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Brumbies beat Queensland Reds in Super Rugby AU final in Canberra



The Brumbies were pushed to the brink by the Queensland Reds before sealing a 28-23 victory in the Super Rugby AU final at Canberra Stadium.

The home side had led 15-13 at half-time and seemed headed for a comfortable victory when they established a 28-13 advantage in the second term.

But the Reds struck back to cut the Brumbies’ lead to five points with 15 minutes remaining on the clock.

The Brumbies, however, found enough fuel in the tank to hold on for the victory and add to their Super 12 triumphs in 2001 and 2004.

More to come.



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NSW Swifts survive scare to defeat Adelaide Thunderbirds in Cairns Super Netball clash



Cracks have appeared in the NSW Swifts’ Super Netball title defence despite their 57-54 win over Adelaide Thunderbirds in Cairns on Saturday.

Assured of a finals berth, the Swifts should have put away the seventh-placed Thunderbirds in the Indigenous Round fixture but instead gave coach Briony Akle some headaches ahead of next weekend’s final match of the regular season.

Fellow top-four side West Coast Fever won Saturday’s earlier match in Cairns, the 71-66 defeat of the Giants making sure they stayed third on the ladder, one spot ahead of the Swifts.

The Swifts had lost four of their past five matches before the road trip north and their confidence was further dented by the Thunderbirds, who found strength in a midcourt led by rising playmakers Maisie Nankivell and Georgie Horjus.

It took a final-quarter surge from goal attack Helen Housby — who scored 22 goals for the match — and brave milking of possession in the dying seconds for the Swifts to hold off the Thunderbirds.

“That was super tough. We always knew the Thunderbirds were going to come back,” Swifts centre Paige Hadley said.

“Leading into the finals we like matches like that to prepare us for tough games.

“More teams are going to come at us because we are the reigning champions. We need to develop the belief that we can do it again.”

Hadley was the shining light in the centre third, finishing the match with 24 assists and 42 feeds.

Lenize Potgieter’s 33 goals at 97 per cent accuracy gave the Thunderbirds a chance but the Swifts were clinical when the game was on the line.

Sam Wallace led the scoring for the Swifts with 27 points (25 goals, one super shot).

Season over for Giants

The sun has set on the Giants’ finals hopes following their loss to the Fever.

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Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich underlined why she was selected to coach the national side, pulling all the right strings to spark a second-half fightback and keep alive the club’s chances of a top-two finish.

Both teams had much to gain. To snatch second spot, the Fever need to win each of their last two matches and rely on the Lightning to fall to the Vixens in the final round.

That finals thread was even thinner for the Giants who had no lifelines remaining and may rue not giving Diamonds captain Caitlin Bassett more court time throughout the season.

The same could not be said of Fever shooter Jhaniele Fowler, who is the season’s most prolific scorer after adding another 62 goals to her tally on Saturday.

Fowler also slotted two super shots to complete another dominant performance.

Jo Harten was the Giants’ top scorer with 34 points (24 goals, five super shots).

AAP/ABC



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Brumbies ready to add third Super Rugby AU win to their trophy case


Lots of things have changed about rugby since the Brumbies last won a Super Rugby championship back in 2004.

Jerseys are nowhere near as generously fitting as they were, for one. And the footage of the Brumbies ’47-38 win over the Crusaders all those years ago is a reminder of a time before high definition and widescreen TVs.

So it’s fair to say it has been a long time between drinks for Brumbies fans, ahead of tonight’s Super Rugby AU final, against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium.

The 2004 title coincides with the last time a Super Rugby final was hosted in Canberra. And, historically, it has been near impossible to win away from home.

In the 24 seasons prior to the disrupted 2020 season, the away team has claimed the title just six times.

“It shows you the importance of home ground advantage, and the Brumbies have done that this year,” former Brumbies prop turned publican Ben Alexander said.

“They’ve been the dominant team and definitely deserve home ground advantage, but in saying that, the job’s not done.”

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Though it has been 16 years since the last Brumbies title, and last home final, it is only seven years since their last appearance in a final, losing the 2013 decider to New Zealand’s Chiefs in Hamilton.

Having won through to the final by beating the Pretoria-based Bulls in South Africa, the Brumbies found themselves up by 10 over the Chiefs going into the last 20 minutes.

“I remember going back to halfway, and I had this vision of the Super Rugby trophy filled with beer,” Alexander said this week in Canberra.

