NSW fall short after incredible fight back

The Netball NSW Waratahs have come agonisingly close to Victorian Fury after falling one goal short to the defending Champions, 51-52, in the season opener of the 2015 Australian Netball League (ANL).

After trailing by as much as 10 goals late in the third quarter, the NSW outfit mounted an incredible fightback in the final 15 minutes to take the lead – only for Fury’s experience to get back in front to claim their record-breaking 24th consecutive win and continuing their unbeaten run from 2013 into the new season.

In her Head Coach caretaker role, Assistant Coach Moira Gaha took the reins in the NNSW Waratahs’ opening match and said she couldn’t be prouder of their efforts against a tough, experienced Fury side.

“I’m so proud of the girls.  To go from 10 goals down, get right back into the contest and almost win is such an incredible effort and I think we can take a lot of positives from that performance,” Gaha said.

“I’m really proud of everyone who took the court, particularly ‘Jay’ [Jacqueline Rikard-Bell] who has only had an hour training session with us, but you wouldn’t have noticed because she just slotted in so well and did a great job in her ANL debut.

“We were getting a lot of turnover ball, but we weren’t necessarily converting our own centre passes so that’s something that we’ll look on improving starting tomorrow against [Tassie] Spirit.

“While we aren’t satisfied with a loss, I think we will relish this feeling because we were able to show what NSW can bring to this competition.  I think our combinations really grew as the game wore on, and hopefully we can continue to grow throughout the season,” Gaha concluded.

The Fury coaches made their intentions clear early, starting five of their six athletes with ANZ Championship experience against the NNSW Waratahs.  The defending Champions flew out of the starting blocks, scoring the first four consecutive goals.

However the score could have been much greater if it weren’t for the tough defensive pressure from  NSW circle pair Nicole Styles and Captain Jessica Calderara, who claimed two intercepts and two rebounds in that time.

The NNSW Waratahs found the post through some quick hands through Amy Sommerville, with her shooting partner Kristina Brice finishing the job under the post, before Sommerville showed her long-range accuracy to post back-to-back goals.

Despite a slow start, as the match wore on so the NSW outfit began to settle and were able to find connections in their combinations. The result saw the NNSW Waratahs bring a six goal deficit back to three. But a goal to Melbourne Vixen Alice Teague-Neeld with seconds to spare saw the Fury take a five-goal advantage into the first break.

In line with her side’s momentum, so did ANL debutant Jaqueline Rikard-Bell’s confidence grow who after being thrust into the side late in the week didn’t miss a beat starting in Centre. She was well supported by her midcourt teammates Kaitlyn Bryce (WA) and Maddie Hay (WD), both taking intercepts during the second term.

But it was Styles in at Goal Keeper who stood up for the NNSW Waratahs – facing a 12cm height disadvantage, Styles was able to come up with six turnovers during the second quarter to put in an inspirational performance.  Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to chase down Fury, who opened out to a nine-goal lead at half time.

Gaha made wholesale changes to her outfit for the second half, bringing on four bench players and moving two others.  With new combinations across the court it took the NSW outfit a few minutes to settle, but once they did they came out firing against the Fury.

Halfway through the third quarter, and on the back of some terrific midcourt pressure, the NNSW Waratahs were on a roll and had pulled back to within seven before Fury called a timeout.  The unexpected break had its desired effect with NSW unable to capitalise on possession; but the on-court players were in full voice, with their bench equally as encouraging on the sidelines.

Despite NSW winning the third quarter with 15 goals to 14, it wasn’t enough to chase the Fury who maintained a handy lead into the final 15 minutes, 43-35.

Gaha brought back on 196cm Brice for the final quarter with the former Australian Institute of Sport athlete having an immediate impact.  Relishing in her Vice Captain role, Nikki Deegenaars was dogged in defence to create turnovers, whilst superb in delivering ball for Brice to capitalise down the other end.

After NSW dominated the start of the final quarter, the Fury called a timeout to stem the flow of goals after NNSW Waratahs had outscored them five goals to one in four minutes.  The unscheduled break did little to disrupt NSW’s momentum, with Brice equalling the scores with just over six minutes on the clock.

