Collingwood off the mark in Super Netball

Collingwood Magpies won their first game in Super Netball holding off defending champions Queensland Firebirds 54-50.

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The Magpies, who were upset in their franchise-opening game 58-55 by local rivals Melbourne Vixens last week, dominated for most of the match with skipper Madi Robinson in dominating form leading the game in feeds (47) and assists (17).

Just as in their opener against the Sunshine Coast, when the Firebirds hauled back a seven-goal fourth-quarter deficit for a draw, the hosts came back in the final quarter reducing the arrears to two with 1:16 on the clock but could not complete a comeback.

Caitlin Thwaites hit 32 of 40 and Alice Teague-Neeld 22 of 31 for the Magpies, with Romelda Aiken doing the majority of damage at the other end with 41 from 52.

After trailing for all the opening quarter, the Firebirds scored the last three goals to end the term 13-12 up.

The Magpies snatched the momentum back taking a four-point lead into half-time and doubled this advantage at three-quarter time.

A thrilling last term that saw the Firebirds score five consecutively to scare the Magpies, before late goals from Teague-Neeld and Thwaites ensured victory.

Kim Ravaillion, who won two titles with the Firebirds before joining the Magpies, admitted to feeling nervous as her former side began their typical last quarter surge.

“I know how fast the Firebirds can score because obviously I had the pleasure of feeding Romelda last year,” Ravaillion said.

“We just stuck to the game plan, which was to force the ball in long and Sharni (Layton) came out and had a few intercepts under her belt, which was awesome.

“It was far from our best performance. We’re gonna go back into the sheds and do our analysis and pinpoint the areas we need to improve and take that into the next game.”

Firebirds skipper Gabi Simpson felt the pressure the Magpies put on them proved key as it forced them into turnovers, giving them too big of a mountain to climb in the fourth quarter.

“We got ourselves back in the game and gave ourselves hope and there were patches where it was fantastic but the pressure the Pies put on for the full 60 minutes allowed us to fall into lapses and that’s where the turnovers came,” Simpson said.

Mitchell hits ground running at AFL Eagles

Sam Mitchell may be the final piece of the West Coast midfield puzzle that puts the Eagles back into AFL premiership contention.

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However, Fremantle appear to have some work to do before they are capable of kicking scores big enough to return to the top eight.Mitchell debuted for the Eagles in the pre-season clash against Fremantle in Geraldton on Saturday and the former Hawthorn premiership player looked as comfortable in gold and blue as he did in gold and brown.He had the first touch and first clearance of the match and finished with a game-high 28 possessions in the 55-point win over the Dockers.Eagles coach Adam Simpson was clearly happy with Mitchell’s debut.”Obviously we have inherited a pretty good player,” he said.”There is no doubt they would have been nervous, even though they are 300 game players – Drew (Petrie) and Sam. “I thought we had a pretty good contribution from all of our mids. There is some experience there and the chemistry is starting to click too.”That chemistry between Brownlow Medal pair Mitchell and Matt Priddis (27 touches) was evident from the opening bounce of the game.And as the game went on, Luke Shuey (27), Chris Masten (25) and Andrew Gaff (24) also started to impress.With Sharrod Wellingham, Lewis Jetta and Mark LeCras also getting plenty of the ball, West Coast looked much sharper than their cross-town rivals in the 16.11 (107) to 8.4 (52) victory.The Dockers had 200 fewer possessions than the Eagles, but David Mundy will get better and with Lachie Neale and Aaron Sandilands still to come back in, that wasn’t Ross Lyon’s biggest concern on Saturday.Fremantle kicked just three goals in the first half and eight for the game.Hayden Ballantyne kicked two, as did recruit Bradley Hill and a sharper Michael Walters could have finished with three.Michael Apeness kicked an early goal, but didn’t have much of an impact after that and Matt Taberner had just two possessions having spent more than half of the game on the ground.Recruits Cam McCarthy and Shane Kersten (one goal) had just seven touches apiece and took only one mark in attack between them.Western Bulldogs premiership defender Joel Hamling also had a tough start with his new club, spending most of the day on Coleman medallist Josh Kennedy, who took eight marks and kicked five goals.It was the Dockers first hit out for the pre-season, though, and Lyon said he would have liked to be better.”We understand that it was their second game; it was our first,” he said.”But it highlights how brutal the competition is and how ordinary you can look if you’re not playing with the intensity and work rate you need to play AFL footy.”McCarthy hasn’t played in a year and a half, (Nat) Fyfe (22 touches) hardly played in a year and a half, (Michael) Johnson virtually a full year.””We aim to be sharper and get moving pretty quickly from here.”