Central Coast Heart took out the 2018 Netball NSW Premier League Opens title after a pulsating 60-55 win over ERNA Hawks at the Genea Netball Centre on Wednesday 26 September.
The Heart became the third team to have its name etched on the Premier League trophy after Sutherland Stingrays won the inaugural competition in 2016 and Manly Warringah Sapphires were victorious last year.
A big first quarter was the key to the win, and while ERNA came close to levelling matters late in the forth quarter, they could never fully close the gap which had its foundations in the opening 15 minutes.
It was a rip-roaring start to the game as both sides brought huge intensity but it was the Heart who settled better in attack and defence. An early tip by Lauren Moore set the tone for what would be a strong first quarter for the Heart goal keeper and her efforts were replicated by teammates up the court.
At the end of the first quarter the Central Coasters had an 18-11 lead and the early pressure was on ERNA.
The second quarter was a more evenly contested affair as the Hawks looked to close the gap, however, some costly mistakes in the midcourt were hampering the supply to Alison Miller and Kiera Austin in the shooting circle.
The Heart lead went out to 10 goals at one stage but good work from the Hawks allowed them rein in the deficit to six by halftime; the Minor Premiers winning the second quarter 15-14.
The Hawks needed a good third quarter to stay well in the hunt and they didn’t disappoint, fighting for every possession and getting themselves back into the game. While both sides were again guilty of throwing away possession, it was the Heart who were starting to gain the ascendancy, winning the third period 15-14 to put just five between the sides with 15 minutes to play.
The Hawks’ comeback didn’t rattle the Heart, however, and they played some very impressive netball in all areas of the court to retake a 10-goal lead and leave ERNA with a huge mountain to climb 10 minutes out from full time.
However, while lesser teams would have folded, the Hawks stood strong to force a series of turnovers – Georgia Marshall one of numerous players getting her side back in the contest. With three minutes to play the gap had amazingly been reduced to two and suddenly all the pressure was on the Heart.
Despite this, the Central Coast side didn’t panic and some Maddie Taylor goals, supported by good work from the likes of Moore, Demi Evans and Kristen Kessler, steadied the ship.
With the clock against them, the Hawks became hurried in their play and turnovers were easier for their opponents to come by. Having very nearly pulled off a seemingly impossible comeback, the Hawks went down by five in the end, but their effort couldn’t be faulted.
Central Coast Heart were deserved champions for 2018, topping off another fantastic season of Premier League action.
HEART | Q1: 18 – Q2: 32 (14) – Q3: 46 (14) – Q4: 60 (14)
HAWKS | Q1: 11 – Q2: 26 (15) – Q3: 41 (15) – Q4: 55 (14)
HEART | GS Maddie Taylor, GA Amorette Wild, WA Kristen Kessler, C Sophie Buckley, WD Alicia Walsh, GD Natalia Bridges, GK Lauren Moore
HAWKS | GS Alison Miller, GA Kiera Austin, WA Georgia Marshall, C Taylah Davies, WD Sophie Halpin, GD Nicole Styles, GK Jessica Grant