Catch up with all the round 10 Super netball action below.
Fever ravage Firebirds with record-breaking win
— Jenny Sinclair
The West Coast Fever have smashed multiple records on their way to a mammoth win over the Queensland Firebirds. After dropping three of their past four matches, Fever’s stunning return to form saw them record the highest ever score and highest winning margin, while MVP Sasha Glasgow also nailed the most super shots, recording 14.
At full strength after Jess Anstiss and Glasgow’s return from Covid protocols, Fever dominated their opponents with a 34 point victory. It ensures their place in the finals, and sends a strong message to the competition that they’re well poised to have a crack at retaining their Super Netball crown.
Captain Courtney Bruce led from the front, as she took on fellow Diamond contender Donnell Wallam. Speaking before the match, Bruce explained her strategy to contain the Firebirds shooter.
She said, “I want to dare them to put the ball over me, and then come out and have a fly.”
The game plan worked with Bruce on fire early, getting her hand to three balls in the opening minutes of the match. Despite Glasgow and Wallam trading super shot blows, Fever jumped out to a 10 point lead by the end of the first quarter.
With the Firebirds short on defensive pressure after Gabi Simpson’s ankle injury last week, Fever’s ball speed through court was sizzling. With little protection in front of the circle, there was minimal answer to the connection between Jhaniele Fowler and her feeders.
The mighty Jamaican finished with 54 from 60, despite a change of game plan that saw her feed Glasgow with super shot opportunities. Not selected in the England Netball World Cup team midweek, Glasgow responded in the best possible way sinking an incredible 14 two pointers for a total of 28 points.
Firebirds shuffled their decks across the match but had few answers to their rampant opposition. Kim Ravaillion led from the front, but lacked support from her dispirited teammates.
Determined to avoid yet another final quarter fade out, Fever added 26 points in the final term on their way to the record breaking win.
Fever not only showed off their scoring power, but outmuscled the Firebirds all over court. In a sparkling performance they gave up just 15 turnovers, and maintained a respectable 83 per cent gain to goal rate. In contrast, Firebirds converted just 43 per cent of similar opportunities.
FINAL QUARTER FADE-OUTS
Fever start their games with a bang, winning at least 67 per cent of their first three quarters. But for some reason, they slump abysmally in the last quarter, and have won just four out of ten this season, at a 40 per cent success rate.
It’s why teams have been able to run over them in the dying minutes of a match, and is something coach Dan Ryan will urgently need to address.
OH TO BE A SELECTOR
Donnell Wallam has had a storming season, shooting the second most number of goals in the league. In contention for a Netball World Cup berth, it was therefore concerning to see her shut down by Jamaican and Thunderbird defender Shamera Sterling in the last round. Wallam shot just 29 points at a miserable 69 per cent accuracy, and needs a strong finish to the season to secure her place in the Diamonds.
Misery mounts as the Swifts crush Magpies
Teams respond to off-court dramas in one of two ways: they either band together and play for club pride and each other. Or it becomes so much of a distraction that they can’t focus. For the Collingwood Magpies, it was the latter as they failed against a confident NSW Swifts, going down by a massive 29 points.
It was unfortunate, though not surprising, that the Swifts’ vehement, almost record-breaking win was overshadowed by controversy. In what should have been a celebration of their heritage round, co-captain Paige Hadley’s 150th national league match, and coach Briony Akle’s 50th win at the helm, much of the conversation was about the Collingwood Magpies.
The Magpies’ match preparation has been marred this week by the announcement that their board are reviewing their position within Super Netball. Collingwood is yet to confirm whether they will take up a new Team Participation Agreement with Netball Australia, and as such their players have an uncertain future.
Speaking before the match, co-captain Geva Mentor said that the team have tried to block out the media circus by banding together.
“It has been a compromising week for all of us. We have all handled it in our own way. But at the end of the day, we play a team sport for a reason.”
During the week, Mentor added her voice to the discussion by imploring Netball Australia to help sort out the mess. But with the Magpies only winning 34 of their 87 matches over six seasons, dwindling fan attendance at home games, and reported losses of close to a million dollars per season, there is little reason for the club to support her pleas.
But with no career certainty, players need to put out strong performances for the rest of the season in the hopes of securing a future contract, wherever it may be. While the defence has been rock-solid, the rest of the Magpies have been inconsistent. Diamond Sophie Garbin should secure a contract within Australia, but there will be question marks hanging over many of her teammates who may have to look overseas.
If the Magpies, by some miracle, do stay on until the end of the 2026 season, they will need to do some substantial reformation of their current program and culture.
In the worst-case scenario that Collingwood hands back its licence, Netball Australia will have to do some fancy footwork to find the eighth licensee. Netball Tasmania has made it clear that they want the spot and are the best positioned to do so. However, fans and commentators have also put forward locations such as Geelong and the Northern Territory.
The drama hasn’t only affected Collingwood. While their board considers their future in the league, Collective Player Agreements cannot move forward as the broadcast deal between Fox and Netball Australia relies on an eight-team competition model. To this end, the Swifts and every other team in the league will be eagerly awaiting the outcome, as the careers of all players, coaches and ancillary staff hang in the balance.
Injury concern for Diamonds as Vixens continue to rise
There are grave concerns for Australian Diamonds shooter Cara Koenen after she rolled her ankle in the final moments of the Sunshine Coast Lightning’s 70-64 loss to the Giants on Saturday.
