Day one of the #Teamgirls Cup showcased the strength, athleticism and sportsmanship which encompasses Suncorp Super Netball. But beginning on International Women’s Day, it was also a celebration of women.

Giants Netball defender, Kristiana Manu’a, summarised it best: “coming together today for a tournament such as this is a good way to show everybody how powerful women are.”

Sunshine Coast Lightning shooter, Kara Koenen also believes this tournament is a great way to showcase “not just strong athletes, but strong women in general.”

 

THE RESULTS

Cody Lange (Thunderbirds) and Laura Langman (Lightning). Photo: Marcela Massey

Sunshine Coast Lightning 30 def Adelaide Thunderbirds 26

Spearheaded by a new coach and a new-look team, the Adelaide Thunderbirds were brimming with confidence when they took the court against the Sunshine Coast Lightning. The new defensive unit of Shemera Sterling, Kate Shimmin and Layla Guscoth was causing headaches for Lightning who were finding it difficult to penetrate the wall of long arms.

Lightning’s Steph Wood was finding it difficult not having a target goal shooter to pitch the ball to during the first half; she was taking the ball in the pocket, looking for the easy ditch into the circle but her shooting partner, Cara Koenen, was either on the move outside the circle or being smothered by Sterling.

Shortly after commencement of play Thunderbirds acting captain, Chelsea Pitman, went down with what was suspected to be an Achilles injury. The injury didn’t deter her team from pushing forward though as they kept up with the Lightning and ate into the goal deficit.

Laura Langman took her return to the Suncorp Super Netball league like she had never left. Her connection with Wood and Laura Scherian was still strong and ultimately proved the deciding factor in the game. Langman’s play smarts allowed her to dictate to her teammates where she wanted to place the ball which helped clear the mess and made transition play slick.

Speaking after the game, Cara Koenen said, “we are slowly getting there but having Laura back helped smooth some of those combinations and we have some good bones to work with.”

Peace Proscovia seems a ‘like-for-like’ replacement for Caitlin Bassett, however the Ugandan superstar moves more than her predecessor and brings a new level of circle smarts to the game. Her battle with Sterling in the second half of the match was a treat to behold with both players strongly contesting and tussling for the ball.

Of Sterling, Proscovia says, “She (Sterling) is a hard player to play against. She has a good reach and good elevation. For us though, we played together in the same club last year so she knows all my moves, and I know all of hers. So it’s like a 50/50 balance, she knows my weaknesses the same way I know hers.”

Stacey Francis (Fever) defends the shot. Photo: Marcela Massey

Collingwood Magpies 40 def West Coast Fever 28

Fans were eager to see the match between West Coast Fever and the Collingwood Magpies, if for no other reason than the star power the two teams hold. However, there were two noticeable omissions from the court in Jhaniele Fowler (illness) and Nat Medhurst (rested).

But, there was still much to behold in the match, the first was how the Magpies were going to utilise their four dynamic midcourters. Interestingly Magpies coach, Rob Wright, opted to start Madi Robinson in centre, with her sister Kelsey Browne taking the wing attack bib.

Browne and Robinson brought immense speed to the attack end, but it was the one-two interplay between Browne and young-gun goal attack, Gabrielle Sinclair, that was the highlight of the first half.

Former Thunderbird, Shimona Nelson, has made an incredible improvement in the offseason. Her accuracy at the post and her strong takes in the air against Courtney Bruce brought joy to her side.

Speaking after the game, Matilda Garrett said that Nelson “is very lucky that she trains against Geva (Mentor) and April (Brandley) all the time. She has also done work with the mid court to work out how she likes to take the ball and she has been practicing taking the ball really strong.”

Last year’s grand finalists, Fever, looked stagnant in attack for three quarters of the game. The players were lacking cohesion as was evident in their running over top of each other. Their usually strong drives to the top of the circle were missing, or were being blocked by Magpies defenders.

Kaylia Stanton was forced to do a wealth of work in opening up the circle, but was then forced to take every shot as her shooting partner, Alice Teague-Neeld was reluctant to go to post for her entire time on court.

Once training partner, Emma Cosh, entered the game as goal attack, Fever feeders became more relaxed and were quick to offer the ball as Cosh would popout behind the Magpies defence.