“Probably a classic example of counting your chickens before they hatch.”

A man wearing a Brumbies jersey with the team's flag behind him.
Former Brumbies and Wallabies prop Ben Alexander is now a publican and will tonight be serving customers while watching the final.(ABC News)

Despite being the most-capped player in Brumbies history, Alexander does not have a ticket to the game.

Having made a comeback this year with his ACT club rugby side, Uni-Norths, he is consigned to looking after patrons at his Kingston Foreshore pub.

But Alexander has loved being involved in the game again after retiring from the Brumbies at the end of the 2018 season.

“There’s a good feeling about rugby at the moment in Canberra,” he said.

“The club rugby comp’s going really well, and the ‘Brums’ have been playing awesome all year despite all the adversity that’s been thrown their way — the bushfires earlier in the year and all the smoke, and the 40C game to start the season. And then coronavirus hit.

Selection surprises as strong players miss out in tough decision

Coach Dan McKellar sprung a few selection surprises for the final, making four changes to the starting side that went down to Queensland in the final round.

Noah Lolesio will return from a hamstring injury suffered back in mid-July, and has been reunited in the halves with Joe Powell, consigning Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White back to the bench.

“Noah has trained really well for the last two to three weeks, and our S&C and medical team have done a great job to get him back and fit and firing,” McKellar said after confirming his team.

“He’s keen, he hasn’t played for two months, but if you go back to round one of this competition, he hadn’t played for four months, and he was pretty good that night.”

An unshaven man with glasses.
Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar said tonight’s selection had been the toughest of 2020.(Brumbies Rugby)

Such is the health and depth of the Brumbies squad in Super Rugby AU, regular players including lock Darcy Swain, flanker Tom Cusack, and scrumhalf Ryan Longeran didn’t make the cut.

Neither did Wallabies squad bolter Len Ikitau, or utility back Mack Hansen — the young man responsible for the after-the-siren penalty that sunk the Reds in Canberra in early August.

McKellar said it was comfortably his toughest selection of 2020, but he can’t fault the approach of the overlooked players this week.

“Their attitude has been first class and they’ve just got on and trained really well and helped us prepare for what’s a big occasion.”

From the moment the Brumbies knew they would be hosting the final a fortnight ago, he and his coaching staff have been reminding the players how rarely chances like this come along.

Plenty of very good Brumbies players never got to play in a grand final: David Pocock, Pat McCabe, Rory Arnold to name a few.

The same goes for coaches.

McKellar has given everything he can to join Rod McQueen and David Nucifora as Super Rugby-winning Brumbies coaches.

“Oh yeah, I’m ready for it,” he said, a large grin rising at the mention of his predecessors.

“We’ve worked hard over a long period of time now, but to be able to create our own little bit of history, for this group in particular, I think would be really special.”



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Should Super Netball be focusing on better marketing itself to women?


Six weeks before the 2020 Super Netball season started, the league dropped a bit of a bombshell.

A super shot was going to be introduced this year, in a bid to attract a new audience to watch the elite domestic competition.

Fans were told TV ratings had started to stagnate, and that the league needed to do something innovative to try to bump up its viewership numbers.

But questions are being raised by supporters as to whether the sport could be doing more to appeal to its huge participation base — particularly the women that already love the game in its traditional sense and play it every week at their local courts without the gimmicks.

Over a million people in Australia currently play netball at the grassroots level, and yet its elite product — the Super Netball competition — averaged just 135,980 television viewers per match in last year’s regular season.

This is not uncommon in the Australian sporting market, where football and basketball also struggle to convert participants into fans of the A-League and NBL.

However, neither of those sports claim to host the world’s premier club competition, unlike Netball Australia.

So if the sport is truly leading the way for women, why is it struggling to convert their attention from weekend sport to Super Netball?

‘Why don’t they ever communicate with me?’

Jessica Macartney has been involved with netball since she was eight years old, playing and coaching in her native New Zealand before moving to Sydney, where she has continued to engage with the sport.

Jessica Macartney in New Zealand after a game for the East Coast Bays
Jessica Macartney (right) has played netball for much of her life in Australia and her native New Zealand.(Supplied: Jessica Macartney)

But in the six years she has been a registered participant here, not once has she been contacted directly or indirectly by NSW Swifts or Giants marketing.

“I like to watch netball live and I like to watch netball on TV, but what I’ve found is that you have to be interested enough to seek out the information [about the games and broadcast],” Macartney said.

