Super Shot Rd 11: First Nations Round, top four secured, young guns star

As Round Eleven of the Suncorp Super Netball draws to a close, the top four has been locked in with the Firebirds ending the Giants slim chances of making it to September in the final game of round.

Round Eleven was also the first week of first nations round, which spans across both rounds 11 and 12, with all eight teams taking to the court in their respective First nations dresses.

As well as the centre circle and ball for each match being designed by Gamilaroi woman Krystal Dallinger.

The theme for First Nations Round was 'Gather as One' which was ultra-significant in what was an emotional week for the league.

After the announcement that Collingwood will not be renewing their licence beyond the 2023 season, with the camaraderie shown as the players, staff and wider netball community wrapping their arms around all involved in the netball program at the Magpies.

The Magpies received a standing ovation when taking to the court at USC Stadium when they played the Lightning to open the match, with both teams coming together post-match for a joint signing session as well as going out for dinner and doing a group recovery.

ESPN looks at the four biggest talking points from the round that was.

Wallam Stars in Firebirds win

Not even a finger injury could keep Firebirds shooter Donnell Wallam down and when it's first nations round as well as the final shooting spot for the World Cup is on the line, it's got a Wallam masterclass written all over it.

Wallam came off the court during the second quarter to receive treatment to a finger injury and whilst the moving circle of Emily Moore in goal attack and Mia Stower worked in goal shooter, which gave the Giants defence something to think about when Donnell came back on in the third quarter the game changed drastically.

Coming on the court at the 11:42 mark of the third quarter it sort of shook the Giants defensive end and the Firebirds started to lift.

The Firebirds went on a 10-goal run between Wallam coming back on and the 2:29 minute mark in the fourth quarter, with the momentum rising and the Giants defence having no answer for Wallam as well as the errors starting to come for the Giants.

Whilst the Firebirds were forced into the change in first place of having that moving circle, coach Bec Bulley was happy with the way things played out and the way Wallam came back into the game in that third quarter.

She came off because she hurt her finger but Mia [Stower] came on and did a great job. I think the change up worked really well for us," Bulley told the media post-match.

"We had our goal shooter on the lead and our goal attack in, the moving circle really gave the Giants something else to think about and I kind of had in the back of my mind that at some point I'd look to reinject Nelle into the game because again that change up could be really effective and it was. I thought Nelle having that little bit of time on the bench when she came on and was on fire."

Next generation shine

The young guns stepped up this week, showing Australian fans that the next generation of Australian Talent is definitely exciting and there's no better time to put your best foot forward when there's a new team coming in and all players coming out of contract.

Up on the Sunshine Coast, whilst for most of the season in defence there's been chatter about the strong defensive combination of Karla Pretorius and Kadie Ann Dehaney. Although this week it was 19-year-old Ashleigh Ervin who did a great job in limiting the impact of Shimona Nelson.

Nelson finished the match with two interceptions, four deflections and six gains.

Sticking at the Lightning, Ava Black continues to be a strong addition to the Lightning line up over recent weeks after coming in as a temporary replacement player for the injured Shannon Eagland.

Black provides that extra element of midcourt cover being able to play all three positions.

She had another strong game and was able to stand up when the team needed, putting the clamps on the Magpies attack end alongside the defensive unit.

For the Fever, when Verity Simmons was ruled out of the match due to covid-19 protocols it was training Partner Jordan Cransberg who stepped up.

After making her Super Netball debut just two weeks ago against the Swifts, Cransberg got her first Super Netball start and made the most of it.

Cransberg topped the match when it came to Nissan Netpoints with 77 and was solid in the Fever midcourt, finishing the match with 22 feeds and 17 goal assists.

Dan Ryan was full of praise for the 23-year-old in what was a high-pressure environment for her first Super Netball start.

"She's a great young talent and I think she handled the occasion quite well, all things considered," Ryan told media post-match.

"It was her first start in Suncorp Super Netball and she absolutely for most parts of that game matched it and held her own. There were sometimes where I thought she got exposed here and there and a little bit of inexperience, but she always responded really well from those moments."

"It was a huge ask from her today, she certainly played a great role for the team and was really pleased for her performance tonight."

Finally, also getting her first start in Suncorp Super Netball it was Leese Mi Mi, the sister of former Firebird Jemma and was a key presence in that Firebirds midcourt for the first three quarters, before going off during the fourth quarter with a cramp.

Mi Mi went head-to-head with Diamond Jamie Lee Price as was up for the challenge, finishing the match with 18 goal assists and 28 feeds.

Firebirds coach Bec Bulley, spoke post-match about the reasoning behind starting Mi Mi in the match and how she saw her game.

"It was incredible," Bulley said.

"She made her debut last week against the Fever and came on for a quarter. Such great feeds, a really smart player and I just felt like she'd match up well against Jamie-Lee.

"I guess when you're coming on in your second game you're going to be nervous so I was just encouraging her, going 'keep going you're doing a great job' and just to give her confidence and she did, she got some turnovers in defence and worked the ball down and fed in beautifully as well. "

Almost Draw sees Fever receive fourth one goal loss.

It was yet another nailbiter between the Adelaide Thunderbirds and the West Coast Fever with the Thunderbirds once again edging out the Fever by a goal but this time it came with some confusion.

When the final siren rang around Netball SA Stadium, the venue scoreboard had the score as 54-53 the way of the Thunderbirds but the broadcast score and the score on the big screen had the game all tied up.

Whilst the confusion was straightened out by the bench officials, with the error coming as the broadcast marked an Elle Cardwell Supershot as just the one goal whilst the scoreboard had it as the super shot.

The result marks the fourth time in 2023 that Fever have lost by a single goal with all four of those coming up against the other top four teams in the Vixens, Swifts and Thunderbirds.

Speaking post-match, Fever coach Dan Ryan said he hopes that his side can take the learning from the close losses come finals.

"It's really important that these types of moments harden us and galvanize us and ensure that they are worth something in the endgame," Ryan said.

"Whilst it's disappointing to lose by one here, we might get another chance at that team and we want to make sure that we get it right"

Tayla Fraser.....You star

The wing defence bib in the Swifts has been chopping and changing since the 2021 premiership run with back then the position having been shared between mainly Tayla Fraser and now Giant Lauren Moore.

Then across the last two or so seasons, it's rotated between Swift and Fraser with Fraser also spending time in the other two midcourt positions.

Fraser over the last few weeks has really cemented her spot in that position, even more so now that Allie Smith has suffered a foot injury and missed the last few weeks.

Against the Vixens on Sunday, Fraser was instrumental in shutting down the Vixens attack.

Going head-to-head with both Liz Watson and Hannah Mundy, Fraser was able to nullify their impacts whilst winning the ball back for her side or getting fingertips to the ball.

Fraser is the type of player that just gives her all to the red dress and today was no different as she was the first to every loose ball that was in her vicinity to pick up the crumbs.

Swifts coach Briony Akle was full of praise for her wing defence post-match.

"She's just a warrior, she never ever gives up." Akle said post-match.

"She's on the loose ball pickups, she's one on one in defence and she drives it down in attack and she's just another one that didn't get a lot of court time at the beginning of the season but has treasured every moment out there and certainly earned her spot."