The highlight for the Fever was Bruce when she was transitioned into goal defence. She carried her dynamic attacking style of defence into the mid court and snaffled the most intercepts of any player in the first session (only matched by Sterling from the earlier game).

Stanton said that Bruce’s presence in the middle was a comfort, “she’s got a windup and you can see she wants to pass the ball to you. And, when I am in goal attack you can see the ball is going to come to you. Hopefully her playing GD is something we will see more of. It is a growth point for her.”

Paige Hadley (Swifts) clutches her eye after a heavy collision. Photo: Marcela Massey

New South Wales Swifts 47 def Giants 33

For the first half of this match, nothing could separate the Swifts and the Giants. They were trading goals and locked even at the first and second breaks.

The Swifts came out of half-time determined to change that. They were producing stronger drives to the ball and the introduction of Sam Wallace at goal shooter provided more security for the feeders. The determination from the Swifts shocked the Giants who began to play with caution.

The hesitation on passes allowed the Swifts to snaffle turnovers and valuable intercepts. Speaking after the game, Giants defender Manu’a said, “We stopped driving and when we were driving we were covered. And, clearing the hands as well, we were passing straight into Swift hands.”

The only moment of hesitation during the Swifts’ game came when their on court captain, Paige Hadley, sustained a heavy knock to the head. Driving for an intercept off the centre pass, Hadley and teammate, Helen Housby, collided and Hadley immediately hit the floorboards as blood poured from a cut next to her right eye.

Hadley is a tough competitor and managed to walk off the court holding gauze to her injury. The delay in play, to sterilise the court and to check for blood on equipment and players, saw both teams play out the remaining two minutes of the third somewhat shell shocked. But on resumption the Swifts blew the Giants out of the water with a 15 – 6 fourth quarter win.

Ine-Mari Venter (Vixens) relished her time on court. Photo: Marcela Massey

Melbourne Vixens 53 def Queensland Firebirds 32

Queensland Firebird’s captain, Gabi Simpson, was looking for the positives after her side’s big loss to the Melbourne Vixens. “We need to look at how we handle the pressure. In that third quarter, one goal turned into ten goals really quickly. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just something we need to build on.”

For the Melbourne Vixens, there were plenty of positives to take from their first game of the tournament. At times, they seamlessly utilised new combinations all over the court, opting to play Jo Weston in wing defence, Kate Moloney at wing attack, Liz Watson at Centre, Caitlin Thwaites at goal attack, Emily Mannix at goal defence and the list goes on.

Even bringing on a training partner in Lara Dunkley, didn’t hinder their transition or first and second phase play. South African import shooter, Ine-Mari Venter, was excited for her side and to play her first match as a Vixen. “I was little nervous at first. But the girls have just been amazing supports and gave me confidence,” she said.

The Firebirds took the opportunity to also play with their line up. Each player took the court at a point during the game. The biggest frustration came for them when Romelda Aiken sat off for a quarter. The Firebirds struggled to penetrate the circle and lost valuable rebounding power. Not having zippy wing attack Caitlyn Nevins also didn’t help, as her replacement, Macy Gardner couldn’t break free from a smothering Renae Ingles.

Despite the 20 goal thumping Mahalia Cassidy says that the Firebirds relish the opportunity to blood new players, such as Tippah Dwan, “Tippah in shooter is amazing. Her combination with Gretel is great and she has been doing some incredible things at training. We just didn’t show our potential today but I’m sure over the rest of the weekend we can.”

 

KEY STATS

Shooting:
Shimona Nelson (Magpies) 27/28 (96%)
Kaylia Stanton (Fever) 25/34 (74%)
Jo Harten (Giants) 22/24 (92%)
Sasha Glasgow (Thunderbirds) 21/29 (72%)
Helen Housby (Swifts) 20/23 (87%)
Romelda Aiken (Firebirds) 19/27 (70%)
Ine-Mari Venter (Vixens) 18/19 (95%)
Caitlin Thwaites (Vixens) 17/17 (100%)
Peace Proscovia (Lightning) 15/16 (94%)

Intercepts:
Courtney Bruce (Fever) 4
Shamera Sterling (Thunderbirds) 4
Kate Eddy (Swifts) 3
Emily Mannix (Vixens) 3
Kadie-Ann Dehaney (Vixens) 2
Tara Hinchliffe (Firebirds) 2
Sarah Klau (Swifts) 2
Olivia Lewis (Fever) 2
Geva Mentor (Magpies) 2
Sam Poolman (Giants) 2
Karla Pretorius (Lightning) 2
Kate Shimmin (Thunderbirds) 2

 

INJURY UPDATES

Every match on day one featured key players missing, or key players forced to leave the court, due to injury or illness. Here’s the breakdown of what we know so far.

