GIANTS Netball fought to the bitter end but just didn’t have enough to beat a superb Sunshine Coast Lightning side in the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final on Saturday night, going down 65-48 at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
The GIANTS raced out of the blocks in the opening quarter but were unable to keep the same intensity for the rest of the game, losing the second, third and fourth quarters by margins of seven, five and five respectively.
Asked by media after the game if she felt the week off had benefited the Lightning, Head Coach Julie Fitzgerald was forthright in her response.
“I don’t think that was the case at all tonight,” she said.
“We prepared really well for this game all week so we cannot use that as an excuse, I thought the Lightning just played exceptionally well.”
She also backed her players to bounce back from the disappointment.
“I think we will learn a lot from this game tonight. This is our first year as a club and I am very proud of what we have created this season and looking forward to next year.”
It was a strong start by the visitors with defensive pair Sam Poolman and Bec Bulley combining well to create turnover opportunities, which their attacking teammates dutifully converted. The GIANTS soon pushed out to a five-goal lead before the Lightning responded, with Captain Geva Mentor claiming back-to-back intercepts to bring her team – and the QLD crowd – back into the game.
In just her third game starting at Wing Attack, GIANTS veteran Susan Pettitt was an unstoppable force on the circle edge – putting up 12 feeds in the opening 15 minutes alone. This effort, along with a determined defensive effort from the back four, helped the GIANTS to a narrow advantage at the first break.
With the stakes high, naturally both teams were guilty of costly mistakes; but it was the NSW side which were most effected early in the second term, which saw the Lightning take the lead. Two goals down and with 10 minutes until half-time, the GIANTS called a tactical timeout to re-gather themselves.
While the tactic worked, it took time and Lightning didn’t waste their opportunities, pushing out to a commanding five-goal lead in the process. But that’s as far as the GIANTS would allow it as they continued to grind away, getting back to within three before the home side called for a break in play.
Things progressed much the same way, until the GIANTS give up valuable possession to see Lightning take a handy 32-27 lead into the big break.
Both coaches opted to maintain their starting seven for the start of the second half, however it didn’t last long for the GIANTS – Fitzgerald injecting Sarah Wall into Wing Attack to move Pettitt into the circle after the Lightning burst out to a seven-goal lead in the first five minutes.
The changes stymied the run of goals against them, but they couldn’t peg the deficit back – and as frustrations began to creep in, so did loose ball. The Lightning’s lead eventually grew to double digits as the game moved into the final 15 minutes.
With Fitzgerald trying a number of combinations in the final term, looking for the winning one, the GIANTS tried everything to will themselves back into the contest but Lightning were relentless and didn’t present a single chink in their armour for the visitors to take advantage of.
In the end it was a step too far for the GIANTS in 2017 who will now look to go one step better in 2018.
MVP: Karla Mostert (Lightning)
GIANTS | Q1: 15 – Q2: 27 (12) – Q3: 38 (11) – Q4: 48 (10)
L’NING | Q1: 13 – Q2: 32 (19) – Q3: 48 (16) – Q4: 63 (15)
GIANTS | GS Kristina Brice, GA Jo Harten (C), WA Susan Pettitt, C Serena Guthrie, WD Jamie-Lee Price, GD Bec Bulley, GK Sam Poolman
LIGHTNING | GS Caitlin Bassett, GA Stephanie Wood, WA Kelsey Browne, C Laura Scherian, WD Laura Langman, GD Karla Mostert, GK Geva Mentor (C)
GIANTS: 48/61 @ 79%
K Brice: 24/29 @ 83%
J Harten: 20/25 @ 80%
S Pettitt: 4/7 @ 57%
LIGHTNING: 65/71 @ 92%
C Bassett: 49/51 @ 96%
S Wood: 16/20 @ 80%