Liz and Sue: Our thoughts so far
Liz Ellis and Sue Guadion discuss the Suncorp Super Netball season to date, and what they’re looking forward to for the remainder of the year.
1. We’re six weeks into the season – what are your thoughts on the competition so far?
Liz: “It’s the most competitive domestic netball competition I’ve ever seen in the 25 years that I’ve either played or commentated. I’ve never seen a competition where I could safely say seven out of the eight (teams) in the competition could win it, and to me that’s a highly unusual situation to be in and it’s exciting. I was thinking, ‘no one is going to beat Fever’ and then the Queensland Firebirds beat them by 10 – it shows that like every team, they have got some vulnerabilities.”
Sue: “The standout for me has been just how close the competition has been. Week in week out, every game has brought a new level of intensity across 60 minutes, which we haven’t seen before. Players are experiencing high pressure situations more consistently.”
2. Are you referring to both Suncorp Super Netball seasons or is there a big difference from this year to last year?
Liz: “There’s definitely an increase and teams have got better. West Coast Fever have improved immeasurably. Having Jhaniele Fowler in the team has made a huge difference – one good signing can turn a team around. The NSW Swifts are a team which have improved so much in terms of their ability to close out games. Look at the Adelaide Thunderbirds. I don’t think that they’re going to make the finals – but if they keep improving at the rate that they have been, then they will start to become a massive nuisance to every other team in the competition who are trying to pick up bonus points.”
3. Did you expect that Fever would be as good as they have been?
Liz: “The thing that has impressed me about them is how good their defensive line is. Courtney Bruce is having a fantastic year, Stacey Francis has been really good – the amount of ball that their backline is turning over has been impressive.”
Sue: “Team-wise, Fever have impressed early. I think we all expected a shift with the inclusion of Jhaniele Fowler, but their performance under pressure is where I think most fans are excited about their prospects going forward.”
4. How about Sunshine Coast Lightning? Was it always going to be the case that after last year’s heroics they were going to stutter a little bit at the start?
Liz: “I expected that after losing Laura Langman it was always going to take them a while to figure out how to plug that gap. I always thought their midcourt would take a little time to settle in, but I think that the last game or two we’ve seen them find their roles and understand what they need to do.”
5. Every week one team looks like its going to storm up the table. Last week it was Firebirds and then suddenly its looking like the Lightning. It’s changing every week.
Liz: “It’s unusual, I was just thinking today of the history of the domestic netball league, and I started playing in a national competition like this back in 1991 and there was always one or two teams consistently better than the others – every year you can pick it. Last year was harder to pick and this year it’s impossible.”
6. The Giants, particularly, are using their bench well this season. Do you think that’s going to become a big factor moving into the second stage of the season?
Liz: “Because of the intensity and not only every game, but with every single quarter being a battle, players are going to get tired. I think teams that can use their bench well and run on fresh legs in crucial moments are going to be teams that do well.”
Sue: “The Giants continue to be a threat and their narrow loss to Fever will be a small hip and shoulder that won’t deviate their run to the finals.”
7. What are your predictions for the second half of the season?
Sue: “It’s too early to call the Magpies’ form, but it’s hard not to love their Erin Bell-led victory down in Tassie. The Vixens and Swifts have shown glimpses, whilst the Thunderbirds’ improvement is great for their fans, but they still must eliminate errors under pressure. The Firebirds will continue to fire, and they are my team to watch coming off the break! Gretel Tippett is in the form of her life.”
8. Have you got a top four in your head or at least a top two at this point, or is it too hard to call?
Liz: “I reckon West Coast Fever will be there and I’ve got no idea who else – the rest is a complete lottery.”
9. Who do you think are the dark horses?
Liz: “The Magpies – they started slow, but if they can play with the same intensity they played with last weekend they’re still in with a chance. Every team is so concertinaed on that ladder, they only need to string a couple of good games together and suddenly they’re in it.”
10. Who are the players to look out for?
Liz: “I love what Kim Green is doing. Her form after coming back from a knee injury has been unbelievable. I’m really interested to see if Helen Housby can maintain her performance levels, shooting that winning goal in the final at the Commonwealth Games has seen her confidence skyrocket. Karla Pretorius is having a great season and I’m looking forward to seeing how much better she can get.
And finally, here are Sue’s top five point of the season so far:
- The increase in the use of team benches under the new Bonus Point system, proving that coaches are not inhibited by the change.
- The opening season form slump by the Magpies – saved by the Bell in Round 6.
- ‘Shaquille Jhaniele’s’ introduction to Suncorp Super Netball and the challenge she faces being targeted by every opposition.
- Standout form from Karla Pretorius, Gretel Tippett, Courtney Bruce, Kim Green and Nat Medhurst. More selection dilemmas for Lisa Alexander!!
- My absolute inability to confidently say who might be at the finish line come August!!!! Too close!!