THE ADELAIDE THUNDERBIRDS HAVE PULLED OFF A REMARKABLE COMEBACK TO WIN THEIR ROUND 1 SUNCORP SUPER NETBALL CLASH WITH WEST COAST FEVER AT PRICELINE STADIUM.
Coach Dan Ryan’s emotional fist pump in the dying seconds emphasized the importance of the fightback from seven goals down in the third quarter to a thrilling 56-51 win.
The Fever did everything right for the opening three terms but froze under pressure as Adelaide clamped down on their ball movers.
Skipper Natalie Medhurst said there were some positives, but they would only be absorbed once the anger of coughing up a lead dissipates.
Thunderbirds captain Erin Bell was quiet early but delivered when it mattered in the last quarter.
Karyn Bailey’s 37 goals were crucial for Adelaide, while there was much to like about the West Coast’s old school shooting pairing of Medhurst (19-from-20) and Kate Beveridge (32-from-36).
Bailey’s first outing for her new club started with a battle against one of the new league’s toughest defenders, Courtney Bruce.
Her 10-from-10 opening term was a promising one but Bruce left her mark on the game with three clever intercepts.
Bruce’s height and anticipation enabled the Fever to shift possession quickly from defence and into the middle corridor where speedsters Verity Charles and Ingrid Colyer went to work.
Beveridge’s return to a starting shooter’s role provided West Coast with more attacking subtlety and movement than it employed in the past.
Strong drives from Beveridge and Medhurst presented clear targets for the Fever midcourt.
Their cohesion, built over three years on the practice court, opened up the shooting circle where Beveridge sank 22 from 26 shots in the first half.
That strong partnership brought the first change from the Thunderbirds who rolled out Malysha Kelly in place of Ama Agbeze in a bid to interrupt the Fever’s momentum.
Chelsea Pitman seemed the player most likely to spark something for the home side, and she worked feverishly for Adelaide which trailed 29-27 at halftime.
The Fever injected Jessica Anstiss at wing defence for the start of the third quarter. She made her presence felt, forcing Adelaide’s feeders wide and adding an early deflection.
West Coast’s slick passing and movement troubled the Thunderbirds and Ryan tried everything to shift momentum.
He made regular rotations in the defensive circle and handed Gia Abernethy a run at centre but nothing worked in a lopsided third quarter.
Adelaide finally clicked in the last quarter, with the resurrection led by Agbeze and Fiona Themann.
The defensive pair created some panic in the Fever’s attack end, and when captain Erin Bell scored her 19th goal, the Thunderbirds grabbed their first lead of the game.
By Damien Stannard
Photography: Getty Images