to steal fourth place on the ladder from the Giants and sneak back into the top four for finals. Securing the first three quarters of the match and drawing the last, the Magpies did enough to rob the Giants of their position on the ladder by 0.6 per cent. Collingwood made the most of their opportunities early scoring from turnovers while the Vixens struggled to work the ball into their goal circle to convert.

Shimona Nelson and Nat Medhurst were composed in Collingwood’s attack end, moving around the goal circle with precision allowing Ash Brazill and Kimiora Poi to easily feed into them. While down the other end of the court, the Vixen’s were uncharacteristically stuck with superstar midcourters Liz Watson and Kate Moloney both recording their lowest number of feeds for the season, credit to the amount of work the Magpies did in defence. Collingwood wing defence Kim Ravaillion had every move from the Vixens covered while April Brandley and Geva Mentor were out hunting for the ball, putting pressure on passes entering the goal circle. Tegan Philip was a star for the Vixens throughout the match, driving into space well and confidently slotting goal after goal only missing one goal in the first quarter, while teammate Caitlin Thwaites nailed four from four of her first quarter attempts.

Only two goals ahead at the first break, the Magpies came out strong once again in the second with Mentor tipping the ball to Brandley for a Medhurst goal off a Vixens’ centre pass and a few minutes later scoring off another with a Brazill intercept. The Magpies were able to get ahead by eight goals at one point during the quarter but the Vixens settled as the quarter wore on. Emily Mannix and Jo Weston worked hard in defence to try to throw off the Magpies and when the opportunities came the Vixens took them with Renae Ingles, Moloney and Watson safely transitioning from defence to attack closing the gap down between the two teams to only three goals by halftime.

Collingwood swooped in the third quarter, winning it 17 goals to nine. The pairing between Medhurst and Nelson shone with both players scoring from 100 per cent of their attempts in the quarter, although Nelson put up 11 more goals the work Medhurst did out the front to open space for Nelson at the back was terrific. The Magpies were smarter with their ball use, treasuring it with only three general play turnovers for the quarter in comparison to seven from the Vixens. Tweaking with their line-up the Vixens tried to find a way to throw off Collingwood, however, the Magpies ended the quarter 11 goals up and with an important third bonus point.

The Vixens matched the Magpies during the final quarter, midcourters Watson and Moloney worked well together to feed the ball safely into the circle and found room to break free of the Magpies defence while Mwai Kumwenda brought some fresh movement to the Vixens’ goal circle. Aware of what was riding on the final margin, the Magpies remained strong not allowing the Vixens to trim down the margin they had worked so hard to build. Mentor deflected pass after pass to slow the Vixens while Brazill continued to apply pressure across the court. It was a four-quarter performance from the Magpies that sees them heading to finals on a high, leaving the Vixens with a week to bounce back before coming up against the Magpies again in the minor semi-final.

Speaking after the match Vixens head coach Simone McKinnis said she was disappointed in the loss but they still have next week.

“Magpies were all over us right from the word go, so disappointing but we have to look at next week,” she said. “We seemed a bit hesitant across the court particularly down in that attack so maybe it’s that confidence and that bit of belief that’s maybe missing at the moment so we’ve got to talk that through.”

“We went into this game wanting it to be about us and our season playing in preparation for next week, certainly playing against a team who’s playing for their season but heading into finals you should be able to withstand that sort of drive from a team and I don’t think that we handled it very well,” McKinnis said.

While assistant coach for the Magpies Nicole Richardson who along with fellow assistant coach Kate Upton filled in for Collingwood head coach Rob Wright again this week said she was proud of her team.