Koenen, who is named in the green and gold squad due to compete at the Netball World Cup in July, appeared to clash with Giants defender Tilly McDonnell before slumping to the ground in agony. She hobbled off the court as her team capitulated in the grinding loss, having gone goal for goal with the home side throughout the rest of the 60 minutes.
Despite Koenen’s visible distress on the sideline, Lightning coach Belinda Reynolds allayed concerns that her injury-riddled team – which is currently nursing three ACLs – might lose yet another key player.
“I think she’ll be OK, fortunately she has very flexible ankles and tends to roll them a bit. I’d be surprised if she’s not back next week,” Reynolds said.
SEASON OVER FOR SUNSHINE COAST
The loss ends the Lightning’s 2023 finals hopes, as they slump to sixth on the ladder with no mathematical chance of moving into the top four with four rounds of Super Netball to go.
Meanwhile the Giants need to win every match, and have other teams’ results go their way, if they are to crack back a finals place in June.
“For us, the main thing is just to concentrate on each week as it comes, we’re growing every week and we’re proud of that,” said Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald.
NO HARTEN, NO WORRIES
Giants shooters Sophie Dwyer and Matisse Letherbarrow were called on for a second week to fill the gap left by their injured captain, veteran English shooter Jo Harten.
Youngster Letherbarrow has seen minimal court time since debuting in 2020, sitting below Dwyer and Harten on the depth chart, but for the past two weeks has put in a solid resume for a starting spot.
The 21-year-old looked as comfortable draining Super Shots at long range (scoring 5 from 8 attempts), as getting out the back behind purple defenders, adding 41 from 44 goal attempts under the post.
“I’m really happy that Matisse has had the opportunity – she’s never had the opportunity to play back-to-back games, and I think you can see the growth there so I’m very happy for her,” said Fitzgerald.
OFFICIALS DRAW IRE
Lightning shooters Steph Wood and Koenen were spotted having words with the umpires at quarter time when the stats showed 30 penalties in the first 15 minutes – a high average of one called every 30 seconds.
The umpires were reportedly telling players to keep their arms down. It was a warning that appeared to go unheeded when a battle between Lightning’s Annie Miller and Giants’ Amy Parmenter sent the Giant to the floor, hard. On replay it was a blatant push in the back that could have been called for 50 in an AFL match, much more in the non-contact Super Netball.
Umpires in the Sydney venue have previously drawn ire; two controversial calls in the dying moments of the Giant’s round seven loss to the Swifts still hanging heavy in recent memory.
Vixens in box seat for double finals chance
Melbourne Vixens 60 d. Adelaide Thunderbirds 39
Dominant second and third quarters by the Melbourne Vixens’ helped them to clinically dispatch a depleted Adelaide Thunderbirds by 21 points. Facing just one higher ranked team in the next month, Vixens have a smooth run home and can now finish no lower than fourth. A swath of wins would set them up for the double chance in the finals, and the recently announced John Cain Arena grand final.
Coach Simone McKinnis applauded her side’s full court defensive pressure, as they inflicted the ladder-leaders’ second loss for the season. Speaking after the game she said, “It was quite smothering and they were under pressure right throughout the court”.
While the Thunderbirds jumped out to an early lead, the loss of Tippah Dwan (ankle) and Hannah Petty (thigh) through injury last week restricted their options. As a result the Thunderbirds shooting circle looked stagnant at times, as the Vixens’ defenders dominated their opponents.
A heavy clash between Maisie Nankivell and Jo Weston saw the latter leave the court shortly afterwards for medical assessment. While it was a blow for the Vixens, Em Mannix was heroic at goal keeper. Finishing with eight intercepts, six gains and three rebounds, Mannix was a deserving MVP as she helped restrict the Thunderbirds to a measly 15 points across the second and third terms.
Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst shuffled her attacking line time and again, but it made little difference to the Vixens, who continued to extend their lead.
While Jo Weston returned to the court in the third quarter, piling on the pressure, Vixens were also able to craft a brilliant attacking game. After being soundly beaten by Latty Wilson in their last encounter, Liz Watson took the court at centre instead.
She owned the position, transitioning the ball quickly through court to give her forward line every chance under the post.
Speaking after the game, Vixens’ coach Simone McKinnis said, “That was some of our best ball movement all year”.
National coach Stacey Marinkovich would also have been delighted with Kiera Austin’s ability to thread her way through Jamaican opponents, who she will face at the upcoming World Cup.
While goal attacks usually play second fiddle to their shooter, Austin was the best performed under the post, finishing with 28/36 including 5/6 supershots. Austin also contributed defensively, collecting two intercepts and two deflections.
While the Thunderbirds were brilliant in defence, they were wasteful in attack, converting 51 per cent of their centre passes and a sloppy 50 per cent of any opportunities their defence created.
It’s an area that will need addressing if the Thunderbirds are to progress in the finals.
WHAT’S IN A GOAL
Plenty if you’re a Vixen! They’ve won five games this season by just one goal, demonstrating their confidence to close out a match. But there’s some luck involved too – reverse any of those margins, and they’d be on a slippery downhill slope.
WHEN THERE’S A WILL
The Thunderbirds remain an enigma, based on some of their statistics. They lead all defensive metrics, led by brilliant Jamaican goal keeper Shamera Sterling. However, they are ranked 6th for converting their centre passes, and dead last for converting their turnovers. The sheer volume of ball that Sterling provides is essential in keeping Adelaide in front of the pack.