NNSW Waratahs unable to catch speedy Sting

The Netball NSW (NNSW) Waratahs have finished the season in fourth place after being defeated by the Western Sting, 54-36, in the Preliminary Final of the 2014 Australian Netball League (ANL).

It was Western Australia’s opening quarter performance which set up the win, putting the NNSW Waratahs into chase mode for the remainder of the match.  Although a valiant effort from the team in blue to chase down the deficit, they couldn’t catch the speedy Sting players.

Head Coach Anita Keelan admitted the NNSW Waratahs poor start didn’t help their cause, but said she was proud of her charges performance – not just today, but for the entire 2014 season.

“I’ve said it before but this group of girls are just amazing.  They’ve been wonderful to work with and I couldn’t be prouder of their efforts across the season,” Keelan said.

“I’m happy but disappointed obviously, we would have liked to have finished third, but I think we played our Grand Final yesterday against the Vics [Victorian Fury]. The Sting came out with intent and we were put on the back foot early … we won the second half which was great, but the damage had already been done.

“Coming here with 11 players, the girls did a great job against quality opposition and should be proud of themselves.  They’ve been an absolute pleasure to coach; we’ve had a lot of fun,” Keelan concluded.

It was a frantic start to the third place play-off, with loose ball marring both sides’ opening few minutes.  It was the West Australians who regathered first and after putting up a string of unanswered goals pulled out to an early five goal buffer.

A timeout halfway through the quarter couldn’t stem the Sting’s momentum, with their Captain Ashleigh Brazill putting on some defensive pressure over the feed to help her circle defenders shut down the influence of the NSW shooters.

Despite NSW shooter Kristina Brice breaking the all-time ANL goal scoring record in a single season, eclipsing last year’s ANL Player of the Year Mwai Kumwenda, the opening quarter belonged to the Sting who opened up a 14 goal lead by the first break.

The break brought wholesale changes to the NNSW Waratahs’ attacking end, with Mel Tallent and Amy Sommerville coming onto GS and GA, respectively, moving Kaitlyn Bryce to WA.   The new shooting combination automatically changed up tactics, with the two tall shooters moving the circle in tandem making the Sting defenders think on their feet.

The change stemmed the flow of WA goals,  however NSW couldn’t peg any back themselves as the game played out goal for goal.  Although NSW were able to stay in touch, the Sting proved too fast using their blistering speed to move the ball quickly down the court for their shooters to capitalise. By half time the Sting had opened out to a commanding 31-11 lead.

Keelan once again used the break to make changes to her side, this time in her defensive end; Nicole Styles came onto GD to partner Kristiana Manu’a, moving Jessica Calderara to WD.  Meanwhile the Sting made their first change, bringing on Australian 21/U squad member Numi Tupaea to WA.

Despite the changes, it was Tallent in NSW’s shooting circle who stood up for the beginning of the second half, with her eye in and moving well in the circle to open up the space. But still the momentum – and luck – stayed with the West Australians with even loose ball falling in favour of the Sting.

The NNSW Waratahs won the third quarter, 13 goals to 11, but the Sting still had a comfortable 18-goal buffer leading into the final 15 minutes.

The arrival of the final quarter brought further changes from both coaches, with Keelan opting to use her entire bench by bringing Elly Willan onto GK, moving Manu’a out to WD.  The Sting also brought on just one bench playing, with Sarah East handed the GS bib.

Again the match played out goal for goal, neither side gaining ascendency.  Styles was a stand-out early for NSW in the final 15 minutes, her huge work ethic pulling in intercepts, while helping transition the ball quickly down the court.

A timeout halfway through the quarter provided the NNSW Waratahs to make two further changes, bringing Brice back onto GS while moving Tallent to GA.  The extra height gave NSW a high ball option in the circle, however the work ethic of Tallent and the feeders made sure to make the Sting defenders work hard.

But the damage had been done and no matter how hard the NNSW Waratahs fought back, the deficit was too large to chase down with the Sting claiming an 18 goal victory to finish in third place.

The 2014 Champions will be decided next when the Minor Premiers Victorian Fury take the court against the Queensland Fusion at 12pm AEST.

Watch highlights from the NNSW Finals on NetballNSWTV below:

2014 Australian Netball League – Finals Series Fixture
Waverley Netball Centre, Melbourne VIC

Semi Final: VIC Fury 53 d NNSW Waratahs 51
Semi Final: QLD Fusion 57 d Western Sting 52
Play-off: Western Sting 54 d NNSW Waratahs 36
Grand Final: VIC Fury v QLD Fusion @ 12pm

Click here to view the full 2014 ANL Fixture.

Click here to view the 2014 ANL Ladder.

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores
NNSW WARATAHS│ Q1: 5 – Q2: 11 (6) – Q3: 24 (13) – Q4: 36 (12)
WESTERN STING│ Q1: 19 – Q2: 31 (12) – Q3: 42 (11) – Q4: 54 (12)

Shooting Statistics
NNSW WARATAHS: 36/56 @ 64%
Kristina Brice:  10/13 @ 77%
Kaitlyn Bryce: 1/4 @ 25%
Mel Tallent: 13/21 @ 62%
Amy Sommerville: 12/18 @ 67%

WESTERN STING: 54/71 @ 76%
Kaylia Stanton: 30/40 @ 75%
Kate Beveridge: 18/23 @ 78%
Sarah East: 6/8 @ 75%

Starting Line-ups
NNSW WARATAHS│ GS Kristina Brice, GA Kaitlyn Bryce, WA Brooke Miller, C Emily Keenan (c), WD Maddie Hay, GD Jessica Calderara, GK Kristiana Manu’a

WESTERN STING│ GS Kaylia Stanton, GA Kate Beveridge, WA Lindal Rhode, C Ingrid Colyer, WD Ashleigh Brazill (c), GD Heidi Wilson, GK Courtney Bruce

Positional Changes
NNSW WARATAHS│ Q2 – GS Mel Tallent, GA Amy Sommerville, WA Bryce; Q3 – WD Calderara, GD Nicole Styles; Q4 – WD Manu’a, GK Elly Willan; Q4 Timeout – GS Brice, GA Tallent.

WESTERN STING│ Q3 – WA Numi Tupaea; Q4 – GS Sarah East.