St George through to maiden Grand Final

St George have booked their place in the 2014 DOOLEYS State League Waratah Cup Grand Final after defeating 2013 Runners-Up Sutherland Shire, 60-45, in tonight’s Major Semi Final at the Anne Clark Centre.

After finishing the regular season Minor Premiers for the first time, it is also the Association’s maiden Grand Final appearance in State League’s top division.

Head Coach Moira Gaha couldn’t wipe the smile from her face as she heaped praise on her St George charges at the end of the match.

“It’s such an exciting moment – history for St George [Netball Association] to be Minor Premiers for starters, but now to be in the Grand Final,” Gaha said.

“The girls have been building all year, all 12 of them contributing … as a coach I’m just really lucky to have such versatility in my team, and just such a committed, dedicated and real team spirit amongst the girls.

“It’s like working with a family, it’s awesome,” Gaha concluded.

After making the most of early turnovers, Sutherland Shire started the match strongly to jump out to a four-nil lead before the Minor Premiers hit the scoreboard. However they wouldn’t hold the lead long as St George mounted a comeback halfway through the quarter.

Despite Sutherland’s efforts, the momentum stayed with St George throughout the first half.  After pulling out to a four-goal lead before a timeout, St George pushed hard through some dogged circle defence from Kristiana Manu’a and Nicole Styles.

With the Netball NSW Waratahs’ defenders limiting the influence of their Australian Netball League teammates, Sutherland’s shooters Mel Tallent and Leah Shoard, St George pulled out to a healthy 11-goal lead at half time.

It was a much more even affair for the start of the second half.  Sutherland won the third quarter, but only by the slightest of margins to bring the deficit back to 10 goals.  While Kaitlyn Bryce at WA caused the Sutherland defence grief with her speed and agility, Sutherland Captain Shoard was unstoppable in the circle, particularly at long range.

With a spot in the Grand Final up for grabs, it was all or nothing for the final 15 minutes.  It was at times a scrappy affair as players threw themselves into every loose ball chase and contest, little separated the sides.  But as the clock ticked down St George showed why they had finished Minor Premiers, winning the final quarter by five goals to book their spot in the title decider.

The 2013 Runners-Up’s Finals hopes remain alive with a second chance to fight for a spot in the 2014 Grand Final.  They will meet Minor Semi Final victors Eastwood Ryde in the Preliminary Final, to be played next Wednesday 16 July at the Anne Clark Centre.

It was a nervous start from both teams in the Minor Semi Final, with defending Champions Eastwood Ryde trailing 2014 Waratah Cup newcomers City of Sydney/Sydney University early in the opening 15 minutes.  But as nerves settled the teams began to find their rhythm and after being behind for much of the opening quarter, Eastwood hit the lead in final 10 seconds.

The momentum continued to see-saw, however the defending Champions experience began to show as the clock ticked over.  By half-time Eastwood had pulled out to a healthy eight-goal lead over CSNA.

CSNA defensive pair Elly Willan and Billie Gurr had done well to limit the free movement of Eastwood’s shooters, however with their hopes of claiming back-to-back titles on the line, the defending Champs began to push.

Led by their goal shooter Amy Sommerville, as well as some fantastic defensive play from Netball NSW Blues Captain Sophie Halpin, Eastwood Ryde extended their lead at the final break with CSNA needing a massive fourth quarter to stay in the contest.

Despite their best efforts, CSNA couldn’t catch Eastwood Ryde who finished 21 goal victors to survive the knock-out Semi and advance to next week’s Preliminary Final.

Watch match highlights on NetballNSWTV below:

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores

ST GEORGE│ Q1: 14 – Q2: 32 (18) – Q3: 45 (13) – Q4: 60 (15)
SUTHERLAND│ Q1: 12 – Q2: 21 (9) – Q3: 35 (14) – Q4: 45 (10)

Starting Line-ups
ST GEORGE│ GS Kimberly Borger, GA Holly Pearce, WA Kaitlyn Bryce, C Belynda Loveday, WD Katie Maguire, GD Nicole Styles, GK Kristiana Manu’a
SUTHERLAND│ GS Melissa Tallent, GA Leah Shoard (c), WA Hayley Bright, C Nicole Medulla, WD Jade Jacqueline Rikard-Bell, GD Toni Anderson, GK Karli Ireland

Shooting Statistics
ST GEORGE: 60/71 @ 85%
K Borger: 33/38 @ 87%
H Pearce: 27/33 @ 82%

SUTHERLAND: 45/56 @ 80%
M Tallent: 25/29 @ 86%
L Shoard: 20/27 @ 74%

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores

EASTWOOD│ Q1: 11 – Q2: 24 (13) – Q3: 40 (16) – Q4: 52 (12)
CSNA/SYD UNI│ Q1: 10 – Q2: 16 (6) – Q3: 24 (8) – Q4: 29 (5)

Starting Line-ups
EASTWOOD│ GS Amy Sommerville, GA Joanne Day, WA Tanisha Stanton, C Emily Keenan, WD Sophie Halpin, GD Jessica Calderara, GK Jessica Mansell
CSNA/SYD UNI│ GS Claudia Russell, GA Michelle Calderara, WA Jade Mann, C Nicole Deegenaars, WD Madeline McCathie, GD Billie Gurr, GK Elly Willan

Shooting Statistics
EASTWOOD: 52/66 @ 79%
A Sommerville: 28/37 @ 76%
J Day: 24/29 @ 83%

CSNA/SYD UNI: 29/46 @ 63%
C Russell: 23/33 @ 70%
M Calderara: 6/13 @ 46%