The Sutherland Stingrays have won the inaugural SAMSUNG Premier League Opens Division title after claiming a 50-49 victory over the Manly Warringah Sapphires in the Grand Final at Netball Central on Wednesday, 24 August.
As the scoreline suggested, it was an intense game with little to separate the teams but it in the end it was the Minor Premiers who had that little bit extra in the tank to claim the title.
The contest started out a tight, physical affair and over two minutes passed before Georgia Marshall registered the first goal to give the Sapphires an early lead. It would be the start of a tit-for-tat opening period as the sides exchanged the lead but never managed managed to pull more than a goal clear of one another.
With 30 seconds remaining until the first break Lauren Cantwell broke the tooing and froing and gave the Sapphires a two-goal lead.
However, the Stingrays were quick to get back on level terms early in the second half and the teams went back to trading goals. The game wasn’t free-flowing but it was certainly intriguing. Scoring chances were few and far between but credit had to be given to the hard work both teams putting in at the back and midcourt.
A run of three consecutive goals gave the Sapphires a break of serve (24-21) shortly before halftime but Mel Tallent hit back for Sutherland to again have a margin of two between the sides at break time.
More of the same fare was served at the start of the second half as intense work on defence meant the stop-start affair continued but good shooting from Marshall and Cantwell, the latter from range, allowed Manly Warringah take a four-goal lead midway through the third period.
They couldn’t shake the Stingrays, however, and before long Tallent had Sutherland back within two goals and ready to strike when the opportunity presented itself.
Leah Price moved them within one before some nice interplay with Tallent had the game back on level terms and suddenly Sutherland had their chance. Fluid play and a high work rate on defence gave them a three-goal lead before Marshall pulled one back before the final break. Again the teams were separated by two, but for the first time it was advantage Stingrays.
Tallent and Price were on the board early in the fourth quarter to give the Stingrays a four-goal lead and in the midcourt Maddie Hay was putting in a sterling effort.
Cantwell and Marshall, however, were giving good return to the hard work of the likes of Nikki Deegenaars and Victoria Low and keeping the Sapphires well in the hunt. Cantwell was proving herself to be a real weapon from range while Marshall shot well under pressure.
With five to go the Stingrays had a four-goal lead and they were managing to keep Manly at arms length but the Sapphires would only need a sniff to pinch the title from under their noses.
They almost did so as Marshall struck to get the Sapphires back within one but the next centre pass was Sutherland’s and they ran the clock down to secure the title.
STINGRAYS | Q1: 10 – Q2: 23 (13) – Q3: 38 (15) – Q4 50 (12)
SAPPHIRES | Q1: 12 – Q2: 25 (13) – Q3: 36 (11) – Q4 49 (13)
STINGRAYS: 50/68 @ 74%
M Tallent: 16/25 @ 64%
L Price: 34/43 @ 79%
SAPPHIRES: 49/63 @ 78%
G Marshall: 32/39 @ 82%
L Cantwell: 17/24 @ 71%
STINGRAYS | GS Mel Tallent, GA Leah Price, WA Braeden Quince, C Maddie Hay, WD Cassie Staples, GD Katie Maguire, GK Ashley Valeni
SAPPHIRES | GS Georgia Marshall, GA Lauren Cantwell, WA Brooke Miller, C Nikki Deegenaars, WD Victoria Low, GD Eliza Long, GK Teigan O’Shannassy