Dan Ryan has never been shy about his admiration for Jamaican Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard and so it comes as no surprise that the West Coach Fever head coach believes the towering goal shooter is the best to ever grace that position in netball history.

Fowler-Nembhard celebrated her 35th birthday by putting on yet another shooting masterclass in the Fever’s Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) League minor semi-final victory over Sunshine Coast Lightning at the RAC Arena in Perth on Sunday.

The five-time league MVP scored 67 goals from 69 attempts—the two missed chances being late Super Shot attempts—as the Fever downed the Sunshine Coast Lightning 72-62 to book a preliminary final date with Melbourne Vixens. 

On the back of that performance, Fowler-Nembhard extended her lead atop the Nissan Net Points (1704.5) standings as well as the goals scored ladder, shooting her 880 goals with 96% accuracy.

For Ryan, the Perth-based franchise could not have asked for a better first-choice goal shooter.

“She’s the greatest goal shooter our game has ever seen,” Ryan declared. 

“Because she has such high standards every single weekend, everyone has such incredibly high standards for her.  We’re so grateful that she’s in our team, and we have a real priority to ensure we get the best out of Jhaniele, with who sits in front of her,” he added.

Beyond her scoring abilities, Ryan also praised Fowler-Nembhard’s leadership skills, which he pointed out often come to the fore when her compatriot and goal attack Shanice Beckford has an off-game. 

“She’s been an incredible leader. The way she’s leading that front line, she’s happy to take a 2v1 if she needs to, and she’s backing in Shanice when she needs to. We’re seeing mum mode from Jhaniele out there, and we absolutely love it,” Ryan noted.

Shanice Beckford

Fowler-Nembhard’s perfect first half performance kept the Fever in touch with the Lightning, 16-18 at the end of the first quarter, before the 2022 champions put the foot down in the second half to keep their premiership hopes alive. 

They outscored the Lightning 36-27 after the main break, had nine gains—eight of which they converted to goals—and five defensive rebounds to put an end to the Lightning’s season.

The performance was much to the delight of Ryan, who believes the manner in which his team upped their tempo in the second half augurs well going into their next encounter.

“We’ve been tracking really nicely over the last month and playing some great netball. We knew we were in a good spot heading into Sunday’s game, and we really wanted to make sure we found an extra gear,” Ryan reasoned.

“The first half was a real grind and a real challenge, and we were certainly under the pump. I am really proud of the girls for the way they stuck at their jobs, and when the moments popped up in that second half, we took them. To win by ten in a do-or-die semi-final is an amazing result.” he shared.

The Fever’s renewed form in winning their last four encounters, comes at the right time, following a mid-season wobble that saw them slip from the top of the standings into third place at the end of regular season play.

Those off colour mid-season games, Ryan said, have served as motivation for his side, which is now aiming to possibly carry their rich vein of form all the way to the grand final against reigning champions Adelaide Thunderbirds.

But first, West Coast Fever will have to get past the Vixens on their return to John Cain Arena this Saturday. 

“Our team has been on a really important journey across the season, and we always connect back to the mid part of the season where we went win-loss-win-loss for a while,” Ryan stated. 

“The learnings we were getting out of those moments were invaluable, and we’ve got great confidence now in these pressure games. We’re really grateful for another opportunity to play netball under finals pressure; we know we’re in great form and we’re going to be really hard to beat at our best,” he ended.

 

Jamaican netball star Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard showcased her immense talent and composure, scoring an astonishing 67 goals in the Suncorp Super Netball preliminary final on Sunday. Fowler-Nembhard's brilliance guided the Fever to a hard-fought 72-62 victory over the Sunshine Coast Lightning. They will now face off against the Melbourne Vixens for a chance to face defending champion Adelaide Thunderbirds in the grand final.

In a match marked by dramatic momentum shifts, the Fever had to dig deep to withstand the Lightning's persistent challenges. It wasn't until late in the third quarter that the Fever managed to establish a decisive lead, ultimately securing their place in the next round.

The game began with the Lightning in control, as the connections between Steph Fretwell, Liz Watson, and Leesa Mi Mi effortlessly cut through the Fever’s defense. In response, the Fever introduced the speed of Kelsey Browne to their midcourt, but the Lightning's fluid play maintained a three-point advantage until a crucial super shot from Shanice Beckford leveled the score and electrified the crowd.

Fever shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Nembhard then took center stage, dominating her matchup against Courtney Bruce and forcing Lightning coach Belinda Reynolds to make tactical adjustments. Despite these changes, Fowler-Nembhard remained unstoppable, finishing with an incredible 67 goals from 69 attempts and earning MVP honors for her performance.

The match's intensity took its toll on the Lightning, who had been regarded as pre-season premiership favorites due to their impressive recruiting. Although Watson led all players with 58 feeds, Fretwell struggled with accuracy, which dropped to just 61 percent. The Fever capitalized on this, converting 81 percent of their center passes and 40 percent of their missed goals, compared to the Lightning's dismal nine percent conversion rate.

Despite the defeat, the Lightning's four young rookies gained valuable experience and are expected to be formidable competitors next season. The Fever, meanwhile, will head east for next weekend’s preliminary final against the wounded Vixens, who suffered a stunning 25-point defeat to the Adelaide Thunderbirds on Saturday.

The Fever's consistency in Super Netball has seen them reach the finals in six of the last seven years, but they have struggled to convert these opportunities into championships, having won the premiership only once in 2022. However, with three wins in their last four matches and the Vixens losing three in the same period, the Fever will approach the preliminary final with confidence.

If they can secure a victory against the Vixens, the Fever will face off in the grand final against the Adelaide Thunderbirds, who handed them a comprehensive 18-point defeat the last time they met. With Fowler-Nembhard in top form, the Fever are poised to make a serious bid for the championship.

 

 

 

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.