“If they were going to bring it, today was the day to bring it. We spoke to them before the game, I speak a lot about their heart and their head and I thought they brought that today. We also spoke about they had a choice, the door was ajar they just needed to take a foot through it and they were given a choice a choice in what they wanted to do and the performance they wanted to put out there and you can’t fault them. From a club we’re so proud of what the girls put together and I’m sure Rob back in Sydney will be just so proud and pumped of the performance the girls have been able to put out and it’s not just about today their past month’s been very good we knew they could play that brand of netball, it’s just taken a little bit to get it out of them so hopefully we’ve got some momentum going into finals and we’re actually there not to make up numbers we’re there to do some damage,” Richardson said.

“It is a massive step for the club to play finals you put it in the perspective of the year with Rob losing his mum and the two Brownes going down they are a big big part of our club and we spoke about that before the game. We spoke about the people who weren’t here today and the people who weren’t on the court it was about doing it for them and about doing it for themselves,” she said.

Brazill was named the Nissan Player of the Match for the third week in a row for the Magpies and Richardson had nothing but praise for the new-found centre.

“She just offers a different style of game, we felt that we were struggling to punch through down into the circle edge and when you’ve got such a post-up goaler like Shimmy you really need to try to get to the circle edge to create those feeds and Brazzy’s just raw athletic ability she’s able to punch through and get to the circle edge to create those easier feeds for us,” Richardson said.

Looking to next week and reflecting on the game Richardson said she does not think the Vixens held back knowing they were going to finish third on the ladder either way the day went.

“I think Vixens even though they had nothing to play, the rivalry between the two clubs is massive so what they had to play for today was to knock us out of the finals so they still gave it their all and their heart and soul so I would expect the same intensity of the game and we need to ensure that we can then lift to another level to can match it again,” she said.

STARTING LINE-UP:

Collingwood Magpies:

GK | Geva Mentor
GD | April Brandley
WD | Kim Ravaillion
C | Ash Brazill
WA | Kimiora Poi
GA | Nat Medhurst
GS | Shimona Nelson

Melbourne Vixens:

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

NSW swiftly move onto finals after close encounter with Firebirds

NSW Swifts fans will be collectively sighing with relief after a heart-stopping one-goal win over Queensland Firebirds, 64-63. The teams might be pitted at opposite ends of the table, but with the Firebirds coming off their first win of the season last round, and the Swifts suffering a shock loss to Collingwood Magpies, the clash was a lot closer than ladder positions might suggest. Spectators at Qudos Bank Arena got everything they bargained for and more with arguably one of the most intense games of the season.

At first the Swifts raced away to a four-goal quarter time lead, having moved to as much as three goals ahead in the opening few minutes with English international star Helen Housby back in the fold after missing three weeks through injury. The goaling combination of Housby and Sam Wallace was back in full swing as the Swifts took control, but not before Gretel Tippett had a say midway through the term to level the scorers at eight goals apiece. A couple of crucial misses to Romelda Aiken was the only blemishes for the shooters, as Housby and Wallace shot six of the next seven goals after Aiken levelled the scores at 11-11. Trailing 17-12, the Firebirds managed to bridge the gap by one with an Aiken goal on the final whistle making the scores 18-14 at quarter time.

Wallace was firing on all cylinders with 11 goals from 11 attempts at 100 per cent, as Housby produced seven from seven and Tippett likewise six from six in a shooting masterclass. Natalie Haythornthwaite enjoyed having her countrywoman back in the goal circle, providing a remarkable 11 goal assists from 13 feeds, while all three of Paige Hadley‘s feeds resulted in goals, picking up an intercept at the same time. For the Firebirds, Caitlyn Nevins continued her terrific form from last game with four goal assists from nine feeds in the first term, as Jemma Mi Mi had six from eight, while Tara Hinchliffe picked up a crucial intercept.

The Firebirds owned the second quarter, with the visitors cutting the deficit to two in the opening couple of minutes, and by the four and a half minute mark of the term, scores were level. The Swifts goal combination was restricted to just seven goals in the first 10 minutes as the Firebirds raced out to a three-goal lead. Back-to-back goals and then four of the next six goals cut the deficit back to just one, before three consecutive Firebirds goals handed them a four goal lead. Wallace took two attempts to reduce the margin by the main break, but got it done with two seconds left on the clock.

