The clash between the Giants and West Coast Fever was one of the more frustrating games to watch in recent rounds. Both sides created numerous gains in their defensive ends, only to waste opportunities in attack. Errors at critical moments stopped either team from opening a lead, and instead they played out a 62 all draw. It was the Fever’s third such result in the last four weeks, making it difficult for them to gain momentum and push up the ladder. In slight contrast, the Giants are improving their attacking connections, but with the season at the half way mark it may be a case of too little, too late.

While Caitlin Bassett had little court time in the preseason courtesy of an arm fracture, her days clearly weren’t wasted. Working on her core strength seems to have been a target, as from the start of the match she was an unmoveable force in the goal circle. Bassett frequently dictated terms to her opponent Courtney Bruce, and cleverly switched her positioning to alter the angle of feeds into the circle and keep the defenders on their toes. While highly accurate, she held space for the rebound, hauling in six of them across the game. Bassett is a master of the baseline, and her millimetre precision footwork was impressive to watch.

 

A muscled-up Caitlin Bassett. Image Steve McLeod

 

It was a close contest between Courtney Bruce and Caitlin Bassett. Image Steve McLeod

 

The combination between Bassett and English goal attack Jo Harten has been a work in progress, but they are starting to show good balance in the circle – playing one in/one out, or one forward/one back. The variation made it difficult for Fever opponents Courtney Bruce and Stacey Francis to switch up opponents, and they instead settled for a highly physical defensive contest. Far too often they, Jess Anstiss and Verity Charles were caught on the body, and there were a number of heavy clashes. With the umpires handing out penalties rather than warnings, Fever players persisted, spending far too much time standing beside their opponents instead of hands-up in front of them. It allowed the Giants to skip out to a narrow quarter time lead.

This season the Giants midcourt has been a surprise packet. Many would have expected the experience of the shooting circle, or the familiar defensive pairing to shine, but it’s been the midcourt that’s stood up when needed. Featuring crafty wing attack Kim Green, outstanding rookie Amy Parmenter at wing defence, and Jamie-Lee Price playing out of position in the middle, the centre court has combined steadiness with flashes of brilliance.

Price is still learning the craft of centre, and while she may not always spot Bassett immediately, she always finds her safely. She had the most goal assists of any Giants’ player, while giving away just one turnover for the entire match. Amy Parmenter has also been a revelation. She’s the only midcourter to feature in the league’s top eight intercept winners, and pulled in four across this match. The 21 year old’s anticipation and timing is superb, and like the Firebirds defensive duo of Kim Jenner and Tara Hinchliffe, looks to have future Diamond written all over her.

 

A physical clash between Jamie-Lee Price and Stacey Francis. Image Steve McLeod

 

Kim Green was her usual influential self on attack, varying both her feeding position around the circle and choice of pass, and combined with her slick passes made it difficult for the Fever defenders to set up for the intercept. She was costly in the second quarter, giving up three turnovers, but her attacking play helped the Giants to forge out to an eight goal lead at one point. A late flurry of goals by Jhaniele Fowler almost saw the Fever draw the quarter, but a silly penalty on the siren by Bruce – Commonwealth Games reminiscent – saw her out of play and Jo Harten positioned under the post for an easy goal.

When play resumed for the third quarter, Fever’s midcourt had been rejigged. While wing attack Ingrid Colyer had been busy at the centre pass during the first half, her impact on feeding the circle was limited to just six goal assists. She was replaced by Charles, with Anstiss moving forwards to centre and Shannon Eagland taking the court at wing defence. The changes had good impact, with more definition on attack. The connection between Charles and Fowler is particularly good, and the Jamaican was able to sit in her preferred position under the post, rather than move to the outside of the circle to help out on attack.

The Fever midcourt were steady with the ball rather than flashy, but it was effective, as they converted 68% of the turnovers that the Giants made. In contrast, the Giants were only able to convert 35% of their turnover ball, with Jo Harten and Green combining for 11 of their sides 19 turnovers. The Fever also reduced their penalty count – with the exception of Bruce – in the second half, and the added pressure reduced the Giants’ ability to score.

The Giants held a narrow two goal margin at three quarter time, and in the fourth quarter Fever goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler stepped up to be counted. She demanded the ball, hauling in some improbable passes, often double teamed by Sam Poolman and Kristiana Manu’a. They were often content to let Kaylia Stanton roam loose outside the circle, where she had a busy evening with 18 centre pass receives and 24 goal assists. However it was otherwise a shaky night for the youngster, whose one goal from two attempts was the worst return for a goal attack in five seasons.

In the last minute of play, with Fever looking to snaffle a win, Stanton biffed a ball over the baseline. It was fired up to the opposite end, where Bassett appeared to goal with just two seconds on the clock. However, there was a discrepancy between the umpires time and the main screen time, and the score was disallowed. Another day, another draw, and another massive anticlimax to a pulsating last quarter.

 

Jhaniele Fowler out jumped Sam Poolman. Image Steve McLeod

 

Final score:  West Coast Fever 62 drew with Giants 62 (12-15, 16-17, 19-17, 15-13)

MVP: Kim Green

 

Shooting percentages:

West Coast Fever: 62/67 (92.5%)

Jhaniele Fowler 61/65 (94%), Kaylia Stanton 1/2 (50%)

Giants: 62/73(85%)

Caitlin Bassett 42/46(91%), Jo Harten 20/27 (74%)

Line ups

West Coast Fever: GS Jhaniele Fowler, GA Kaylia Stanton, WA Ingrid Colyer, C Verity Charles, WD Jess Anstiss, GD Stacey Francis, GK Olivia Lewis.

