It was a do or die match for both the Sunshine Coast Lightning and the Collingwood Magpies with both teams needing the win to keep their finals’ hopes alive. It was the Lightning who prevailed and withstood a second-half fightback from the star-studded Pies.

Geva Mentor (Lightning) and Caitlin Thwaites (Collingwood). Photo: Marcela Massey.

It was a game of defence with both teams putting on hard, full-court pressure early. The Lightning was the first to reap the rewards of their patient defence as they caused a held ball against Madi Robinson on circle edge.
Their transition wasn’t smooth though, as the Magpies were equally smothering in defence.

Ash Brazill was instrumental by becoming Kelsey Browne’s co-joined twin. The Lightning wing attack had trouble shaking her defender which caused an unconfident pass to be thrown her way, resulting in a turnover in favour of the Magpies.

Madi Robinson (Collingwood) and Maddy McAuliffe (Lightning). Photo: Marcela Massey.

The game continued like this for several minutes as the teams adjusted to the umpire’s whistle. Two early ‘held ball’ calls caused the game to become frenetic. Eventually, the Lightning settled into a smooth, crisp rhythm which set the tone for the rest of the match.

Maddy McAuliffe and Laura Scherian had well-rounded games with strong defence and mostly secure attacking play. McAuliffe even added a goal assist to the stats sheet after the launching the ball from the transverse line to Steph Wood who was waiting under the post.

Erin Bell (Collingwood) and Maddy McAuliffe (Lightning). Photo: Marcela Massey.

Erin Bell started the game confidently, hitting all her shots from near the ring. However, her usually speccy long bombs weren’t sinking. Geva Mentor read this and ensured she maintained front position, to snaffle the rebounds.

Caitlin Thwaites was reliable for much of the game, shooting at 100% in the first and third quarters. Thwaites played a more sedentary role, very rarely venturing more than a metre outside the circle. But, she didn’t need to move too much as her perfectly timed hold-and-drops and occasional rolls to front position, allowed her feeders to know exactly where to place the ball.

Sharni Layton showed a return to form this week. The loudest member of Super Netball took an early intercept thanks to an easily read pass, across caught, from McAuliffe.

Caitlin Bassett (Lightning) and Sharni Layton (Collingwood). Photo: Marcela Massey.

The Lightning managed to take the lead late in the quarter thanks to the Mentor tipping the ball from a low pass to Thwaites.

The Lightning transitioned down the left corridor, mostly unobstructed. Browne launched the ball from near the transverse line into Caitlin Bassett who took a heavy hit from Layton. This contact allowed Steph Wood to take the penalty shot which put the Lightning ahead by one with centre pass to follow.

After scoring 14 goals at 100% in the first quarter, Bassett became the target of the Magpies defensive end during the second term. This allowed Wood to run free and have her pick of shooting position.

When she was roaming outside the circle, Wood was able to use the 10cm height deficit she had with counterpart April Brandley, to her advantage. Wood would hold behind Brandley and then, almost comically, duck out under Brandley’s arms to receive a pass. This manoeuvre was equally effective in the circle.

Bassett still managed to make an impact in the second term, notching up 12 goals. And it was lucky goal 33 for the Lightning, which saw Bassett notch up her 1000th Suncorp Super Netball goal. She is the second player to do that, behind Caitlin Thwaites.

Karla Pretorius (Lightning), Caitlin Thwaites (Collingwood) and Geva Mentor (Lightning). Photo: Marcela Massey.

Mentor and Karla Pretorius introduced a Mexican wave style of defence over Collingwood’s shots during the second quarter. One defender would jump, hands over the ball, and then land to the side. The other defender would follow with a similar jump.

This tactic creates more intensive pressure on the shot which surely put doubt in Collingwood’s shooters minds. The pair missed five shots in during the second term, which helped Lightning get out to a four-goal quarter lead.

The third term saw a shift in intensity and momentum. For the first part of the term, Lightning looked to run away with the game. They confidently swung the ball across the court, in their goal third. Wood, Browne and Scherian made good use of triangle passes on circle edge.

The connection between Browne and Wood was on-song. This was highlighted when Browne was able to look long, into the circle, over a mess of Magpies hands and find Wood on the drive.

Steph Wood (Lightning). Photo: Marcela Massey.