Nevins was the star of the quarter with 12 goal assists from 15 feeds, while Tippett (10 goals from 12 assists) and Aiken (nine from 10) got the job done in the circle. Gabi Simpson locked down Haythornthwaite in the second term to restrict her to just three goal assists from six feeds after that massive first quarter, picking up an intercept and having a bigger role through the midcourt. Sarah Klau and Katrina Rore picked up a massive combined 17 penalties in the quarter, more than the entire Firebirds side as the likely wooden spooners held a remarkable 33-30 lead over the second placed Swifts at half-time.

The home crowd expected a big response from the Swifts to open the third term, but instead it was the Firebirds who came out with the intensity, firing off the first three goals of the quarter to stretch their lead out to a match-high six goals. It lit a fire under the Swifts belly as they sank 10 of the next 13 goals to not only eat into the deficit, but hit the front, 40-39. With the crowd up and about, the Firebirds needed a response of their own, and it came, with Aiken and Tippett adding three consecutive goals to push the margin back in their favour. The remainder of the quarter was largely goal-for-goal, with Wallace having a massive purple patch near the end of the term, scoring four of the last five goals as her side lead by one at the final break.

Wallace was the standout shooter in the term with 16 from 17, while Sophie Garbin took to the court and shot three from three, along with nine goal assists from 11 feeds to provide that spark in the attacking end and allowing Housby to take a break. Haythornthwaite managed six goal assists from 10 feeds, while Klau and Rore were both more efficient staying away from the whistle, only giving away a combined eight penalties in the quarter. Tippett continued her great accuracy with eight from eight, while Aiken had seven from eight, but the Firebirds struggled to penetrate the circle. Aiken had an equal team-high four goal assists to share the load with Tippett.

The final term was as even as they came with no more than two goals separating the sides at any one stage. Aiken put the visitors up by two, four minutes into the game, and while Wallace was able to level the scores, it was goal-for-goal for the most part right up until the end. Tippett took a huge intercept in the centre third and quickly transitioned down the court to put the Firebirds up by one with two minutes remaining, before Wallace levelled the scores, and then Housby sank the winner with 33 seconds on the clock, the Swifts defensive pressure enough to see them home. Wallace’s eight goals from eight attempts was superb as Housby re-entered the game in hot form contributing strongly with five goals, while Hadley had five goal assists from 13 feeds. Tippett again ran at 100 per cent with nine goals from nine attempts, while Nevins had a really productive seven assists from nine feeds, and Mi Mi produced four assists from her four feeds.

Tippett was announced Player of the Match despite the loss, for her 33 goals from 35 assists, as well as seven goal assists from 22 feeds, one intercept and one rebound. Nevins was also superb in her farewell game with 27 goal assists from 40 feeds, as Aiken shot 30 goals from 35 attempts, assisting Tippett on eight occasions from 10 feeds. For the Swifts, Wallace managed 43 goals from 45 attempts, both of her feeds were goal assists, and she picked up a feed and an intercept. Haythornthwaite and Hadley were still productive in the midcourt with a combined 37 goal assists, while the defensive end was penalised more than they would have liked with Diamond, Klau picking up a couple of cautions to go with her 21 penalties. Overall the Swifts move through to face Sunshine Coast Lightning for a spot in the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final, while the Firebirds season comes to an end.

STARTING LINE-UPS:

NSW Swifts:

GS | Sam Wallace
GA | Helen Housby
WA | Natalie Haythornthwaite
C | Paige Hadley
WD | Maddy Turner
GD | Sarah Klau
GK | Katrina Rore

Queensland Firebirds:

GS | Romelda Aiken
GA | Gretel Tippett
WA | Caitlyn Nevins
C | Jemma Mi Mi
WD | Gabi Simpson
GD | Kim Jenner
GK | Tara Hinchliffe