Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final: Lightning pip Fever at the post
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Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final: Lightning pip Fever at the post

Sunshine Coast Lightning are back to back premiers after claiming a 62 to 59 nail-biting victory over a valiant West Coast Fever in the second ever Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final.

The Lightning secured their second Suncorp Super Netball premiership after capitalising on nervous errors from the Fever in the final minutes of the match.

Captain Geva Mentor said the win was a testament to the culture the side had developed, and praised her teammates for their Sunday performance.

Laura Scherian of the Lightning   gets possession during the Super Netball Grand Final.

Laura Scherian of the Lightning gets possession during the Super Netball Grand Final.

Photo: AAP

“We knew we wanted it and I wanted to see it from them and they definitely delivered,” she said.

“It hasn’t quite set in this one, I think this is a different one. I think last year obviously we were so far up we kind of felt it coming, while this one, the score line was see-sawing all the way through.

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“It was so tough on everyone, I’m still quite in shock that we managed to do it and go back to back.”

The title means Lightning are now the most successful expansion club developed by the Suncorp Super Netball competition, after winning their last grand final convincingly against the GWS Giants last year.

A crowd of 13,722 packed the Perth Arena on Sunday, and became the biggest Western Australian netball crowd to date.

Lightning faced a monumental task against the hostile crowd, but MVP and former Fever player Caitlin Bassett said it was always going to be something the team took in its stride.

“To come back to Perth and do it in front of that amazing crowd was awesome,” she said.

“I think to see the success of their club this year in particular is awesome, and to see how many fans are engaged – to sell out Perth Arena is not an easy feat.

“For me, I think those happy tears at the end were because we’ve worked so hard in the last four weeks and we’ve never given up hope.

“It’s that belief we have in our team and in each other and knowing we can back each other really makes it feel so good.”

Where the battles were won

Fans were always set to expect a close game with just two goals separating both sides throughout the season, with Fever winning both previous outings.

After a goal-for-goal first quarter Lightning goal attack and playmaker Steph Wood collided with the post with two minutes left on the clock, and it was not clear whether she would return to court.

She started the second quarter on the bench with a suspected injury, but came back early into the second quarter after she was treated by Lightning medical staff.

Bruce came out of the gates raring to go against her former teammate Bassett, and while her physicality rattled the shooter early, she also drew the whistle often enough for Lightning to tug the goal difference back within their grasp.

Caitlin Bassett of the Lightning reacts during the Super Netball Grand Final between the West Coast Fever and the Sunshine Coast Lightning at Perth Aren

Caitlin Bassett of the Lightning reacts during the Super Netball Grand Final between the West Coast Fever and the Sunshine Coast Lightning at Perth Aren

Photo: AAP

A remarkable showing by centre Verity Charles and dogged effort by wing attack Ingrid Colyer saw the ball flow into Fowler uninterrupted at various points, and the Fever maintained a three goal lead going into the half time break.

However Lightning stormed out of the blocks early into the third quarter and levelled the scores, and it was left to Fever to rally.

Nerves began to creep into the final minutes of the game, with uncharacteristic mistakes made from both Medhurst and Mentor meaning valuable opportunities were missed at both ends of the court.

Fever remained within a goal for the final nine minutes of the match, but Lightning were eventually able to pull away and secure a three goal win.

The key match ups were always going to be the book ends of both sides, between Bruce and Bassett, and Fowler and Mentor, who both found themselves locked in physical battles early in the match.

Fowler was at her accurate best, nailing 53 of her 55 shots. She also took Fever's only attacking intercept of the match.

But after three quarters of dogged contesting, a double team of both Mentor and Pretorius were able to climb on top of the contest and force errors from the Fever attack.

The Lighting midcourt appeared to have heard coach Noeline Taurua's message regarding the need to shut down Fowler’s supply, but Colyer remained a stand out and was able to thread 31 feeds into the Fever circle.

Fairy tales don't win premierships

The Fever have long been considered Australian netball’s “success-starved” team after only one finals appearance in its 21 year history, and captain Courtney Bruce said she “promised” retribution would come for the fans in the future.

“It’s obviously disappointing. We wanted to walk away with the title, but I’m proud of what the girls put out there today. It’s our first ever experience playing in a grand final for a lot of us," she said.

“It’s a big learning curve, we’re going to take a lot from this, and I promise you, next season, we’re going to come back fiery.”

Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich echoed her captain.

“This is just the beginning for us,” she said.

“We’ve come from seventh to playing a grand final, and in some parts we were seven minutes away from taking a title.

“I think if you put it all in perspective you’ve got to think what we’ve done around the team, around the club and I couldn’t have more proud of the brand of netball we’re playing.”

Final score: 59 - 62

MVP: Caitlin Bassett, Sunshine Coast Lightning

Shooting accuracy:
Jhaniele Fowler:
53/55, 96 per cent
Nat Medhurst: 6/10, 60 per cent

Caitlin Bassett: 45/50, 90 per cent
Steph Wood: 17/20, 85 per cent

Starting line ups

Fever: Fowler (GS), Medhurst (GA), Colyer (WA), Charles (C), Anstiss (WD), Francis (GD), Bruce (GK), Eagland (bench), Lee-Jones (bench), Stanton (bench).

Lightning: Bassett (GS), Wood (GA), Browne (WA), Scherian (C), Mcauliffe (WD), Prestorius (GD), Mentor (GK), Mikaere (bench), Russell (bench), Koenen (bench).

Hannah Barry is a Fairfax Media journalist based in Western Australia, focused on breaking news.