Super Netball 2023 Round Two: (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 getting into the on-court action though, there were things that ran across the weekend that will have wider-ranging impacts.

Super Netball will be dealing with the consequences of this round for several days, with reviews into three seperate incidents from the weekend.

Court, camera, action, lights?

The organisation around Super Netball was in the gun multiple times over the weekend.

On Saturday evening, the Thunderbirds v Swifts matchup was delayed for an hour, as court decals were determined to be unacceptable and had to be removed.

A power outage at half time left the teams in the changing rooms, and they would not return. The game was ruled a draw, as it could not be finished within the 120 minute window that applies to Super Netball matches.

Under the Super Netball rules, there is an allocated timeframe of 120 minutes for a match to be completed. Due to the power outage being expected to require several hours to be resolved, there was no prospect that the match could have been completed in that timeframe.

Swifts coach Briony Akle was disappointed with the outcome, and her Swifts team were as well.

"I walked into the change room to get the girls together to tell them the game had been abandoned and we were getting two points each, the heads went straight down and they were devastated," Akle explained.

"They just wanted a result, and I think they deserved a result, but unfortunately it didn't work out like that. I'm sure there will be some tough conversations moving forward around how the day panned out."

At this stage, Super Netball has issued a statement that there are reviews into each of the court status and the power outage underway.

"Netball Australia is reviewing two separate incidents from last night’s Round 2 match between the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the NSW Swifts at Netball SA Stadium. 

"The first incident was a court surface issue which resulted in the match being delayed by an hour. 

"The second incident was a power outage at a nearby high voltage transformer operated by SA Power Networks during the half-time break. With repair crews expected to take several hours to restore power, the match was unable to be completed.

Netball Australia will not comment on the specifics of the incidents until both reviews are complete."

Seeing double? Or seeing red?

At the end of the Vixens v Magpies match, eyes first went to the scoreboard. But many noticed an irate Nicole Richardson late in the fourth quarter, berating the officials' bench and calling for a timeout.

Richardson was irate because the Melbourne Vixens had two centre passes in a row, in an error that potentially swung the result of the match.

There has not yet been word about the response from Netball Australia and the outcome of any review into the incident.

After the match, Magpies coach Nicole Richardson was ropable.

"What happened is an absolute fiasco," Richardson said.

"You cannot have a result like that. This is an elite-level competition. You've got an automated scoreboard that tells you whose centre pass it is. You've got a bench that knows exactly whose centre pass it is, but the bench [does] not have the power to do anything about it.

"That has just cost us the game. That's why I'm angry."

"Vixens just grabbed the ball and played on and a goal was scored, but Sophie Garbin addressed it, I then got up and addressed it to the umpire. I was basically ignored, they just wanted to finish the game. We wanted to bring it to their attention right there and then in the moment, but they didn't want to listen to us and the game continued."

"We've just been completely robbed because we would have had the opportunity to go two goals up, the opportunity to starve ball and take some time off the clock and they shot after the siren anyway.

"So that is a massive error in what they're doing and I've got nothing more to say. At the end of the day, they've stuffed up. They've cost us the game."

Super Netball announced Monday that a review would be undertaken into the circumstances.

"Netball Australia is reviewing the circumstances that led to an error in the fourth quarter of yesterday's match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Melbourne Vixens, where the Vixens were awarded two consecutive centre passes," the statement said.

"Under the Suncorp Super Netball Rules of the Game, the result of the match stands with the Melbourne Vixens winning 62-61."

It capped an eventful weekend for Super Netball, with game clock display issues also at Ken Rosewall Arena, as the typical courtside scoreboards that are in the line of sight for players weren't operational, and players were forced to look up at the video board to check the score and the game clock.

Giants star Maddie Hay noted after the match to Edge of the Crowd that the lack of court-level scoreboard had presented a challenge for her.

"It took me too long to kind of get used to that," Hay said.

"After every goal from the Fever, I kind of had to sprint back just to see, especially towards the end, how long we had on the clock and what the score was what we needed a two [point shot] or a one [point shot]."

Queensland Firebirds def by Sunshine Coast Lightning 65-55

The first state battle was between Queensland rivals Firebirds and Lightning, which saw the Firebirds have their second loss on their home court. 

During the first half, the game looked to be a blowout, with Coach Belinda Reynolds even telling her team to “punish” their opponents. However, the Firebirds came back with fire in their bellies for the second half, scoring the most goals in the third and fourth quarter. 

When asked about her half-time pep talk, Coach Bec Bulley shared “I guess I tried to keep it quite positive.”

“I think our attack was okay, it was probably just a few simple mistakes that we discussed. Defensively we really needed to pick it up a little bit, but I guess that's credit to the Lightning, their attack is very good.” 

Australian fans need not fear, come World Cup, with Steph Wood and Cara Koenen appearing in fantastic form ahead of the imminent Diamonds selection. For the first thirty minutes of the game, both shooting at 100 percent. 

