GIANTS Netball have reached the Suncorp Super Netball Preliminary Final after a pulsating 52-51 win over the Collingwood Magpies Netball Club at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre on Saturday 3 June.
The GIANTS will now travel to Melbourne next weekend to do battle with the Vixens for the right to face the Sunshine Coast Lightning in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final.
Down by five goals at one stage in the last quarter, the GIANTS found another gear in the final minutes of an epic contest to deny the visitors, and send their brilliant supporters home happy after one of the games of the season.
Speaking post-match, GIANTS Head Coach Julie Fitzgerald said she was immensely proud of her special group of players who never gave in, even when it looked like the game would go the Magpies’ way.
“We made some costly errors tonight but we were able to regroup every time and I think that was key to the win,” she said.
“There were times when we let things get away from us but they way we fought back I think will stand us in good stead going forward.
“There is nothing between the top teams in this competition and we will look to the Vixens game next week as another huge challenge.”
A Caitlin Thwaites double got the Magpies off to a fast start before Kristina Brice opened the GIANTS’ account. Opposing goal keepers Sam Poolman and Sharni Layton were earning their stripes early on as both sets of attacks were thwarted and the game was level at five goals apiece midway through the first quarter.
The GIANTS briefly led by two goals before costly turnovers allowed the Magpies get on a roll, and two minutes later the visitors led by the same margin. The home side showed resolve, however, with a Serena Guthrie turnover allowing the GIANTS the opportunity to turn things around and lead by one at the first break.
Two Bec Bulley intercepts – and a Poolman rebound – were the catalyst for a four-goal run which put the GIANTS 17-13 up before the Magpies called a timeout. Brice was looking comfortable in the shooting circle and linked well with goal attack Jo Harten and wing attack Susan Pettitt.
Despite this, poor passing in the midcourt and the attacking end gave the Magpies possession from which they reduced the margin to two midway through the period. The GIANTS rose again and, some Layton intercepts aside, they were good value for a six-goal lead minutes from halftime.
But the Magpies showed their class by reducing the deficit to just two again as the teams headed to the sheds.
The visitors kept that momentum going at the start of the third quarter with early turnovers allowing them register the first four goals of the period and the lead to boot. Their midcourt of Kim Ravaillion, Madi Robinson and Ash Brazill had upped the intensity while in attack Shae Brown was growing into her role alongside Thwaites.
The lead might have changed hands but the GIANTS weren’t phased and they traded goals with the Magpies before Brice put them back within one midway through the quarter. The rest of the period went goal for goal before a Layton intercept allowed the visitors get three up. But soon after the GIANTS came back again and a cool Brice finish meant there was only two between the sides at the last break.
A Brazill intercept setup Thwaites for the first score of the fourth quarter and before long the margin was four, but there was plenty of life in the GIANTS. A Jamie-Lee Price intercept, followed by another by Guthrie, gave Harten and Brice valuable possession and with 10 minutes to play it was a one-goal game.
Good work by Ravaillion, Brandley and Robinson swung momentum in favour of Collingwood again with Thwaites and Brown rewarding the effort to put their side five up with seven to play. With five to go the gap was down to three, however, the GIANTS needed to capitalise on any errors made by their opponents.
A penalty against Thwaites led to four consecutive goals for the home side and with one minute to go the scores were level. And when Brice’s chance to seal the deal came she stood tall and nailed it.
GIANTS | Q1: 13 – Q2: 26 (13) – Q3: 37 (11) – Q4: 52 (15)
MAPGIES | Q1: 12 – Q2: 24 (12) – Q3: 39 (15) – Q4: 51(12)
GIANTS | GS Kristina Brice, GA Jo Harten, WA Susan Pettitt, C Serena Guthrie, WD Jamie-Lee Price, GD Bec Bulley, GK Sam Poolman
MAGPIES | GS Caitlin Thwaites, GA Shae Brown, WA Madi Robinson, C Kim Ravaillion, WD Ash Brazill, GD April Brandley, GK Sharni Layton
GIANTS | No changes
MAGPIES | No changes
GIANTS: 52/58 @ 90%
K Brice: 29/33 @ 88%
J Harten: 23/25 @ 92%
MAGPIES: 51/61 @ 84%
C Thwaites: 37/45 @ 82%
S Brown: 14/16 @ 88%
MVP: Madi Robinson (Magpies)