Thunderbirds outclass swooping Magpies

A HARD-FOUGHT clash set the scene in Adelaide on Sunday afternoon, as a hungry Adelaide Thunderbirds unit worked hard to fend off a hungry Collingwood Magpies side. It was a full-court defensive effort which eventually got the job done, as the Thunderbirds picked up their third win for the season by eight goals, 62-54.

It was a tough and highly contested start, as neither side wanted to waste ball but the defensive effort from both sides was huge from the get-go. With Gabby Sinclair out prior to the game with a quad niggle it was Kalifa McCollin who earned the starting goal attack bib for the first time this season and despite a shaky start underestimating Shamera Sterling’s long reach, the goal attack did not take long to find her form as the Magpies extended an early lead. The battle between Shimona Nelson and Sterling was hard to deny with neither player giving an inch within the goal circle and plenty of physicality between the two Jamaicans. At the other end Geva Mentor did an excellent job early limiting Lenize Potgieter‘s impact and forcing some longer attempts from both Potgieter and goal attack Georgie Horjus

Neither side could really retain control for long with both teams making wasteful unforced errors, and pressure built across the court with both sides’ midcourt units getting into the action. A well-timed super shot from Horjus allowed the Thunderbirds to reduce the lead to just one and despite the Magpies retaining the lead for majority of the first quarter, the momentum changed as the time whittled down. Back to back super shots from Horjus and McCollin kept the scorelines even with one minute left on the clock for the first quarter, with a highly defensive quarter keeping the scoreline relatively low throughout, and the Thunderbirds leading 15-14 at the first break.

A huge second quarter began with the Thunderbirds building on their late momentum and extending an early three-goal lead. With both defensive ends firing it was the Adelaide Thunderbirds’ six gains to zero across the first quarter and a bit that was really showing on the scoreboard, with the defensive intent of Maisie Nankivell paying off in wing attack as Ash Brazill worked hard to shut her down. Suddenly a nine-goal lead had extended the way of the Thunderbirds with Magpies coach Nicole Richardson doing her hardest to fire up the side which just could not seem to take control of possession down the court.

The attention from the coach appeared to do the trick as the Magpies whittled down the lead to just five credit to Nyah Allen’s super shot proficiency and Nelson’s long arms to reel in the high ball, before Horjus hit back with a super shot of her own to retain control. A sore-looking Jodi-Ann Ward left the court following a collision with Horjus to throw another spanner in the works for the away side, seeing Jacqui Newton enter the fray in goal defence. Each time the Magpies looked like firing the Thunderbirds were quick to shut them down, as Sterling and Matilda Garrett worked in overdrive to lead their side to a 32-26 lead at half-time.

A tight second half ensued as neither side changed their line-ups from the end of the second quarter. While the Thunderbirds extended another early margin, the Magpies appeared to have a little bit more hunt and tenacity in them as they cut the six-goal margin to three once more before a Mentor deflection and Newton gather paid off, as the Magpies added another to the ledger. But Sterling said ‘anything you can do I can do better’ as the Jamaican goalkeeper came alive to ensure her side kept its nose in front. Three quick and clean intercepts from behind Nelson’s outstretched arms were exactly what the doctor ordered, as Sterling utilised her excellent elevation and aerial ability to put on a defensive show. The workrate and long reach of Magpies goal defence Newton paid dividends as the change was made in the Thunderbirds attack, as Sam Gooden entered the action in goal attack, and Latanya Wilson joined the fray down back to assist Shadine van der Merwe and apply that extra circle pressure alongside Sterling. Despite the margin remaining at five goals for much of the quarter, it still seemed to be the Thunderbirds’ match to lose, retaining control despite everything the Magpies threw at them and leading 45-40 at the final change.

The Magpies did not take the foot off the pedal as the final quarter began with Ward fortunately returning to the court despite heavy strapping on her knee. The work rate of Shadine van der Merwe continued to shine, completely limiting Kelsey Browne’s impact on circle edge and forcing both Brazill and Allen to do a lot of the heavy lifting in attack. An inspired deflection from Mentor and continued hunt from Nankivell in the midcourt saw the ball bounce up and down the court with both sides pulling out all the shots to ensure they got the four points on the board. That six-goal margin continued to haunt both sides with the Thunderbirds unable to extend the scoreline while the Magpies struggled to whittle down the deficit. 

Continued hard work from Potgieter appeared to pay off with the goal shooter not hesitating despite her shooting style playing into the long arms of Mentor, as the return of Horjus opened up better space both inside and outside the goal circle. Captain Hannah Petty’s defensive intent really started to shape up as the Thunderbirds worked hard to win back possession, although wasted opportunities from both sides hurt as the clock whittled down. With not long remaining, the super shot period was sure to provide plenty of excitement – and that it did, as back to back Magpies shots reduced the margin once more. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds continued to chip away with the shorter range shots, not needing to take the risk, and eventually running away with an eight-goal victory, 62-54.

For the winning side, Sterling’s whopping eight intercepts and five deflections (two to advantage) paid dividends, as both player of the match Nankivell (31 goal assists) and van der Merwe registered three gains. Potgieter was accurate under the post to finish with 42 goals from 45 attempts, while Horjus plied her trade with 15 from 19, including four super shots. For the Magpies, Mentor’s workrate was impressive as she gathered three gains while Brazill claimed two and eight assists, sharing the offensive workrate with Browne (14 assists) and Allen (nine and eight goals from 15 attempts). Nelson was accurate with 29 goals from 31 attempts, while McCollin was no slouch in her 28 minutes with 10 goals from 11 attempts. 

ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS | 15 | 17 | 13 | 17 (62)
COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES | 14 | 12 | 14 | 14 (54)



GS: Lenize Potgieter
GA: Georgie Horjus
WA: Maisie Nankivell
C: Hannah Petty
WD: Shadine Van Der Merwe
GD: Matilda Garrett
GK: Shamera Sterling


GS: Shimona Nelson
GA: Kalifa McCollin
WA: Kelsey Browne
C: Molly Jovic
WD: Ash Brazill
GD: Jodi-Ann Ward
GK: Geva Mentor


Picture credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images

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