Macartney wonders why there seems to be a missing link between the top tier and grassroots in Australia — and finds it alarming that many women who have played the game for years, don’t even know Super Netball exists.

“Because I’ve worked in sport, I look for those things and often ask myself questions like, why don’t they ever communicate with me?”

“At Centennial Parklands there are no Swifts posters, branding or draws.

“Why isn’t there a ticket deal they ask associations to push through to all their registered participants. What is the barrier there? Or am I just not in a demographic that they target in their marketing strategy?”

Super Netball does, however, seem to be able to cut through to the younger generation.

And Macartney thinks this contrast can be related back to the league’s marketing strategy.

“It seems when you do go to the elite level games that the target audience is 10-year-old girls who clap thunder sticks,” she said.

“The crowd is probably 90 per cent of that demographic and it feels deliberate … that primary-aged girls are who they want to get to games.”

A NSW Swifts Super Netball player holds the ball above her head as she prepares to shoot for goal against the Lightning.
There are no NSW Swifts posters at Centennial Parklands.(AAP: Darren England)

If you have ever watched Super Netball on TV, then you would have encountered some of the repetitive ads the broadcast plays in its timeout and quarter breaks.

The majority of these show a clear intention to appeal to kids, and while Macartney says she can understand the need to target young girls, it leaves mature fans out.

“I get that there is a lot of work done going to schools because you want to have a positive influence and you can convert them into fans and members,” Macartney said.

“But I feel like there are opportunities to draw older people in as well.

“There’s an entire part of their participation base and active community that actually would be easier to convert to Super Netball fans.

“I don’t understand why you’d be going for the people that are completely disengaged … when there’s so many people out there that are actively involved.”

UK has similar issues

Struggling to convert participants into viewership numbers and bums on seats is not an issue exclusive to netball in Australia.

Former England international Tamsin Greenway has been trying to get her head around the problem in the UK too.

A netballer reaches out to grab the ball, as a defender leans down and extends her hand to stop her.
Tamsin Greenway (left) represented England at the Netball World Cup — she now coaches the Scottish national team.(AAP: Paul Miller)

Now working as a commentator and as the newly appointed Scotland national coach, Greenway thinks the breakdown might be occurring because the sport is not tailoring its strategies around the challenges women face when they try to engage with the game.

“My dad and brother go to every single football game. Home and away. They don’t even question it,” Greenway told Australian netball podcast The Netty Life.

“I don’t think the majority of women watch sport the same way men do. For example, they don’t necessarily have an affiliation to one team. They like certain players. They don’t necessarily care about the end result, and they won’t go home and be depressed about it the next day.”

Two Melbourne Vixens Super Netball players give the thumbs up as they smile after beating NSW Swifts.
Do women consume sport in the same way that men do? Not according to Tamsin Greenway.(AAP: Albert Perez)

“So we’re almost still trying to get women to watch sport in the same way that men watch sport, and I’m not sure that that’s the right way forward.”

Greenway — like Macartney — believes the elite level needs to build a stronger connection with its grassroots pathways, and she thinks sponsorship might be the best way to do it.

“Until we start exploring our commercial options, we’re not going to get any further. We’ve got to be far more creative about it,” she said.

“They may not want to go and pay 20 quid to go and watch an elite netball game but they’re still invested in netball… so how can we sell those hundreds of thousands of women to a sponsor?”

How can we market the game better?

One example of how the game could be more innovative with its marketing, came from Vixens sponsor Puma earlier this year.

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Melbourne newspaper The Age had come under fire for publishing a TV review that gave netball a 2.5 star rating and labelled it as a “glamour sport”.

The sponsor was able to quickly turn around a social media video for release the next day, that channelled the outrage from the netball community and defended the sport’s fearlessness.

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Neysa Goh, head of marketing at Puma, said the response to that video showed fans were passionate and could be engaged.

“We wanted the video to be something that really mobilises the netball community and gets them up and about. We read that review and it lit a fire underneath us,” Goh said.

“The landscape has changed. The game has changed. I don’t really remember netball ever being the way it was described in that review.

Goh had some other suggestions about how netball could make some small branding adjustments to more closely align the two realms and hopefully filter participation numbers back up the chain.

“It is about creating that connection. The clubs are trying to do that through grassroots programs that they run, but we probably need to look broader and find ways to really link back to the elite sport as much as possible,” Goh said.

