Super Netball 2023 Round One: (Un)Wrapped

Every week, Edge of the Crowd will unwrap all the action from the weekend that was in Super Netball. A mix of the behind the scenes, and the in-depth analysis, catch up on everything from the court.

Every week, Edge of the Crowd will chat to coaches and players across the league, and break down the big questions and the big issues emerging from the weekend.

Before the games though, there were things that ran across the weekend that will have wider-ranging impacts.

Jamaican Sunshine Girls star

The Jamaica Sunshine Girls will come away from the weekend feeling great about the ability of their circle players to match it with anyone in the world.

If the Commonwealth Games silver medal wasn't proof enough, the Super Netball Player of the Match was a Jamaican representative in every game this weekend - Jodi-Ann Ward, Jhaniele Fowler, Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Shamera Sterling.

The only headache - two of them play goal keeper - and they can't both play at once (unless...). But the comfort that the Jamaican netball establishment, and particularly coach Connie Francis will take from the first week of Super Netball cannot be quantified.

Latanya Wilson and Shimona Nelson also had strong performances for their Super Netball teams, as the Jamaican contingent had an outstanding weekend in the Australian competition.

On the other hand, there will be headaches for Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich, knowing that she will have to handle those Jamaican stars at some point in the World Cup.

Collingwood Magpies defeated NSW Swifts 71-63

For the Magpies, it was the dream start to the year. They jumped out of the blocks and handled their business against the Swifts early, and never relinquished control of the contest.

The Magpies scored five in a row early in the first quarter, while the Swifts were shellshocked. After the match, Swifts' coach Briony Akle lamented the slow start.

“The Magpies were quite outstanding in that first half, and I don't think we turned up at all," Akle said.

"We made basic errors that we shouldn't. For us, that second half is the bonus, but for me, that’s probably not good enough in terms of what our Swiftie Standards are.

"Hopefully this week at training we can rectify that. 

“I think we didn’t turn up in that first quarter. Whether or not the Magpies came out firing, or we just werent prepared for their physicality, so for us, we were rattled.

"That’s something we will definitely go back and look at, and hopefully that won't happen again."

The match was hard to judge for the Swifts. They were rattled early, and the things that the Swifts have become accustomed to (like a strong centre pass conversion into a shot) disappeared. The Swifts were close to 90 per cent conversion of centre passes into a shot last year, but were closer to 75 per cent in Round One.

The Magpies showed no mercy to the Swifts, as they converted more than 70 per cent of the Swifts' turnovers, and more than 60 per cent of their gains into goals, and 75 per cent of their misses into goals.

The ruthless shooting paid off, as the Magpies scored seven of the last 10 goals to put an emphasis on their win. Late in the match, with 90 seconds left, Magpies coach Nicole Richardson called a tactical timeout to settle her charges and make sure they finished the game well.

"It was really just a message that we were trying to starve time off the clock for [the Swifts]," Richardson explained.

“So they don’t have ball in hand to score those two-pointers. For us, it was that point in the game where I just thought we needed to tick the scoreboard over and just making sure we always had one option running forward, rather than everyone running away from the ball. 

“Just to make sure they were able to manage time, and keep possession of the ball."

THe Magpies didn't just take away time, they managed the tempo of the game, and controlled the speed of the game. Kelsey Browne was instrumental in that, but the Magpies were able to move the ball with speed and negate the physical strength of the Swifts' defenders by moving the ball.

Kelsey Browne in action for the Magpies. Image: Raheemah Bolkiah

Kelsey Browne in action for the Magpies. Image: Raheemah Bolkiah

"What you saw tonight was Kelsey Browne, and that’s the style of game she plays," Richardson said,

"We were able to exploit the defence that was out there with Kelsey’s speed. When she puts on the burners, she’s hard to stop."

For the Magpies, the game is a promising sign that there are the pieces, and the plan, to contend this season and return to finals again.

For the Swifts, its back to the drawing board, as they look to wipe the first week of the season from their memories.

West Coast Fever defeated Melbourne Vixens 62-61

The West Coast Fever and the Melbourne Vixens played out a grand final rematch, with a couple of key differences (despite the end result being the same).

