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Ian Harkin
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PHOENIX SOAR TO THIRD TITLE
AAP
September 14 2002

The Melbourne Phoenix extended their season-long dominance over the Adelaide Thunderbirds last night to become national league champions. The Phoenix won an exciting grand final 49-44 at Melbourne’s Vodafone Arena to become the first side to win three premierships. The victory, before a crowd of 5,500, was the Phoenix’s fourth this season over Adelaide and condemned the Thunderbirds to three successive grand final losses.

It was the Phoenix’s second premiership in the past three seasons and a fitting result for a side that lost just one game and drew one for the season. Inspired by Australian national star Sharelle McMahon, the Phoenix surged to a 26-14 half-time lead, then held on in the second half after the Thunderbirds mounted a brilliant comeback.

Down by 13 early in the third quarter, the Thunderbirds reduced the margin to six by the last change and twice narrowed the gap to one goal in the last quarter. But McMahon, who starred in the second quarter with 10 goals, again stood up in the last quarter, sealing Melbourne’s win with nine goals for the term.

McMahon’s presence in the second quarter was symbolic of the Phoenix’s aggression and the Victorians rarely allowed the Thunderbirds an easy possession. Phoenix surged to a 33-20 lead shortly after half-time. But Adelaide persisted through the long shooting of Jacqui Delaney and, once the Thunderbirds found the right mix up forward, they fought back superbly.

Adelaide tried Carrie Worthley and Jacqui Roberts to partner Delaney, but only found the right combination with Anna Coldbeck, who scored 17 goals from as many attempts. Coldbeck’s influence helped narrow the lead twice to one goal in the last quarter, but the Phoenix finished off well to give Lisa Alexander a premiership in her first season as coach. Coldbeck had played only one quarter of netball this season and finished the year with a perfect shooting record of 24 goals from 24 shots.