Round 12 was nothing short of remarkable. Georgia Sassi explains why unexpected results mean the fight for a finals spot is just heating up.
Giants v Lightning (56 – 60)
The Sunshine Coast Lightning won their sixth game in a row, after a 60 – 56 victory over Giants Netball.
Whilst their triumph was briefly rewarded with top position on the ladder, a victory for the NSW Swifts later Saturday evening meant they quickly slid back to second spot.
Both teams showed their class early, playing clean and efficient netball, determined to salvage all the points they could get.
Despite showing unwavering fight, the Giants struggled to push past the Lightning, who have beaten them in the last two premierships.
Inaccuracy at the ring hurt the Giants, shooting at just 78 percent, well below their season average of 86 percent.
However, the Noeline Taurua-coached Lightning proved why they could be the team to beat in finals, with star power laced throughout the court.
Steph Wood was an engine for her side, capitalising on superb feeds from Lightning midcourters, Laura Langman and Laura Scherian.
Yet, heading towards finals, the Lightning will be looking to elevate their strength and stability in the circle.
“There’s definitely things we need to improve on from that game,” Wood said post-match.
“I thought throughout it we could have pushed the lead out a little bit more.”
Whilst the top three ladder positions appear to be locked for the season, this loss for the Giants means they are barely hanging on to their finals spot.
Swifts v Vixens (57 – 51)
The NSW Swifts reclaimed their top spot on the ladder after downing the Melbourne Vixens by 6 goals on Saturday Night.
Following a disappointing loss last weekend, the Swifts have reasserted themselves as competition front-runners in stunning fashion.
From the starting whistle, Briony Akle’s girls were dominant, restricting the Vixen’s attacking flow.
After being outscored five goals to one early in the first quarter, the Vixen’s intensity lifted, led by an impressive defensive display from GD, Emily Mannix.
Yet, as time went on, the Swift’s confidence continued to rise, imposingly taking their game to the next level every time their opponents pushed forward.
NSW’s star goal shooter Sam Wallace put on a clinic, earning her MVP honours after scoring 45 out of 49 goals.
Whilst the Vixen’s midcourters, Liz Watson and Kate Moloney desperately tried to inject some fire back into their side, they struggled to penetrate their attacking third.
Despite the Swift’s growing injury list featuring star players Helen Housby and Maddy Proud, their line-up gelled fluently, showing impressive depth.
They also managed to snag three bonus points, earning a four-point buffer from second placed Sunshine Coast Lighting.
“We knew bonus points are now huge,” Akle told AAP post-match.
“We needed to win quarters tonight and not just the game.”
The Vixens managed to claim their only bonus point after getting back within four goals in the final term, despite trailing by nine earlier.
Whilst this failed to have a major impact on the game, both the Swifts and Vixens have cemented their spot in finals, and will be looking to fine-tune their line-ups in the final few rounds.
Firebirds v Thunderbirds (59 – 71)
The Queensland Firebirds fell short to the Adelaide Thunderbirds in their final home game of the season.
In front of a full house at Queensland State Netball Centre, the Firebirds were seeking their first win of the year.
Yet, Adelaide took their game to the next level in this ‘Battle of the Birds,’ led by an inspired performance from Maria Folau.
It was a subdued result for Queensland’s Caitlyn Nevins and Laura Clemesha who were playing their final home game following the announcement of their retirement earlier last week.
Whilst the Firebirds briefly gained some momentum in the third quarter, thanks to some impressive play from Gretel Tippett, they failed to impact the scoreboard.
Both sides appeared shambolic at times, yet the Thunderbirds’ star power showed they have the potential to be a competitive side next season.
With the likes of Sasha Glasgow finding form as a shooter and Shamera Sterling holding fort down the defensive end, Tania Obst will be looking to ensure her side continues to gel this off-season.
“We put systems in place where we wanted to keep moving forward and set us up for next season by finishing off well,” Obst told AAP.
“Some of our play against the Firebirds was outstanding and we showed a lot of class in that last quarter, apart from a couple of silly mistakes early.”
The last two rounds will be opportunities for both sides to consolidate key themes they’ve been working on, in the hope of improving for the 2020 season.
Magpies v Fever (57 – 63)
The Magpies have kept their final hopes alive after beating the West Coast Fever 57 – 63 at Perth Arena.
Through grasping a single bonus point, Collingwood now sit just one point behind the fourth placed Giants on the ladder.
With two home games remaining, there’s every possibility Rob Wright’s side can make a late charge for a finals spot – and Monday’s game suggested they were finding form at just the right time.
Despite a history of failing to travel well, the Magpies’ line-up gelled effortlessly, creating an attacking flow too difficult to stop.
The clash was hotly contested in the first half, however the Magpies were able to grasp the lead as they continued to settle into their positions.
The Fever’s star keeper Courtney Bruce contested valiantly, however Collingwood capitalised on her high penalty count.
In an unexpected move, Magpies wing defence Ashleigh Brazill was moved into centre, where she excelled, earning her ‘Player of the Match’ status.
“It was the first time we’ve really played like a team,” Brazill said post-game.
She was supported by the relentless attack of Natalie Medhurst, who showed her old side what they were missing, in her first game back in Perth.
Collingwood’s win coupled with the Giant’s loss now means the last finals spot is fair game.
With just two rounds of Super Netball remaining, both sides will need to find and maintain impeccable form if they want to contest for the premiership.