Fowler yet to miss as West Coast Fever hold off GIANTS 74-73 to go 2-0 in Suncorp Super Netball League

By Sports Desk March 27, 2023
Fowler scored 59 from 59 and is yet to miss a shot this season. Fowler scored 59 from 59 and is yet to miss a shot this season.

Jhanielle Fowler was perfect from the field and needed to be as the defending Suncorp Super League Netball Champions West Coast Fever held off GIANTS to win by a single goal 74-73 on Saturday at the Ken Rosewall Arena.

The Fever’s shooters missed just once with Sasha Glasgow scoring five goals from her six attempts and hit crucial super shots in the thrilling encounter that ended with the defending champions going 2-0 in their first two games of the season. They won both games by one goal.

Reigning MVP Fowler scored 59 goals from as many attempts and has now scored 167 straight goals without a miss in the league. Her last miss came during the first quarter of last season’s final.

The GIANTS welcomed back Maddie Hay and Jo Harten into their line-up and they proved to be exactly what their team needed. Still, the Fever led 21-20 at the end of the first quarter.

On the back of Fowler’s accurate shooting, the Fever opened up a lead, which extended to as wide as 10 goals but were eventually reeled in by the GIANTS, who were eventually outscored 19-17 in the second quarter to lead by three at the half.

Harten scored 22 goals from 23 attempts and Sophie Dwyer 21 from 24 as GIANTS looked to rally but were forced to depend heavily on super shots to keep them close to the champions who outscored them 23-15 in the third quarter.

However, the GIANTS did rally with Harten and Dwyer shooting the lights out to outscore The Fever 21-11 in the final quarter but the lead proved too much to overcome.

Over at the Nissan Arena, Kadie-Ann Dehaney’s Sunshine Coast Lightning defeated Queensland Firebirds 65-55. Meanwhile, a power outage at the SA Netball Stadium resulted in a 25-25 tie between the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the New South Wales Swifts.

Romelda Aiken-George had scored 15 goals from 19 attempts when the game was called off.

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  • Young Sunshine Girls top Americas Netball World Youth Cup qualifiers; T&T, Barbados also secure spots for 2025 showpiece in Gibraltar Young Sunshine Girls top Americas Netball World Youth Cup qualifiers; T&T, Barbados also secure spots for 2025 showpiece in Gibraltar

    Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago are set to represent the Caribbean at next year’s Netball World Youth Cup, after securing the top three spots at the just-concluded Americas Netball World Youth Cup qualifiers in Guadeloupe.

    The young Sunshine Girls, who went unbeaten in the tournament, were crowned overall champions following a 54-29 win over Barbados young Gems in Sunday’s final, while Trinidad and Tobago young Calypso Girls downed Grenada 61-39 in the third-place playoff to take the final qualifying spot.

    Jamaica’s Head coach Phyllis Thompson lauded her team’s gritty showing, particularly in the semi-final where they produced a late rally to top their young Calypso Girls counterparts 40-33.

    “I am super excited and elated for the girls. They did the hard work coming into the tournament and it showed on the court. Of course we weren’t always flawless, we made our fair share of mistakes along the way, but the most important thing was to secure the win here and then work on tighten up our play going forward,” Thompson said.

    “We have a very talented and determined group of girls and it showed in the semi-final against Trinidad when we were down two goals, I reminded them that we are still in the game and they went out and gave it their all to come out victorious. So I am very proud of them and like I said we will go back to the drawing board and work on what we need to for the World Cup next year,” she added.

    While they were unable to upstage Jamaica in the final, president of the Barbados Netball Association, Dr. Carmeta Douglin struck a positive tone.

    She admitted that closing the gap with world class teams like Jamaica is no easy task but, in the same breath, insisted that improvement is possible with the right structures.

    The young Gems brushed aside Grenada 63-45 in the semi-final.

    “Our Under-21 is not a bad team, but they still need a lot of work to get to the world-class level, as you can see. So we are looking to build on Under-14, to move to Under-16, to move to Under-21, to move to seniors. So we are looking at an Academy, where we have players in training all year round, and moving up through the age groups. So this is something we are planning,” Douglin said.

    “Jamaica has been there, they have done that, and they are getting a lot more practice, a lot more exposure, because this Jamaica Under-21 team would obviously be playing in their Super League and playing with their seniors, who already have a really good start. So we need to get there, and it’s a building process, and we are working towards it,” she noted.

    Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago’s Head coach Kalifa McCollin-Lopez welcomed the third-place finish by her team.

    “I am very excited for the girls. They would have worked hard to reach here and I know they are really happy right now,” she said.

    Though the losses against Barbados, earlier in the tournament, and Jamaica in the semi-final, were hard to take, McCollin-Lopez said they served as lessons for their improved performance in the third-place contest.

