Julie Fitzgerald’s shot at a sixth national netball league title is alive while Stacey Marinkovich signed off without silverware as Giants Netball booked a grand final berth with a 64-61 win against West Coast Fever on the Sunshine Coast.
- The Giants will face NSW Swifts in next Saturday’s Super Netball grand final after a win in the preliminary final
- The Giants beat West Coast Fever in Stacey Marinkovich’s last game before becoming the Diamond’s full-time coach
- Jo Harten had 36 goals and Sophie Dwyer had 22 for the Giants while Fever’s Jhaniele Fowler was restricted to 37
The Giants’ rousing preliminary final victory means next Saturday’s Super Netball decider will be an all-New South Wales climax with the Swifts.
Despite a determined last quarter fightback, the Fever were unable to secure a grand final departure for Marinkovich, who fought back tears after her final game before tackling full-time duty as Australia’s national coach.
Giant Sam Poolman silenced the world’s best shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, as midcourters Maddie Hay, Jamie-Lee Price and Amy Parmenter soared over their direct opponents.
“It’s been a really tough season and to have an all-NSW grand final after what our state’s been through is incredible,” Poolman said.
The left-handed shooting combination of Jo Harten (37 goals) and 19-year-old Sophie Dwyer (24 goals) shared the scoring load but more importantly showed amazing composure in the grand final qualifier.
Poolman rarely rates a mention as one of the competition’s top goalkeepers but Fitzgerald beamed as she reflected on her shutdown of Fowler.
“I’m very excited for Sam,” Fitzgerald said.
“She maintained it across the four quarters, which is what we asked for.
“It was such a big job and she did it so well today.”
Any mere mortal would have been happy with 10 goals in a first quarter, except for Fever superstar Fowler, who was under pressure in the eliminator.
Giants defenders Parmenter and Poolman pushed the Jamaican into some uncomfortable areas, and at one point Fowler had almost as many turnovers as goals.
Fowler’s frustrations stemmed from lethargy and panic further down the court.
By midway through the second quarter, starting attackers Verity Charles and Alice Teague-Neeld had both been dragged as Fever coach Marinkovich searched for a combination that could untangle their attack.
The hastily rearranged connections failed to click, and by the time Charles returned to the court the contest was all but over.
Poolman’s statistics do not reveal how effective she was.
Approaching three-quarter time, the Giants defender had just one gain but it was the hesitancy she inflicted on Fowler that told the story.
Fowler finished the game with 41 goals, her lowest tally for the season, even after a pair of super shots in the last term.