West Coast Fever have plenty to be happy about, undefeated through all five of their matches over the three-day tournament in Sydney.
With the curtain now drawn on Session Four at Netball Central in the Pre-Season Summer Shootout the eight teams playing on Sunday morning will now head home to assess their performances.
Matches reverted back to full length after a day of modified games allowing coaches to test fitness and continue experimenting with combinations.
On the Show Court in the feature match of round one, two of the game’s big names left the court with rolled ankles early in the match.
Adelaide Thunderbirds captain Renae Hallinan spent the majority of the match on the side lines after toppling over, and 30 seconds later, Mission Queensland Firebirds defender Bec Bulley suffered the same fate.
Bulley recovered to play out the match, but it’s thought Hallinan’s injury will require further assessment.
The Firebirds held a substantial halftime lead, only for the Thunderbirds to come storming back in the second half, the Firebirds narrowly holding on for the 46-44 win.
Thunderbirds coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson said despite the mixed results, the matches have been invaluable for the team.
“It was a terrific tournament, good to have a mixture of full games and half games, try a few things.
“We rotated our players pretty evenly and found a few new good combinations that we might give a go and some tactics. We just needed to try against some opposition so we’re in a much clearer position of where we need to go to attack the season,” she said.
Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke agreed.
“A great weekend, great to have some really hard match practice and really worthwhile.” she said.
Kia Magic ended their Pre-Season tournament in a tight tussle against Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.
Versatile mid-courter Grace Rasmussen directed play in the attacking end for the Magic in arguably their best match of the weekend. Rasmussen’s speed to the circle edge and ability to read play created opportunities for shooters Ellen Halpenny and Malia Paseka to receive clean ball and duly convert.
Magic defender Leana De Bruin had her work cut out against Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid in the first quarter. Pinpoint feeds into the circle by Shannon Francois and Wendy Frew a highlight of play. The Steel running out winners 62-60.
Steel coach Janine Southby continued to experiment with her shooting and midcourt line-ups throughout the match but was overall pleased with the effort shown.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I’m really pleased with the grit and determination we showed in the last day and a half, especially when they’re tired. It gets hard to do the things we’ve practiced but they stuck to what I asked them to do.”
Second round matches were also close with the Mainland Tactix looking to end their pre-season campaign on a high defeating SKYCITY Mystics 55-50.
The Mystics, missing Cathrine Latu and Kayla Cullen for the weekend due to illness, have used their five games to cement processes and give the young players a taste of what to expect when the ANZ Championship matches start at the end of the month.
“The weekend stretched us in terms of testing people under different kinds of pressure, so that we know that when it comes to game time in the ANZ Championship we know who can stand up in those important moments.
“We are still working our combinations so this tournament was like a trial to see which combinations work. It was really good to get more clarity around who’s strong with who.”
Although the Tactix were buoyed by the winning result against the Mystics, it’s not what coach Sue Hawkins was focusing on.
“This weekend was about the opportunity to expose different combinations. It was really important for us to see who was good as an impact player coming off the bench.”
A final quarter blitz was the difference between the Fever and Mojo Pulse, the team from Perth winning 52-41 as the teams wrapped up their Pre-Season campaigns on the Show Court at Netball Central.
Toe to toe for most of the 60 minute match, the contest was a fitting way for the morning session to end.
New Fever coach Stacey Rosman said getting some good outcomes over the weekend was a real confidence builder.
“We’ve been setting little goals and taking little steps forward each and every time we get out there on court," Rosman said.
“We’re really pleased with the condition of the team, physically we’re running hard and running for four quarters and that’s a big thing that we’ve been aiming for. We want to be a four quarter team and we want our combinations to be seamless and that’s what we’ve been able to put out there.”
Pulse coach Robyn Broughton was pleased with the learnings for her younger players.
“The biggest thing for me was we did use the young talent and we used them a lot so they can’t go away thinking they didn’t get a go at those experienced players, but it does show up.
“We were ahead of that match all the way through until we made big changes, so that’s a lesson for them, a learning curve for them.
“Once you’ve got a bit of experience you don’t have to say (sorry)."
– but the sailors praise the new boats