Four Thunder athletes were privileged to be selected in the WA All Star team to take on West Coast Fever last Wednesday at RAC Arena. Selection meant several things (most of them “firsts”) for the athletes; playing in a live match against West Coast Fever; playing in front of a 4204-strong crowd; playing a live game at RAC Arena; showcasing the Men’s & Mixed talent that exists here in WA; promoting the Men’s & Mixed netball pathway for young boys and men who may be interested in playing. With endless gratitude for the opportunity, it is an experience they will not soon forget.
“We are incredibly fortunate here in the West to have outstanding support for Men playing netball from Stacey Marinkovich (Head Coach, West Coast Fever), West Coast Fever, and Netball WA, all of which allows for the continual development, promotion and support of our program and pathway. Every year, here in WA and at Thunder, we maintain progression in the acceptance and support for Men in netball as well as the development of our athletes individually and our squads, which certainly wouldn’t be possible without the ongoing support and promotion from those listed above” - President Jerome Gillbard
Men’s Open & Thunder Squad Captain, Dylan McPherson also commented
“I think the mens game has always suffered a bit of an identity crisis whereby we have always desperately wanted to be considered in the mainstream netball community – but haven’t. For so long it has always been “netball” and, separately “mens netball”. I hope that last night showed a lot of netball supporters that it isn’t a different sport, just because men are playing, it’s the same product with the same excitement, athleticism, skill and passion that the women bring when they play.
Personally, it was incredibly humbling to be selected. There are so many talented players out there, both men and women, so to be considered in that top 10 was an accolade I am very proud of. The whole experience was amazing. The crowd. The buildup. The sense of occasion. I would love to bottle up that feeling. But to do it alongside friends and teammates, like Jerome, Dan and Dre, who have worked really hard over a number of years, not only to be better netballers, but to promote the game it was just incredible.
I really don’t think my 12 year old self, who was told he had to stop playing netball would ever have believed that sometime soon he would be playing in front of 4,000 people. It was surreal. I hope there were young men watching in the crowd, or had family & friends in the crowd who love netball, saw it and realized there is a future for them in the sport they love.
It shouldn’t matter what gender you are, you should be able to play the sport you love and that’s what we try and always promote at WCMMNA.”
Continue reading below for the match report.
West Coast Thunder’s Daniel Cools, Jerome Gillbard, Dravyn Lee-Tauroa and Dylan McPherson joined six of the best WA Netball league athletes in Sloan Burton, Emma Cosh, Courtney Kruta, Jessica Penny, Ella Sigley and Donelle Wallam in making up the WA All Stars taking on West Coast Fever in the blockbuster return of elite netball at RAC Arena last Wednesday. Our very own Jerome Gillbard had the honor of captaining the All Stars and helped them along to a 60-59 victory in what was a thrilling battle from the very first whistle.
All four of our men started the game, with Dravyn & Dan playing at GK & GD respectively, Dylan at C and Jerome in at GS in front of a 4204 Fever home crowd. Fever came out strong and lead the way into the first break, Stars down 13-15 at quarter time.
Enter future great Donelle Wallam at GS saw Jerome shift to GA (rotating with Emma Cosh and Sloan Burton) and the Stars came out firing. Donelle was a significant target for the Stars up front, allowing feeds from almost anywhere in the goal third (and even three from the centre third; Dylan and Dan…) saw the Stars climb back into the game. Donelle shot 17/17 at 100% in the second quarter allowing a shift in the attacking style and momentum the Stars took into the second quarter and half.
Precise and defender-splitting feeds from Jerome at GA and the entire Stars attacking line proved just how good a target Donelle is under the post, from the extended 2-point range and whilst falling out of court. Donelle proved valuable in defense as well with quick transition to hands pressure forcing several errors which were converted to goal by the Stars.
The third quarter saw the stars down 33-32, a Dylan McPherson shift back to WD with speed, agility and pressure in defense as well as precision ball movement and drive in attack helped keep Fever attackers under pressure and the Stars driving forward to convert. Defensive pressure right across the court lifted in the second half as no team wanted to let the game slip away. A goal for goal quarter dominated, however an increase in defensive pressure from the back half (Courtney Kruta (C), Dylan (WD), Dravyn (GD) and Dan (GK)) saw the stars win enough ball set up what would be a showcase final 15 minutes in the 4th. The Stars enter the 4th quarter leading 44-48.
Like the previous three quarters, the fourth did not disappoint, Fever Captain Courtney Bruce’s move back to goal-keeper paid dividends for the Fever with her coming up with crucial intercepts to close the margin of the game. Sharp shooting from Fever’s Jhaniele Fowler, Alice Teague-Neeld and Kaylia Stanton ensured Bruce’s intercepts were converted and the game stayed in the balance, with either team able to take the win. Fever got within 2 goals, however a 1-point goal from Gillbard proved to be a smart decision putting them up by 3 with a minute on the clock. Fever’s Teague-Neeld nails a 2-point shot with 30 seconds to go, however Star’s have the C-pass.
Possession netball for the final 30 almost proves costly with a turnover in the middle of the court with less than 10 seconds remaining, however there is not enough time for Fever to get a shot and the final margin stands at 60-59, WA All Stars winning by one goal. A phenomenal game from everyone involved and a fantastic opportunity to showcase Men’s & Mixed Netball to the wider WA netball community.
Lorraine Ward, Head Coach of our Thunder program was in the crowd watching the game. We asked her for a few comments on each of our Thunder athletes, here’s what she had to say;
I loved Dan’s footwork and thought it was very clever to play off the body and keep the feeders guessing. He read Fever’s play so well and anticipated the next pass. Was great to see him rewarded with some great intercepts and tips. The most pleasing aspect for me was his great use of the corridors to bring the ball through the court and to be on hand for a reset when needed in attack.
Once again proved to be the best ambassador for men’s netball. Named captain of the All Star’s team he led from the front on court.
A great display of smarts and ability to read the play and create opportunities for himself and others. Jerome’s passing into the goal circle was outstanding with great vision and touch on the ball. I was ecstatic with Jerome’s defence last night with purposeful hands over pressure that made it difficult for Fever to get a smooth transition happening down court.
Dray’s athleticism is just amazing to watch. I was proud of how disciplined he was on the contest with Fowler. His vertical leap and read of the play created turnovers and his second and third efforts were incredible. Dray also displayed great decision making and execution of the pass on every play.
Last night Dylan showed why he was selected into the Australian Mens team. His work rate and pace were a standout for me. Dylan’s fitness allows him to drive with intensity on every occasion and his ball skills are elite. I thought his impact at WD was crucial to All Stars being able to drive the ball into attack with speed and finesse.
Finally, I would like to say how very proud of the standard the men put on the court and I couldn’t be happier with how they represented themselves, us as an association and Men’s netball as a whole.
Q1: Fever 15 – Stars 13
Q2: Fever 33 – Stars 32
Q3: Fever 44 – Stars 48
Final: Fever 59 – Stars 60
Dravyn Lee-Tauroa 7 Intercepts
Donelle Wallam: 1pt: 42/46 (91%), 2pt: 3/4 (75%), Total: 45/47 attempts (96%), 48 goals
Jerome Gillbard: 1pt: 5/6 (83%), 2pt: 1/2 (50%), Total: 6/8 (75%), 7 goals
Emma Cosh: 1pt: 1/1 (100%)
Sloan Burton: 1pt: 2/4 (50%), 2pt 1/3 (33.3%), Total: 3/7 (43%), 4 goals