Grand final heroics
WEST Coast Fever will host an historic Super Netball grand final at Perth Arena on August 26 after defying the odds in a sensational 63-57 major semifinal win over the Greater Western Sydney Giants in Sydney yesterday.
Fever overcame a major injury scare to star goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler’s right knee on their way to beating a Giants outfit that defeated them by three goals just a week earlier.
Fowler looked in serious pain after an awkward landing with three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The towering Jamaican star returned late in the second term but her movement was affected. She still managed 48 goals from as many attempts, while Nat Medhurst earned MVP honours for her nine goals and 27 assists. Kaylia Stanton (six goals, one assist) played an important role while Fowler was off the court.
Verity Charles again called on her remarkable powers of recovery to start at centre after going down in the final minute a week earlier. Charles had her left knee heavily strapped but was athletic as ever as she was a major player throughout.
Captain Courtney Bruce was brilliant with six intercepts and four rebounds. Stacey Francis was able to keep countrywoman Jo Harten (33 goals) quieter. Susan Pettitt managed 24 goals.
The Giants will play the winner of today’s minor semifinal between the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning in a preliminary final next Sunday for the chance to take on Fever in the decider.
Coach Stacey Marinkovich said the week off and the fact they don’t have to travel again was “massive”.
Fowler’s injury is one of a number of niggles being carried by her players.
“It’s just something that has been a little niggle for the last couple of weeks and it just got hit in the wrong way and just got aggravated,” Marinkovich said.
“She’ll be really, really light on in the next week. The medical staff work overtime behind the scenes.”
There were emotional scenes after the match as the enormity of what the 2018 squad have already achieved hit home.
The success-starved club won just two games last season and had enjoyed just one final in its history prior to yesterday.
“It’s going to be amazing at Perth Arena,” Marinkovich said. “I just can’t wait to see the sea of green.
“The thing we said all along is we had a plan for a long time. It’s not a two-year plan or a three-year plan or a one-year plan, it was just going through the absolute process, ticking off the boxes all the way along. It wasn’t if, but when. We’ve worked really hard for it so the girls deserve everything that they’re reaping.”
Fever had a strong start, forcing the Giants into errors with suffocating defensive pressure. They quickly streaked out to an eight-goal lead before Fowler was helped from the court.
West Coast, with Stanton into the game, managed to maintain that advantage at the first break. There was still no Fowler at the start of the second quarter, but Fever and Stanton refused to wilt.
The Giants made some changes, with Kristiana Manu’a replacing Sam Poolman at goalkeeper and Serena Guthrie and Jamie-Lee Price switching midcourt positions, with the moves helping them draw within three at the half.
Fowler looked more herself in the third term as Fever built their lead back out to eight. But the Giants came again, drawing turnovers from Fever to claw the margin back to just one at the final break.
Fever won early ball and took the lead back out to six to start the final quarter.
Bound for glory: Jhaniele Fowler and Ingrid Colyer celebrate West Coast Fever’s semi-final victory yesterday. Picture: Getty