The Latrobe Valley was treated to some world-class netball over the weekend as the Collingwood Magpies hosted a pre-season tournament with the Adelaide Thunderbirds and Queensland Firebirds.
Taking place at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium in Traralgon, Victoria, the Magpies would play two fiercely contested matches against interstate competitors on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, with the match between the Firebirds and Thunderbirds scheduled for Saturday cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Beginning with a clash against the Thunderbirds on Friday, the bumper Traralgon crowd played witness to an excellent display of netball with both teams fine-tuning their skills ahead of the start of the season.
Despite getting off to a fast start in the first quarter, the Magpies could not sustain their defensive pressure with the class and poise of the Thunderbirds seeing them walk into half-time one goal ahead.
The second half would be filled with momentum swings as fans got a glimpse of the excellent talent running around on both teams and their fast paced styles of play.
With the game on a knife’s edge throughout the final term, the Thunderbirds class and experience would prevail, claiming a hard-fought 51-48 victory.
Sunday morning would see the Magpies welcome old favourite Kim Ravallion and the Queensland Firebirds in what was a match littered with stars.
Starting off strongly, the experience of the Firebirds looked too good for the Magpies as they opened up a five-goal lead at quarter time with the likes of Ravallion and Goal Shooter Romelda Aiken prolific.
In dire need of a spark heading into the second quarter, Collingwood’s senior players would step up and turn the game on its head with some excellent defensive work from Captain Geva Mentor giving the likes of Molly Jovic and Gabrielle Sinclair a chance to hurt the Firebirds on the offensive end.
The Magpies would bring that same intensity into the start of the second half, with their active hands and excellent court coverage making things incredibly difficult for the Firebirds.
With nine goals separating the teams at the final change, the intensity of the game would go to another level in the last 15 minutes with slick ball movement seeing the Firebirds fight their way back to a four goal deficit.
However, unlike Friday night, the Magpies would hold their nerve and regain control of the game with the girls in black and white eventually running out 11 goal victors.
Collingwood coach Nicole Richardson told The Inner Sanctum she was pleased with what her team got out of the weekend’s matches and the intensity by which they were played.
“We took a lot out of learnings out of the first game, we were a bit disappointed with our execution in game one so we addressed that as a group and I thought the girls responded really well,” Richardson said.
“Our main focuses going into this game were our centre pass conversion and long court conversion and they were pretty much where they needed to be today so that was pleasing,
“I thought both games had a real intent and purpose about them and both games were physical, so I think that is where our game is going now with the body strength of the players just incredible.”
One of the biggest talking points heading into this match was the performance of Ravallion against her former side.
Finishing as one of the most prominent contributors on the court, Richardson said it is exciting to see a player of her stature back playing netball.
“It was great to see Ravvy [Kim Ravallion], she has been such a big part of Collingwood,” She said.
“Circumstances meant she wasn’t around with us this year, but for me it’s just great to see the best athletes running around on court so whether she is in our colours or not she has been a great ambassador not only for our club but for the game of netball.”
From a players perspective, star Centre Molly Jovic told The Inner Sanctum the squad got a lot out of the weekend both on and off the court.
“It was good to come away as a group and have a bit of a bonding weekend,” Jovic said.
“We had a not so great performance on Friday night so we had an opportunity to rectify that today which we did really well,
“Off the court it was great to get involved in the community in Traralgon and win over a couple of fans, being able to meet a few new faces through the clinics and things was awesome.”
Now in its second year, the partnership between Collingwood and the Latrobe Valley has reached new heights, with Richardson explaining just how important it is to her and the playing group.
“It is really important that we continue to develop our partnerships with local community and the girls really enjoy coming here and giving back to the locals,” She said.
“We just want to say a big thank you to everyone that came out, it’s great to know we have Victorians behind the Magpies and to start to get a bunch of supporters that are one eyed Collingwood is really exciting.”