The Australian Netball League finals are locked and loaded after a bumper final round of the home and away season.
The Victorian Fury will take on the Canberra GIANTS, while the NSW Waratahs will face the Tasmanian Magpies in knockout semi-finals this Saturday, with the medal games to be played on Sunday.
In the final round, some of the competition’s heavy hitters squared off, in what could be a preview of Sunday’s gold medal game.
Here’s how Round 7 played out.
FINALS TO BE BROADCAST LIVE
The Australian Netball League semi-finals and gold medal game will be broadcast LIVE on Netball Australia’s Facebook page this weekend.
Semi finals: 3pm and 5pm AEST, Saturday 30 June
Final: 12.30pm AEST, Sunday 1 July
Fury underline favouritism with double victory over Tassie
Any doubts about who’s the favourite to take out this year’s ANL title were erased on the weekend, with ladder leaders Victorian Fury recording a pair of wins against the Tasmanian Magpies, who started the weekend in second place.
The double losses saw the Magpies drop into third position on the ladder, behind NSW Waratahs, who’ll they’ll now play in a do-or-die semi-final.
Shooter Jane Cook returned for the Magpies on Saturday after missing last weekend with illness, and finished with 37 goals from 43 attempts, but the Fury’s ability to limit the supply from Tassie’s much-vaunted midcourt in Kelsie Rainbow and Vanessa Augustini went a long way to determining the outcome.
The Magpies scored no more than 12 goals in any quarter, while netting 15 of their own in the first term, 14 in the second to open up a nine-goal lead and another 14 in the third to lead by 11. From there the Fury coasted home to win 55-44 and shore up top spot with a game still to play.
Sunday’s game saw the Magpies bolstered by the inclusion of Collingwood players Shae Brown and Alice Teague-Neeld, who combined in goal attack and centre for much of the game.
But it was the Fury out the blocks faster again, pushing an early lead out to six goals by half-time.
A 16-goal third term from the Vics saw the Magpies throw the bibs up, with Brown moved to goal attack to reprise her cameo role from last year’s Super Netball season, while Teague-Neeld shifted to shooter to give the Fury defenders two moving targets to think about.
And the gamble paid off, with Tasmania posting their highest-scoring quarter of the weekend with 16 goals, but with Melbourne Vixen Sam Gooden firing at the other end for much of the game, the Fury did enough to hold on 57-53.
Tuivaiti helps Force finish with a flurry
If the ANL season was to start again tomorrow, you’d probably back the Southern Force to figure in finals, such was their form in the back half of the season.
The Force saluted in five of their last six games, having lost seven of eight before that, wrapping things up on the weekend with back-to-back wins against defending champions Western Sting.
Two Sting wins would have assured them of fifth spot on the ANL ladder after their breakthrough title last year, but it was not to be as the Force proved too strong on both Saturday and Sunday.
Thunderbirds star Cat Tuivaiti took another step in her return from an ACL injury, playing two full games for the Force and giving the Force the key target they’ve been craving.
In Saturday’s game she teamed with fellow Thunderbird Sasha Glasgow to post 49 goals between them in a tight 54-48 result. But it was the Force’s defence end that did the real damage, holding the Sting to just six goals in the second quarter after conceding 14 in the first.
A seven-goal half-time deficit proved too much for the Sting, despite piling on 16 goals in the final term to give themselves a chance.
Sunday’s game saw West Coast Fever players Shannon Eagland, Kaylia Stanton and Annika Lee-Jones start the game for the Sting, but again it was the second quarter that proved costly as Tuivaiti netted nine goals and Glasgow seven to help their team establish a nine-goal lead.
The Sting swun,
Sting coach Andrea McCulloch swung a raft of changes in the third quarter in a bid to pull things back, but the Force could not be headed and marched on to a 56-44 result.
Canberra GIANTS do the double on Territory Storm
The addition of Sunshine Coast Lightning centre Laura Scherian wasn’t enough to inspire the Territory Storm
Scherian gained her first court time with the Storm this season after being subbed out early during the Lightning’s draw against GIANTS Netball on Saturday, and helped the Storm hang tough early against a strong Giants outfit.
But that all changed in the second quarter, with the Giants’ goaling combination of Angelina Frketic (30/32) and Kiera Austin (27/31) combining for 21 goals in the quarter to help their team open up a 19-goal lead.
The Storm rallied to limit the damage in the second half, posting 26 goals of their own, but the Giants added another 30 to run out 65-42 winners.
The long season looked like it finally caught up with the Storm on Sunday, with the Giants romping to a 70-29 result that saw them finish the season as the competition’s highest-scoring team, with their 798 goals eclipsing Victoria and Tasmania, who both finished with 793.
The signs were there early as the Giants welcomed Georgia Marshall (18/22) and Beryl Friday (26/26) back into the goal circle and helped themselves to 18 first-quarter goals to the Storm’s seven, and then extended their advantage to 37-12.
An almost complete line-up change for the Giants saw goal keeper Teigan O’Shannassy and wing defence Amy Parmenter as the only players remaining from the starting seven, but it made little difference as they pushed the score to 52-18 at three-quarter time and hit their 70th goal in the dying moments.
Waratahs race into second spot
The NSW Waratahs could be the dark horse on finals weekend and will be full of confidence after tuning up with a pair of tough yet comfortable wins against Queensland Fusion.
The Waratahs made a show of strength in attack on Saturday, racking up 35 goals in the first half to lead by 11, with the Fusion stemming the tide in the third and fourth quarters but managing to eat only a couple of goals out of the margin to go down 48-57.
On Sunday the Fusion were in the hunt for longer, trailing by just two goals at quarter-time and six at the long break.
But weight of numbers told the story for the Waratahs, with their 76% shooting accuracy made less troubling by their 70 attempts on goal.
This time the NSW side was able to edge further ahead as the curtain closed on Queensland’s season, with the Waratahs winning 53-42.