Thunderbirds notch first win of the yearThe Vixens were last year’s premiers but will finish the round on the bottom of the ladder. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)


A huge block from goalkeeper Shamera Sterling has led the Adelaide Thunderbirds to their first Super Netball win of the season in a 54-48 thriller over the Melbourne Vixens.

The Thunderbirds established a five-goal lead over their rivals early in the final term when Georgie Horjus hit four goals in a row but the Vixens came storming back into the match in the super shot period.

Beaten by a goal in a heartbreaking loss last week, the Thunderbirds could have been forgiven for wilting under pressure in the dying stages as Mwai Kumwenda and Rahni Samason nailed four super shots to cut what had been a 10-goal margin back to just four with less than two minutes remaining.

But as Samason lined up an attempt that could have cut the margin to just one shot, Sterling timed her leap perfectly and blocked the effort, with the Thunderbirds going on to seal the win.

“Last week we lost by one so we built from last game and came into this one to win,” Sterling said after winning player of the match honours.

“It was a team effort, everybody showed up today.”

The match between the competition cellar dwellers was a scrappy affair at times but the Thunderbirds’ defensive end came up trumps.

Sterling finished with seven gains, three intercepts and three pick-ups and was a constant bother to Kumwenda and Samason.

The defensive efforts of countrywoman LaTanya Wilson were also outstanding, with the Jamaican shifting into wing defence in the second quarter and coming up with a game-changing two intercepts and three deflections as the Vixens struggled to move the ball down court.

It was not just the Thunderbirds’ Jamaican duo who were outstanding, with Vixens goalkeeper Kadie-Ann Dehaney having another strong game in the absence of Mannix, finishing with three intercepts and four deflections to make life difficult for Adelaide shooter Lenize Potgieter, especially in the first half.

Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said the loss was disappointing.

“We wanted to continue on from what we showed, some good signs last week,” she said.

“I thought our first half there was some good work out there but it got patchy in the third and then it broke up in the fourth.”

Sterling on song

Jamaican defender Sterling is one of the best defenders in the league but started the season slowly before bursting into action with back-to-back player of the match honours. The first led to the Thunderbirds going down by just a goal to joint competition leaders Sunshine Coast last week, while her efforts on Sunday night helped Adelaide post their first win of the season, showing just how integral her performance is to the team’s form. Her partnership with Matilda Garrett and LaTanya Wilson was also impressive, with the Thunderbirds clicking as a defensive unit to deny the Vixens.

Horjus stands up

She’s still just 19 but Georgie Horjus stood up like an old hand when it counted for the Thunderbirds.

With Vixens shooter Mwai Kumwenda closing the gap to just one goal early in the final quarter, Horjus potted four goals in a row to push the margin out to five, while she did a power of work off the ball to put fellow shooters Lenize Potgieter and Sam Gooden in position.

Horjus was one of the breakout stars of the league last year after coming into the Thunderbirds’ extended squad in the Queensland hub and while she started this season slowly, she’s starting to find her feet in a good sign for Adelaide.

Vixens face decision

The Vixens face some tough decisions this week if defender Emily Mannix recovers from a hand injury as expected.

Samason was elevated into the Vixens’ game-day 10-player squad while Mannix was sidelined but as a training partner, she will have to sit out again unless there is another injury or Melbourne makes the hard call to demote a player from its main roster.

The 23-year-old has been no bit player in her two matches, staying on court for the entire 60 minutes and keeping fellow goalers Kaylia Stanton and Ruby Barkmeyer on the bench.

ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS 54 (Potgieter 29, Gooden 13, Horjus 12)

MELBOURNE VIXENS 48 (Kumwenda 30, Samason 18)



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