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Ian Harkin
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Melbourne Phoenix are the inaugural national netball league champions after defeating the Adelaide Thunderbirds in a bruising grand final at the Glasshouse in Melbourne last night. Phoenix recovered from a sluggish start to win 58-48 before about 4,000 fans and take possession of the first Commonwealth Bank Trophy.

Adelaide stunned the home crowd with a dominant opening, skipping to a 10-4 lead in the first quarter as captain Kathryn Harby inspired her teammates. The Thunderbirds increased their lead to 22-17, before a spate of injury breaks in a game full of physical clashes helped Phoenix gain momentum and piled on seven unanswered goals to take a one-goal lead at half time.

The home side strengthened their grip on the title by outscoring Adelaide 16-7 in the third term as Phoenix doubled the scoring attempts of the Thunderbirds on the way to a 42-32 lead at the last change. Phoenix coach Norma Plummer said she was ecstatic. “It’s back to back for us, because we won the last of the Super league last year so we have made a bit of history,” she said.

Plummer said she knew Adelaide would come out firing. “They’ve always come out like that. If you don’t stay with them for the first quarter especially, you are going to be in big trouble.”

Plummer said changes to the lineup in the second half proved the depth of her squad. “All year I have changed those players so if it got to that situation I can throw on any player that I want to and not lose anything.”

Adelaide coach Marg Angove said she was disappointed her players were unable to hang on to their early lead. “They’ve done it to us before when they have played one good quarter and you would think we would probably learn from it, but we just couldn’t seem to snap out of it,” she said. “They just played very strong netball in that third quarter. I guess right now you think ‘I never want to see a netball again’, but come next week we’ll start planning for next year.”