A goal from Patrice O'Neil in the first possession of the game got Cronulla off to a perfect start and they kept the Barracudas scoreless in the first quarter while scoring goals from Mieke Cabout, Holly Lincoln-Smith and Rebecca Rippon.
Cronulla got out to a 6-1 lead but veteran Melissa Rippon led the Barracudas' fight back scoring twice in the second quarter and the Barracudas began to show the skill and composure that saw them win the past two crowns.
By the end of the quarter Barracudas closed the deficit to three, after winning the quarter 4-3.
They continued the form turn around in the third quarter as Ashleigh Southern's powerful outside shot couldn't be stopped by Cronulla's Alicia McCormack, enabling the Barracudas to again win the quarter 4-3 even though two goals by Nicola Zagame kept Cronulla ahead by two at the end of the third.
Early goals in the fourth quarter by the Barracudas' Nanda Stoltz and Anna Sieprath evened the score and from there the teams went goal-for-goal, ending the game in a 12-all deadlock.
A scoreless first half of extra time saw frustrations build in both teams however goals from the Barracudas' Kate Gynther and Cronulla's Zagame ensured that once again the scores were all tied up by the end of extra-time.
As goalkeepers, McCormack (Cronulla) and Kelsey Wakefield (Barracudas) took their places in the goal; the coaches picked their top five shooters. Clean first goals by Southern and Jana Liessmann (Cronulla), kept the scores even. However, the goalkeepers kept steady, blocking the next attempts from Stoltz (Barracudas) and Zagame (Cronulla). The Barracudas' Hannah Robinson, Anna Sieprath and Kate Gynther all then scored their attempts, while Cronulla's Mieke Cabout and Patrice O'Neil got theirs' past Wakefield.
As Cronulla's Rebecca Rippon lined up to take the final shot, Wakefield loomed large and blocked Rippon's fast shot to claim the third straight win for the Barracudas.
Barracuda's coach Fabio Pavanello was blown away by the win and proud of his team's fight back.
"We knew that Cronulla would come out hard early, we saw that yesterday when they played the Marlins. But we also knew that we could fight back as other teams have done against them," Pavanello said.
"We knew that if we kept pressing we would be in with a chance. We prepared for the finals and the potential of having to face Cronulla. We knew that if we kept fighting we could match it with them."
Of his captain, Melissa Rippon, Pavanello couldn't be more proud.
"You can't go past Melissa, she led the fight back and scored a couple of rippers. She got us back in the game and led from the front," he said.
And of their third straight win, Pavanello knows it has special meaning.
"We are the only women's team to secure three straight wins, it is a remarkable feat. Cronulla pushed us all the way today and although winning by penalties is hard, it was great to get the third."
Women's Gold medal match scores
Brisbane Barracudas 17 (M Rippon 4, A Southern 4, N Stoltz 2, A Sieprath 2, K Gynther 2, H Robinson, J Moran J-L Lewis) bt Cronulla Sharks 16 (M Cabout 4, N Zagame 3,
P O'Neill 3, J Liessmann 2, R Rippon 2, H Lincoln-Smith, M Schmidt)
In the Bronze medal game the Victorian Tigers claimed their first ever placing in an upset win over the more favoured Fremantle Marlins, winning 10-6. Ironically it was also the only time the Marlins hadn't won a medal.
Following yesterday's disappointing semi-final against the Barracudas, the Tigers regained their composure against the Marlin's star-studded outfit.
Rowie Webster's powerful outside shot proved the difference as she netted four of the Tigers' 10 goals.
A tight first half saw the Marlin's go shot-for-shot with the Tigers.
However, a strong third quarter by the Victorian team saw the Marlin's lose their composure and they never recovered as the Tigers outscored them 4-2 (in the third) and 2-0 in the fourth.
While head coach, Dalibor Maslan was unable to be in Sydney for the game, the third placing is a testament to the work he has put in this year to see the Tigers become a future force to be reckoned with.
2011 National Water Polo League Finals Honour Role
Gold - Brisbane Barracudas; Silver - Cronulla Sharks; Bronze - Victorian Tigers
Player of the Finals Series - Kate Gynther (Brisbane Barracudas)
photo Getty Images
Photography: Getty Images
photo Getty Images