Fast 5 is still a relatively new addition to the international netball scene. The five-a-side version of the game includes two-point and three-point shooting zones, Power Play quarters where all points are doubled and rolling substitutions.

Coming to Melbourne for the second time, the crowd were treated to some great netball, some co-ordinated dancing from the English team, courtside comments from Sarah Wall, Kim Green and Laura Langman and a celebrity match that had it all!

Jamaica and England emerged as clear favourites after the first day, having beating Australia and New Zealand (finalists from 2016) respectively. Jamaica were able to edge the Australian team on the scoreboard with the fast scoring skills of new West Coast Fever recruit, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid. The teams were even after both Power Plays with neither team able to gain a significant advantage. A defensive steal late in the last quarter from Paula Thompson proved decisive with Fowler-Reid taking her team out to a three-point advantage. A three-point attempt from Tegan Philip on the buzzer to draw the game was unsuccessful.

New Zealand, last year’s champions, struggled to keep up against England. They were quick to put the points on the board in their Power Play quarter, but a lack of consistency in scoring throughout the game put them on the back foot. Crucial misses from distance in the last quarter restricted them to just one point, while England managed eight for the quarter. The English team, fielding some of the most experienced defenders in the world, collected rebounds with ease and went on to win by seven points.

Power Plays

One of the most important tactical aspects of the Fast5 game is how the Power Play quarter is used. Games can be won and lost in this quarter and the most even of games tend to be those where teams score similarly to their Power Play periods. Teams who are able to balance maximising their points and balancing the time pressure of the six-minute quarters did well. Additionally, upping the defensive efforts in an opponent’s Power Play quarter was essential.

The last game of Saturday night saw Australia demonstrate this powerfully, outscoring New Zealand 20-7 in their Power Play. New Zealand, on the other hand, were restricted to just eight points in theirs. While the other quarters were relatively even, crucial misses from the furthest scoring zones occurred in New Zealand’s Power Play quarter due to superb pressure on the shot. These were quickly picked up by Australia’s defenders who then played the ball around for as long as possible to prevent further attempts.

A three-point shot during a Power Play becomes six points, so these were particularly coveted and could quickly cut big leads down. This saw some teams trying a number of three-point attempts in a row, which is incredibly high risk. Only one player across the tournament managed more than one of these across the tournament and it all happened in one game. Jamaican Shanice Beckford shot four goals from the three point zone in Jamaica’s game against England in the last match before the playoffs, giving Jamaica to a well-deserved win.

Mid-court heroes

With all the focus on goals in Fast5, some praise must also go to the sole mid-courter who does a job done by three people in the traditional game of netball. Standout mid-courters in Fast5 do a stellar job of transitioning the ball from defence, getting ball to their shooters and setting up attacking plays. Moreover, the positioning of shooters becomes an entirely different ball game in Fast5, where defenders are trying to keep shooters closer to the post, the polar opposite of what would be expected in traditional netball. Midcourters then take on an extra defensive role of defending two and three point shots.

Two particularly impressive midcourters who covered all of these bases bear mentioning here. The first is Serena Guthrie, the English superstar, who it seemed was allergic to sitting on the bench throughout the tournament and played in both mid-court and defence. Guthrie led the tournament in goal assists and seemed to take every second ball when she was on court (which was most of the time). Her defensive work in England’s win over Australia on day two proved decisive.

Takondwa Lwazi from Malawi fed her shooters brilliantly, finishing second only to Guthrie in goal assists. In Malawi’s narrow loss to South Africa on day one, she had an astounding 18 feeds for the game and it seemed no one at the tournament could keep up with her rapid pace, dodging and hitting the circle edge easily.

 

Placing games

Playoff for 5th and 6th – South Africa 28 def Malawi 17

While both teams had come into the Fast5 looking for a better result, this game promised to be the all-African showdown that was anticipated. Malawi opted to take their Power Play in the third quarter, while South Africa opted for the last quarter. At halftime, the scores were even with both teams landing two point shots. Malawi struggled at times to break through the South African defence and this did not bode well for their Power Play.

During Malawi’s Power Play, the South Africans managed to keep scoring one point goals throughout to try to stay in touch. Malawi seemed unable to land a goal, finishing with just two one-point goals for a total of four points for the quarter. South Africa’s consistency meant they won by one-point in this quarter and went into the final quarter leading by a goal.

Malawi were unable to have the same effect on the South African Power Play, with Maryke Holtzhausen and Charmaine Baard shooting consistently for South Africa. However, Malawi had proved in some narrow losses to South Africa and New Zealand during the tournament that they are capable of more and no doubt they will be back firing next year.

Jessie Mazengera on her team’s performance throughout the tournament
“We didn’t win any games in this tournament, but we will next year, as we know Fast 5 is every year. Next year we are coming back to another event with another fuse like we did last year. We will do it next year”

Phumza Maweni on South Africa’s tournament
“It’s my third time playing Fast5. For this year, it was totally different. All the teams have stepped up …just for me, it was brilliant.”

