Over the 2023 season, the Edge of the Crowd netball team will look at the big questions and issues ahead of each matchup of the year. A mix of cold-hard statistics and gut-feel from observations, there are always questions to be considered across the weekend.
Collingwood Magpies v NSW Swifts
In 2021, the year the Swifts won the premiership, they were the most accurate team in Super Netball, shooting just over 90 per cent of their attempts.
Last year, with the loss of sharpshooter Sam Wallace in Round One, they finished the year shooting just under 80 per cent of their attempts, the worst accuracy in the competition.
The Swifts will be ruing their inability to convert, especially because Maddy Proud led the competition in assists per game (26.2) and feeds per game (40).
For a side that missed the finals by about 3 goals on goal difference, that massive drop off in accuracy proved lethal. The Swifts will not have forgotten their errors, and have prepared differently this year, recruiting Romelda Aiken-George as a training partner, to replace Wallace until she returns from her ACL injury.
On the flip side of the coin, the Magpies were the second most accurate team last year, with an overall accuracy percentage of just under 86 per cent. If they can improve that, it will hold them in good stead.
The Magpies were also second best in the competition at converting a turnover (72 per cent) or a gain (67 per cent) into a goal. The challenge for them this weekend, is that the Swifts were among the best in the game at protecting the ball, with almost a quarter of all turnovers last season coming from missed goals.
THis weekend's battle will come down to whether the Magpies can force the Swifts into turnovers throughout the court, and whether the Swifts can cut down their turnovers that come from missing goals.
With revenge on the mind of the Swifts, and a chip on their shoulder for the Collingwood doubters, this matchup should be a fiery way to kick off the 2023 Super Netball season.
Collingwood Magpies host NSW Swifts at John Cain Arena at 5:00pm AEDT on Saturday.
West Coast Fever v Melbourne Vixens
This match is the grand final rematch. It's the first time these teams have played since then, with no pre-season matchup between these teams.
Last year, the Vixens had the wood over the Fever during the season, winning 75-66 in Melbourne and 70-64 in Perth. The tables were turned in the finals, as the Fever won the major Semi Final 71-62, and the Grand Final 70-59.
The Vixens weren't able to control the tempo at all in the grand final, as the Fever won each quarter, extending their lead over the course of the match. The Vixens struggled at times last year to stop the momentum of other teams, and that struggle was on show against the Fever.
The question will be whether the Vixens have developed an effective strategy to arrest momentum in the middle of the match. Adding to the challenge this weekend will be the absence of Jo Weston, who has not overcome a calf niggle to play.
Weston, a dangerous defender and a leader for the Vixens, will be badly missed. Gabby Coffey will step into her shoes, but the balance of the Vixens' defence will be upset, as either Kate Eddy (a natural wing defence), Emily Mannix (a natural goal keeper), Olivia Lewis (also a goal keeper) or the inexperienced Coffey will have to handle the in-form Sasha Glasgow in goal attack.
The pressure will be on, but that matchup will be essential if the Vixens are any chance of getting grand final revenge to start the season.
West Coast Fever host Melbourne Vixens at RAC Arena at 7:00pm AEDT on Saturday.
Sunshine Coast Lightning v Giants Netball
Jo Harten has been ruled out for the Giants, and it's the first time she has missed a game in club history. But for the Giants, it's not just the continuity that is at stake.
Last season, Harten accounted for 524 of the team's 886 goals (almost 60 per cent of all goals). Matisse Letherbarrow, her logical replacement, accounted for 34 goals (just over four per cent).
While Letherbarrow has performed well in her opportunities (few will forget her performance against the Vixens), it is a huge challenge for the Giants.
Earlier this week, speaking to the media, Jamie-Lee Price spoke about how the Giants would address the potential absence of Harten (and the confirmed absence of Maddie Hay).
"Jo is obviously our main girl. She's our captain, she's our leader," Price said.
"Even if we don't have her, we've had some really good preseason games where the young girls like Sophie and Matisse have really stood up.
"Sophie is experienced now, she's played for the Diamonds a couple of times, so she will look to step up and put her hand up as a leader, and obviously myself in the midcourt."
The pressure will be on Dwyer and Letherbarrow, and until they prove they can handle the returning Karla Pretorius and the resurgent Kadie-Ann Dehaney, the question will be hanging over their heads.
Sunshine Coast Lightning host Giants Netball at UniSC Arena at 2:00pm AEDT on Sunday.
Queensland Firebirds v Adelaide Thunderbirds
The Firebirds and the Thunderbirds are two teams in Super Netball that have the most question marks about them going into the season. For the Thunderbirds, the question is whether the form shown in Team Girls Cup will carry through this year, and whether the Thunderbirds can make finals as a result.
For the Firebirds, the hot-button question is about what led to Sara-Francis Bayman's sudden departure earlier this week, but that question has distracted from the Firebirds. The Firebirds enter this season with seven of their ten contracted players in their first or second season at Super Netball level.
With so much inexperience, how will the newer players handle the heat? Some, like Donnell Wallam and Ruby Bakewell-Doran have already proven that they can thrive, but can they repeat their heroics in their second season? Can the rest of the team rise to the level as well?
The Thunderbirds are more experienced, with Eleanor Cardwell making her Super Netball debut, but with international and Super League experience under her belt. Lucy Austin is in her first year full-time at Super Netball, while Tayla Williams is in her second.
But with two inexperienced players, as opposed to the Firebirds' seven, expectations are higher on the Thunderbirds, as they look to push into finals, after nine years of missing finals.
Queensland Firebirds host Adelaide Thunderbirds at Nissan Arena at 4:00pm AEDT on Sunday.
Before you move on, why not give our Facebook page a like here. Or give our Twitter account a follow to keep up with our work here.