Adelaide Thunderbirds’ linchpin Chelsea Pitman, was forced to leave the court early in the first game with what looked like a possible Achilles injury. Things looked grim as she was transported from the arena via wheelchair with her right leg heavily bandaged and iced. But there is good news, as it has been found that Pitman only has a standard calf strain. This is a good outcome.

West Coast Fever were forced to play without their star goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, following her late withdrawal from day one of the competition. Fowler is still recovering from an illness contracted earlier in the week however she may take part in later matches of the tournament depending on her fitness.

The New South Wales Swifts were forced to take the court without their newly appointed leader, Maddy Proud, after she was ruled out thanks to an illness. Maddy is not expected to take part in the tournament this weekend. As mentioned above, Paige Hadley sustained a knock to her head. She received four stitches and is expected to feature in all remaining Swifts games.

Firebirds’ vice captain, Caitlyn Nevins, will not be playing this tournament after sustaining a minor ankle injury at training during the week. The decision to withdraw Nevins from the tournament is precautionary and she is expected to back to full fitness shortly.

It wasn’t just players who sustained injuries this weekend. Firebirds’ coach, Roselee Jencke, was sporting a moon boot at the tournament after rupturing her Achilles while exercising this week. We wish all players, and Rose, speedy recoveries.

Ash Brazill (Magpies) and Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) hugging after their two sides played. Photo: Marcela Massey

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

It is no coincidence that the #TeamGirls cup kicked off on the same days as International Women’s Day. Organisers deliberately launched this event on International Women’s Day because this year’s theme is ‘Balance is Better’ which is a theme which resonates with Netball Australia.

Netball Australia is immensely proud of the fact that they play host to the most successful and professional netball league in the world. Suncorp Super Netball athletes benefit from higher wages, and childcare and maternity leave packages.

Netball Australia continues to be a strong advocate for gender equality and looks to empower girls and women from grassroots netball through to the the elite level. It is hoped that with this weekend’s #TeamGirls Cup showcasing the power and athleticism of female athletes it will inspire girls to remain in the sport through their teenage years.

Fans were also soaking up connection between International Women’s Day and the #TeamGirls Cup. When asked who they believe to be the most inspirational woman, many stated former Queensland Firebirds and Samsung Diamonds captain, Laura Geitz.

“She has a positive manner and good morals. She doesn’t feel the need to succumb to the pressure to do silly things. She’s comfortable with who she is” – Pam, Kingscliff.

“She is a good role model for girls” – Jaiya and Mya, Brisbane.

Interestingly, and somewhat humorously, Sophie Garbin’s mum, Lyn, nominated Sophie’s housemate and Swifts’ teammate, Maddy Proud, as an inspirational
woman. “She is such a dynamic, electric and positive person and such a professional for someone so young. A lot of people can learn from her.”

Mums were also a common trend amongst Super Netball athletes, with many nominating their mum as their most inspiring role model. Kaylia Stanton said, “She was an athlete herself so I take a lot of inspiration and motivation from her athletic career. And away from sport her unconditional love and support is something I hold very dear.”

Matilda Garrett said, “She is always the first one to check up on me and I can always count on her to be there.” Gabi Simpson said, “She’s so selfless with what she does with her work and her life. She would do anything for anyone before herself and I find that an admirable quality.”

Even Sophie Garbin agreed, “my mum and my sister are the most inspirational women in my lives. They don’t know how big of a help and influence they are.”

ON THE 2023 NETBALL WORLD CUP

It was announced on Friday that the 2023 Netball World Cup would be held in Capetown, South Africa for the first time. Speaking of the announcement, Ine-Mari Venter said, *after a whoop whoop*, “It is great news. I think it is a really, really good thing for netball in South Africa. Because a lot of people don’t know about netball, in South Africa. It is not as big as it is here in Australia. And, I think it is a good thing to take netball to South Africa and show that it is not just another ball sport. It is netball, and it is competitive.”

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