Super Netball 2023: Semi Finals preview

The semi finals are here! After 14 rounds, the finals are here and it's all on the line. Jump in for a deep dive previewing this weekend's semi finals

After the season has been run and won, there are four teams left in contention. Some are firing on all cylinders, while others are looking to flip the switch now that finals are here.

Get ready for a packed weekend of action with all the details here.

NSW Swifts v Adelaide Thunderbirds - Major Semi Final

Last time they met: Round 14 - Thunderbirds def Swifts 60-57

With just seven days between these matchups, there is plenty of spice for these two teams. With a grand final berth at stake, there was a poker game last week.

Knowing that there was the potential for this repeat matchup, coaches Briony Akle and Tania Obst were forced to decide how to manage their tactics. For the most part, Akle played her cards close to her chest, with only a five-minute stretch with Helen Housby on the bench a window into tactics not seen this season.

On the flipside, Obst was happy to show one clear tactical shift, taking the fight to the Swifts, by pushing Shamera Sterling to goal defence, and Latanya Wilson back to goal keeper, a combination not seen on court before.

After the match, Akle was quick to acknowledge how effective the Thunderbirds' defensive end had been during the match.

"They are one of the best defensive duos in the in the whole league. So it was a challenge for us and I certainly think we'll learn a lot from the things we did out there tonight," Akle said.

"We tried a few things that didn't work and certainly the combinations change around that same for me as a coach.

"I need to look at around those changes at what times. But I certainly think they're world-class defenders and it just adds to the experience that they got out there tonight."

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Akle denied that the switch surprised her, giving credit to the Thunderbirds' coaching staff.

"Nothing surprises me in this league," she explained.

"I certainly think they've got a great coaching staff that would have gone out there and strategically done really well and they did so no didn't really surprise me. I think they can play in all positions so and they did a good job.

On the flipside, Obst was quick to praise Wilson, who's flexibility was the key to the ability to make that switch and use a new tactic.

"Latty [Wilson] was sensational tonight," Obst said.

"Yes, she's been really consistent for us for the majority of the year. And she is really intense with what she was doing. I thought she was a little quiet last week, but she was ready to make amends for that. And she was pretty good tonight."

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Obst explained that the change was pre-meditated, and something that had been planned by the Thunderbirds as a tactic to slow down Housby and Romelda Aiken-George.

"Latty back at keeper, she can she's brilliant in all of those three positions. So I think she really would be sort of contesting outside the circle.

"I thought Maisie [Nankivell] did a really great job in what she needed to do defensively and then bringing the ball through court for us, and it was certainly new for Shamera and to give her something else to look at.

"But obviously also giving the opposition something different as well. So it was always a bit of a chance that we talked about, and I thought it wasn't too bad a move tonight."

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Both coaches will have been furiously working away at the drawing board this week, planning moves and countermoves this weekend for the return matchup.

The winner will almost certainly be determined by who reacts better to the opposition's plan, as both sides have been proactive at different times this year - but last week showed they are evenly matched.

West Coast Fever v Melbourne Vixens - Minor Semi Final

Last Time They Met: Round 9 - Vixens def Fever 74-73

This match may have had a while to simmer, but that doesn't mean either of these teams are interested in taking a beat. In a rematch of last year's Grand Final, the Vixens are looking to end the Fever's premiership defence for the year.

Since the Grand Final, these sides have played twice, and been far more evenly matched, with each side winning a match by a point, at home. With this weekend's matchup back at the site of the Grand Final, the venue has not been a happy hunting ground for the Vixens.

Last time these two sides met, the match came down to the volume of shots, as the Vixens generated more opportunities at goal, even though they were less effective with them.

Chart showing shooting accuracy for the last 4 matches between the Vixens and the Fever. The Fever are consistently more accurate.

The Fever have consistently been more accurate with their shots than the Vixens across the last four matchups between these teams, as Jhaniele Fowler has been the most accurate shooter in the league.

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Aside from the 2022 Grand Final, where the Vixens were blown out of the water, generally the trend has been that the side that is more effective at converting their centre passes to goals has been the winner.

Chart showing the Gain to Goal and Centre Pass to Goal statistics for the last 4 matches between these teams. CP to Goal correlates with winning matches, except for the 2022 Grand Final.

Often a side's ability to convert gains into goals is the telling outcome in the match, with a clear link between turnover opportunism and winning matches across Super Netball (evidence: Adelaide Thunderbirds 2022 and 2023).

In this particular matchup though, both sides are typically very good at moving the ball from the centre pass to goal, preventing any turnovers that the other team can capitalise on. With stars like Liz Watson and Alice Teague-Neeld directing attacks, and powerhouse shooters, this should be no surprise to anyone.

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As a result, there's a strong likelihood that whoever can best manage their centre passes, and convert them into goals will be the winner of this match, regardless of the turnover battle. It will then be a quick flip to next week for the winner, who will have to be able to force and capitalise on turnovers more effectively, as the proven way to beat the other two finalists.

So watch out for how this one unfolds, with both teams treasuring the ball. If they give it away, it will tell when the final whistle goes.