“South Africans, we need to make sure we have strong shooters and strong defence at the back and centre court as well. We need to balance both sides because we were a bit loose in the middle.”

 

Playoff for Bronze – Australia 34 def New Zealand 15

Both teams would have been disappointed to not make the Final after doing so last year, but the Australia/New Zealand rivalry in both kinds of netball has continued. Both teams started nervously with a number of turnovers and missed shots and the first goal not coming until almost two minutes of game time. New Zealand stepped up first with a one-point goal from Ameliaranne Ekenasio, who went on to shoot two from the two-point zone as well. Misses from the Australian shooters at both one and two-point range throughout the quarter meant that New Zealand went into the first break up 6-2.

Australia opted to take their Power Play in the second quarter and Tegan Philip opened up the scoring. New Zealand were getting plenty of defensive ball, but their transition was messy and there were frequent miscommunications between the feeders and shooters. Australia went into halftime up by 11 points.

New Zealand’s Power Play did not go to plan with the Australian defensive screen paying dividends. Sam Poolman and Sarah Klau worked well on the New Zealand shooters, confusing the space and disrupting the shots on a number of occasions.  New Zealand managed just two one-point goals for the quarter, while the efforts of Australia in attack kept them on even footing. They went into the final quarter still 11 goals up.

New Zealand’s attempts to make inroads with both two and three-point shots in the last quarter were unsuccessful. They will no doubt be disappointed with their shooting efforts under pressure and will look to revisit this before next year. Australia continued to score from both two and three point zones, with Gretel Tippett landing the only three-point goal of the game.

Storm Purvis on the experience
“It’s not just the physicality on court. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the international umpires. It’s the pressure of international netball. For some of those girls, that’s priceless stuff and we thank the Aussies for always bringing out the fight, because we love that too.”

Kate Moloney on the match and the weekend
“Whenever Australia plays New Zealand, there’s that great rivalry. I’m really proud of how the girls played that last game. It’s been a bit of an up and down two games. We’ve had fun – we’ve had some wins, we’ve had some losses, but to come out and play the way we did in that game, I’m really proud of all the girls.”

 

Playoff for Gold – England 34 def Jamaica 29

Both Jamaica and England seemed to be a cut above the rest throughout the Fast5 tournament. The shooting of all of the English shooters was the best combined effort of the event, but the presence of Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, as well as the amazing shooting from Shanice Beckford in the last game against England boded well for an exciting final.

England got off to a roaring start with Jo Harten in particular landing shots twice from the three-point zone and blowing Jamaica out of the water in the first part of the game. The Jamaicans were unable to keep up and England went into the break up by nine points. The second quarter, however, saw the Jamaican defence step up their efforts in an attempt to stop the English attack. Vangelee Williams stepped up for an important intercept and Jamaica’s shooters came into the game more as well. Beckford landed a shot from the three-point zone and Fowler-Reid added three two-point goals. England went into halftime up by just two points.

Jamaica’s power play came in the third quarter and all eyes were on Beckford to see if she could replicate her brilliance from the earlier game. Unfortunately for Jamaica, the shots weren’t falling. Serena Guthrie was also invaluable for England in both attack and defence, doing a great job of forcing the Jamaican midcourt into lobs into Fowler-Reid, which didn’t always find their target. Jamaica managed just eight points in their Power Play as the game drew level with England’s Power Play still to come.

The quarter stayed surprisingly close with Harten and Helen Housby struggling in the two-point zone. An intercept from Helen Housby saw the game turn in England’s favour with the shooters opting to keep it safe with one-point shots. The Jamaican shooting duo of Fowler-Reid and Beckford were unable to land shots from the three-point zone and England scurried away to win the Final by five points.

Tournament MVP: Serena Guthrie (ENG)

Jo Harten on the approach to the event
“I think it’s important to have fun as an England team. We go through a lot of netball throughout the years, especially throughout this year as well and to come to Melbourne… we’ve flown all the way here. We’re making the effort and like our coach said, someone’s got to win it so why can’t it be us.”

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid on Jamaica’s performance
“Honestly, just, we took out a lot of courage for ourselves and belief in ourselves as well because we came into this tournament a bit of an underdog and we came out and just proved everyone wrong with our performance and how we enjoyed it as well.”

 

Stats of interest

Goal assists
Serena Guthrie (ENG) – 25
Takondwa Lwazi (MAW) – 23

Intercepts
Vangelee Williams (JAM) – 9
Temalisi Fakahokotau (NZ) – 7

Most Goals

3-point zone
Jo Harten (ENG) – 8
Ameliaranne Ekenasio (NZ) – 6

2-point zone
Gretel Tippett (AUS) – 20
Ameliaranne Ekenasio (NZ) – 19

1-point zone
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (JAM) – 64
Joyce Mvula (MAW) – 44

Rebounds
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid (JAM) – 24
Phumza Maweni (RSA) – 17
Geva Mentor (ENG) – 17

 

Twitter: @catrat07