But it wasn’t until Layton injected herself, vocally and physically, that the Magpies began to make inroads into the now ten goal deficit. She had two intercepts and two gains during the third term.

The Magpies defence end began to increase their work rate. Kim Ravaillion, who was having a lacklustre game, began to make impressions in defence. Her double teaming with Brazill began to shut down Browne’s connection with Wood.

Bell finally found her range. She and Thwaites improved their goal percentages by shooting at 100% this term.
Brandley was instrumental in securing Magpies’ first turnover of the fourth term. She smothered Browne on the centre pass, which saw a misplaced ball sail over the sideline. This sparked another strong defensive effort from the Magpies.

Karla Pretorius (Lightning) and Caitlin Thwaites (Collingwood). Photo: Marcela Massey.

Robinson and Ravaillion were also more confident in their feeds. They began using look away passes and ball movement to open up the circle. Bell shouldered much of the shooting in the final term, as Pretorious and Mentor opted to shut-down Thwaites.

However, the run from the Magpies was too little too late, as they won the half but not the game.

Magpies still have a whisker of a chance of making finals. If they manage to take eight points from each of their next three games, and the Queensland Firebirds and Lightning stumble, the Magpies may find themselves in fourth spot.

Kim Ravaillion (Collingwood) and Maddy McAuliffe (Lightning). Photo: Marcela Massey.

However, they have three tough battles as they face they face NSW Swifts, Giants and Firebirds, respectively. Lightning held fourth spot for 24 hours after their win over the Magpies. If they hope to get it back, and lock it in, they will also need to take eight points from each of their next three opponents, starting with Thunderbirds next Sunday.

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning 58 def Collingwood Magpies 56
(17-15, 35-29, 47-43, 58-56)

Player of the Match: Caitlin Bassett (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
Crowd: 2,072 at USC Stadium

 

Sunshine Coast Lightning
Bassett 43/43 100%
Wood 15/18 83%
58/61 95%

Collingwood Magpies
Thwaites 30/36 83%%
Bell 26/31 84%
56/67 84%

 

Key Stats

Intercepts
Sharni Layton (Magpies) 5
April Brandley (Magpies) 1
Ash Brazill (Magpies) 1
Maddy McAuliffe (Lightning) 1
Karla Pretorius (Lightning) 1
Laura Scherian (Lightning) 1

Goal Assists
Madi Robinson (Magpies) 22
Kelsey Browne (Lightning) 19
Steph Wood (Lightning) 16

Penalties
Sharni Layton (Magpies) 25
Geva Mentor (Lightning) 18
Karla Pretorius (Lightning) 12
April Brandley (Magpies) 12

Centre Pass Receives
Madi Robinson (Magpies) 24
Steph Wood (Lightning) 20
Kelsey Browne (Lightning) 17

 

Starting lineups

Sunshine Coast Lightning
GS Caitlin Bassett
GA Stephanie Wood
WA Kelsey Brown
C Laura Scherian
WD Madeline McAuliffe
GD Karla Pretorius
GK Geva Mentor
Changes: Q4 WD Jacqui Russell

Collingwood Magpies
GS Caitlin Thwaites
GA Erin Bell
WA Madi Robinson
C Kim Ravaillion
WD Ash Brazill
GD April Brandley
GK Sharni Layton
Changes: None.

Umpires: Joshua Bowring and Tara Warner

 

What they said

Laura Scherian, Sunshine Coast Lightning

That was a game of two halves. Is it fair to say you were happier with the first half?
“Definitely. We were very happy with our first two quarters. We really wanted to build our lead in the second half, but we couldn’t get the points up to win those last two quarters.”

What changed?
“I think they changed their game and we didn’t adjust to it. I think we really need to learn how to push out a lead. We are definitely working on that at training, and we did that in the second quarter but couldn’t maintain it.”

They are quite a physical side, do moments like that rattle your team?
“I don’t think so. We adjusted to that quite well. Like Caitlin managed to hold her ground quite well against Sharni. It’s netball. It’s what you are going to get week in, week out. We actually look forward to that sort of battle.

Compared to last week, you personally have lifted your defensive pressure? Is that something you focused on this week?
“Yeah, I have really been working on my defensive pressure. Especially my one-on-one and that second phase off the centre pass. So, I am really happy to have gotten a couple of tips out there today.”

