The Darters take on hosts Southern Force at Adelaide’s Netball SA Stadium on Saturday afternoon before rounding out their campaign against QLD Fusion on Sunday morning.
Force head into the weekend unbeaten and vying for the minor premiership against reigning champions Victorian Fury, while Fusion has to win one of their two matches – they also face Fury – to leapfrog Netball NSW Waratahs and secure a spot in the semi-finals.
Images courtesy of Ben Southall and David Callow
Force coach Tania Obst and her Fusion counterpart Jenny Brazel are both wary of the threat Darters pose, both claiming the results so far this season highlights the improvement the side from the nation’s capital has made this season.
Darters may have won just one match, but they pushed Fury in the opening round and the Waratahs last weekend, and coach Melinda Clarke said they’d love to upset the finals plans of the Fusion and Force.
“We have been improving,” Clarke said of her team’s season. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to put together four quarters yet in those tight matches and it’s been one quarter that’s blown out in those games.
“We take a lot of confidence from our game against Waratahs into this weekend. We know both will be challenging matches. Both teams have strong line-ups with ANZ Championship experience and Australian 21/U representatives.
The Darters are reaping the benefits from an improvement in Netball ACT’s underage teams at this year’s national championships.
The majority of the Darters’ squad are aged under 21, which Clarke believes paints a bright future for the team going forward. The ultimate goal is to start regularly beating the top sides such as Fury and Force and be part of finals action.
“It’s been great to see all of our 15 (squad members) fight for spots on the court and that’s contributed to our ability to have competitive quarters against the highly-fancied teams,” Clarke said.
“I’ve been impressed with the whole group. Different players at different times of the season have stood up. We’ve been able to change up our combinations and styles of play and structures which is due to the depth of our group.
“We certainly need to finish off games and play four quarters against quality opposition and hopefully those results we want will eventually come.”
Fusion have been dealt a blow with an ankle injury sidelining promising young shooter Beryl Friday for the rest of their campaign.
But Brazel said her absence presented opportunities to the likes of Cara Koenen, Jemmason Power and Abigail Latu-Meafou to step up and present a dangerous target in the goal circle.
“We chose a lot of young athletes in our side this year with an eye to keep developing them and give opportunities to step up to the next level,” Brazel said.
“To their credit, they’ve never lost focus and just kept at the task each week and taken everything in their stride. We’ve learned from every game and the girls have been prepared to keep pushing to step up the next level.”