The Fury defeated the Western Sting in the first game of the night, with what was to be the start of a brilliant night of netball.
Both teams started shaky, making errors in the first few minutes of play.
It was the Sting however who settled first, gaining a quick 4 – 1 lead before the Fury scored three in a row to level the scores at four all.
With the scores still tied with just 16 seconds left in the first quarter, a late goal on the buzzer for the Sting saw them head into the second quarter with a one goal lead.
The Fury came out firing after the second quarter, running out to a five goal lead early in the quarter.
The Sting, off the back of some impressive defensive work, managed to bring the lead back to just one goal at the main break.
Fighting hard all match against the Fury’s tall shooter Jane Cook, Sting defender Annika Lee-Jones earnt a hard-fought intercept early in the third to give her team a one goal lead, however it would be the last time the WA team would have the lead.
A string of goals from the Fury saw them score five goals to one in a matter of minutes and gain a three goal lead that they would hold for the remainder of the quarter.
A heavy collision between Fury’s Fiona Themann and Jessica Anstiss for the Sting sent gasps through the crowd, however both bravely continued to play the remainder of the game.
The Fury, sensing a change, brought Lara Dunkely onto the court at centre, and the change paid dividends, with the Fury dominating the final period.
Despite a late challenge by the Sting, the Fury were able to hold on to their nine-goal lead to win 56 – 47 and secure their spot as the first team through to the 2016 ANL Grand Final.
Fury coach Cathy Fellowes said that last night’s game was probably the hardest the Fury have had to date.
“It’s a really tough game because all the results during the season don’t count when you get to this game and you have to win to make the Grand Final,” Fellowes said.
“We were pleased that when we needed to step-up, we stepped-up.”
The second semi-final to determine the Fury’s challengers was a thrilling match-up between the NNSW Waratahs and Southern Force.
Like the earlier game, both teams started nervously in the high stakes of finals netball, with both teams missing shots at goal in the opening few minutes.
NSW Swift Kaitlyn Bryce was lively for Waratahs, with her experience in the ANZ Championship showing in her game.
The Waratahs shooting line struggled early against the constant pressure of the Force’s defensive duo of Luka Thompson and Amehlia Schmidt, shooting at just 61 per cent for the first quarter.
Waratah’s coach Briony Akle said that it was the nerves of a big game that caused the team to struggle early.
“The nerves did play a part but I’m sure they’ll bounce back tomorrow,” Akle said.
With the Force shooting at 75 per cent for the quarter, they lead by four at the first break, 15 – 11.
It was a turnaround for the Waratahs in the second quarter, only missing one shot – seeing them win the quarter.
The Force still managed to maintain a lead though, with a two goal margin at the main break, 28 – 26.
Waratahs’ captain Taylah Davies was injected into the game at half-time and formed a formidable midcourt duo with Maddeline Hay.
The combinations clicked for the Waratahs in the third, and managed to level the scores in the first five minutes.
They didn’t have it all their own way though, with the Force momentarily gaining the lead before the Waratahs ran out to a two goal lead thanks to some great defensive intercepts from Ashley Valeni in goal keeper.
Everything was on the line in the final quarter, with both teams pushing to the final seconds.
Two intercepts in a row for Hay saw the Waratahs score the first six goals of the quarter, pushing the lead out to 52 – 43.
The Force refused to go down without a fight, scoring frantically in the final minutes to reduce the margin to just two, however were not able to close the gap any closer, seeing the Waratahs finish with a 58 -56 win.
Akle said she was relieved that the team were able to hold onto their lead.
“I think the girls did a great job to fight back in that game,” Akle said.
“It was a very long two minutes and I thought that game was never going to end, but they kept their composure.”
Arch rivals, the Victorian Fury and NNSW Waratahs will do battle in today’s grand final, while the Western Sting and Southern Force will play off for third and fourth place.
Photo credit: David Callow