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Thursday, 29 August 2019

The defensive tactic that could flip Netball finals


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After a pulsating finish to the regular season, it is time for the first week of the Suncorp Super Netball finals series.

The major semi final will see the league's top two sides face off with the Sunshine Coast Lightning hosting the NSW Swifts, while in the minor semi final, the Melbourne Vixens will host the Collingwood Magpies.

The stakes are at their highest at the business end of the season and two teams can take a major step towards premiership success in week 1.

Major SF: Sunshine Coast Lightning v NSW Swifts

A late-season drop off saw the Lightning, who have claimed the last two premierships, pip the Swifts to the top of the table and hence a first week final.

Noeline Taurua's squad has the wood over the Swifts having won five of its last six matches, with the last Swifts win over the Lightning coming in Round 7, 2018.

While the form doesn't make for good reading, Super Netball expert Sue Gaudion says there is one thing that could work for the underdogs.

"I feel like the Lightning go into it with something to lose and the Swifts go into it with nothing to lose and everything to gain," she told Wide World of Sports.

"If the Swifts can take that sort of attitude into the game, they'll look good."

Karla Pretorius

There are star-studded match-ups all over the court in this clash, with Paige Hadley up against Laura Langman, whilst Helen Housby will be up against Karla Pretorius.

However, there is one match-up that Gaudion thinks the Swifts could take advantage of: the ability for the Swifts to rotate players on Lightning star Steph Wood.

"One of the strengths that I think the Swifts take into this weekend is the rotation of their defence," she said.

"We saw a different line-up in defence with (Sarah) Klau in goal defence and (Maddy) Turner at wing defence. That's where the Swifts may be able to capitalise on the lightning.

"They have two or three players that they could rotate onto Steph Wood at any given time. Hadley could nullify Langman and Housby could nullify Pretorius.

Steph Wood

"I think it will challenge Steph Wood and it might be a really clever way to go about their business."

Nevertheless, Gaudion believes that the Lightning's experience and leadership could come to the fore in what is sure to be a high-pressure situation.

"Where I keep having confidence in the Lightning is the leadership that they have across the three areas of the court," she said.

"It's going to be the weaknesses that are going to determine the outcome of games. Where the Swifts have started to fade away in the last couple of weeks has been their consistency across quarters, but they've also sprayed a few balls than normal.

"They haven't managed the pressure as well as I think they had in the earlier parts of the season."

Minor SF: Melbourne Vixens v Collingwood Magpies

In the minor semi final it will be replay of the clash we saw in Round 14, with the Magpies prevailing over the Vixens to lock down a top four spot.

Collingwood came home hard in the final month of the season with three consecutive wins, a stark contrast to the Vixens who come into the finals having lost three in a row.

The Magpies booked their finals spot by ensuring they won the bonus points in the final round, and Gaudion says it could be an interesting adjustment to the finals where bonus points don't matter anymore.

"The way they went about their business over the last few rounds has been really focused around the bonus point," she said.

"The bonus point concept is away for the finals and it will be really interesting to see whether that slightly changes their mindset.

Collingwood Magpies netball

I hope the Magpies take in that same tenacity quarter-by-quarter mentality they did when the bonus points were on the line into this final because that's how they'll beat the Vixens.

"If they start looking too far forward then the Vixens will come up and hit them from behind."

Despite losing to the Magpies in the final round of the regular season, Gaudion believes the result isn't necessarily bad for Simone McKinnis' team.

"The Vixens have the capacity to learn a hell of a lot more out of their loss than the Magpies can learn out of their win," she said.

Geva Mentor

"The big question is whether the Melbourne Vixens can withstand the pressure when they've got the ball in hand."

One key match-up for this clash is the battle between Magpies defender Geva Mentor and Vixens shooter Caitlin Thwaites, a match-up Gaudion believes Thwaites must win.

"I thought Mentor definitely had the wood over Thwaites in Round 14 and most times they've met," she said.

"The question mark is whether Simone McKinnis start with Thwaites knowing for the most part Mentor gets the better of her. Or does she go back for Mwai Kumwenda?

"That's the big risk. McKinnis isn't a risk-taker so you suspect Thwaites will start, but she's going to have to find a different way to play Mentor otherwise the Magpies win."  

