Semi-final success a distant memory as Giants prepare for Magpies

You could forgive GIANTS Netball for indulging in a little trip down memory lane this week as they prepare to make on the Collingwood Magpies.

The last time the teams met, after all, was in last year’s minor semi-final, when the Giants dug deep to come from six goals down with seven minutes remaining to snatch victory in what was unquestionably the match of the season.

But if the Giants have allowed themselves to again revel in that result for even a second this week they’re not letting on, with goal keeper Sam Poolman insisting this weekend’s Round 7 Suncorp Super Netball clash – and a potential fifth win – is the only thing on their minds.

“It actually hasn’t come up in discussion. I only saw it (video of the 2017 win) in the media platform – that’s why I kind of twigged that we meet them again,” she says.

“I think it was touched on at the start of the year before we started playing, but now that we’re really into the season we’re just excited to play Magpies again.”

But the 2018 Magpies will present plenty of new food for thought for the 2017 grand finalists, with Collingwood goal attack recruit Erin Bell – who was not a part of the last year’s Magpies – finding form at just the wrong time for the second-placed Giants.

Poolman says that with the Magpies knocking off the Firebirds before the bye and starting to look like the team most people expected them to be, Sunday’s game will be as tough as it gets.

“They’ve obviously picked up Erin Bell in that goal attack position, and last time we played them they used Shae (Brown) in there, so that kind of fills their gap quite nicely now,” Poolman says.

They have (Caitlin) Thwaites as one of the top shooters, Sharni (Layton) back there in keeper, and Madi (Robinson) and Ash Brazill, who I think is probably playing some of her best netball. When you look at them as individual players, they’re all really strong. One thing that really stood out (against the Firebirds) that other weeks hasn’t happened is the volume of what Erin Bell shot. In other rounds Thwaites has been that dominant shooter, but they shared the load during the Firebirds game, which is quite dangerous.”

It speaks to GIANTS Netball’s team-first ethos that Poolman had no idea her defensive unit had been the most miserly across the first six rounds, with their 319 goals conceded the least of any team in the competition – three less than Geva Mentor’s Sunshine Coast Lightning, and 32 less than the top-of-the-table West Coast Fever.

“I didn’t actually know that stat. I’ve always been a team player and I’ve really loved last year and this year having such quality defenders around me, and they certainly help me do my job,” Poolman says.

“I care about us winning and us working well as a defensive unit, and if that means I do my job and they (teammates) get the ball, then I’m OK with that.”

With only six premiership points separating the Giants in second and the Magpies in seventh, plenty hinges on the outcome of Sunday’s clash, with the Magpies potentially able to leapfrog the Giants if things fall their way.

Poolman says that there’s no longer such thing as an ‘off’ week for Super Netball teams, with every game a potential do-or-die contest.

“What we’ve noticed this year is that every team is better than they were last year and for us we need to be better each week as well. We’ve spoken about what we didn’t do well against Fever and how we need to fix that against a quality lineup like Magpies are,” she says.

“We’re very well aware that they haven’t had a great start but I think now they’re on the up, so we have to be putting forward a really solid game within each quarter, because at some stage when they click they’re going to be very dangerous.”

“I think they would be happy with their win against Firebirds, who are one of the top sides this year as well and are very hard to beat with the lineup they have, so I think they’ll take a lot of confidence from that.”

GIANTS Netball and Collingwood Magpies face off on Sunday at 1pm at Qudos Bank Arena. Purchase tickets here.