“Maybe it’s things like aligning local team uniforms to replicate what the athletes are wearing on court. So you’re starting to create that loyalty and link.

“You see that replicated in other sports and maybe it’s those simple links and tie backs that create a connection.”



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Sunshine Coast Lightning second on Super Netball ladder after beating Queensland Firebirds



A feisty Steph Wood has renewed Sunshine Coast Lightning’s bid for a fourth straight Super Netball grand final with a masterful local derby performance against Queensland Firebirds.

The Lightning’s 75-67 victory at USC Stadium on Sunday was the side’s eighth of the season and launched them past West Coast Fever and NSW Swifts into second place on the ladder with two rounds remaining.

After a slow start, it took the injection of Wood to turn the match in the two-time champion’s favour.

Wood registered 24 points (14 goals, five super shots) and opened up the attack end with 25 feeds to give teammate Karla Pretorius a win in her 100th match.

Pretorius finished with six gains and was amazing in her milestone appearance to provide the side with the possession they needed to stay with the confident Firebirds in the first half.

“It was a special win for us,” Pretorius said after helping her team lock up another finals berth.

Romelda Aiken’s 47 goals gave the Firebirds every chance of an upset but Queensland could not turn back the Lightning once Wood, Pretorius and Laura Langman (47 feeds) stepped up.

Giants still a finals chance

The Giants kept their slim finals hopes alive with a 64-54 win against the Thunderbirds in Adelaide.

The fifth-placed Giants remain a mathematical chance of qualifying for the top four after eliminating the Thunderbirds from contention.

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Wins against the Fever and Swifts in the next fortnight are a must and they would also need a percentage boost to sneak into an elimination final.

Outstanding goal attack Kiera Austin (30 goals, 13 feeds and two gains) ensured the Giants will at least be in the conversation.

“We knew there was a lot on the line for us,” Austin said.

“And Adelaide is such a great team and they’ve grown such good combinations so we knew they would be really tough.”

AAP



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Melbourne Vixens beat Collingwood Magpies 61-53 to wrap up Super Netball minor premiership


Melbourne Vixens have secured the 2020 Super Netball minor premiership after a 61-53 victory over cross-town rivals Collingwood Magpies.

The Vixens overcame a slow start in Brisbane to record their 10th win of the season and lock in top spot on the ladder with two rounds left to play.

In Saturday’s earlier match, West Coast Fever jumped ahead of NSW Swifts into second place on the ladder after beating the defending champions 80-71.

The Vixens, missing star midcourter Liz Watson because of injury, had too much experience and versatility for the Magpies, with captain Kate Moloney the driving force behind the win with 36 feeds, 23 goal assists and two intercepts.

Moloney said the depth of their squad was a key factor in their rise to the top of the standings.

“We’ve seen in our shooting circle or down at our defensive end, whoever we chuck on they’re stepping up and it really is seamless,” Moloney told the Nine Network.

“We definitely need it in such a condensed season as well.”

Looking for just their second win of the season, Collingwood did not make life easy for the Vixens after scoring the first eight goals of the match on their way to a 17-12 lead at quarter-time.

But the Vixens found some momentum after Caitlin Thwaites and Mwai Kumwenda combined for three super shots in the first Power Five period, clicking into gear in the second quarter to outscore the Magpies 18-9.

Leading 30-26 at half-time, the Vixens controlled the tempo in the second half to complete a season sweep against the struggling Magpies.

Thwaites finished with a total of 23 points (19 goals, two super shots) and Kumwenda tallied 16 (12 goals, two super shots).

Shimona Nelson led the scoring for the Magpies with 43 goals.

Fowler dominates in Fever victory

Prolific shooter Jhaniele Fowler set a new Super Netball record for goals in a match in the Fever’s win over a fast-finishing Swifts side.

Records tumbled as the Fever withstood an unprecedented long-range shooting barrage from the defending champions to extend their unbeaten run to six matches.

Having set the record with 66 goals against the Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2018, Fowler eclipsed her own high mark with 69 goals at almost 96 per cent accuracy.

Fowler’s dominance under the post was a major factor in West Coast building a 17-goal advantage late in the third quarter but Sam Wallace and Sophie Garbin combined to hit seven super shots in the last five minutes to give the Swifts a glimmer of hope.

They cut the Fever’s lead to four by scoring eight of the first 10 goals in the fourth quarter but Fowler stood tall when it counted to secure the win.

