Collingwood enjoyed a victory to keep its Super Netball finals hopes alive in the inaugural Pride Match. (Photo: Collingwood Super Netball/Twitter)

The inaugural Super Netball Pride Match was a particularly proud night for Ash Brazill, as the Pies keep knocking on the door of finals.

While the Magpies victory to keep their finals hopes was sweet enough, the occasion made it even better.

The Queensland Firebirds may have pioneered the Pride Match, but it meant just as much to Collingwood, and in particular, to Ash Brazill.

As an openly identifying gay woman, she spoke post-game to the players from both sides about how meaningful the match was. This was not just in reference to her, but to further making netball a safe and welcoming environment.

Gathering in the huddle, Brazill opened up to her teammates and opposition.

“On behalf of someone that is in the pride community, what you guys have done is awesome and it makes me proud to be a part of netball. Thank you.”

Brazill also spoke to Collingwood Media, her thoughts published through Twitter:

It was a week and a game that clearly meant so much to the star mid-courter, amidst hopes that the match will expand to a full Pride Round in future years, similar to that of the AFL Women’s competition.

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It was their on court performance that ultimately got the Pies over the line, coming out onto court hungrier and faster than the Firebirds ever could have hoped to.

Their 34-27 half time lead was largely driven by Molly Jovic and Kelsey Browne through the mid court, who were both faced with tough match ups that they overcame with ease.

Browne in particular was feeding the ball to the advantage of her shooters with incredible pace, giving the Firebirds defender no time to disrupt their opponent’s movement or body work.

Gabby Sinclair was also key early in goal attack, both feeding into the circle at Shimona Nelson’s advantage, while also putting up a good score of her own.

She would be sidelined briefly with a dislocated finger, but played out the remainder of the game.

Jovic stuffed the stats sheet with 29 feeds, 22 goal assists, a gain and an intercept. She kept her running intensity up all game and earned high praise from her coach Nicole Richardson.

“I thought Molly did a good job,” Richardson told media post game.

“She worked hard on Ravy [Kim Ravaillion]. Ravy’s a key to their play, and an elite level player and someone who never says die. For Molly to have the opportunity to run against someone of her quality and basically go head to head with her, I was really pleased for Molly and her progression.”

Goal shooter Shimona Nelson hit a massive milestone at just 22-years-old, shooting her 2000th national league goal after hitting her personal best goals in a game in the Pies’ win over the Swifts just two days earlier.

The finals calculation

With the win, the Pies no longer have to just dream of finals, they can hope for it.

For what they can do, the equation is simple; beat the top four West Coast Fever. That may be be oversimplifying the matter just a shade, however.

The Fever currently sit second on the Super Netball ladder with 10 wins and two losses. They’re within touching distance of the Giants’ top spot, even in spite of their 12-point deduction at the start of the season.

However, they’ll also be relying on results above them falling their way. With a sub-100 percentage trying to break into the top four, it’s unlikely Collingwood will jump the NSW Swifts even if they do lose their remaining match ups.

This means the Sunshine Coast Lightning hold the key to the Magpies’ finals return after missing in 2020.

While the Lightning face tough match ups in fellow finals contenders the Swifts and Giants, they’ll have the luxury of facing both opponents in the comforts of Queensland.

Richardson is under no delusion that the Fever will be easy beats in what is shaping up as one of the defining games of the Super Netball season.

“Fever are a tough team when you’ve got someone like Jhaniele Fowler down the other end under the post,” Richardson said.

“They do a really good job getting the ball down to her. [Verity Charles] is feeding well, and then you’ve got Courtney [Bruce] down the other end getting the team up… she’s a intimidating defender.

“Stacey Francis-Bayman gets better every time I see her, she moves with a lot of intent.

“We’re going to have to make sure we’re switched on. We’re going to have to look at a few more rolling subs, this will be our third game and Fever’s second game. That puts us at a bit of a disadvantage.

“We probably just need to stay composed, play at our pace and try not to get caught up in the [franticness] of the game. The key will be to minimise our lost possession… and make sure our centre pass conversion is up.”

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