The duo’s steady presence was noted by midcourter Annie Miller, who admitted her confidence had grown dramatically since her 2022 debut. 

“I think being a rookie last season, most of the time I was just super nervous. It’s great to have players around me like Steph Wood and Cara Koenen, they’re a real settler.”

During last week’s match, the Lightning had a very low penalty-to-gains ratio (2.7), which they were able to continue with, although sitting slightly higher at 4:1. In the explosive second quarter, Kadie-Ann Dehaney's personal penalty-to-gains ratio was 1.7:1, which clearly had an impact in the 18-7 quarter. 

Up the other end of the court Australian Diamond Ruby Bakewell-Doran was impressed her coach, with three gains to only two penalties in the final quarter. 

Post-match, Bec Bulley commented on Bakewell Doran’s clean game, saying, “I’m really proud of [Ruby], you’ve gotta remember this is only her second year in SSN, but what she achieved in one year is amazing.”

“It’s great to see her back in keeper as well, and showing that she can play multiple positions.”

Both teams had several homegrown debutants in their Battle of the Bruce, with the Lightning debuting Charlie Bell and Ash Ervin, and Ash Unie for the Firebirds. 

Adelaide Thunderbirds, NSW Swifts draw 25-25 (deemed draw)

While the match ended in a draw, halfway through, there were a few players that stood up in the match. It was a battle of the goalkeepers, as Swifts' milestone player Sarah Klau (100 games) and Shamera Sterling acted as concrete walls for their teams.

Sterling and Klau each had five deflections, two gains and a rebound in the first half. It wasn't just the individual numbers though, as the match was on track to be the lowest-scoring match of the season so far.

The defensive work of both sides was something to behold, as Latanya Wilson, Matilda Garret, Allie Smith and Maddy Turner all stood up as well. All up, the Swifts had seven gains and 11 deflections in the first half, while the Thunderbirds had six gains and 13 deflections.

The numbers paint a picture of two sides that dominated the defensive circles, and made life difficult for feeders. This was highlighted by both sides requiring multiple feeds to generate an attempt on more than 10 possessions in the match.

When the defenders are on top, it slows down the play at circle edge, and this match was the perfect illustration of that.

Akle was full of praise for her goal keeper, playing her 100th National League match.

"Sarah turned up to play, and she certainly did well in that first 30 minutes, and it would have been great to see what she could have done in that second half.

"The turnaround in form from last week to this week was a testament to our conversations that we've had during the week. It certainly puts us in good stead for next week."

Akle was circumspect about the day's events, but was able to find a positive to help her put things into perspective.

"I'm not really sure how to sum this day up.

"I think turning up and the decals being slippery, but I just said to someone else the other day, in 2021 we won a premiership through loads of adversity, and I think we just had to turn our attention that our game was good. For half a game it was good, but it's been a rough day."

Giants Netball def by West Coast Fever 74-73

The Fever dominated for long stretches of the middle part of the match, but in the end, it was about who held their nerve better.

After a slow start to the season last week for the Giants, coach Julie Fitzgerald was much more pleased with her side's performance this week.

"We have some very, very good young players," Fitzgerald explained.

"It's just last week we had to put four of them out there at the same time and when they've got experience around them, they're very good but that was a big ask last week."

The Fever were in control for much of the second half, as they worked over the Giants with disciplined netball, but Fever coach Dan Ryan noted that the final few moments were close.

"Even though we put ourselves in some pretty powerful positions, being 10 goals up, you're never safe against a team like the Giants," Ryan said.

"We had to hold our nerve in the final stages again, which was great to see, and plenty of learnings that we can take away from this performance.

"Giants are the benchmark of Super Shot prowess in the competition. A ten goal lead can turn so quickly if they get their hands hot, and credit to them, they nailed some difficult shots throughout the course of that game. You can't afford to have any relaxed moments and they really keep you on your toes the whole time."

In some ways, the Fever were almost lucky, because the Giants weren't as effective with the Super Shot as they could have been.

Harten took more super shots than Dwyer, as the captain, and the most successful super shot shooter of the past few years, but Dwyer was the hot hand yesterday.

"Normally Jo can be out of hand and Sophie is off," Fitzgerald explained after the game.

"So that's something that we just have to adjust where we can, I think so she did a good job of getting the ball into Sophie's hands whenever she could. But she's our captain and she took responsibility when she could."

Compounding that potential is the fact that Courtney Bruce had three rebounds, and Harten just two (both off her own misses).

As one of the few two-shooter super shot circles in the competition, the Giants often trouble shooters by setting up with both shooters in a potential shooting position, rather than a rebounder. This prevents the second defender sinking off their primary attacker and helping to block the shot.

The downside of this is that it makes rebounding more difficult for the Giants, particularly for Dwyer, who doesn't have the strength to box out as well as many defenders.

