Indigenous round, lockdowns and pressure tests – netball’s top stories

Jemma Mi Mi flies in for the ball for Queensland Firebirds. Picture: Queensland Firebirds.

Indigenous Round: Firebird Jemma Mi Mi opens up

Netball will begin the first leg of its two-weekend Indigenous round with plenty of First Nations art on show as all eight teams adopt dresses to celebrate culture.

And while there is the usual fanfare and celebration, it seems netball and Netball Queensland is listening.

Mi Mi, the league’s only Indigenous player with a full-time playing contract, was centre-stage during the corresponding round in 2020, but was left out of the playing arena entirely.

The incident sparked a movement for improved inclusion in netball across the board.

In an interview with Emma Greenwood from NCA, Mi Mi said previous rounds have felt tokenistic and, after some tough conversations and learnings, believes the league is now on the right track.

“Being the only Indigenous player, the expectation was to see me on court, and when that didn’t happen, it let a lot of people down, unfortunately,” she said in the interview.

“To see the girls win, I was happy but also sad that I couldn’t get on court. I spoke to the girls at the time and our coaches about how I felt and because they just didn’t really understand that pressure.

“It is a bit bittersweet.

“It’s great to see all the positive changes that Netball Queensland and the Firebirds have made. It’s really accelerated the need to look into Indigenous netball pathways to see how we can get more First Nations players at the top of the league.

“As an organisation we’re definitely moving in the right direction. But it is a bit tough that all these positive things are happening because of last year’s events.

Following the 2020 season, Netball Queensland has established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory committee to provide support.

Mi Mi has been involved in every step of the way and is looking to feature in this year’s round.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Vixens training partner Gabby Coffey is an Indigenous woman making waves through the Netball Victoria pathway, and West Coast Fever training partner Donnell Wallam – who is currently playing in the UK for Leeds Rhinos – looks set to join SSN in the next couple of seasons as well.

Vixens and Magpies back on the road as Super Netball acts fast

The end of 2020 felt like a horror-movie with a happy ending as the Vixens claimed the premiership and no Victorian could be there live to see it– but it seems there may be more to this story in 2021.

Victorian-based Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies are in Queensland and New South Wales respectively to ready up for round five.

But how long will they be on the road for?

Last year’s revised mid-week and weekend season saw all teams relocate to Queensland as Australia came to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, with Victoria in another circuit breaker lock down, we’re left wondering how long the sides will actually be on the road for.

Now, with Victoria in another circuit breaker lockdown, we’re left wondering what the long term solution could be.

Fever and Giants in ‘top’ of the table clash

The round’s most mouthwatering contest will be played out in Perth as the undefeated Giants take on the undefeated Fever.

Normally, this matchup would be for the top spot. Thanks to Fever’s 12 competition point penalty for salary cap breaches, they can only move to about fourth with a win in round five.

Fever keeper Courtney Bruce will be faced with a mammoth task – contain Giants’ shooter Jo Harten who is back to her dominant form.

But this isn’t the only match up on court worth watching – as Giants’ Sam Poolman and April Brandley await for Fever’s shooters Jhaniele Fowler and Sasha Glasgow.

The midcourt will be tough on tough, but either end of the court is set to deliver some of the most exciting netball so far this season.

Bruce has been known to struggle against Harten – the sniper from Super Shot range – which means Sunday Aryang and Stacey Francis-Bayman are going to need to step up.

Young goal attack Sophie Dwyer will be presented with a physical challenge no matter who is on court – and could truly cement herself as a bolter for the next Commonwealth Games (too soon? Probably).

From one end where Giants can pile on two-goal shots, to the other – where Fever retain the league’s highest scoring goalers.

Fowler’s physical presence means if the feeds coming down the court and from goal attack are on point – there’s little defenders can do.

But Brandley and Poolman will know this. They’ll be strong on Fowler but know they can produce some errors from an – at times – inconsistent midcourt in Jess Anstiss, Verity Charles and Emma Cosh.

Glasgow and Teague-Neeld will once again look to offer an easy ball into Fowler and apply the scoreboard pressure. But one thing is for certain – whoever plays GA will need to sink goals or a fast-moving Amy Parmenter is going to pick up the crumbs.

All these battles and we haven’t even touched on Jamie-Lee Price…

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