The similarities were that the Fever jumped out to a fast start, blitzing the Vixens defensive group that was missing Jo Weston. This time though, the Vixens adjusted, and Simone McKinnis changed the lineup, with great effect.

The Vixens fought back to keep the game finely-balanced, drawing level and challenging the Fever. In the end though, the Fever had the experience and the "clutch" to get the job done.

After the match, Fever coach Dan Ryan explained that the close game success the team was not an overnight success.

"The skill of being able to win under pressure is a skill that is learned over time," Ryan said.

"This team has learned that over a number of years, and i thought we took a shift forward in being really poised last year in pressure moments.

"That was a great indication of maturity and we had to show mature signs at many different stages throughout that match. It’s a great skill that we’ve developed, and we need to keep getting better at that."

For Ryan, his focus now will be on making sure the Fever are ruthless when given the opportunity.

"I thought there were times where we had a good buffer and a bit of control over the game, and then we opened the door slightly.

Those will be the moments we look more closely at and see where the tactical or structural elements fell off.  The ability to get back up and in control in those moments was pleasing."

In a matchup between the coaches, McKinnis was pleased with her side's ability to challenge the Fever and fight back into the game, something they struggled with at times last season.

"I thought we did that quite well, but we could still get better," McKinnis said.

"Controlling the pace a little bit more, when we can work it short and sharp, and when to open up, and we’re still working hard to get that depth."

The Vixens' defence was also lauded by their coach, especially given the absence of Weston.

“I thought defensively we did some really good stuff, in particular moments to mix it up," McKinnis said. "I think there’s a lot that we can take out of it. 

“There was some really good pressure [from the defenders], and from the front end. So there are some real positives from there."

Sunshine Coast Lightning defeated Giants Netball 66-50

The Sunshine Coast Lightning were out to prove a point, after a disappointing season last year, and a depleted Giants team were the unfortunate souls in their way.

The Lightning were clinical, but it was their new-look defensive combination that was most exciting. Kadie-Ann Dehaney and Karla Pretorius are both on the rebound, Dehaney from a down year last year and Pretorius returning from maternity leave, and the defenders showed they are not missing anything.

Dehaney had eight gains and Pretorius had four, while they combined for a further 15 deflections without a turnover, and just 16 penalties.

It was a clinical performance, as they gave the Giants fits at circle edge, and inside the shooting circle.

Pretorius spoke after the match about working with Dehaney and their blooming partnership.

"For us, it's about making sure we get stronger as a combination as we go on," Pretorius explained. "We had a bit of preseason to work on that, and also having Ash [Ervin] in there as well, we want to make sure that we work and making our combination stronger.

"I think we’re pretty satisfied with what we put out there as a defensive unit. Just knowing that its first round, and we keep the system going forward."

For the Giants, missing Jo Harten and Maddie Hay was a massive impact, and with a discombobulated midcourt, there was little that Sophie Dwyer and Matisse Letherbarrow could do.

Amy Parmenter played most of the third quarter, and all of the fourth quarter in wing attack, as coach Julie Fitzgerald tried to find a way to get the circle edge feed going.

In Parmenter's time in wing attack, the Giants were outscored 29-28 by the Lightning. In the time that Amy Sligar played in wing attack, the Giants were outscored by the Lightning 37-22.

WIthout Maddie Hay, the Giants don't have a recognised wing attack option, and playing Parmenter out of position was effective for the circle end, but the Giants also leaked more goals in the time that she was not playing wing defence.

Last year (aside from the two weeks where the Giants were crippled by COVID-19) when Maddie Hay played, the Giants averaged 65 goals. Yesterday, they scored 50.

For Julie Fitzgerald, losing Maddie Hay was as big an impact as losing Jo Harten.

"I think its not just Jo," Fitzgerald said. "I thought losing Jo and Maddie at the same time really hurt us at the same time in our attacking end.

"I thought Amy Parmenter had a great game, and for someone who has been in rehab for so long to come out and play that strongly. Jamie-Lee Price was really strong for us through the middle. 

