Crucial weekend for three ANL Finals hopefuls

IMG_0243It’s a crucial weekend of Australian Netball League action at Perth’s State Netball Centre for finals hopefuls Western Sting, QLD Fusion and Netball NSW Waratahs.

Third-placed Sting will take on Waratahs (fifth) in the opening match of the round on Saturday afternoon and then face Fusion (fourth) in the final game on Sunday.

Sting and Fusion both have two wins from their three matches played while Waratahs have played an extra game and need to beat Sting and Territory Storm to keep themselves in the race for a top four finish.

Sting lost to the Fusion in last year’s semi finals and defeated the Waratahs in the play-off for third and fourth. Sting coach Michelle Wilkins said this weekend’s round would give her side a good indication of where they sat among the competition’s leading teams.

“The beauty of this competition, like the ANZ Championship, is that every game is important,” Wilkins said.

“For us they are two very important games and will give us a good indication in terms of our progression from last year. We’re a different team and line-up (from 2014) but certainly looking to measure ourselves in the top half of the competition.

“We have a very focused young group. Being challenged in this environment and the opportunities that they get out on court will certainly be of great value to them going through the pathway.”

BurtonPhotography-12563412469Sting’s only loss last round came against defending champions Victorian Fury and Wilkins said they’ve identified areas of their game they need to improve in against two high-quality opponents this weekend.

Photos courtesy of Leithal Pictures and Peter Burton Photography

“Overall we were pleased with some elements of our games but it’s about building on areas of our performance from last weekend in Darwin,” Wilkins said.

“It’s about being able to execute under pressure and the ANL gives an opportunity for our athletes to be tested under pressure. It will be the team that can deal with that best and capitalise on their ball movement that will come out on top.”

The Waratahs will again be without injured captain Jessica Calderara and NSW Swifts defender Micaela Wilson, both who are continuing to be monitored for ankle injuries.

Two members of New South Wales’ 19/U national title winning side, Ashley Valeni and Claire O’Brien, will make the trip west for Waratahs.

This round of ANL will be the first national event played inside Perth’s new $26 million State Netball Centre, which was opened in late March by Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett and Sport and Recreation Minister Mia Davies.

It’s based at the Matthews Netball Centre – the location of the 1967 Netball World Cup, which was the first time that Australia hosted the world championships.

Week Three Fixtures

Netball NSW Waratahs v Western Sting
Saturday 4 July, 6.00pm (WST)
State Netball Centre, Perth

QLD Fusion v Territory Storm
Saturday 4 July, 8.00pm (WST)
State Netball Centre, Perth

Netball NSW Waratahs v Territory Storm
Sunday 5 July, 10.00am (WST)
State Netball Centre, Perth

QLD Fusion v Western Sting
Sunday 5 July, 12.00pm (WST)
State Netball Centre, Perth