Sunshine Coast Lightning are your 2018 Super Netball Champions

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Sunshine Coast Lightning, 2018 Champions. IMAGE: Suncorp Super Netball Official Website.

The Sunshine Coast Lightning became the first team to go back-to-back championship winners in the history of Suncorp Super Netball (SSN). West Coast Fever hosted their first grand final ever on August 26 in their 22 years of existence. Fever were unable to stop the lighting striking twice.

Lighting defeated Fever by just three goals in front of 13,722 people who packed out Perth Arena to witness history.

Quarter 1

Through the television you can tell that the crowd was loud, as soon as that first whistle sounded they were cheering Fever on. Lightning began the game with the first centre pass. Much like many of their games during the season Lightning’s Caitlin Bassett drew first blood with the first goal scored. For Fever, they responded straight back through their leading goal shooter in Jhaniele Fowler.

The nerves overcame both teams in the first five minutes of the game with uncharacteristic mistakes being made. Lightning’s goal attack Steph Wood got a stepping call against her which is unlike the Australian Diamond. While Fever’s goal attack Nat Medhurst threw away an easy pass causing a turnover and a scoring opportunity for Lightning.

The game went back and forth a lot as netball does, Lightning then trailed by two goals when they called the first time out of the game. The time out suiting Lightning as they came back onto the court firing and regained the lead. A game changing moment for Lightning, when Wood collided with Fever’s goal keeper Courtney Bruce then hitting the post saw Wood fall to the ground. They allowed extended injury time as they feared for Wood’s back, but she got up to get some treatment off court. Cara Koenen was the one to replace Wood in GA bib which meant it was time for Bassett to step up in the circle.

Quarter time:  Fever 14 Lightning 14

Quarter 2

The crowd was eager to see if Wood would be back on court after the collision, as she looked to be in a bit of pain and she took her seat on the bench. Fever had the centre pass to begin the second quarter and they found Fowler in the circle for the first goal of the quarter. Fever got the first break in scores and took their lead out to two goals. Lightning quick to call a time out to get Wood back on court with a loud cheer as she ran back on.

Champion Australian netballer Liz Ellis was up in the commentary box with Sue Gaudian. Ellis made a note of the umpires needing to blow their whistles louder because the crowd was as loud as anything.

Fever had been go, go, go this quarter with 10 minutes left in the quarter, they led Lightning by five goals. Fever really took control throughout the quarter, they had scored nine of the last ten goals within the first six minutes. Lightning were the first to call a time out again for the quarter, their main problem being Fowler in the goal circle who was sitting on 100% for her shooting so far.

Lightning came back out searching for the turnovers, their wing defence in Maddy McAuliffe went for a tough one and lands on Fever’s centre Verity Charles’ head. With two minutes to go, Fever still led by six goals yet there was a slight change in momentum.

National League record for attendance. IMAGE: West Coast Fever Official Twitter.

Lightning struck back hard and just like that the they only trailed by three goals going into half time.

Half time: Fever 29 Lightning 26.

HALF TIME STATS

The official crowd number was 13,722 which was in fact a new national league record as Ellis said during the broadcast. 

West Coast Fever – 29 STAT Sunshine Coast Lightning – 26
33 Goal attempts 30
14 Deflections 6
12 Turnovers 11
6 Goals from turnovers 5

Quarter 3

Lightning began the quarter with the centre pass and Wood made no mistake under the post. Geva Mentor, Lightnings Captain and England Roses goal keeper finally got her first flying intercept. Their momentum continued from the end of the second and now only trailed Fever by one goal.

The Medhurst versus Lightning’s goal defence, Karla Pretorius was always going to be an interesting matchup. Medhurst has national and international level experience under her belt while Pretorius hunts out every single ball. Yet, Ellis made mention of them both cancelling each other out. With them battling each other they weren’t making an impact on the game.

Fever called for their first time out for the game as they trailed by one goal. Bruce was having a solid game against Bassett. Bruce as captain asked for her side to smile out there and just give it a crack in their time out huddle.

Lightning stepped it up a gear when they returned to the court, they led 41 to 39. A fun fact noted by Ellis and Gaudian that was interesting: In the shooting end for Fever there is an Australian (Medhurst), a Jamaican (fowler), an English (Mentor) and South African (Pretorius) player.

There were three minutes left for the quarter and Fever were in front by one goal, when the momentum changed again. Lightning came firing back in the final minute of the quarter with their defensive pressure forcing Fever to turn the ball over.

Three quarter time: Fever 45 Lightning 48

Quarter 4

It was time for both sides to put it #AllOnTheLine in the final 15 minutes of the SSN season. Lightning started the quarter in possession and made use of it with Wood scoring. The vibe of the game, was desperation from both sides. Fever worked their way back into the game in the first five minutes and only trailed by one goal.

Lightning were ready with the time out call by Mentor, just to ease the swap of momentum for Fever. The crowd didn’t go away, the home crowd just trying to get their team over the line. Every ball had hands over the pass from both sides, Fever levelled the game up at 55 a piece.

Live tweets from twitter. IMAGE: SSN Official Twitter.

With just five minutes to go, the tempo lifted. There weren’t any easy shots, but there were tired players with little errors appearing. Lightning stayed on top of Fever and made most of the ball when it was in their possession.

Two minutes to go and Lightning were in front by one goal. Fever had just one more chance to level the game up and force over-time. They forced the ball into Fowler with a hunting Mentor proving that there was no way she would be giving the game away. Lightning made the most of the turnover and centre pass.

The final whistle sounded and it was the one that got away for Fever while Lightning were crowned the 2018 SSN Champions.

Full time: Fever 59 Lightning 62

Post-Game

It was a nail-biting finish to a fantastic season of netball. It was Lightning’s Caitlin Bassett who went on to win the Nissan player of the match after scoring 45 out of a possible 50 goals. Fever’s defender Bruce and Lightning’s midcourter Kelsey Browne were stiff to miss out after both playing terrific games of netball.

Gracious in defeat, Fever Captain, Courtney Bruce spoke after the game.

“(You can) bet my bottom dollar we will back next year with a huge vengeance.

“The girls, you’ve been absolutely fantastic this year. Thanks for making my life easy as captain.

“To the fans who fill out this place, you are fantastic. Thanks so much.”

Lightning’s Captain, Geva Mentor couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as soon as that final whistle went.

“I’m absolutely flabbergasted.

“The crowd was electrical. It was a fantastic turnout and it’s fantastic for netball.

“I’m just so happy right now.

“It has always been about the journey, not the end result.”

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