A NSW Swifts Super Netball player hugs a West Coast Fever opponent to congratulate her on her team's victory.
Jhaniele Fowler (right) and Sam Wallace were both superb on goal.(AAP: Darren England)

Wallace finished with an impressive 10 super shots in her 45-point haul for the Swifts.

The Fever will move to third place and the Swifts to fourth on the ladder if Sunshine Coast Lightning beat Queensland Firebirds on their home court at USC Stadium on Sunday.

AAP/ABC



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Giants, Queensland Firebirds post Super Netball round 11 wins to stay in finals contention



The Giants and Queensland Firebirds have kept their slim Super Netball semi-final hopes alive after both recorded hard-fought victories on Wednesday night.

On the Sunshine Coast, the Giants triumphed 62-58 over Collingwood Magpies to move to fifth position on 18 points, two wins adrift of the fourth-placed West Coast Fever.

The Firebirds are also on 18 points to be sixth after surviving a late scare from the Thunderbirds to claim a thrilling 61-59 victory in Adelaide.

The Giants came into Wednesday’s contest at USC Stadium needing to win their remaining three matches to have any chance of qualifying for the finals.

Caitlin Bassett came off the bench to shoot 19-of-20 in the second half, as the Giants held their nerve in a tense final quarter.

“We had a lot of changes on the court tonight,” Giants captain Jo Harten said.

“I think some of our young ones stepped up and played really well and I thought [Bassett] just absolutely stormed on there and made such an impact which is really pleasing.”

The Magpies led 13-9 at quarter-time but Harten and Kiera Austin found their range in the second term as the Giants opened with seven of the first 10 goals, setting up a narrow 27-26 advantage at half-time.

Collingwood refused to go away in the third quarter, with strong aerial work in the goal circle from Shimona Nelson helping them regain the lead.

But the Giants settled once coach Julie Fitzgerald sent Bassett into the match, with the Australian Diamonds captain contributing seven goals, while Harten broke free to add three super shots.

Ahead 46-42 heading into the fourth term, the Giants answered every challenge Collingwood threw at them to keep their season alive.

Harten led the scoring for the Giants with 27 points (19 goals, four super shots).

The Magpies remain with just one win for the season and they play the top-placed Melbourne Vixens on Saturday.

Firebirds victorious on the road

The two big improvers of the competition battled it out at in Adelaide in a physical contest that went down to the wire, with the Thunderbirds coming back from 13 goals down to trail by one in the final minute.

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But the Firebirds held on in a frantic finish where they controlled possession for the last 50 seconds, Romelda Aiken adding the final goal as time expired to secure back-to-back wins for the Queenslanders.

“It was a tight one so it was great that the girls were able to play [the ball] around and play it really smart at the end,” Firebirds defender Kim Jenner said.

“We just played our game, making sure we were sticking to what we wanted to do and keep playing the ball forward.”

The Firebirds are in the same position as the Giants, needing to win their final three matches and have other results go their way if they are to qualify for the finals.

Playing outside of their home state for the first time this season, the Firebirds established a 29-16 advantage in the second quarter but the long-range shooting of Georgie Horjus kept the Thunderbirds in the contest, with three super shots helping reduce the visitors lead to 35-28 at half-time.

Down by 10 goals midway through the third period, the Thunderbirds responded again as Lenize Potgieter inspired an eight-goal burst to set up a dramatic final quarter.

But the Firebirds would not be denied at the finish, Aiken ending with 45 goals, while rising star Tippah Dwan produced another solid performance with 16 points (14 goals, one super shot).

AAP/ABC



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Sunshine Coast Lightning beat Giants 67-65 in Super Netball epic, Thunderbirds defeat Magpies



A fourth consecutive Super Netball final series beckons for Sunshine Coast Lightning after clutch shooting from Steph Wood clinched a thrilling 67-65 victory over the Giants.

Wood kept her cool in the dying seconds to nail a match-winning super shot at USC Stadium on the Sunshine Coast to secure the Lightning’s seventh win of the season and hurt the Giants’ top-four ambitions in the process.

The Lightning stay in third position on the ladder following the win, equal with the second-placed NSW Swifts on 28 points and six points behind Melbourne Vixens.

In Sunday’s second match, Adelaide Thunderbirds made a successful return to their home state with a solid 61-49 victory over Collingwood Magpies that maintained their Super Netball finals hopes.

Coming off a 20-goal loss to the Vixens, victory was crucial for the Giants’ semi-final hopes after falling two wins behind the fourth-placed West Coast Fever.

