The undisputed competition heavyweights versus an in-form outfit on home soil.
Saturday’s Deakin University Australian Netball League major semi-final between the Victorian Fury and the Canberra GIANTS promises to be a cracking contest, as the cream of Australia’s next generation of netball talent takes to the court.
Both teams have had outstanding seasons, so who’ll book themselves a berth in Sunday’s grand final? Here’s our preview of Saturday’s huge clash.
When: Saturday, 30 June
Where: SolarHub ACT Netball Centre, Canberra
Watch: Broadcast live on Netball Australia’s Facebook page and website at 5.15pm.
How Victorian Fury got here
A loss in the second game of a 14-game season was the only blemish on the record of an ultra impressive Vic Fury squad, who were crowned minor premiers for the fifth season in a row.
That lone loss came at home at the hands of the NSW Waratahs, and the Fury responded with 12 consecutive wins to underline their title favouritism.
That’s not to say they had things all their own way. They were pushed hard and even trailed deep into numerous games, including against the Tasmanian Magpies, Southern Force and Western Sting.
But the fact they emerged victorious in all of them proves that they know how to turn it on when things are tight, and almost certainly gives them an edge in confidence this weekend.
How Canberra GIANTS got here
The Giants did it the hard way, going winless in two of the first four rounds to sit precariously at 4-4 with just three rounds remaining.
But two thumping wins over defending champions Western Sting in Round 5, followed by an upset in 52-41 win over Tasmania to start Round 6, put their season back on track.
A 65-42 win and a 70-29 whitewash in the final two games against Territory Storm assured their spot in finals and provided a valuable tune-up ahead of finals.
Last time they met
The two teams met in Round 4, and while Vic Fury won both games, they were far from comfortable victories and the Giants would have been kicking themselves to not win at least one, after being in a winning position or within striking distance in both.
In a rollercoaster first game the Fury raced clear in the first quarter to lead 17-10, only to have Giants goalers Georgia Marshall and Beryl Friday net a combined 21/21 in the second quarter to narrow the margin to just one goal at half-time, 32-31.
A defensive switch that saw young Fury goal defence Allie Smith replace Melbourne Vixens training partner Jacqui Newton allowed the Vics to regain control defensively, holding the Giants to 12 goals in the third quarter and pushing their advantage to 47-43, before closing it out with a 14-10 final quarter for a 61-53 result.
On Sunday it was the Giants’ turn to put an early scare through the Fury camp, with a three-goal quarter-time lead that quickly ballooned to 36-28 at half-time.
The Fury hit back with an 18-8 third term to lead 46-44 at the final change, before pulling clear to win 61-54.
What the coaches say
Leesa Gallard – Victorian Fury
“We’ve been really pleased with the season that we’ve had and the capacity we’ve had to be able to put out of different combinations and give exposure to different athletes.”
“We had two full-on, tough encounters with them when we played them a few weeks ago, so we know that ladder position once we hit finals doesn’t count for much and doesn’t guarantee you anything.”
“We’re just really focused on our game and what we need to be doing and making sure our key things in attack and defence are there for us.”
“Obviously we’re conscious of the athletes Giants have got and the strong combinations they have at both ends of the court. We’re preparing ourselves for another tough, epic battle with them.”
Sharyn Hill – Canberra GIANTS (co-head coach)
“We’ve been focusing on step by step and building each round, and as a group we feel like we’ve stepped up each round and taken it to a new level.”
“Coming off the back of last weekend up at the Sunshine Coast where we had two really comprehensive performances, we feel like we’re in a really good position and we’ve got everyone playing well.”
“We had opportunities in both games (against Fury), we were leading and we had opportunities to close the games out but we just lacked the consistency at that stage, so we’re just looking for consistency across every quarter, and that’s what you’ve got to do in finals to win.”
The players to watch
Rahni Samason (GS) – Vic Fury
The Fury’s biggest weapon is in their goal circle, where shooter Rahni Samason has swept all before her this season. With 441 goals for the season, Samason sits just one goal behind competition leader Jane Cook, who stands at 200cm tall. Most impressive about Samason’s season (and her 89% accuracy) is that only a handful of her goals come from close range – she’s lethal and rarely misses from anywhere in the circle. If she fires, the Giants will be in trouble.
Beryl Friday (GA) – Canberra GIANTS
Creative in the goal circle and deadly when required, Friday (above) was formerly a member of the Queensland Firebirds but has suited up for Canberra this season and been a key plank in their run to finals.
Amy Parmenter (WD/C) – Canberra GIANTS
A workhorse with an ability to change the game by locking down her opponent and generating intercepts, Amy Parmenter’s (above) performance on Saturday will go a long way to deciding her team’s fate. She’ll likely face Vixens training partner Tayla Honey or the creative Molly Jovic, who’ll know they’re in for a tough afternoon.
Where it’ll be won
With no out-and-out giant goalers in either side, the game plan for both sides will be more complex than simply hitting the circle and lobbing it in. Instead, the winner will likely be the team that is able to link best between its midcourt and goalers, and generate movement and angles in the goal circle to open up space.
Conversely, the team that can clog that space around the circle’s edge and slow the movement down will almost certainly create enough turnovers to win the game, if they can convert them.
The Fury may also be impacted by Vixens defender Emily Mannix’s finger injury, which could see training partner Jacqui Newton or another defender elevated into the Vixens squad and ruling them out of the ANL finals weekend.
Important to note
While both teams have had players from their aligned Suncorp Super Netball franchises (Magpies and Swifts) rotating back into ANL in order to get court time, this weekend it will be ANL athletes and Super Netball training partners only.
The Waratahs have had players such as Kate Eddy, Sophie Garbin and Claire O’Brien take to the ANL court throughout the seven rounds, while Collingwood’s Shae Brown, Alice Teague-Neeld, Matilda Garrett are among those to have pulled on the Tasmanian dress.
But with all ANL semi-finals and the grand final to be played in Canberra, and Super Netball games being played across Australia, there is no opportunity for SSN players to jump across and join the ANL action.