ANL Rd 5: Sting’s title defence hangs by thread

The fifth round of the Australian Netball League saw a clear top four emerge, along with a major upset and danger signs for one of the title favourites.

Here’s your wrap of all the weekend’s action.

Western Sting v Canberra GIANTS

– with Netball WA

The Western Sting’s Deakin University Australian Netball League title defence hangs in the balance after back-to-back defeats against the Canberra Giants.

After five rounds and 10 games, the Sting sit two wins outside the top four, and with only four games remaining in the regular season – including two against the ladder-leading Victorian Fury – the task looks tough from here.

The inclusion of Fever goaler Kaylia Stanton and defender Annika Lee-Jones did little to stop the in-form Giants in Sunday’s first game, with the Sting trailing 7-19 at quarter-time as Stanton and goal attack Tess Cransberg battled to find their range.

The second quarter followed a similar script, with Giants goalers Georgia Marshall (27 goals from 36 attempts) and Beryl Friday (22 from 24) adding another 17 goals to help their team take a 36-16 lead.

A number of positional switches turned the momentum the Sting’s way in the third quarter, which they won 13-9. The Sting’s best quarter came in the fourth, despite all bar one of their starting seven now sitting on the bench, They won it 15-12, however the Giants were still comfortable 57-44 victors.

The Giants were again too strong in Monday’s second game, remaining in control throughout and then blowing the game open in the final quarter to secure a 24-goal win.

Buoyed by a large Perth crowd due to the Smarter than Smoking Association Championships, which were being played outside, the Sting were in this one for much longer, trailing by just three goals at quarter-time – despite conceding the first five goals of the game – and were nine down after 30 minutes.

There were positive signs from the Sting in the third quarter, with Olivia Lewis’ defensive efforts helping to force a couple of turnovers, however the home side was unable to cut the margin, and went into three-quarter time trailing by 12.

Head Coach Andrea McCulloch turned to her bench in the final stanza in the hope of cutting the deficit, however the Giants poured in 20 goals to eight to seal another big win.

Sting will now have next weekend off to reassess, before traveling east to take on the Fury in a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Territory Storm v Victorian Fury

– by Netball Victoria

The Victorian Fury head into the ANL bye weekend with their heads held high after defeating a re-energised Territory Storm side in both Round 5 matches on the Sunshine Coast.

The two wins over Storm capped a successful three weeks on the road for Fury, who have also defeated Southern Force and Canberra GIANTS in the previous two rounds.

On Saturday Fury secured a 57-37 win, and then backed it up with a 63-42 win on Sunday.

Midcourter Molly Jovic said the team was prepared for a tough competition against Territory Storm, who recorded their first win in six years last weekend.

“We had a tough game against Southern Force a couple of weeks ago, and knowing Storm had a win over them last week, we knew this weekend was not going to be easy,” Jovic said.

“We played Storm in the preseason and beat them quite convincingly, but they were still in their recruitment phase so we knew it was going to be a lot tougher.”

While aware of an inspired Storm outfit, Jovic said the team’s preparation is focused on their own performance as the Deakin University Australian Netball League finals draw closer.

“One main focus for the whole weekend was just basic skill execution for four quarters,” Jovic said.

“We’ve had some really good passages of play in the previous four rounds, but we just wanted to get that across all four quarters.”

Fury wing defence Casey Adamson suffered an ankle injury during game one and was unable to take the court for the rest of the weekend.

“It was disappointing that Casey went down in the first game, but I think that our team has so much depth that anyone can step up and fill in someone else’s position,” Jovic said.

“We were able to get everyone out on court in different combinations so that’s great for the whole team; that we know that we can back anyone if they have to step out on court.”

The two wins see the Fury jump to the top of the ladder, with nine wins and one loss for the season.

The bye weekend couldn’t have come at a better time for the Fury as they prepare themselves for tough games against reigning premiers Western Sting and the Tasmanian Magpies – currently sitting second on the ladder – in the next two rounds leading up to finals.

“Coming into such strong competition in WA and Tasmania, we know that we’re going to have to pick it up another level,” Jovic said.

“The consistency we’ve seen in the last four to five weeks is going to have to improve even more, which I think we’re all more than capable of doing.”

The Victorian Fury face Western Sting on Saturday, 16 June at Hisense Arena and Sunday, 17 June at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

Tasmanian Magpies v Queensland Fusion

The Tasmanian Magpies kept their minor premiership hopes alive with a pair of wins against Queensland Fusion at Launceston’s Silverdome.

In Saturday’s first game a 64-50 win was set up by a crisp first half that saw the Magpies net 36 goals to just 23 in front of their home crowd, with goal attack Cody Lange (19 from 24) impressing as her comeback from an ACL injury continues.

The Fusion hit back in the third quarter to cut the margin to 10, but couldn’t sustain it in the last quarter as the Magpies regained control and notched a 14-goal win.

Queensland made the Magpies work every step of the way in game two, with goal shooter Rylie Holland (33 from 39) adding to her 41 goals from Saturday’s game with another 12 in the first quarter as they stuck with the home side to be 15-17 down at quarter-time.

The Magpies extended their advantage to three goals by half-time and seven at the final change, with both teams netting 12 goals in the final quarter to complete a 60-53 win for the ‘Pies.

The results see Tasmania in second place on the ladder – equal on wins with Victoria – while Queensland looks likely to miss finals, as they currently sit three wins outside the top four with four games remaining.

NNSW Waratahs v Southern Force

The Southern Force have recorded their second win of this year’s ANL campaign, splitting the results against the Netball NSW Waratahs.

The Force showed their intent early in game one against the fourth-placed Waratahs, leading by three goals at quarter-time and one at half-time. But Waratahs goal shooter Alison Miller (31 from 34) got hold of the Force in the third quarter, draining 13 goals to help her team hit the front and win the quarter 18-7.

The Force found their groove again in the fourth, but the Waratahs were able to coast to a handy 56-44 win.

Sunday’s match was a different story, and saw the two teams fight out one of the games of the tournament.

Both teams received a Suncorp Super Netball injection, with defender Kate Eddy and goaler Sophie Garbun pulling on the Waratahs’ dress, while goalers Sasha Glasgow and Abigail Meafou and midcourters Hannah Petty and Bongiwe Msomi were called in for the Force.

And, like the Thunderbirds against the Swifts earlier in the afternoon, the Force bravely responded numerous times when the Waratahs looked like they might kick clear.

The Waratahs led 17-12 at quarter-time, with Miller and goal attack Kelly Singleton shooting a perfect 17 from 17, but the introduction of Asha Thurlow at goal shooter for the Force reaped immediate rewards as she nailed 10 goals in the second quarter to help her team tighten the margin to a single goal at half-time.

The Waratahs brought on Garbin to start the third quarter and again threatened to bust the game apart, scoring 19 goals for the quarter, but the Force continued to cling on, scoring 16 of their own to keep the gap at four goals – 47-43.

But something finally clicked when the Force introduced Nyah Allen at goal attack in the final term, with the team generating 20 shot attempts for 15 goals, while the Waratahs managed just nine from 15, as the Force reeled them in and went past them for a memorable 58-56 result.

The Waratahs sit in fourth place with two rounds remaining, and will play bottom-four sides Territory Storm and Queensland Fusion in the final two rounds.