The Canberra GIANTS dug deep to push eventual champions Victorian Fury and bronze medallists the Tasmanian Magpies in the Deakin University Australian Netball League finals, but ultimately left empty-handed.
Playing in the major semi-final at the Victorian State Netball and Hockey Centre on Saturday afternoon, the GIANTS fought hard and were well in the contest, before a big third term saw Fury pull away and go on to win 59-50.
It was a scoreline that was repeated the next day for the GIANTS, who put in another excellent showing against the Tasmanian Magpies in what was last year’s grand final rematch, but the Magpies piled on 18 goals to 10 in the final term for the 59-50 win.
GIANTS captain Taylah Davies said while the results were disappointing for her side, the Canberra team could take pride in its efforts against the DUANL’s other top teams.
“It was disappointing to come away without a medal this weekend, but we definitely improved on our last couple of games,” she said.
“That’s something we needed to look at and we’re definitely proud (of how we responded to the challenge) – it’s just really disappointing we couldn’t come away with the bronze or the gold.”
The GIANTS were faced with the toughest task in the DUANL in the major semi-final – finding a way to beat the ladder-leading Victorian Fury in the latter’s home state.
Fury had dropped just one game all season to sit two points clear atop the table heading into finals.
But the GIANTS showed they weren’t intimidated, starting strongly to tie the scores in the first quarter of the semi-final 15-apiece.
Fury held a three-goal advantage at half-time, before piling on 15 goals to 10 in the third quarter to open up a handy lead, holding out to win by nine goals.
“We started really, really strong and that’s something we’ve been working on all season,” Davies said. “So it was really great to see us come out firing and really stick it to them.
“They are a very physical side, and they are a very class side, and we stuck tight with them.
“It was just that third quarter they started a little bit stronger than us and got a few goals on the board early.
“We definitely did give it everything we had.”
The loss sent the GIANTS through to the bronze-medal decider on Sunday, against the Tasmanian Magpies, who’d gone down to the Netball NSW Waratahs in the minor semi-final 51-47 on Saturday.
After a close first three quarters in the enthralling battle – just a goal separated the teams at the final change – the Magpies thundered home with 18 goals to 10 in the fourth quarter to secure the nine-goal win over the GIANTS.
“We knew it was going to be really tough again,” Davies said. “We went down to them by one goal in the grand final last year, so it was that little bit of a grand final rematch, but for the bronze medal this time.
“They’ve got Jane Cook in their shooting circle, she’s a really strong shooter for them, and we just wanted to try and shut her out of the game and we think did that early, which was really exciting.
“But then we just didn’t capitalise on a few of our turnovers and score on a couple of our centre passes.
“Again, we were really proud with our performance, but we just couldn’t convert those really important turnovers at crucial times.”
Davies praised the efforts of the team as a whole, but made special mention of the defenders, who stood up to a tough task in both their matches.
“Across the whole board, we were really proud of everyone, and I know Mel (Clarke), our coach, was as well,” she said.
“Our defenders really stood up; they had a massive challenge for both games. Both Fury and the Magpies have two really big targets in their shooting circle. Our defenders did a great job.
“Toni Anderson has had an absolutely amazing season. I think she’s really had a great couple of games for us and pulled out some crazy intercepts and has won us a few games, and she was no different this weekend.”
While the dust is still settling on season 2019, Davies said she was proud of the way the GIANTS went about turning around their season after a slow start.
After losing their first four games, the GIANTS went on to win seven on the next 10 games to battle their way to fourth on the DUANL ladder.
“Finishing fourth isn’t ideal and we wanted to be in the gold medal match, that was our goal, so it’s a little disappointing when you don’t reach that goal, but at the start of the season we had quite a few losses on the board,” Davies said.
“For us to really turn that season around is something really exciting.
“We’ve got a fairly unique group. We had a few injuries and things happen within the team, so just to see a lot of our young ones coming in and stepping up, it’s just been awesome.
“Overall we’re really proud of how we went and turning around our season from the first half, because if we continued how we were playing, we wouldn’t have even made finals.
“When you look back and weigh all that up, we’ve done really well to make it to the weekend in Melbourne.
“But we’ll be looking next year to work on everything and get back in the final again.”
Victorian Fury won the DUANL grand final in a thriller, defeating the NSW Waratahs 54-53.