The cream rose to the top in the penultimate round of the Australian Netball League, with the top four teams solidifying their positions with some dominant performances.
Here’s how Round 6 played out.
Tuivaiti’s return provides spark for Southern Force
The return to the court of Adelaide Thunderbirds recruit Cat Tuivaiti saw the Southern Force put together their best weekend of netball for the season, with two comprehensive wins against Queensland Fusion.
Tuivaiti was the headline act for the Force on their home court, teaming with fellow Thunderbirds goaler Sasha Glasgow to put the Fusion away in the first half of Saturday’s game, which the Force dominated from start to finish to win 65-37.
The Force opened up an 18-11 quarter-time lead, with Tuivaiti (15/16) netting a perfect seven from seven and Glasgow (36/39) impressing with 11 from 11. The pair added a further 16 goals to eight in the second quarter to lead 34-19, with Tuivaiti then rested for the second half. The home side still didn’t skip a beat, with Glasgow shifting back to goal shooter and potting 10 from 10 for the quarter and helping to extend their advantage to 49-27.
Another 16 goals to 10 in the final stanza put an exclamation mark on an emphatic win for the Force – just their third for the season.
They didn’t have to wait long for their fourth win, though it was a far more competitive showing for the Fusion in Sunday’s encounter.
Despite the Force loading their team with Super Netball talent, the Queensland side started with a rush, with goalers Rylie Holland and Tippah Dwan combining for a perfect 17 from 17 to take a one-goal lead at quarter-time.
They maintained their 100 per cent accuracy in the second term but Tuivaiti responded for the Force, netting 11 of her team’s 16 goals to give it a 32-30 edge.
The Force turned to Abi Latu-Meafou to replace Tuivaiti in the third quarter and the Thunderbirds goaler brought the game to life, nailing a combined 22 goals with Glasgow for the quarter, and with the Fusion managing only seven, the game was all but over.
They boosted their lead by another five goals in the final 15 minutes to put the icing on a 69-47 result.
With only one round remaining, both teams will miss out on finals action this season.
Fury on top as Sting miss finals
– with Netball WA
Western Sting’s ANL title defence is over, after their finals hopes were dashed by two narrow losses against Victorian Fury.
Despite falling short against quality opposition, Sting were impressive in both matches, pushing Fury for all eight quarters.
In Saturday’s game at Hisense Arena, the Sting led for almost the entire game and looked set to bank the win when they entered the final quarter with an eight-goal lead, only to watch as the Fury buried 20 goals in the last 15 minutes to snatch a 54-51 victory.
Both teams were bolstered by Suncorp Super Netball inclusions, with Fever stars Shannon Eagland and Annika Lee-Jones taking to the court, while the Fury had goal shooter Samantha Gooden (12 goals from 18 attempts) in their line-up.
The Sting started strongly, opening up a five-goal lead at quarter-time – an advantage they took into half-time – and then extended it in the third quarter, before the Fury found another gear after introducing young star Allie Smith at wing defence in the final quarter, helping to restrict the visitors to just nine goals.
In Sunday’s game almost nothing separated the sides for most of the game, with Victoria racing to a handy lead early in the first quarter but WA slowly clawing it back through some brilliant defensive efforts from wing defence Sunday Aryang to trail 11-12.
Sting started the better in the second quarter, kicking out to a four-goal lead, and this time is was the Fury’s turn to respond, cutting the margin back to one goal at the main break.
With Sacha McDonald having replaced Tahnysha Salanoa at goal attack shortly before half-time, Victoria took the ascendancy in the third quarter to lead 37-35.
Sting head Coach Andrea McCulloch turned to her bench in the final quarter, injecting captain Jess Eales into wing defence and Brittany Turnbull at wing attack, while pushing Emma Cosh into goal attack in a bid to curb the influence of Fury goal defence Jacqui Newton, who was among the best on court.
The game looked like it could go either way for much of the last quarter, but with Molly Jovic helping to ignite the Fury and open up the attack end with fresh legs at centre, the home side was able to edge clear in the last five minutes to win 53-45.
The results leave Victoria all alone at the top of the ANL ladder, with next weekend’s clashes with the second-placed Tasmanian Magpies set to determine who claims the minor premiership.
Tassie Magpies and Canberra GIANTS book finals berths
– with Magpies Netball
The Canberra GIANTS and the Tasmanian Magpies are both set to play a big part in the Australian Netball League finals, after the two sides split the points across two games in the ACT.
The Magpies, who were missing their leading goal shooter Jane Cook due to illness, were silenced on Saturday by a determined Giants outfit, who launched into the game with a 16-8 first quarter and increased their advantage to 16 by half-time.
The Giants opted for much the same lineup in the second half and built their advantage to 44-25, before the Magpies finally clicked in the last quarter, winning it 16-8 but still going down 52-41.
Despite registering their first loss in four weeks, the Magpies bounced back in game two to reaffirm their finals credentials, in what proved to be another physical and competitive contest.
With no more than two goals separating the two sides at any change, it was the Magpies who came out on top, coming from two goals down at three-quarter time to secure a two-goal win, 53-51.
Magpies coach Kate Upton highlighted the changes made to the team’s line-up for the Sunday game, with wing defence Sharni Lambden moving to goal defence.
“Once we realigned our defensive structure, the team was really effective in moving the ball down the court and capitalised on some important turnovers,” Upton said.
“This was the result of great one-on-one and team defensive pressure by all players on the court.”
Upton pointed to midcourter and Collingwood training partner Kelsie Rainbow as the difference between the two sides in game two.
“Kelsie was a clear standout; her work rate is elite. Her ability to execute in attack and then transition into defence is flawless,” Upton said.
The Magpies will now turn their attention to the final weekend of matches of the regular season, where they’ll host the Victorian Fury in Melbourne, while the Giants will tune up against the Territory Storm on the Sunshine Coast.
NNSW Waratahs too strong for Territory Storm
The Netball NSW Waratahs have locked in an ANL finals spot with two comprehensive wins against the Territory Storm.
A third-quarter rout set up a huge 71-34 win for the Waratahs on Saturday. Already leading 31-19 at half-time, the home side scored 21 goals to seven for the quarter, with 17/U whiz Matisse Letherbarrow (41/45) netting 17 of them.
Their momentum continued into the final quarter despite swinging a number of changes, with Alison Miller taking Letherbarrow’s place at goal shooter and potting a perfect 15/15 to cap a 19-8 quarter and roll to a 71-34 win.
The Waratahs were made to work for the result the following day, with the Storm calling in a host of Sunshine Coast Lightning players, but still proved too strong down the stretch.
A 19-11 first quarter put the home side in the box seat, but an improved defensive effort from the Lightning in the second quarter saw them hold NSW to just 10 goals and narrow the margin to five.
The Waratahs reshuffled their midcourt after half-time and regained control, pushing their advantage back out to seven goals, and then finished the job with a 17-10 final term to ensure they banked their second win of the weekend and assured themselves of a finals berth with one round remaining.