It set up an intense finale to the season opener, with players throwing everything into the contest.  The two sides were locked in a see-sawing battle – as VIC would go one up, NSW would find the equaliser… until debutant Rikard-Bell got a vital intercept on a Fury centre pass, NSW hitting the front for the first time and converting their next centre pass to take a two-goal lead.

It forced VIC into chase-mode for the final two minutes, but with 30 seconds on the clock VIC had converted their own defensive rebound and with the next centre pass, took back the lead with NSW running out of time to finish with a one-goal defeat.

NNSW Waratahs will be back at AIS Arena tomorrow, Sunday 21 June, to take on Tassie Spirit in their second appearance of a Week 1 double-header in Canberra.

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores
WARATAHS│ Q1: 7 – Q2: 20 (13) – Q3: 35 (15) – Q4: 51 (16)
FURY│ Q1: 12 – Q2: 29 (17) – Q3: 43 (14) – Q4: 52 (9)

Shooting Statistics
WARATAHS: 51/67 @ 76%
K. Brice: 29/33 @ 88%
A. Sommerville: 3/5 @ 60%
K. Borger: 3/9 @ 33%
K. Austin: 16/20 @ 80%

FURY: 52/65 @ 80%
S. Puopolo: 4/9 @ 44%
A. Teague-Neeld: 18/21 @ 86%
E. Ryde: 30/35 @ 86%

Starting Line-ups
WARATAHS│ GS Kristina Brice, GA Amy Sommerville, WA Kaitlyn Bryce, C Jacqueline Rikard-Bell, WD Maddie Hay, GD Jessica Calderara (C), GK Nicole Styles

FURY│ GS Stephanie Puopolo, GA Alice Teague-Neeld, WA Kelsey Browne, C Elle Bennetts, WD Chloe Watson, GD Joanna Weston, GK Fiona Themann (C)

Positional Changes
WARATAHS│ Q3 – GS Kimberly Borger, GA Kiera Austin, C Nikki Deegenaars, WD Rikard-Bell, GD N. Styles, GK Kara Styles; Q4 – GS Brice.

FURY│ Q2 – GS Emma Ryde, C Ella Priestly; WD Shannon Eagland; Q4 Timeout – C Bennetts.

2015 Australian Netball League – NNSW Waratahs Fixtures
Week 1 Sat 20 June 4:30pm* NNSW Waratahs 51 d by VIC Fury 52
  Sun 21 June 10:30am Tassie Spirit v NNSW Waratahs
Week 2 Sat 26 June 4:30pm Southern Force v NNSW Waratahs
  Sun 27 June 12:00pm NNSW Waratahs v QLD Fusion
Week 3 Sat 4 July 8:00pm NNSW Waratahs v Western Sting
  Sun 5 July 12:00pm NNSW Waratahs v Territory Storm
Week 4 Sat 11 July 3:00pm NNSW Waratahs v Canberra Darters > GET TICKETS
Week 5 BYE    
Finals Sat 25 July 5:00pm Semi Final 1 (1v4)
    7:00pm Semi Final 2 (2v3)
  Sun 26 July 10:00am 3rd Place Final (Loser SF 1 v Loser SF 2)
    12:00pm Grand Final (Winner SF 1 v Winner SF 2)


2015 Netball NSW Waratahs – Week 1 Team
Kiera AUSTIN (Eastwood Ryde)
Kimberly BORGER (St George)
Kristina BRICE (CSNA/Sydney Uni)
Kaitlyn BRYCE (St George)
Jessica CALDERARA (Eastwood Ryde)
Maddie HAY (Sutherland Shire)
Lauren MOORE (Central Coast)
Jacqueline RIKARD-BELL (Eastwood Ryde)
Amy SOMMERVILLE (Eastwood Ryde)
Kara STYLES (St George)
Nicole STYLES (St George/Team Northumbria)
Replacement: Claire O’BRIEN (St George)
Assistant Coaches: Briony Akle & Moira Gaha
Team Manager: Maureen Stephenson