The change-up between Maddy and Jacqui has featured a lot in recent weeks, is that a planned change or coaching call on the day?
“I think today we just needed some more intensity and some fresh legs out there. We also needed someone to really run the ball from defensive to attack, but also to be another set of hands in the attack end and Jacqui really did that today.”

This win has put you in a pretty good position on the ladder now. What does it mean for the rest of your season?
“We needed to win today, and we also need to win these last three games coming up as well. We are obviously watching the ladder points each week, and we would have been happier getting eight out of this, but the six we got will help.”

What do you need to do to ensure you have a consistent game and get those eight points against Thunderbirds next week?
“With all our games we need to ensure we build on our lead throughout the game. That is probably going to be our focus against Thunderbirds.”

 

Kristy Keppich-Birrell, Collingwood coach

It was a tough loss, only two goals, so there must be some positives you can take away from today?
“I think the positives are that we didn’t let it get away from us. I think we were down by ten at one stage. The positivity in this group and their work rate, they wouldn’t allow it to get away from them. So, they fought back really hard. Unfortunately, in some critical moments, when we were going to draw level, we made some errors, and you just can’t get away with that in this competition.”

What were the practical adjustments you had to make at half-time?
“We had to take a different strategy in the last half. It was a different way of playing for us in defence. Obviously, it was an empowering change and change reignites the brain to keep going again and it created some havoc out there which got us some more ball.”

What does this loss mean for the rest of your season?
“I am one of those coaches who goes week-by-week, so I don’t have an answer for you there. Sorry about that.”

Erin Bell really injected herself in the last couple of quarters that would have helped as well
“Yeah, I think the whole attack just made some better choices about where we moved and used the space in the circle. The preliminary moves, to get off the body and find space, and the patience to move the ball around was there in the first quarter but then dropped off. But in the third and fourth we started to move the ball more freely between the four of them (Robinson, Ravaillion, Thwaites and Bell).”

It must be good to know your starting seven can run out a game and lift toward the end of a game
“They are super fit, so that’s not what’s wrong. It is just being able to maintain the rate for four quarters.”

What do you need to roll-over the Swifts next week?
“Prepare really well. They have strengths all over the court. Obviously, we will have a look at their attacking strengths and try to take them away.”

Will you be paying extra close attention to Natalie Haythornthwaite?
“She is a pretty well-known player and a great player. I can’t wait to see her out on court.”

 

Sharni Layton, Collingwood

What did the Magpies do differently in that second half compared to the first?
“We just didn’t come out hard enough in that first half, unfortunately. It wasn’t intentionally. But we definitely come back fighting in that second half. It is disappointing that we didn’t play that whole game that way, but I am really proud of the girls for mounting the fightback to get within two goals.”

Did you come here today thinking that your side could make the top four?
“One hundred percent – especially now with the new points system. It means that anything is possible. We obviously want those four points as well, but we take anything. Really, anything to mess up the ladder a little bit is fun too. But seriously, we came here to win, and we definitely had those hopes. But for now, we will just finish off the season as positively as we can.”

Does that mean the ladder isn’t going to be an issue for the next three weeks?
“I don’t know. I don’t know where we sit now. But who knows, if we go eight, and eight and eight we might just be the bolters at the end there. But, like every team, we will be presenting hard each game. We won’t be playing for the ladder as such.”

Personally, you had a blinder in that second half, are you happy with your performance?
“I am happy with the second half of my performance. I was just too slow. You can’t let an attack end get their tails up, and I reckon CBass probably tailed me up in that second quarter. I came out fighting in that third, but I needed to get on top of her earlier.”

Do you think this week has been a changing of the guard for the Diamonds?
“Definitely, but it is also a really exciting time. To see my teammate Madi Robinson, and Laura Geitz and Susan Pettit who I have loved playing with over the years it is kind of sad. But you always have these periods of time. I remember when I was coming in, I was lucky enough to play with Cath Cox, Julie Corletto, Mo’onia Gerard, Bianca Chatfield and so it can be bizarre when you see that shift in the netball world, but it is really exciting at the same time.”

 

Report: Katrina Nissen
Photos: Marcela Massey

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