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.
With a couple of one point thrillers, the competition looks as close as it has been in a while, with every second, every pass, every step counting.
NSW Swifts def Melbourne Vixens 67-66
The Swifts came home with a wet sail to beat the Vixens by a single goal. There were plenty of talking points after the game, including a sequence of 47 seconds where the Swifts possessed the ball in the centre third, keeping it away from the Vixens.
That final sequence was 29 passes (two penalties) that were uninterrupted, as the Swifts ran down the clock with composure in a way that has become so familiar.
Concerningly for the Vixens, it is back to back weeks where a slow last quarter has cost them a win. The Vixens had four turnovers in the last quarter, while the Swifts didn't give away the ball at all.
The Vixens have struggled over the last fortnight to turn opposition ball over, winning just nine gains in each of their last two matches.
When the Vixens force turnover ball, they win matches in 2023. Unfortunately for them, they don't have a defender (or any other player) in the top five for intercepts or gains, as they have struggled with this.
Jo Weston and Kiera Austin are the only players to record a gain in five matches this year (Weston missed Round One), but the issue for the Vixens is that their defensive group has tended to be feast or famine. Austin is reliable for one gain, and Watson or Moloney tend to pick one up too.
Beyond that, either the defenders have picked up a few each, or it has all fallen to Weston. The results speak for themselves in terms of which weeks are which.
What can the Vixens do to try and increase the flow of ball coming from their back end, against the centre pass? They will have to figure something out, because they will likely face the Fever, Swifts and Thunderbirds again at the pointy end of the season.
Queensland Firebirds def Giants 70-66
The Firebirds may not have turned into premiership contenders overnight, but their win over the Giants gives Bec Bulley a win as a head coach, and gives Remi Kamo and Emily Moore their first Super Netball wins.
More tellingly, in a match where the Giants played 37 minutes without Jo Harten, they struggled. Harten left the court with a knee complaint midway through the second quarter, when the Giants were trailing by a goal, but things fell apart after half time.
Reminiscent of the Round One loss without Harten and Maddie Hay, the Giants seemed to lose some structure without their default shooting circle. It didn't show up on the stats, but it was clear as the game unfolded, that something wasn't quite right.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Donnell Wallam continued her tear, shooting 55 goals from 57 attempts, including four of four from the super shot range.
It follows 55 goals last week, and 41 the week before, as Wallam pushes herself into calculations for the Diamonds squad for the Netball World Cup.
The Giants, meanwhile, will be hoping Harten is back for their Sydney Derby matchup this weekend. Harten made major waves this week when she announced her retirement from the England Roses international side, just weeks out from the World Cup squad announcement.
West Coast Fever def by Adelaide Thunderbirds 63-64
Collingwood Magpies def by Sunshine Coast Lightning 50-65
To close out the round the Lightning upset Collingwood Magpies at home to put them in the top four. The two teams met in the SSN’s inaugural ANZAC day match, which featured special dresses (Magpies) and warm-up shirts (Lightning).
The Pies came out very strong, opening the first five minutes with seven goals to the Lightning's two. During the following five minutes, the Lightning kicked into gear, trailing behind by one at eleven to ten. But it was the final five minutes that really punished the Pies, who could only add one point to the table, whilst the Lightning put on eleven, in part thanks to three super shots from Steph Wood.
This scoring difference remained similar in the second quarter, twenty to fifteen in the way of the visiting team. As the game went on, the Magpies' quarter scores remained fairly consistent (low-to-mid 10s) whilst the Lightning faltered slightly.
Post-match, Lightning defender Ash Ervin commented on the team’s game and their focus on playing a consistent four quarters.
“We're still working on just finishing our games, how we start the first half and, I mean, I think we're getting better at it.
"I just think it's our skill execution, just maintaining what we did in that first half and I don't think it's fitness or anything like that. I think it's just something that we're still getting used to as a team, we're still building towards.
“But I think it's coming along nicely and with Steph getting those two-pointers early on, I think it really saved us and got us that confidence to finish that second half.”
Whilst the final result may suggest that the Lightning utilised the super shot, the team actually only had five successful shots, just one more than their opponent.
It was their conversion that gave them the upper hand, only missing four attempts to the Magpies’ 11. Seven of the home team’s missed super shots were snaffled up by the Lightning’s defensive end, allowing them to gain six extra goals.
Throughout the game, impact player Kelly Singleton came on and off court at goal attack to try her hand at the super shots and relieve an off-game Sophie Garbin. Although Singleton was unlucky with her super shots, Coach Nicole Richardson was still positive post-match.
"I thought that's probably the best I've seen Kelly connect with our wing attacks off the line and I thought she received well off first phase," Richardson said.
"I thought she got a lot of good ball first phase and was able to get depth to then punch back to connect. She probably tired a little bit towards the back end there and, you know, maybe that was reflective of her shot at the end.
"But overall, I thought that was the best that she's played for us in that connection long court."
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