While this game was not to have an impact on the finals, with the Magpies’ position in fourth sewn up, it was still a game the Magpies were looking to win and win well with their build into the finals series. The Swifts, a much younger and more inexperienced team had a point to prove and were hoping to upset the much more fancied Magpies with the return of both Paige Hadley (WA) and Abbey McCulloch (WD) from injury.

From the beginning of the game, both teams were struggling to penetrate through the centre court. Some particularly avid defence on the Magpies’ second centre pass led to a miscommunication in attack and Sarah Klau (GK) gained her first pickup of the game against Caitlin Thwaites (GS). The first quarter was messy in attack for both teams. As a result, several off-target balls were picked up across the court. Sam Wallace (GS) was shooting accurately from all over the circle, but was not fed to when free on multiple occasions, perhaps due to the imposing presence of Sharni Layton (GK) putting feeders off.

The Swifts will be disappointed with a three and a-half minute goal drought letting the Magpies out to a five goal lead with two minutes to go. The Swifts were disrupted in this phase through unforced errors, as well as two intercepts from Alice Teague-Neeld (GA) in a couple of minutes, an unusual feat from a goal attack. A high turnover count across the court for both teams in the first quarter will be analysed in the days to come with too many unforced errors. A magnificent intercept by Ash Brazill (WD) with seconds on the clock was unable to be converted to a goal, and was confusingly advanced and then taken back by the umpire twice to accurately set the penalty. The Magpies went into the first break up by four goals.

The Swifts started the second quarter poorly with an immediate turnover from a poorly aimed pass picked up by the Magpies defence. The Swifts were still struggling to break through the transverse line with some confusion in attack and bunching in certain parts of the court. This enabled April Brandley to pick up an amazing intercept from the Swifts’ centre pass, in what was the best game she has played this year. While Layton was relatively quiet by her standards (in terms of game play rather than her voice), Brandley stepped up her defensive efforts and picked up several intercepts and deflections. The Magpies had a hunger for the ball that was largely unmatched by the Swifts. Kim Ravaillion (C) and Madi Robinson (WA) fed well to both Thwaites and Teague-Neeld.

The Magpies threatened to extend their lead many times before it eventuated. Some exceptional defence by Maddy Turner (GD) and Klau kept the Swifts in it with Turner picking up three deflections for the quarter, while Klau came through for two intercepts. Abbey McCulloch, on return from injury and up against Madi Robinson was unable to have much of an impact against her. Again, two periods of goal droughts for the Swifts towards the end of the quarter hurt their chances of staying in touch or even bridging the gap and the Magpies went into halftime ten goals up.

The Swifts rang some changes to start the third quarter with Claire O’Brien coming on at WA, Paige Hadley moving to WD and Abbey McCulloch going to the bench. The Swifts defence stepped up their efforts and this enabled them to eat into the Magpies’ lead slightly in the early parts of the quarter. Ash Brazill (WD) was having an incredible game, however, and caused confusion in attack for the Swifts on many occasions, as well as shutting down the efforts of O’Brien in her drive towards the circle.

Lange was substituted for Teague-Neeld halfway through the quarter. There was some adjustment time here, allowing the Swifts to come within eight with confusion in attacking play working to the Swifts’ advantage. Helen Housby (GA) came into the game more, shooting accurately from distance, as Sam Wallace’s volume dropped. Lange was much happier to shoot than Teague-Neeld had been, putting up a couple of long shots which enabled the Magpies to go into the break ten goals up.

The fourth quarter saw the Swifts again pick up a good volume of defensive ball, but they had difficulty transitioning this out of defence. Ravaillion continued an amazing game by picking up an intercept in the Magpies’ centre third from one of these defensive transitions. The Swifts’ turnovers continued to hurt them with multiple offside calls and poor communication in passing hurting them. The Magpies would have been looking to build more significantly on this lead in the last quarter, but were disrupted by some excellent defensive work from the Swifts.

Micaela Wilson came on at GD for April Brandley with seven minutes to go. Shortly afterwards, Shae Brown came on in WA introducing a different approach to the goal circle and a pair of fresh legs in attack. The Magpies continued to extend their lead going out to 15 goals at one stage, but a few errors towards the end saw them take the win by just 12. This drop in intensity will be an area of focus as they look towards finals.

This game was high in turnovers from both teams, but particularly the Swifts. The Magpies will look to build their connections further, while the Swifts will be disappointed that the high number of defensive pickups couldn’t be rewarded. From here, the Magpies travel to Perth to face the West Coast Fever, while the Swifts will face the second placed Lightning in the Sunshine Coast.

The Magpies’ goal attack question

Once again, we return to the matter of the goal attack position for the Magpies. On the one hand, is Alice Teague-Neeld. She is an exceptional player through the court both defensively and on attack. Likewise, she has grown into a good connection with Thwaites. However, her hesitancy on the shot and baulking before passing off to Thwaites will no doubt be of concern. Cody Lange is much more likely to put up the long shots, but does not have the same level of through court impact of Teague-Neeld.

Playing both GAs in one game does raise questions for the opposition’s defence as they have quite different styles of play, but can also create confusion in attacking structures. How this approach to the position works will be more obvious come finals.

 

Key match-ups

Caitlin Thwaites v Sarah Klau
Klau had an outstanding game against one of the best performing goal shooters this season. While Thwaites kept up her high volume of goals for the season and kept the Magpies ahead in some particularly messy periods of play, Klau delivered a performance that would have had Australian selectors paying attention. She pulled in the most intercepts of any player on court (4) and kept Thwaites on her toes for the whole game. While Thwaites was guilty of some turnovers, her run to the loose ball ahead of many midcourters who were closer more than made up for it.

Paige Hadley/Claire O’Brien v Ash Brazill
Hadley on return from injury was impressive, although her intensity dropped in the second quarter. Claire O’Brien came on well in the third quarter. Brazill was at her usual level of brilliance with five gains, two intercepts and four deflections to her game. Moreover, what the statistics don’t necessarily show was the heavy marking of the players she faced which halted the flow of the attacking midcourt for the Swifts. Brazill was very unlucky to miss out on MVP, although Kim Ravaillion was also a deserving recipient.

 

Collingwood Magpies 62 def NSW Swifts 50
Player of the Match:
Kim Ravaillion (Magpies)

 

Collingwood Magpies
Thwaites 48/51 94%
Teague-Neeld 5/9 56%
Lange 9/13 69%
62/73 85%

NSW Swifts
Wallace 33/36 92%
Housby 17/17 100%
50/53 94%

 

Key stats

Turnovers:
Swifts 33
Magpies 26

Feeds:
Madi Robinson (Magpies) 46
Maddy Proud (Swifts) 37
Kim Ravaillion (Magpies) 34

Intercepts:
Sarah Klau (Swifts) 4
April Brandley (Swifts) 3

 

Twitter: @catrat07
Cover image: Grant Treeby