FIRST GOAL IS GETTING A DERBY TICKET
There are two places where netball really matters: New Zealand and Adelaide. Hence the situation, difficult to imagine elsewhere, of a community protest in Adelaide when tickets for tonight’s grand final sold out in just eight minutes.
The match is a local derby between the high-profile, defending champion Adelaide Thunderbirds, and the improved, coming-from-fourth-and-on-a-roll Ravens. The match will be played at the 3100-seat netball venue rather than switched to the 8000-capacity basketball stadium, and several days of controversy – including a radio station campaign, and formal complaints from T-Birds Kath Harby and Sarah Sutter – have resulted.
But the Netball Australia decision stands, and the fact also remains that the Commonwealth Bank Trophy will stay in Adelaide for another year. Whether it returns to the Thunderbirds’ cabinet or is claimed by the Ravens shall be seen tonight. The Ravens are yet to beat their hometown rivals in six tries, although this seventh encounter will be spiced by the round 11 draw, 49-all, when last they met. We can walk taller in Adelaide,” Ravens coach Pat Mickan said afterwards. “They have been the definite underdogs in this state.”
Indeed, the Thunderbirds are preparing for their third grand final in the national league’s three seasons, with the benefit of a week’s rest after defeating the Sydney Swifts in the major semi-final, and they are packed with Australian players including Harby, centre Rebecca Sanders and prolific shooter Jacqui Delaney.
The Ravens, although lacking some of their opponents’ star qualities, have been boosted by the return of champion defender Michelle Den Dekker from Queensland and the recruitment of a trimmed-down and much-improved goal attack Megan Anderson from Sydney.
Significantly, they have not lost a match since June and are fresh from sudden-death finals wins over the Melbourne Kestrels and, narrowly, the Swifts. “Upmarket streetfighters”, Mickan calls her players, citing a depth of character and fierce will to win evident in their regular ability to withstand late changes of momentum in tightly fought games.
Still, it is hard to go past the Thunderbirds, with their supreme confidence, settled defence complemented by wing Peta Squire, pacy midcourt including Sanders and Delaney up front.