Victorian Fury coach Stacey West remains wary about the capabilities of her side’s Australian Netball League Semi-Final opponent the Southern Force.
The two teams will meet at Adelaide’s Netball SA Stadium on Saturday afternoon for a place in the Grand Final.
While the top-of-the ladder Fury enter the Semi-Final showdown undefeated, the Force carries the momentum of two big victories in last weekend’s final round of matches that saw them snatch fourth spot from the Queensland Fusion.
West said Force, the defending champions, will be a much different side than the ones the Fury beat 62-40 to begin the ANL season.
“They’ve got some players in the team now that didn’t play against us back in Round 1,” West said.
“They’ve got their (Adelaide) Thunderbirds’ squad members back in their line-up now and they have got great momentum moving into the finals.
“I think finals netball brings out a whole different level of athletic ability and it will be the team that can perform under finals pressure that will end up holding the trophy on Sunday.”
Laura Packard, Samantha Poolman and Stephanie Puopolo were part of the Adelaide Thunderbirds title-winning ANZ Championship squad in 2013 while teenage shooter Georgie Virgo was named the MVP at this year’s 19/U national championships.
They will be key players for Force coach Dan Ryan this weekend.
In her debut ANL season, the Fury’s international shooter Mwai Kumwenda has set a new goal scoring record.
In 10 matches the Malawi Queen has scored 395 goals at an accuracy of almost 96 per cent to break the previous mark of 370 set by current teammate Simone Nalder when she was playing with the AIS in 2010.
West said she’s been impressed by the way the 23-year-old has combined with her fellow goalers.
“Mwai is an amazing athlete,” West said.
“She’s incredibly committed to improving herself and she is also very much driven towards success both on and off the court. I’ve been very impressed with her level of professionalism and her ability to interact and work in this new team structure and also this competition.
“This is her first level of competition in Australia that’s higher than state league and she’s performed very, very well.
“She’s very appreciative of the work that’s done for her out the front and we certainly have got a lot of options in that goal circle moving into the finals weekend.”
The Fury will regain young centre and Melbourne Vixens squad member Kate Moloney for the Semi-Final after she returned mid-week from an AIS tour of Scotland.
“Certainly we have been building and growing our combinations throughout the competition,” West said.
“We’ve explored a lot of combinations and thankfully they have all created an element of success so team selection is going to be quite critical and important.
“At the end of the day the athletes have to step on the court and deliver the game plan for 60 minutes, so that will be the challenge ahead of us.”
The Fury-Force match will be followed by the Semi-Final between the second and third-placed teams, the Victorian Flames and Netball New South Wales Waratahs.
Both sides finished the regular season with a 7-3 win-loss record and the Waratahs narrowly beat the Flames 48-45 in their meeting back in Week 1 of the competition at Sydney’s Anne Clarke Centre.
The Waratahs were premiers and champions in 2011 and finished runners up to the Force in 2012. Like the Fury, they have played Finals in four of the five ANL seasons. The Flames have qualified for the finals in their debut ANL season.
The Waratahs have three players involved with the NSW Swifts in the recent ANZ Championship season – defender Samantha May, midcourter Ashlee Weir and shooter Melissa Tallent.
Victoria’s team boasts some of Australia’s bright up-and-coming talent in Alice Teague-Neeld, Kate Thompson, Elizabeth Watson, Emily Mannix and Chloe Watson.
The Semi-Final winners will clash in the Grand Final, also at Adelaide’s Netball SA Stadium, on Sunday afternoon.
SEMI FINALS DRAW
Saturday, August 24
Victorian Fury v Southern Force
Netball SA Stadium, Adelaide
Victorian Flames v NNSW Waratahs
Netball SA Stadium, Adelaide