After a pulsating finish to the regular season, it is time for the first week of the Suncorp Super Netball finals series.

The major semi final will see the league's top two sides face off with the Sunshine Coast Lightning hosting the NSW Swifts, while in the minor semi final, the Melbourne Vixens will host the Collingwood Magpies.

The stakes are at their highest at the business end of the season and two teams can take a major step towards premiership success in week 1.

Major SF: Sunshine Coast Lightning v NSW Swifts

A late-season drop off saw the Lightning, who have claimed the last two premierships, pip the Swifts to the top of the table and hence a first week final.

Noeline Taurua's squad has the wood over the Swifts having won five of its last six matches, with the last Swifts win over the Lightning coming in Round 7, 2018.

While the form doesn't make for good reading, Super Netball expert Sue Gaudion says there is one thing that could work for the underdogs.

"I feel like the Lightning go into it with something to lose and the Swifts go into it with nothing to lose and everything to gain," she told Wide World of Sports.

"If the Swifts can take that sort of attitude into the game, they'll look good."

Karla Pretorius

There are star-studded match-ups all over the court in this clash, with Paige Hadley up against Laura Langman, whilst Helen Housby will be up against Karla Pretorius.

However, there is one match-up that Gaudion thinks the Swifts could take advantage of: the ability for the Swifts to rotate players on Lightning star Steph Wood.

"One of the strengths that I think the Swifts take into this weekend is the rotation of their defence," she said.

"We saw a different line-up in defence with (Sarah) Klau in goal defence and (Maddy) Turner at wing defence. That's where the Swifts may be able to capitalise on the lightning.

"They have two or three players that they could rotate onto Steph Wood at any given time. Hadley could nullify Langman and Housby could nullify Pretorius.

Steph Wood

"I think it will challenge Steph Wood and it might be a really clever way to go about their business."

Nevertheless, Gaudion believes that the Lightning's experience and leadership could come to the fore in what is sure to be a high-pressure situation.

"Where I keep having confidence in the Lightning is the leadership that they have across the three areas of the court," she said.

"It's going to be the weaknesses that are going to determine the outcome of games. Where the Swifts have started to fade away in the last couple of weeks has been their consistency across quarters, but they've also sprayed a few balls than normal.

"They haven't managed the pressure as well as I think they had in the earlier parts of the season."

Minor SF: Melbourne Vixens v Collingwood Magpies

In the minor semi final it will be replay of the clash we saw in Round 14, with the Magpies prevailing over the Vixens to lock down a top four spot.

Collingwood came home hard in the final month of the season with three consecutive wins, a stark contrast to the Vixens who come into the finals having lost three in a row.

The Magpies booked their finals spot by ensuring they won the bonus points in the final round, and Gaudion says it could be an interesting adjustment to the finals where bonus points don't matter anymore.

"The way they went about their business over the last few rounds has been really focused around the bonus point," she said.

"The bonus point concept is away for the finals and it will be really interesting to see whether that slightly changes their mindset.

Collingwood Magpies netball

I hope the Magpies take in that same tenacity quarter-by-quarter mentality they did when the bonus points were on the line into this final because that's how they'll beat the Vixens.

"If they start looking too far forward then the Vixens will come up and hit them from behind."

Despite losing to the Magpies in the final round of the regular season, Gaudion believes the result isn't necessarily bad for Simone McKinnis' team.

"The Vixens have the capacity to learn a hell of a lot more out of their loss than the Magpies can learn out of their win," she said.

Geva Mentor

"The big question is whether the Melbourne Vixens can withstand the pressure when they've got the ball in hand."

One key match-up for this clash is the battle between Magpies defender Geva Mentor and Vixens shooter Caitlin Thwaites, a match-up Gaudion believes Thwaites must win.

"I thought Mentor definitely had the wood over Thwaites in Round 14 and most times they've met," she said.

"The question mark is whether Simone McKinnis start with Thwaites knowing for the most part Mentor gets the better of her. Or does she go back for Mwai Kumwenda?

"That's the big risk. McKinnis isn't a risk-taker so you suspect Thwaites will start, but she's going to have to find a different way to play Mentor otherwise the Magpies win."  

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