Bench: Shannon Eagland, Sunday Aryang, Alice Teague-Neeld

Interchange:

Q3: Shannon Eagland to WD, Jess Anstiss to C, Verity Charles to WA

Q4: Olivia Lewis to GK, Courtney Bruce to GD, Stacey Francis to WD

Giants: GS Caitlin Bassett, GA Jo Harten, WA Kim Green, C Jamie-Lee Price, WD Amy Parmenter, GD Kristiana Manu’a, GK Samantha Poolman.

Bench: Kiera Austin, Matilda McDonell, Teigan O’Shannassy

Key Statistics:

Intercepts: Amy Parmenter 4, Kristiana Manu’a 3, Courtney Bruce 3, Sam Poolman 2

Rebounds: Caitlin Bassett 6

Intercept Totals: Giants 10, Fever 4

 

Amy Parmenter pulls in a strong intercept. Image Steve McLeod

 

Spotlight on:

What is a goal worth?

Plenty – for the West Coast Fever. Last year they were able to come out on the right side of a number of close matches, which ultimately saw them contest the grand final. This season, their patchy form has seen them finish with three draws, and two narrow losses of one and two goals, out of seven rounds. The disappointing results have kept them glued to 6th place on the ladder.

Winning those five tight games would have seen them well placed in the top four.

In cutting Nat Medhurst at the end of 2018 – who is surely worth at least a two goal improvement per game – they’ve potentially traded the prospect of another crack at a premiership, with the decision to develop their youth and free up some salary cap.

With Fowler contracted for just two more years, the premiership window is narrow unless Fever can make significant improvements – quickly.

Travelitis

With the West Coast Fever clocking up three to four times the frequent flyer points of any other team, it seems hard that they should have to get off a plane and onto a bus. Last week’s long haul to Queensland came on the back of a trip to Bendigo, with just a few days at home in between.

While Fever will never use travel as an excuse for a loss, it’s certainly something they’ve raised with the Suncorp Super Netball committee.

Coach Stacey Marinkovich said, “That’s the reality of being a Perth-based team. We planned very well for it, we knew this was going to be a big stint, but sometimes until you’re actually in it you don’t realise just how taxing it can be. I think we’ve done a really good job to make sure we were mentally freshened. There’s no excuse, we were out there, we’re fit, we’ve got ten players that can take the court. Travel will never be an excuse.”

“They were originally going to send us to Tassie, so you take your wins where you get them.”

Does it matter that Jamie-Lee Price is playing centre for the Giants, when she’s been selected as wing defence for the Diamonds.

While many seem to think so, it shouldn’t! While the two positions are quite distinct, at centre she is still trying to keep her opponent away from their preferred feeding position, and providing defence around the goal circle. Both tasks are crucial to her Diamonds’ role at wing defence, and there is enough training time between now and the Netball World Cup to work on any deficiencies.

On the plus side, Price is honing her game at centre. Learning how to best feed her Diamonds’ captain, Caitlin Bassett, under the post, can’t be underestimated. In addition, Price has proved herself to be a very safe attacking option, and whether she’s used at centre or wing defence, this skill is invaluable.

 

Jo Harten in action. Image Steve McLeod

 

Looking ahead to next week

West Coast Fever are at home to the Adelaide Thunderbirds, in a game they will be hoping to extract revenge for their Round 1 loss. The Giants return home to play against ladder-topping NSW Swifts, whose captain Maddie Proud looks unlikely to be available for after sustaining a knee injury during this round. Neither the Fever nor Thunderbirds will be able to threaten the top four given their current standings, but a strong win by the Giants could see them put pressure on the third placed Vixens.

What they said after the game

Julie Fitzgerald (coach, Giants)

On tonight’s game: “We had our opportunities to win it, so one way or the other we should be disappointed with the fact that we let it slip. It was a hard fight across four quarters, so to lose in the last couple of minutes was depressing.

“I thought our defensive effort in the circle was pleasing tonight, particularly given what a target Fowler is. We let ourselves down between the transverse and the goal circle.”

Work-ons for the team: “We aren’t doing a good job on converting the ball that we gain, and we still have to work on that.”

Amy Parmenter (wing defence, Giants)

“Our first half was good, but we weren’t consistent in the second half. It was disappointing that we gave up the lead. A draw is not a loss, so it’s not all bad.”

On her strong form this year: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, and I’m still mindblown that it’s happening. Our connections are getting stronger every week, and it’s such an honour to play with these girls. Every week I’m learning so much, and I’m being supported by them all.”

Stacey Marinkovich (coach, West Coast Fever)

On the high penalty count:

“We got penalised early, and then when we adjusted and got into the contest, we were able to push them into error.”

“You have to adjust to the umpires and we needed to do it earlier, but you have to recognise what’s actually happening out there, and what umpires are looking for at  the time. In some parts we were going in hard and contesting just as strong as the opposition but we seemed to get the whistle. We’ve got to tidy it up.. when we changed our structure a bit, got a few different angles, changed our line up and got some more impact play that worked well for us.”

Courtney Bruce (goal keeper, West Coast Fever)

What’s it like playing against CBass, who’s been a former teammate?

“It’s an interesting dynamic with her and Jo (Harten). You can’t shut one down without the other one popping up. Obviously hard coming up against her, but we know each other’s game inside and out, and what ticks each other off. It was a good battle out there.”

Jamie-Lee Price was a safe option in centre. Image Steve McLeod