    “Through those losses, we would have had to learn and grow from them; not to put themselves down too much because we had the game following, but to tidy up the mistakes (and) stick to (the) task. I think that is what we went out there and tried to do,” she shared.

    The three Caribbean teams now join pre-qualified teams New Zealand, Australia, England, Fiji, and host nation Gibraltar for the Netball World Youth Cup, a competition for emerging Under-21 players, scheduled for September 19–28 next year.

    A total of 20 teams will compete in the event. South Africa, Malawi, and Zambia qualify from Africa, and Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka qualify from Asia. The remaining six teams are yet to be decided.

  • Big timers: Jamaican Sterling-Humphrey highlights four players to watch as top teams close in on 2024 SSN title Big timers: Jamaican Sterling-Humphrey highlights four players to watch as top teams close in on 2024 SSN title

    Finals series are defined by big moments.  

    Across the history of the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) League, successful sides have had players who stand up when those big moments come along and Adelaide Thunderbirds, West Coast Fever, Melbourne Vixens, and Sunshine Coast Lightning are all equipped with such quality.

    Throughout the 2024 season, these players made it their mission to push not only themselves, but also their teammates towards ultimate glory, and with the business end of the campaign now on the horizon, nothing less is expected.

    In fact, it would be hard for many to disagree with the fact that these four players—Shamera Sterling-Humphrey, Kiera Austin, Alice Teague-Neeld, and Steph Fretwell—will be key in shaping their respective team’s chances in the bid to be crowned 2024 champions.

    The top two teams, Thunderbirds and Vixens, will lock horns in the major semi-final, while Fever and Lightning will cross swords in the minor semi-final. Both are scheduled for Saturday.

    Shamera Sterling-Humphrey

    There is no denying the Adelaide Thunderbirds have the best defence in the competition, marshalled by one of the world's best, Shamera Sterling-Humphrey. 

    Sterling-Humphrey has been sending shivers down shooters’ spines for years, but has become the games ultimate x-factor in recent times as she gains more big game experience. 

    She played a crucial role in Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls success at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and decided to make that a habit in 2023.

    The superstar defender was named the 2023 SSN Most Valuable Player and played a starring role in the Thunderbirds unlikely premiership, finishing the finals series with 13 gains, 9 deflections, 6 intercepts, 5 rebounds, 4 pick-ups and 158.5 Nissan Net Points across two inspirational wins. 

    Jamaica went deep in the 2023 World Cup, going down to Australia by three goals in a nail-biting semi-final. Sterling-Humphrey had 4 gains, 2 rebounds and 2 intercepts as she tried to push her side into their first ever World Cup final. But it wasn’t to be.

    She hasn’t slowed down in 2024, leading the league in gains (108), deflections (96), intercepts (44), and defensive rebounds (36), contributing to the Thunderbirds standing as the number one goals from gain side in the competition.  

    The 28-year-old’s presence behind the ball is intimidating, with sides forced to alter their ball movement in an attempt to nullify her influence on the game.  
     
    Sophie Garbin and Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard are likely opponents for Sterling-Humphrey and her dynamism not only allows to negate their influence, but also start the Thunderbirds attacks through flying intercepts and outrageous deflections, an integral part of the Adelaide side’s push for back-to-back championships.

    Kiera Austin (right) prepares to shoot under pressure from Jamaican Kadie-Ann Dehaney of West Coast Fever.

    The World Cup final is the biggest stage in netball, and in 2023, Kiera Austin owned it. 

    After not experiencing any court time in the Diamonds semi-final win over Jamaica, Austin was thrown on mid-way through the second quarter of the final against England, with Australia holding a one-goal lead. 

    The Vixens superstar was unstoppable, finishing the game with 15 goals from 17 attempts, 18 feeds, 16 assists, one gain and one deflection in a player of the match performance, combining beautifully with now Vixens teammate Sophie Garbin in attack. 

    However, SSN glory has evaded Austin to this point in her career, but she still has plenty of SSN finals experience to go alongside her big game credentials with the Diamonds, having appeared in both the 2022 and 2023 finals series. 

    Austin is the most complete goal attack in the competition, if not the world, with her elite work rate allowing her to influence the game in both defence and attack. 

    She’s the highest ranked in her position across the SSN in 2024 for intercepts (11), and gains (18), while only Sophie Dwyer (25) has more deflections this season than Austin (22). 

    Austin is still one of the biggest attacking threats in the competition, sitting 8th for goals scored (293), 4th for super shots (55), 15th for goal assists (192) and 15th for feeds (265), as she has seemingly saved her best performances for the big sides this year. 

    The 26-year-old is averaging 23.7 goals, 4.7 super shots, 17 feeds, 12.5 assists, 2 deflections, one gain and one intercept per game against the Thunderbirds and Fever, two sides she’ll likely have to face along the way to the ultimate prize.