The Netball NSW Waratahs put the disappointment of missing out on the Deakin University Australian Netball League Grand Final behind them by securing a third-place finish.
Having gone down to eventual competition winners the Tasmanian Magpies in their Semi Final 66-55 on Saturday, 30 June, the Waratahs regrouped to beat the Victorian Fury 57-54 the next day to give their Finals campaign a silver lining.
The NSW side had finished the regular season in second place behind the Fury, meaning they would face third-placed Magpies in the Semi Finals with the Victorians doing battle with the fourth-placed Canberra Giants.
However the top two were unable to replicate their regular season form with both the Giants and Magpies going on to contest the Grand Final and the Tasmanians taking the title.
In the Semi, the Magpies withstood a final-quarter fightback from the Waratahs. Leading for the entire game, the Pies saw what was once a nine-goal lead evaporate to just two goals midway through the final term as NSW made a late charge.
But with Magpies goal shooter Jane Cook (55 goals from 58 attempts) all but unstoppable under the post, the Waratahs needed everything to go right for them in the crucial final minutes, and when a couple of errors crept back into their game Tasmania was able to re-establish their advantage and push on for a memorable 66-55 win.
The Magpies got off to a flyer in the first quarter, leading by six goals midway through, with the 200cm Cook providing the expected roadblock for the Waratahs’ defence.
NSW talked in the lead-up to the match about the need to slow down Tasmania’s midcourt, but centre Kelsie Rainbow and wing attack Vanessa Augustini were in full flight early, whipping the ball around the attacking third and catching the Waratahs defenders on the back foot.
But a couple of late turnovers allowed the Waratahs to steady and cut the quarter-time margin to just three goals – 15-12.
The Magpies again started the better of the two teams in the second quarter, taking their lead to seven goals, which they maintained through to the half-time break for a 33-26 advantage.
The teams split the third quarter 16-16, with Magpies goal defence Sharni Lambden and NSW goal keeper Clare Iongi trading spectacular turnovers as the margin yo-yoed back and forth.
The final quarter finally delivered the tight contest many had predicted, with NSW making Tasmania pay
With the margin back to six goals, a Magpies centre pass break gave NSW another opportunity that was duly converted, and then 16-year-old goal shooter Letherbarrow (41 from 46) coolly slotted one from long range to narrow the gap to four.
A miss from Magpies goal attack Cody Lange with 10mins remaining allowed Waratahs to surge again, with the margin slashed to just two.
But that was the end of the Waratahs’ resistance, with a turnover in the goal circle and a footwork call on the otherwise outstanding NSW centre Elle Bennetts giving the Magpies the buffer they needed to close the game out.
Article: Netball Australia