But after struggling to produce her best consistently through the season, Wood stepped up when it mattered most to break Giants hearts at the death.

“We knew it was not going to be an easy game,” Lightning goalkeeper Phumza Maweni said.

“We just needed to step up and make sure we kept the ball in hand and keep the game flowing, we were very hungry for this win.”

The loss, and the Thunderbirds’ victory, means the Giants are in sixth place on the ladder.

The round-five meeting between the Lightning and the Giants was shrouded in controversy after the send-off of Kristiana Manu’a reduced the Giants to just six players for the final nine minutes, with the Lightning storming home to win by one goal.

The rematch remained incident-free but there was no lack of drama as the gritty Giants stayed in the contest with timely long-range shooting.

Jo Harten levelled the scores with 15 seconds to play with her side’s 12th super shot of the match.

Scores were level at 18-all after a tight opening quarter and while the Lightning dominated the time in possession in the second period, they were unable to cash in on the scoreboard.

Super shots from Harten and Kiera Austin cut the Lightning’s half-time advantage to one goal, 32-31.

The third quarter played out in a similar fashion to the second, with the Giants relying on their long-range shooting to reduce a seven-goal deficit to one heading into the final period.

But the big-match experience of championship winners Wood and Karla Pretorius did enough to guide the Lightning home.

Sunshine Coast can seal a semi-final berth on Tuesday night with a win over the Fever at USC Stadium.

The Giants will fight to keep their season alive against the Magpies at the same venue on Wednesday night.

Thunderbirds win in Adelaide

After playing the first nine rounds of the season in Super Netball’s Queensland hub, the Thunderbirds opened a three-match stretch at home in Adelaide with a confidence-building win over the injury-ravaged Magpies.

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The Thunderbirds met some stern resistance from the visitors but finished strongly to snap a four-match losing streak and rise to fifth on the ladder, six points behind the Fever.

The attack pairing of South African Lenize Potgieter (41 goals from 46 attempts) and local product Georgie Horjus (12 goals, four super shots) continued to develop with the duo taking charge in the fourth quarter.

“I love it, she’s the one that keeps me calm in the circle,” Potgieter said about her blossoming partnership with 18-year-old Horjus.

“It’s great to work with her, she’s teaching me a lot of new things and I hope I’m helping her along the way as well.”

After recording just four victories in the first three years of Super Netball, the Thunderbirds outscored the bottom-placed Collingwood 18-8 in the final quarter to break through for their fourth win of this season.

With home matches against Queensland Firebirds and the Giants to come, the opportunity is there for coach Tania Obst’s up-and-coming squad to challenge for a top-four finish.

AAP/ABC



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Melbourne Vixens, West Coast Fever play out Super Netball draw as Queensland Firebirds beat NSW Swifts



West Coast Fever have let slip an opportunity to take down a Super Netball giant in a thrilling 63-all draw with ladder leaders Melbourne Vixens.

Fourth-placed West Coast led the competition pacesetter for three quarters in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon, before Vixens ace Caitlin Thwaites threatened to break their hearts with a two-point shot inside the last minute.

But, with 13 seconds left, the Fever kept their heads and found Jhaniele Fowler, whose 59th goal ensured the competition points were shared.

The result did not threaten the Vixens’ hold of top spot on the ladder, as they ended up moving six points clear of NSW Swifts, who went down 77-64 to Queensland Firebirds in an upset loss in Saturday’s second match.

The draw ensured the Fever remain in fourth place, comfortably clear of the Giants.

More importantly, it announced West Coast as genuine title threats after pushing the Vixens and thumping Sunshine Coast Lightning in recent matches.

“I think we’re all feeling more confident than we were,” Fever wing attack Emma Cosh said.

“We know there’s some little things to work on but certainly we know we can get there.”

Missing goal keeper Emily Mannix to a calf injury, it was not the Vixens at their best.

They had 23 turnovers by three-quarter time and co-captain Liz Watson’s league MVP campaign lost some steam as she was kept relatively quiet by Jess Anstiss.

The Vixens were saved by Thwaites, who shot 22 goals including four super shots, while Allie Smith’s two gains and two intercepts made for a brilliant debut.

There was nothing between the teams during a first quarter in which Fever shooter Fowler notched her 500th goal for the season.

The Fever seemed content to allow the match-up between Alice Teague-Neeld and the Vixens’ Jo Weston to cancel out each other’s influence.

