Super Netball 2022: Net Gains, Swifts and Giants set to miss top four despite stunning derby

Doomsayers predicted Super Netball would go to the dogs when the super shot was introduced. But, while that hasn’t happened, teams are still figuring out how to use it.

The Swifts and Giants played out the match of the round in the Sydney derby, with the premiers showing great character to climb off the canvas against the Giants in one that went against the script.

The match was the grand final replay — but could both teams find themselves outside the top four come season’s end?

The Giants are currently in fourth place, while the Swifts leapfrogged the Lightning to sit in seventh among four teams locked together on 12 points.

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Both remain in finals contention but arguably the best performances of the weekend came from the Vixens, Firebirds, Fever and Magpies.

Their contests were enthralling displays of netball at its best.

Sophie Fawns and Maddy Turner of the Swifts celebrate victory (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Sophie Fawns and Maddy Turner of the Swifts celebrate victory (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Vixens just bested the Firebirds — the second thrilling contest between the two — and looked set to end the round with sole leadership of the competition ladder when the Magpies took a four-goal lead over the Fever in the final quarter in Perth.

Both games had the intensity of finals with some of the best players in the world shining.

The wins gave the Fever and Vixens an eight-point lead on the other teams in the four, and a 12-point margin — or three wins — over the remainder of the field.

With just six games remaining in the regular season, both have all but sealed their place in the playoffs, with the race on for the remaining two places.

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Almost two years after the introduction of the super shot, teams are still learning how and when is best to pull the trigger on the two-point attempt.

Plenty of doomsayers predicted the game would go to the dogs when the super shot was introduced for the final five minutes of each quarter in 2020.

And while it is a weapon, it has probably not had the impact its critics, or its greatest supporters imagined.

The lack of consultation involved in the super shot’s introduction still stings for players and coaches but it is here to stay.

Whether used sparingly, or to excess, the super shot remains as much of a risk as it is a weapon and that’s why it’s a valid addition to the game.

The Firebirds took eight super shots in their narrow loss to the Vixens on Saturday but made just two of those.

Back-to-back misses with just under three minutes remaining — one each from Gretel Bueta and Donnell Wallam — came when a one-goal conversion would have reduced the margin to just a goal with plenty of time remaining to at least level the match.

Gretel Bueta missed some important super shots (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Gretel Bueta missed some important super shots (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The Lightning finished with a paltry 44 points in their loss to the Adelaide Thunderbirds due to a shooting conversion of just 63.5 per cent.

The hot hand of Steph Wood from super shot range has kept them in plenty of games, while rookie Reilley Batcheldor is also a proficient long shooter.

The pair managed just four-of-14 between them on Saturday night, while the Giants’ Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer, some of the best in the league from long range, finished with five-of-13 in their team’s loss to the Swifts.

The misses are eventually a vicious circle — usually leading to a turnover, they often allow the opposition the chance to build on their lead and the super shot then becomes the only option for the trailing team to catch up.

Learning just when to pull the trigger and when to hold back, could be the difference between making the top four, or missing out.

THUNDERBIRDS END DROUGHT

Adelaide Thunderbirds returned to the winners’ circle for the first time since round 2 on Saturday after five consecutive losses.

But they have to ensure it’s not an aberration if they’re to make a push for the finals.

One of four sides locked on 12 competition points just one win outside the four, the T’birds have an outstanding mathematical chance to crack the playoffs.

But their showing at the Sunshine Coast had as much to do with the lacklustre Lightning as their own rebound to form.

If Adelaide is to make a run, they have to rise to the standard of their inspirational defenders and capitalise on the amount of ball they are able to win.

Unless they can do that and cut out the errors they made in the opening round, they will miss the finals for yet another season.

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Sunshine Coast won’t like this call but count them out of the finals now.

The Lightning have been in the finals each season in the first five years of the league — winning the first two titles and making the grand final in 2019.

But their leaky defence has them at the bottom of the ladder and while they’re technically just one win outside the top four, their poor percentage means they will have to finish above others on competition points.

With just six regular season games remaining, that means two more matches than the side currently in fourth place — and that’s a big ask.

Kate Moloney of the Vixens after winning in the round eight (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Kate Moloney of the Vixens after winning in the round eight (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Kate Moloney

Moloney didn’t top the Nissan Net Point count, score the most goals or have the most gains for her team but the job she did shutting down Firebirds midcourter Lara Dunkley after a positional switch-up arguably won the game for the Vixens.

With Kate Eddy on the comeback trail following a bout of Covid, Moloney was switched from centre, where she started the match, to wing defence and created instant pass pressure for Dunkley, who had had a field day early in the match feeding the ball to Firebirds shooter Donnell Wallam.

Currently fighting for a spot in the Diamonds’ final Commonwealth Games team, the move — and the defensive pressure Moloney was able to bring — won’t have escaped the attention of national coach Stacey Marinkovich either.

Vixens v Firebirds

Kate Moloney (Vixens) 3, Mwai Kumwenda (Vixens) 2, Lara Dunkley (Firebirds) 1

Lightning v Thunderbirds

Shamera Sterling (Tbirds) 3, Hannah Petty (Tbirds), Kate Walsh (Lightning) 1

Fever v Magpies

Alice Teague-Neeld (Fever) 3, Jhaniele Fowler (Fever) 2, Kelsey Browne (Magpies) 1

Swifts v Giants

Maddy Proud (Swifts) 3, Sarah Klau (Swifts), April Brandley (Giants) 1