It was a game that had everything in the dramatic surrounds of the ICC Theatre in Sydney’s Darling Harbour on Saturday night. From big leads, to big clashes, injuries to comebacks and the deciding of the minor premiers, the match was filled with drama from start to finish.
The Giants got out to a roaring lead, as the Fever struggled to get the ball moving into their attacking third. When the ball did make it to their prolific shooter Jhaniele Fowler, Giants defenders Sam Poolman and Bec Bulley did an excellent job of forcing her away from the post, resulting in an uncharacteristic three misses for the quarter.
Giants shooters Jo Harten and Susan Pettitt seemed to have all the space in the world as they moved in the circle with ease, finding positions next to the post time and time again. Fever started to settle into the match later in the quarter, but still went to the first break trailing 21-16.
Both teams remained unchanged at the start of the second quarter, the Fever confident that they could pull back the five goals with the starting seven that had served them well throughout the year. However in a quarter with no rebounds, one intercept and two gains, as well as seven turnovers, the team in green instead lost ground.
The Giants on the other hand, played a calm and controlled game, building on their lead through quick passing and strong drives. They were quick to capitalise on mistakes by the Fever, spurred on by the parochial home crowd who responded with complete silence whenever the Fever did manage to score.
Giants Wing Defence Jamie-Lee Price was in outstanding form, completely cutting Fever Wing Attack Ingrid Colyer out of the game, which in turn forced Goal Attack Nat Medhurst to play further down the court and outside the circle to take over the feeding role. The Giants went into half-time with a 10-goal lead.
The start of the third quarter brought sweeping changes to the Fever line, with Colyer taken off the court, Kaylia Stanton coming on at Goal Attack and Nat Medhurst moving to Wing Attack. At the other end of the court, Stacey Francis and Courtney Bruce switched up their usual roles, with Bruce into Goal Defence to try to nullify the speed and timing of Giants Goal Attack Jo Harten.
However, after nine minutes, it was clear the changes hadn’t paid off. Stanton was not allowing Fowler the space she needed in the circle and the feeders struggled to find either of them. With the Giants lead now out to 15, Colyer was brought back on and Medhurst shifted back into the circle.
The changes in defence didn’t worry Pettitt or Harten, who continued to find space and score at an astonishing rate, with both shooters missing just one goal each for the quarter. Fever managed to even up the scoring a little after their changes and sat 14 goals behind their opponents at three-quarter time.
With the final quarter looming, it seemed like Fever would have nothing to play for but the game’s final bonus point, which would give them a much higher chance of finishing second and securing a place in the major semi final.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich went with a line up that she has often turned to this season when things have gone downhill, with Verity Charles moved into Wing Attack, Jess Anstiss into Centre and Shannon Eagland brought on in Wing Defence.
The changes seemed to spark something in the visiting team, who scored the first four goals of the quarter, moving the ball down court with speed and precision. It looked like a different team than the one who had played the first three quarters of the match.
Two Giants time outs in the final quarter couldn’t stem the flow of goals from the newly re-energised Fever. With six rebounds, six gains, three intercepts and only one turnover, this quarter belonged to the team from the west. Before long it was clear that the bonus point was in the bag and suddenly the minor premiership was back on offer.
The gap continued to close and the crowd found a louder voice, urging the Giants along. A nasty looking knee injury to Verity Charles with just a minute left in the game put a dampener on the comeback and the final three goals were too many to bridge. Fever walked away without the minor premiership, but with the confidence that more quarters like that will be on the agenda for the semi-final.
In the aftermath of the match it was heartening to see both teams stop by Charles on the physio table and wish her luck for her scan. Giants captain Kim Green, who had been involved in the clash with Charles was the first to run over after the game, not joining her team in the huddle until she had spoken with Charles. A NSW junior and a popular player, there were lots of well wishers for the mid-courter who later confirmed no structural damage to her knee.
The post-match celebrations of the Giants minor premiership also involved a tribute to NSW stalwart Susan Pettitt, with messages from teammates and opponents shared. It was a fitting farewell to a legend of the sport with a cult like following in her home state.
The teams now prepare to face each other again in the major semi-final this coming weekend to play for a spot in the 2018 Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final.
Giants 69 def West Coast Fever 66
(21-16, 38-28, 58-44, 69-66)
Player of the Match: Jo Harten (Giants)
Pettitt 35/40 88%
Harten 34/40 85%
West Coast Fever
Fowler 63/72 88%
Medhurst 2/4 50%
Stanton 1/1 100%
Report: Megan Maurice
Photos: May Bailey