The West Coast Fever turned the Super Netball finals script on its head, but a netball legend believes a wounded team can still go all the way.
How the West Coast Fever dismantled the Melbourne Vixens, the Giants star looming as a threat and why the Vixens can still win the premiership.
There’s plenty to unpack in this week’s edition of Super Netball talking points.
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Fever stun Vixens to book Grand Final spot
The first weekend of Super Netball finals is done and dusted and there are just three teams left in the race for the premiership.
The West Coast Fever pulled off a huge upset over the Melbourne Vixens on their home court to move straight through to the Grand Final in a fortnight’s time.
Fever came out firing and shut down the Vixens’ potent midcourt combination of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney.
“Really surprised with the Vixens and the Fever,” ex-Diamond turned Fox Netball commentator Caitlin Bassett told news.com.au.
“Finals is a crazy time where it’s just whoever is the best team on the day, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done across the season.
“I just think the Vixens didn’t come to play and Fever has obviously done their homework really well.
“A lot of people would have tipped Vixens for that, Fever just came out and really stamped their authority on the game and made it too hard to fight back from.
“They did their homework. They really worked hard at shutting down the Vixens in their attack end. They didn’t have that flow they normally have.
“Obviously they’ve got the strength of a Lizzy Watson and a Kate Moloney, who have that strong connection, but I think they worked hard at breaking that connection. They just couldn’t get into any flow in their attacking end.
“(Jhaniele) Fowler had such a huge game, she’s so hard to shut down. They (the Vixens) just couldn’t stem the flow of ball that was coming down so quickly to her. And that was coming off the back of fantastic defense from the Fever.
“Sunday Aryang and Courtney Bruce were just huge. They stood up in the moments they really needed to do, from the get-go they were up in the face of the Vixens girls.
“They had a very clear game plan, which they executed.”
Fever earn right to host GF after controversy
Netball Australia’s controversial decision to sell the Grand Final to Perth, as angry fans complained about the season decider wouldn’t be held at the home court of the team that deserved to host it.
But the Fever’s nine-point win over the Vixens turned that narrative on its head as the team in green proved they deserved to host the Grand Final on merit.
“There was a lot of controversy for us in netball, who have never had the Grand Final sold. The location has always been won off the team who has earned it,” Bassett said.
“They’ve shown they’ve definitely earned it having the Grand Final at home.
“I think that was a big driver for them. They wanted to get out there and show all of Australia they deserved to have that Grand Final, whether the sponsorship money was coming from it all not.”
Last week’s revelations netball’s governing body owed $11 million and was on the brink of shocked fans, but somewhat vindicated Netball Australia’s decision to sell the Grand Final to the highest bidder.
“It definitely is concerning for us players that love the game,” Bassett said of the state of netball’s finances.
“We want it to be played as long as possible and to be played at the elite level.”
Even so, Bassett would have liked to see more transparency over the Grand Final decision to ensure players and fans were kept up to speed with Netball Australia’s plans.
“I think what was concerning is it was left for so long without anyone having an inkling of what was going on and it got to the stage that it did without athletes as major stakeholders in the game having a major understanding of the game,” she said.
“We understand how important that is to earn back those finances. What value have we been putting on netball? Are we pushing for enough money? Do we value ourselves highly enough that we’re getting enough out of sponsorship deals and marquee events, that we are making an impact financially.
“Selling the Grand Final, if that’s what they need to do to recoup some funds and stay on track, that’s absolutely fine but give us the heads up in advance so we’re not blindsided like the rest of the netball community.”
Giant X-factor looms as a threat
The Giants kept their dream of a maiden Super Netball premiership alive with a win over the Magpies, fueled by a strong second half performance.
“Giants and Collingwood, wow, that was a cracker,” Bassett said.
“Collingwood put up a huge fight and then just fell away. The Giants were just the superior team with the Super Shot at the end of the day.”
The Giants take on the Vixens in a must-win preliminary final on Saturday and Bassett believe Giants goal attack Sophie Dwyer’s ability to nail Super Shots makes her a huge X-factor.
“Sophie Dwyer had a bit of a shaky start (against the Magpies) but I think it was really telling that when she came good, that’s when the Giants really started forging ahead and piling the goals on,” Bassett said.
“For the Vixens, you could say the key is Sophie Dwyer firing. How can they shut her down and nullify her and make Jo Harten get out of the circle and make her do a little more work.
“It’s going to be a great match. Vixens have beaten Giants twice in the round games during the season but this final, it’s do-or-die.
“Whoever makes it goes through to the Grand Final, there’s a lot of pressure on both teams.
“Vixens obviously as minor premiers, if they make it through hopefully they can right some wrongs or fix some of the mistakes they made against the Fever.
“The Giants, they’ve been in two Grand Finals and they haven’t won either of them so they want to get back in that Grand Final and finally nab one themselves.”
Despite their disappointing loss to Fever, Bassett is still backing the Vixens to go the long way and win the premiership with victory over Fever in the Grand Final.
“I still think it’s Vixens,” she said.
“Having that loss against Fever will actually serve them well. You can go along and have a great season and win a lot of games but it’s sometimes those challenging matches or losses that teach you the most going into a Grand Final.
“If they’re going to match up against the West Coast Fever again, I feel like they would have walked off the court very disappointed after their performance on Saturday, and they will be working very, very hard not just to get over the Giants , but to prepare really well against Fever.”
Super Netball Preliminary Final
Melbourne Vixens vs Giants — Saturday 25 June 7pm AEST, John Cain Arena