Young star’s season over and traditional rivals go all the way to extra-time

The highs and lows of round one of the Suncorp Super Netball

Round 1 of the Suncorp Super Netball provided just about everything a fan could want. An extra-time thriller, a new-look Vixens side, a young star’s season over to an ACL injury, and a fired-up Fever chasing their tails in the hope of a finals berth in 2021.

Oh, and did I mention crowds were finally allowed back into the stadium? I was buoyed by the fact that I was actually inside the John Cain Arena once more watching LIVE netball. It was the grand final rematch and after watching from the couch in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was nothing better than just SEEING the players.

Now, let’s walk through some of round 1’s most talked about points.

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A championship in a tough year: Mwai Kumwenda

Swifts snatch dramatic win over Firebirds

New-look Vixens feel the Fever’s heat in grand final rematch

Giants lose Kiera Austin to ACL

When Giants Netball’s goal attack Kiera Austin awkwardly fell after taking a ball at top speed under the post, the entire netball fraternity immeiatly knew what had happened.

Adelaide Thunderbirds goal keeper Shamera Sterling grabbed her hand and knee almost straight away.

We’ve all seen it, and heard it, before. Austin, a rising star of the game who looks set to be in the Diamonds camp for a long time, is out for the season with an ACL tear.

After constant discussion around what the Giants’ front end should look like in 2020, this season was going to usher in the Austin-era for the Giants. Now, that era is simply on pause. She’ll be back – more than likely bigger, better than ever.

We wish you a speedy recovery, Kiera.

Traditional rivals go all the way to 2021’s first extra time thriller

Whenever I see Queensland Firebirds taking on New South Wales Swifts in the fixture, I get excited. Why? Because they always find a way agaisnt each other.

I don’t think any of us can stop talking about the series of grand finals the clubs played out in 2015 and 2016.

It was a defining era for the Firebirds – the birth of a number of legends.

For the Swifts, there was great disappointed to lose two in a row, the second match a never-ending extra-time battle.

And in round 1, they did it again.

In an up and down match that saw some of the weekend’s most fast, furious and explosive action, the teams were deadlocked after fourth quarters.

Back in 2015, now-Firebirds head coach Megan Anderson was assistant coach for the Swifts. Now, she was in charge of the enemy.

With a host of stars from the 2015/16 era still on show, including the returning Gretel Bueta and Kim Ravaillion for Queensland, it must have felt like groundhog day for so many.

Despite this, the Swifts got away with a win and the rest of us were left to wonder just how much better both of these sides will be next time around.

Grand final rematch – a new era for Vixens, Fever hungry

The homecoming for Melbourne Vixens saw the 2020 Premiers banner unfurled in front of a large crowd at John Cain Arena. The side took to the court to celebrate what they had achieved in a year like no other.

As I sat in my seat, the legend Caitlin Thwaites, who retired at the end of 2020, walked past our seats twice. She was cheered and celebrated for what she had done for Melbourne – a living legend of the game.

But she wasn’t on court. And neither was fellow retiree Tegan Phillip. And superstar wing attack and Diamonds captain Liz Watson is out for the season.

Don’t call it a rebuild – but the front end will see a lot of new combinations run out. Mwai MJ Kumwenda was an absolute magician under the post for the home side in GS, while Vixens played Kaylia Stanton and Ruby Barkmeyer in GA for extended periods.

Hannah Mundy and captain Kate Moloney anchored the mid-court, while Allie Smith got a run late in centre.

Combinations will come, but it may certainly be a tough year for Melbourne without three of the best players in the world, nay, ever.

On the other end of the court, Fever.

The runners up looked hungry to pile on the goals as they fight their way back into finals contention from minus 12 on the ladder. The club was sanctioned for a large salary cap breach over the offseason and the players must now find a way back.

But, it looks like they haven’t missed a beat.

All the way to the third quarter ‘fade out’ that hurt them so much in the 2020 season. Whether that is down to the intensity they play with across four quarters or the Super Shot, it still happened.

The Fever will need to more or less dust everyone up on the way back to the finals – and it looks like they may be capable.

Ash Brazill is back for Collingwood

After a long lay off, SHE IS BACK.

Is there much more I need to say?

The champion returned to the netballing fold and was a highlight in a tough game for the ‘Pies against Sunshine Coast Lightning.

The cross-code AFLW player ruptured her ACL early in 2020, so just seeing her back on court was enough.

As netball commentator Georgia would say on Twitter – nature is healing.

Round two gets underway on Saturday from 3pm on Channel 9 with the Giants and Magpies from the new Ken Rosewall Arena. The full fixture and games can be found here.

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