Defending champs too strong for NNSW Blues

The Southern Force has put on a commanding performance to take honours over the Netball NSW Blues, posting a 34 goal victory during Week 7 of the 2013 Australian Netball League (ANL) played at the Anne Clark Centre.

The 2012 ANL champions were out to prove a point with their Finals chances hanging in the balance, with the Force sitting in fifth place behind Queensland Fusion on goal percentage.  The South Australians require two big wins from this weekend to have a hope in defending their title next weekend in Adelaide.

NNSW Blues Head Coach Moira Gaha said her team were expecting a ferocious battle from the Force tonight.

“We knew the Force needed to win, and win by a big margin, to have the chance to defend their title next weekend in Adelaide.  They ran their strongest line-up tonight looking for that big score, so it was always going to be really tough for our girls,” Gaha said.

“It was a really physical game out there tonight, but all credit to our Blues players – they never gave up, they continued to support each other and show a maturity beyond their years; something they have done all season.”

“I’m so proud of the team that we have brought together for this season.  They have stepped up to every challenge, have grown as a unit, and never said die.  It’s a real credit to the playing group and also to Netball NSW to provide this opportunity to their younger, developing players,” Gaha concluded.

The young NSW side were in for a tough battle from the start, with the defending champions boasting no less than three ANZ Championship players*, including NSW junior Samantha Poolman in GK. 

The Force opened up an early three goal lead before the NNSW Blues chased to even the scoreboard.  Coming up against her old Baulkham Hills teammate, Vice-Captain Vanessa Mullampy at GS led from the front, shooting a perfect nine goals from as many attempts to keep the NNSW Blues in touch.

However the Force was able to capitalise on more of their opportunities to take a five goal lead into the first break, 21-16.

2014 NSW Swift Maddie Hay showed some of the skill that saw her selected for her debut ANZ Championship season, reading the play to take vital intercepts whilst also putting pressure on the pass.

With the teams continuing to exchange goals, it wasn’t until halfway through the second quarter that the Force began to put their foot down. Using their speed to cut down the space and height to cut off the long pass, their shooters found the net to open up to a 10 goal lead.

Under the pressure the NNSW Blues did their best to slow the play down and work the ball patiently down the court.  However the Force was quick on the rebound, outscoring the hosts by 10 goals to extend their lead at half time, 39-24.

In their final match of the 2013 competition, Head Coach Moira Gaha made a raft of changes to the NNSW Blues for the second half to continue to give each of her charges court time.

With the mixture of new combinations, it took the young NSW side a few minutes to settle into the speed of the match, in which time the Force pushed out their lead over the hosts. 

With their Finals hopes in the balance the Force were at full strength, needing a big margin to boost their percentage and chances to sneak into the top four teams.  With a vocal bench riding every passage of play, the visitors continued to display their experience.

Despite a closer quarter between the two sides, the Force outscored the NNSW Blues 15 goals to 10 to further extend their advantage on the scoreboard leading into the final 15 minutes; Force ahead 54-34.

In the final 15 minutes the NNSW Blues threw everything at the contest, however no matter the combination the Force had the measure of the hosts.  Contesting until the final seconds, the NNSW Blues were simply outplayed by the defending champions, with the Force posting victory at the Anne Clark Centre 74-40.  

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores
NNSW BLUES Q1: 16 – Q2: 24 (8) – Q3: 34 (10) – Q4: 40 (6)
SOUTHERN FORCE Q1: 21 – Q2: 39 (18) – Q3: 54 (15) – Q4: 74 (20)

Shooting Statistics
NNSW BLUES: 40/54 @ 74%
Vanessa Mullampy: 14/16 @ 87%
Holly Pearce: 15/21 @ 72%
Lauren Yager: 7/11 @ 64%
Georgia Marshall: 4/6 @ 67%

FORCE: 74/88 @ 84%
Laura Packard: 39/49 @ 80%
Stephanie Puopolo: 35/39 @ 90%

Teams Starting Positions
NNSW BLUES: GS Vanessa Mullampy (vc), GA Holly Pearce, WA Tanisha Stanton, C Katie Maguire, WD Billie Gurr, GD Jessica Calderara (c), GK Nicole Styles

FORCE: GS Laura Packard*, GA Stephanie Puopolo*, WA Sheree Wingard (c), C Sarah Kennedy, WD Madeline Turner, GD Luka Thompson, GK Samantha Poolman

Positional Changes
Q2 – WD Madeline Hay; Q3 – GS Pearce, GA Lauren Yager, WA Mullampy, C Hay, WD Kara Styles, GD Styles, GK Calderara; Q3 Timeout – GK Gurr; Q3 Timeout (2) – GS Georgia Marshall; Q4 – GA Mullampy, WA Stephanie MacGougan, C Maguire; Q4 Timeout – GA Yager, C Stanton, WD Hay.

Q2 – WD Kate Easther, GD Turner.