With Weston engaged elsewhere, the circle edge opened up for Fever wing attack Emma Cosh.

Cosh was the most prolific feeder for either side during the first half as the Fever gradually gained control.

McKinnis switched Weston to wing defence yet still the Fever were good enough to open up an 11-goal lead.

Weston ended up at goal keeper but was unable to make an impact on Fowler.

Firebirds stun Swifts

The Firebirds have marched behind youngster Tippah Dwan to upset Super Netball’s defending champions, the Swifts.

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The Firebirds are supposedly in a rebuilding period but looked like they were ahead of schedule in their win over the second-placed Swifts.

Romelda Aiken’s experience and class helped her to 43 goals but the prime movers for the win were the Firebirds’ younger brigade.

Dwan, 20, has been threatening to deliver a match-winning performance for weeks and Saturday was the day she landed it, with 26 points including eight two-goal super shots and 21 feeds.

She was helped along the way by young general Mahalia Cassidy and a breakout performance from Lara Dunkley.

“It’s just confidence. Once I get one shot in I feel like the girls around me have faith in me to take those shots,” Dwan said.

The win lifted the Firebirds to sixth and they are an outside chance of qualifying for the finals, although they will need other results to go their way.

Swifts coach Briony Akle commended the Firebirds but was critical of her own group after the flat performance.

“They don’t play like they’re coming second last,” she said of the Firebirds.

“I don’t think we went in thinking it was going to be easy.

“They’ve got some great young players but we knew as soon as they got a sniff it would be hard to rein them in.

“We didn’t turn up and play the Swifts way today.”‘

AAP/ABC



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West Coast Fever thrash Sunshine Coast Lightning in 80-56 Super Netball win



West Coast Fever have capped a big week for coach Stacey Marinkovich, with a record-breaking 80-56 Super Netball victory over Sunshine Coast Lightning in Brisbane.

The Fever, playing a day after Marinkovich was announced as the new Diamonds coach, produced a stunning first-half effort on their way to reaching their highest score, while also equalling the league record of 80 goals shared by the Lightning and NSW Swifts.

In Sunday’s earlier Super Netball match, Queensland Firebirds survived a dramatic late comeback to record a thrilling 54-53 victory over Adelaide Thunderbirds.

For the Fever, Jamaican goal-scoring machine Jhaniele Fowler continued her outstanding season with 57 goals.

The Western Australian club built their win on a 24-8 second-quarter blitz as they regained fourth spot on the ladder.

“I think we had a lot to prove today … also for our coach who has just been made Diamonds coach,” Fever centre Verity Charles told Channel Nine.

“We just wanted to back her and show her that everything she’s doing is paying off.”

Marinkovich will juggle national team duties with her role at the Fever until the end of the 2021 season.

The new national coach will be buoyed by the Fever’s progress after the 2018 grand finalists defeated the Magpies and Lightning by a combined total of 38 goals in the space of six days.

Aside from Fowler’s contribution for the Fever, Alice Teague-Neeld scored a total of 13 points (seven goals, two super shots) and Kaylia Stanton added a 10-point haul (six goals, two super shots).

Steph Wood (28 points) was the top scorer for the Lightning, who are still third on the ladder but eight points adrift of the first-placed Melbourne Vixens, and four behind Swifts.

Firebirds hold on for victory

The Thunderbirds recovered from nine goals down at half-time to hit the front with five minutes remaining, leaving the home side in danger of another tough defeat following their midweek one-goal loss to the Giants.

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But the Firebirds kept their cool in the closing moments, with rookie Tippah Dwan scoring the match-winner in her side’s second victory of the season.

Both sides struggled to find their attacking flow in the fourth quarter, won 11-8 by the Thunderbirds, but key intercepts from captain Gabi Simpson and Kim Jenner helped deliver the Firebirds enough opportunities to win it at the death.

“That last two minutes was a complete blur,” Firebirds defender Tara Hinchliffe said.

“We just had to have composure, that was our word for the game and I think it showed in that last 60 seconds of mayhem.

“I just didn’t want it down my end.”

Dwan finished with 14 points (10 goals, two super goals), while Romelda Aiken was outstanding for the Firebirds, landing 40 goals at a 91 per cent accuracy rate.

Georgie Horjus led the scoring for the Thunderbirds with 27 points (19 goals, four super shots).

The Firebirds remain in seventh spot, while the loss leaves the Thunderbirds in sixth position.

AAP/ABC



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