Adelaide Thunderbirds defeat Queensland Firebirds 50-48 in ANZ Championship Grand Final.
The Adelaide Thunderbirds beat the Queensland Firebirds 50-48 in a nail-biting Grand Final on Sunday to become the most successful team in the ANZ Championship.
The win has yet again created history for the sport, as the Thunderbirds became the first team to win two trans-Tasman netball championships.
Thunderbirds goal attack Erin Bell, named the most valuable player on the court, also created history for herself, becoming the first player to win three championships.
Bell previously played in the Sydney Swifts championship team in 2008, and helped her current team win their first championship back in 2010.
Having lost only one game in the regular season, the Adelaide Thunderbirds began the game as favourites.
But the Firebirds proved it was out to win, scoring five unanswered goals to finish the quarter leading 13-9.
The second term saw the Thunderbirds take court rejuvenated, proving it would not go down without a fight.
Adelaide goal shooter Carla Borrego started slowly, missing easy shots under the ring, and struggling for rebounds against the tall Firebirds goalkeeper, Laura Geitz.
While down the other end, tall Firebirds goal shooter Romelda Aiken proved hard to beat, scoring 11 from 12 attempts.
Adelaide goalkeeper Sharni Layton stayed strong despite the height, and put up a physical fight to take a momentum swinging intercept late in the last quarter to give the home team a run.
With the home crowd getting louder, Thunderbirds captain Natalie von Bertouch helped her team score nine of the last 13 goals and take the lead 24-23 going into half time.
As experienced Firebirds defender Demelza McCloud was replaced in the ring with Jacinta Messer, the home team was shaken up, and started the quarter slowly.
But the Thunderbirds eventually gained control at both ends of the court and finished the quarter with a 40-34 lead.
While the Thunderbirds looked a certainty coming out of the last break, the Firebirds had one last fight in them, bringing the score back to one with 10 minutes remaining.
The home team called a time-out and von Bertouch was moved into wing attack, with Leigh Waddington shifted to centre.
But it was the cool head of Layton keeping the home team with a one goal advantage with 40 seconds remaining.
As the silent crowd waited in anticipation, Bell was given the chance to score the match winner, as she calmly slotted a long goal on the siren to help her team to the two-goal win.
After the game, a very worn-out von Bertouch struggled for words as she thanked the opposition.
“We got over the line, I can’t believe it, I’m too buggered,” von Bertouch said.
“The Firebirds didn’t let us play as well as we would have liked, so credit to them.”
“We’ve got such a special group this year, we’ve worked so hard for this and it means the world to me.”
Firebirds captain Laura Geitz said although they were disappointed with the loss, she was proud of her team’s efforts.
“I’m obviously disappointed, and to see the young girls faces told the story that we’re all bitterly disappointed,” Geitz said.
“We fought hard to the end and we have to be proud we did that.”
The win was the Adelaide Thunderbirds’ 13th consecutive win this season.
Written by Airlie Rehmann