“It's a secondary position for both [Parmenter and Sligar] but both get the opportunity to work there. For Amy Sligar, she’s growing in that position every time she gets an opportunity. And Amy [Parmenter] just gives us something different and a little bit of punch."

For Fitzgerald, it will now be about working out what to do if Maddie Hay isn't back this week. She said postmatch she is optimistic that both Hay and Harten will be back next week against the Thunderbirds.

Queensland Firebirds defeated by Adelaide Thunderbirds 59-44

The Thunderbirds faced off against a new look Firebirds outfit in the final match of the first weekend of Super Netball. The Thunderbirds jumped out to a quick start, but a seven goal run late in the first quarter brought the Firebirds back into the game.

The Thunderbirds regained control, after reshuffling their personnel, and from there, controlled the match to run away with a big win to start the year.

The Firebirds were up 22-15 when Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst made those key personnel shuffles, shifting Eleanor Cardwell from goal attack to goal shooter, bringing Tippah Dwan in at goal attack and taking out Lucy Austin at goal shooter in the attack end.

At the same time, she shifted Latanya Wilson from goal defence to wing defence, introducing Matilda Garrett into the circle and taking out Hannah Petty.

From the change, the Thunderbirds dominated the match, 44-22 the rest of the way, as they ran out big winners. After the match, Eleanor Cardwell, in her first game for the Thunderbirds talked about the different combinations in the shooting circle.

"I think they both work in different ways," Cardwell said.

"I probably today didnt provide enough for Lucy in the back, and didn’t do as much as i should have done. We are working on that in training every single week, and sometimes we play snd its phenomenal, I just love playing with her. 

“Tippah, she is so fast, and I know she’s going to do all the work for me. She’s more of a traditional goal attack than I am.

"I just know that if people are around me, she’s just going to be free. They’re both amazing shooters, and I’ve got all the trust in them."

In the first quarter, while Cardwell was at goal attack, she had three goal assists on three feeds, with five centre pass receives. Dwan, in her time in goal attack, tallied 22 feeds for 12 assists and 14 centre pass receives.

Tippah Dwan played her best game for the Thunderbirds against the Firebirds on the weekend. Image: Raheemah Bolkiah

Tippah Dwan played her best game for the Thunderbirds against the Firebirds on the weekend. Image: Raheemah Bolkiah

Despite the eye test showing that the Dwan/Cardwell combination worked better, the numbers show that the difference was partly in the rebounding (the Cardwell/Dwan combination had three rebounds on eight misses, while the Austin/Cardwell combination had no rebounds on three misses), and probably partly on Tayla Williams, who was more effective than Maisie Nankivell in centre.

The shooting line up will no doubt give Tania Obst plenty to think about.

At the other end of the court, Bec Bulley's coaching debut did not go as well as she would have hoped, but the new coach was circumspect about the result.

She saw a few key things that had gone wrong, but remained positive about her side's chances of improvement.

"I think it was a bit of intensity, we got a bit flat footed, we made a few silly mistakes trying new things, which is ok," Bulley said.

"I don’t mind them trying new things, but defensively we started to let them run around us, as we got a bit flat footed.

"In attack, we probably got a pushed high, and we had [Donnell] coming out of the circle, and she’s most dangerous close to the post."

Wallam's movement out of the circle was in response to the defence of Shamera Sterling, who had 11 gains and a further 10 deflections in a Player of the Match performance.

For Bulley, one question will be about the fitness of Lara Dunkley. Dunkley was taken out of the game with four minutes to play in the second quarter, with the Firebirds up by three goals.

She didn't return - whether due to injury or coaching decisions. Dunkley tallied seven goal assists to Macy Gardner's (her replacement) six, but Gardner outpaced her for feeds.

The Firebirds certainly looked more powerful heading to post with Dunkley at circle edge than with Gardner, but Gardner will likely improve with time at Super Netball level, after two seasons away from the top-flight.

Much to ponder for Bulley and the Firebirds, as they look to bounce back next week against the rampaging Lightning.