The Giants have tightened their grip on Super Netball’s top spot with a 68-54 win over the Vixens at John Cain Arena in Melbourne.
- The Giants are undefeated after the opening four rounds of the season
- Sophie Dwyer was among the Giants’ most impressive performers in the win over the Vixens
- The Lightning beat the Swifts 58-54 in Sunday’s earlier match
In Sunday’s earlier match, the Sunshine Coast Lightning defeated the New South Wales Swifts 58-54 in Sippy Downs to sit in second place on the ladder behind the Giants.
The Giants are unbeaten after four Super Netball rounds despite the setback of losing Australian goal attack Keira Austin to a season-ending knee injury.
In Austin’s absence, Sophie Dwyer’s exciting impact has been obvious, with the goal shooter averaging 22 goals at 76 per cent accuracy.
The 19-year-old added another 23 goals, including five super shots, against fierce Vixens duo Jo Weston and Kate Eddy to prove in just her second season that she belongs in the world’s toughest netball league.
Her arrival could not have come at a better time for Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich, who is facing many selection questions in the build-up to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Dwyer’s confidence to keep attempting shots when the game was on the line in the third quarter was precisely what the Giants needed.
“We knew it was going to be a tight tussle with the Vixens, as it always is,” Dwyer said.
“We strayed from the game plan in the middle part but really happy with how we finished off.”
The brave Vixens remain winless in their title defence but will not be without admirers after Mwai Kumwenda (38 goals) led the home side on a third-quarter fightback.
For every blow Kumwenda landed, the Giants had an answer against the last-placed Vixens.
An unruffled Jo Harten sank 29 goals, including three super shots, to steady her Giants when the Vixens were charging in the third quarter.
Wing attack Maddie Hay — another in the infancy of her Super Netball career — also made smart decisions and executed brilliantly under pressure, while veteran defender April Brandley finished with seven gains.
The Giants should have made more of their advantage in the first half after a lively opening stint from goal attack Dwyer whose trio of two-point super shots signalled a fearlessness to take aim from anywhere.
Dwyer’s Giants pinched 12 gains from their hosts on their way to a commanding first-quarter lead but failed to shake the determined Vixens.
Captain Kate Moloney’s leadership and touch around the circle edge kept the Vixens in the hunt when they trailed 32-26 at half-time.
Lightning get home against Swifts
It took South African intervention to separate two genuine title contenders as imports Karla Pretorius and Phumza Maweni inspired the Lightning to their win against the Swifts.
In another chapter of a building rivalry between the 2019 grand finalists, defenders Pretorius and Maweni snared intercepts in the dying seconds to hold off the determined Swifts at USC Stadium.
There were heroes everywhere for the Lightning, including Mahalia Cassidy and shooting pair Kara Koenen (39 goals at 90 per cent accuracy) and Steph Wood (15 goals, 20 feeds).
They will be most thankful for player of the match Pretorius and her circle partner Maweni, whose combined 14 gains made the difference as the Sunshine Coast moved into second place on the ladder.
“I could go on and on about Phumza,” Lightning skipper Pretorius said.
“She was magnificent, and I always want to give [the attention] to someone else, but she deserved it today.
“I feel like the defensive effort was much better than last week.”
Missing midcourt star Maddy Proud to a foot injury, the Swifts still had their chances to steal a valuable away win.
Paige Hadley and Maddy Turner grabbed intercepts in the final term but were ultimately trumped by a steadier unit.
The Swifts’ England international Helen Housby was contained to 12 goals, while teammate Wallace contributed most of the scoring load with 37 goals at 92 per cent.
This was a premium quality showdown between two expertly coached outfits.
With barely a handful of turnovers between them in the first quarter, both sides were aware a loose pass, deflection or rebound could prove critical.
The rivalry was no more intense than at centre where Cassidy’s gut-busting duel with the Swifts’ Hadley was a soaring highlight.
In the second quarter alone, Cassidy had 14 circle feeds, but more importantly pocketed an intercept and a deflection in defence to help the Lightning trim the deficit to one goal at half-time.
Cassidy’s energy was infectious, with teammates Pretorius and Maweni poaching a combined five gains as the Lightning inched their way to a narrow lead in the third quarter.