The opening round of the 2018 Australian Netball League saw some thrilling matches, seesawing fortunes and standout individual performances in a weekend of action spanning four states.
Suncorp Super Netball players featured heavily throughout the weekend, giving fans the chance to see Australia’s best young talent alongside some of the sport’s biggest names.
Here’s our wrap of the action.
WESTERN STING vs TASMANIAN MAGPIES
There were mixed results for defending ANL champions Western Sting in their opening stoushes against the Tasmanian Magpies, with the teams splitting their two matches in Perth.
Saturday’s game saw only a few goals separate the sides for the entire match, with Sting holding sway by three goals at quarter-time and half-time.
The introduction of Gabby Sinclair (11 goals from 15 attempts) at goal shooter in the third quarter helped the Magpies close the gap and tie the scores at 35-35 at the final change, but a Sting goaling switch paid dividends in the last quarter, with Emma Cosh (3/4) moving from wing attack to goal attack and Tess Cransberg (21/23) back to shooter.
Their combined 12 goals were enough to hold off Tasmania 45-43.
Sunday’s game saw both teams load up with West Coast Fever and Collingwood squad members, with Annika Lee-Jones, Shannon Eagland and Kaylia Stanton joining the Sting, and the Magpies bolstered by Alice Teague-Neald and Matilda Garrett.
The Magpies found their groove with new Collingwood training partner Jane Cook, who only joined the squad in the last fortnight and poured in 37 goals from 40 attempts to lead her team to a 58-40 victory.
Sting coach Andrea McCulloch said it was pleasing to get on the board on day one, but conceded Sunday’s game was disappointing.
“Yesterday was a tight match, and both teams played a bit messy, which is expected in the first game of the season, but I do think we were quicker than the Magpies to settle,” McCulloch said.
“Today, we just didn’t adjust to our combinations quickly enough.”
“Having players come in, we should have been able to stick to our game plan, but we didn’t, we strayed from that.”
“Magpies, to their credit, I thought they had an excellent defensive game and wouldn’t allow us to play our game.”
VICTORIAN FURY vs NNSW WARATAHS
The Victorian Fury shared the spoils on the opening weekend against NNSW Waratahs.
The Fury appeared far more settled in game one on their home court, opening up a five-goal lead at quarter-time, extending it to 10 at half-time and 16 after three quarters, before running out 61-46 winners.
Young Fury shooter Rahni Samason proved a real headache for the Waratahs’ defence, netting 27 goals from 28 attempts, while wing defence Casey Adamson was outstanding in curbing the influence of AFLW player and former Fury representative Elle Bennetts.
It was a different story on Sunday, however, with NNSW bouncing back and orchestrating a 23-goal turnaround to win 58-50.
Both teams put up 63 shots, but despite the inclusion of Vixens players Sam Gooden, Khao Watts and Kadie-Ann Dehaney, Waratahs capitalised best in a polished performance that saw them finish the weekend inside the top four.
The Waratahs had Swifts defender Kate Eddy suit up at goal keeper, while 2017 ANL MVP, goaler Sophie Garbin, returned to the competition just a week after being named best on court in the Swifts’ Round 1 win against Queensland Firebirds.
Ultra impressive was NSW 17/U representative Matisse Letherbarrow, who was introduced at goal shooter after half-time on Saturday and earned a start for Sunday’s game, shooting 36 from 39, including a flawless 10 from 10 in both the first and last quarters.
SOUTHERN FORCE vs CANBERRA GIANTS
Canberra GIANTS sit atop the ANL ladder after two hard-fought but solid wins against South Australia’s Southern Force in Round 1.
Force started the stronger of the two sides on Saturday, leading by a goal at quarter-time, before the Giants introduced GIANTS Netball player Kristiana Manu’a, who helped turn the game in her team’s favour at goal defence.
The Giants led by five at half-time, pulled further ahead in the third quarter and were able to secure a 55-46 result.
There was no shortage of scoring on Sunday, with nine goals again the margin as the Giants were victorious 67-58.
QUEENSLAND FUSION vs TERRITORY STORM
Territory Storm proved they’ll be no easybeats this season, coming within a whisker of knocking off Queensland Fusion in their opening game.
Fusion welcomed former Diamonds defender Chanel Gomes back to elite netball for the first time in four years, after a long-term injury and subsequent hip replacement sidelined the star.
But the Storm weren’t overawed by the task, with Sunshine Coast Lightning training partner Cara Koenen pushing Fusion all the way in a 50-54 result.
Fusion hit their straps in the second game on Sunday, posting 62 goals to 45 to secure equal top position on the ANL ladder, with season-shaping clashes looming this weekend against Victorian Fury.