It is now or never for both West Coast Fever and Sunshine Coast Lightning as elimination awaits the loser of tomorrow’s Minor Semi-Final from Nissan Arena in Brisbane.
While both sides have shown ability to win and win big, the past month has been shaky for both outfits – Fever lost a pressure test against now minor premiers GIANTS Netball.
Sunshine Coast can’t rely on its history as premiers from 2017 and 2018, and grand finalists in 2019.
The side has big-game experience, but haven’t quite had it all their way in 2021. Fans of the Lightning will breathe a sigh of relief as goaler Steph Wood returns for the biggest game of the year so far.
On the other hand, Fever won 11 games but owing to its penalty for historical salary breaches, finished third.
Last year, Fever eliminated Swifts and have themselves developed into a league-powerhouse with plenty of experience – but they are yet to taste premiership glory.
They lost the 2018 grand final against Lightning before losing to Vixens in the 2020 grand final.
But this is head coach and Perth netball royalty Stacey Marinkovich’s final season in charge of the Green Army – will it spur on the players to finally take the victory?
In round 3, Fever punished Lighting by 15-goals. In round 10, Lightning won by four.
Which teams show up?
This is going to be an epic battle.
The Break Down
Looking across the court, the key matchups for this one are clear – Lighting goalers Cara Koenen and Steph Wood versus Fever captain Courtney Bruce, up and comer Sunday Aryang, and Fever shooter Jhaniele Fowler versus Lightning’s defensive end.
What both teams will know going into the match is that Fowler is going to score a lot of goals but it’s the service she will receive from her midcourt that could determine the result of this game.
Can Fever’s Diamonds Verity Charles and Jess Anstiss fire to ensure the midcourt battle is won – a key highlight of the Giants’ stunning win over the Fever last week.
If Lightning can stop the service Charles provides to Fowler especially after the first phase centre pass and denying that direct ball straight into the circle, that will certainly play a huge role in minimising goals for Fever.
Defender Stacey Francis-Bayman and Anstiss will need to provide that defensive pressure on the Lightning mid court in order for Aryang and Bruce to have time to go hunting for the ball.
As for the Lightning, whilst Koenan being the main scorer Wood also takes a bulk load of shots herself and has the potential to be damaging for them in the super shot period.
She’s back from injury and coach Kylee Byrne will know how to rotate her on and ensure she’s ready for the big moments.
If the Lightning can play to their strengths, the ball speed in which their attack end loves to play with, opportunities for the circle defenders to come out and take some intercepts will be denied as they won’t have time to set up their defensive structure.
For both teams, the transition and the service the mid court provides from the defensive end through to the attacking end will be pivotal. It almost always in at this level.
In recent games, there has been quite a bit of rotation through the WD position for Lightning and they will need to settle on someone who matches up best against Charles in order to stop the link to Fowler.
There are two options for Lightning.
Charles is speedy and Maddy McAuliffe could be a very good matchup in terms of being able to dictate Charles and not allow her to play with the speed she likes to play with.
Lighting stalwart Kate Shimmin could be a possible good match up in terms of her height and ability to deflect the ball in the air which would stop the direct line of sight into Fowler – something Shimmin is known for.
GD Karla Pretorius and GK Phumza Maweni need to take some risks. Fever GA Alice Teague-Neeld has played a great role in recent games for Fever in being almost a third feeder to Fowler, she is crafty and has great court smarts in order to set up play.
Pretorius is a hard defender and will need to shut Teague-Neeld out of the game, Pretorius has the skills to come off the body and take intercepts, she will need to back herself and go hunting to win some ball.
Maweni on the other hand will certainly need to take risks as Fowler mostly always will win that one on one battle. She will need to come out for a fly and try and take some balls in the pockets.
This will certainly be an epic battle. It is unfortunate that one team’s season will come to an end after this match, however, the winner will have deserved their place in the next round of finals keeping the dream alive.
Categories: Suncorp Super Netball