With the top and bottom four teams decided prior to the final two rounds of Suncorp Super Netball, The Inner Sanctum looks at the form-line of the teams looking to take home the premiership in 2023.
At the end of Round 12, all the finalists for the Suncorp Super Netball season were determined with their placings to be confirmed in the next fortnight. With the evenness of the competition at an all-time high, it could be any one of the Adelaide Thunderbirds, Melbourne Vixens, NSW Swifts and West Coast Fever that stand to take home the silverware.
The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the two match-ups for each team and how finals looks to play out.
As one of the teams with some up and down form this season, the Adelaide Thunderbirds have had another exciting season. They have had some clutch wins against the Fever, squared the ledger against the Melbourne Vixens and had that bizarre draw that was decided during half-time in Round Two against the NSW Swifts.
At their best, the Thunderbirds are scintillating to watch, they have a deadly combination in defence underscored by Shamera Sterling and Matilda Garrett, assisted by rising star Latanya Wilson. This is in contrast with their building attacking line which can include midcourter George Horjus alongside Eleanor Cardwell, Tippah Dwan and Lucy Austin.
Where the Thunderbirds have had trouble is with their midcourt, their experience on court is largely in this area with former captain Maisie Nankivell and Hannah Petty ushering in young talents Tayla Williams and Horjus.
If they are going to right their form slump, it comes down to getting their midcourt mix right and hoping that the injuries to Dwan and Petty are not serious because they are integral to the way they wish to play. The losses against the Magpies and Vixens showed how imperative these players are.
They have two very interesting match-ups coming up in the last portion of the regular season, the Sunshine Coast Lightning awaits at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre and then they travel to Sydney to play the Swifts.
Giving the Lightning a 24-point thumping back in Round Three will give them confidence, however with the Lightning coming close to the Vixens and the Swifts, it looms as a danger game. Playing the Swifts away is a very difficult challenge to end the year, but one they must take to consider themselves contenders.
One team that needs to arrest the form slump is the Melbourne Vixens, however with the experience within the side, they still loom as a scary prospect come the pointy-end of the season.
Their loss to one of the bottom-sides in the Firebirds last weekend will have fans rattled, despite this, their wins against the Thunderbirds (including the Round 10 shellacking) and the one-point thrillers against the Fever and the Swifts will have their confidence up.
This team knows how to play finals, that cannot be underestimated.
Their issue has been their attacking end, which has a Rahni Samason shaped hole in it, they have missed her long-range shooting but also her confidence to shoot under pressure. The addition of Kim Borger is an astute one, however she should be utilised in a decent stretch to truly come good for her team when it matters.
Hannah Mundy, Olivia Lewis and Kate Eddy have taken some great strides in this side this year and stand to be the reason that they lift the cup, with Liz Watson, Kate Moloney, Emily Mannix and Jo Weston playing steadying roles for the Vixens throughout the year.
When looking at their upcoming games, the Vixens will have some level of confidence going forward. They will play on the King’s Birthday public holiday in Collingwood Netball’s final game in Melbourne and then they will travel to Sydney to play GIANTS Netball in the final round.
Both games should be non-negotiable wins for the team, with both teams sitting planted firmly in the bottom half of the ladder, however both may present a plucky and fearless demeanour given they have nothing to lose.
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With a loss and a draw to start the season, the NSW Swifts have won the last eight games. In short, they look every bit the premiership contender that they always are and they can win close games.
With the Swifts, the tale of the tape is always very similar this season. They have a stellar defence with Maddy Turner, Sarah Klau and Allie Smith playing well as a unit, their attacking end is exceptional, spearheaded by Helen Housby and their midcourt is one of the best.
The acquisition of Romelda Aiken-George to help to mentor Sophie Fawns has been a masterstroke and has been the reason Housby has remained one of the best goal attacks in the game. The rise of Tayla Fraser has also been a highlight, with the young Swift truly becoming a force.
Even with the injuries to Smith and bench option defender Teigan O’Shannassy, the Swifts have quietly gone about their business without the eyes of much of the competition, most spectators focused on the Fever, Vixens and Thunderbirds.
The concern for the Swifts is their final half scoring, in the last two games, they have been well in-front but have been dragged back by their opponents, this will hurt their percentage which is currently less than the Fever and the Thunderbirds.
Looking forward, the Swifts will play the Firebirds in Queensland and then host the Thunderbirds at home. Their last game will undoubtably shape the finals series, however if they beat the Firebirds by enough, which will be hard given their own form, that should also assist them to stay in the top two.
West Coast Fever
For the Fever, their quest to win a second consecutive premiership has been up and down.
After winning against the Lightning on the weekend, they have turned around an interesting run of form which has seen them lose four games by one point (Thunderbirds twice, Vixens and Swifts).
Inversely, the Fever have won two games by one point (Vixens, GIANTS) which means they haven’t been able to dominate games like we’ve seen in the past from them besides the Round 10 pumping of the Firebirds and Round Seven’s decent win against the Lightning.
They have been in winning positions in most games but when they have lost, they have lacked the composure and confidence that has been the trademark for the side.
Luckily for the Fever, their attacking and defensive ends have been as red-hot as ever. Jhaniele Fowler has carried the torch, passing the 5,000 goal barrier on the weekend, her form coinciding with the lofty rise of both Sasha Glasgow and Alice Teague-Neeld.
They are still an incredible team and so close to their best despite the results they’ve yielded.
Looking ahead, the Fever play two must-win games in the penultimate rounds of SSN. They look to win against GIANTS Netball at home this week and then will fly to Tasmania to send off the Collingwood Netball team in the competition.
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