Last year, the Giants were the worst team at converting their misses into goals, with just 28 per cent of their misses resulting in a goal. This year, they haven't shown signs of improvement, with just one goal from a missed shot (22 misses this year).

Fitzgerald may consider this going forward, but the advantage of this plan is that it stops the goal defence helping to block the shot.

For Dan Ryan, back to back games have given him some thinking to do as well. Two weeks in a row, his team has won a thriller by a single goal. Two weeks in a row, they have led by more than ten goals before having to eke out a win.

"I think you need to read the situation," Ryan said.

"Whether we need to be more aggressive, and probably there were times where we didn't need to be because we'd done the work in the one point netball period to be up and in control and I think the reality of the Super Shot is you don't want to force them, you want to take them when your timing is right.

"We will have a look at what our behaviours are when we get up and in control and where our gaps are in how we can get more ruthless in closing the door when we get up and in control of a match."

Ryan's Fever won the competition last year, in part because they managed close games well, but if they don't have to make them close, that's probably a preferred option.

Collingwood Magpies def by Melbourne Vixens 61-62

Capping off the weekend was the Melbourne derby between Collingwood Magpies and the Melbourne Vixens which ultimately saw the Vixens deliver a thrilling, though controversial, comeback win.

Despite having Jo Weston back in the side, Simone McKinnis had elected to reward the defensive duo of Liv Lewis and Emily Mannix after their performance against Fever last weekend. Liz Watson, co-captain of the Vixens, reflected “obviously Liv did well last week against probably one of the best shooters in the world so we had to reward that.”  

“That week’s game plan against Fowler was very similar to this week with Shimona (Nelson)- obviously both (teams) have that tall target so it was great we could execute that today.”

The Melbourne Vixens came out of the gates looking strong and halfway through the first quarter were up ten goals to Collingwood’s seven – however, Collingwood settled and took control of the game.

Collingwood went on a four-goal streak to even the scores and once the super shot buzzer sounded slotted some two-point goals to end the quarter up by three.

However, seeing the game slip back to a Collingwood lead, McKinnis injected the experienced Weston into Goal Defence out front of Lewis. The impact was immediate with Sophie Garbin’s contribution for the quarter reduced to one super shot, no other goal attempts and half her first quarter’s centre pass receives and second pass receives.

Having Weston on court reduced Collingwood’s throughput to a 15-goal quarter, however, the players around Garbin managed to step up to maintain the team’s momentum and ultimately extend their lead over the Vixens to five.

Coming out of half-time, McKinnis made more changes – Hannah Mundy came out to wing attack, Watson was moved back to centre, Kate Moloney to wing defence and Mannix came on to goal keeper.

The Vixens stayed steady and slotted 13 goals matching their second quarter performance and managed to reduce Collingwood’s quarter score to 14 for the quarter. But the Vixens were yet to make a dent in the lead Collingwood had now pushed out to six-goal margin.

Collingwood’s starting seven stayed stable through the whole game and looked in position to end the weekend with a win- coming out of three quarter time the team pushed out to a nine-goal lead.

After the match, Nicole Richardson said “I make change where I think we are falling down in an area or we might be running out of the legs a little bit but I think the seven I’ve had on court both weeks have been able to run the game out”.

This stability has certainly produced two strong performances from the Magpies - and performances they think should have seen them deliver two wins.

Jodi-Ann Ward hits the deck in a hard-fought Melbourne Derby. Image: Ariana Silver

Jodi-Ann Ward hits the deck in a hard-fought Melbourne Derby. Image: Ariana Silver

However, the Vixens found another gear in the last five minutes of the game. Once that supershot siren blasted through the arena, Mwai Kumwenda demanded the ball and sunk a super shot reducing Collingwood’s lead to five.

Collingwood called a timeout in response but McKinnis made use of the timeout to embolden the Vixens and encourage them to look for the Supershot again.  

The final minutes of the game delivered a thrilling end. Collingwood were reduced to only three goals with the Vixens intercepting, causing turnovers and converting them. Kumwenda added another seven points to the scoreboard in the same time- including another two supershots.

However, Richardson had spotted what one of the umpires had not- the Vixens had taken two centre passes in a row. Richardson and Garbin both tried to call for time in order to get the umpires to rectify the error, but the umpires intently asked the Magpies coach to take her seat and returned to the final minute of the game.

With twenty seconds left on the clock, Collingwood thought they had managed to escape the derby with another win but a contact from Jodi-Ann Ward in the dying moment of the match gave Kumwenda a penalty shot in the super shot zone.

Mentor, Brazill and Jovic all tried to apply pressure to the shot but Kumwenda sunk the Supershot and took the Vixens to a one-goal win.

For the Magpies, they walk away frustrated but ultimately should by buoyed by another strong hit out while the Vixens walk away with their first four points for the season.