Jacks pass gruelling test
It was a high intensity final filled with drama and although the title was nearly hijacked, Jacks held out Waimea 49-47 in a thriller, lifting the premier trophy to end a seamless season last night.
Jacks Office Products Depot Richmond went through premier grade undefeated, picking up every piece of silverware, including the Tasman Trophy, along the way. However Waimea College Senior A showed a packed Saxton Stadium they not only deserved to be in the final but they were in it to win it.
Jacks couldn't shake a dogged Waimea who consistently answered any run with one of their own.
Jacks pushed out to an early 13-11 lead but a mighty second quarter won 15-10 gave Waimea the impetus to lead 26-23 at the half and 36-35 heading into the final 15 minutes.
With none of the expectation that comes with being overwhelming favourites Waimea played with more control and patience for most of the match.
On defence Waimea marked with extreme tightness over the ball, pushing the limits of the law and forcing Jacks into uncharacteristic errors.
The athletic Waimea midcourt of Ella Marwick, Kaitlyn Stringer and Ashley Laing more than matched their experienced counterparts, Jodi Hikuroa and Moana Forbes. In defence Gracie Roberts and Freya Watson were starting to ruffle the feathers of the usually unflappable Ani-Marie Waitai.
Jacks coach Robyn Leonard was forced to make changes heading into the third quarter. Louise Monge-Grassi came on at goal keep, Kirsten Powick came into wing attack, Chelsea Brooks took the goal attack position and Forbes shifted to goal defence.
The defensive end tightened up for Jacks and the Waimea shooting statistics hit a low 66 per cent in the third quarter. Waimea goal shoot Shaun Aindow shot a game high 40 goals at 80 per cent but overall a 74 per cent success rate for Waimea was outdone at the opposite end.
The three shooters for Jacks combined to shoot at 87 per cent, led by Waitai with 31 goals at 91 per cent. Basically, all Jacks had to do was win possession and get the ball into the circle and in the final quarter Jacks were able to do just that.
Hikuroa put her body on the line for Jacks, twice drawing the rare offensive foul turnover.
When Jacks stretched the lead to five with just minutes remaining the experience showed through and even when Waimea won a final turnover to get within two, there was no alarm as the experienced players held out for the buzzer.
Even though they lost Waimea and their loud, loyal supporters were delighted with the result.
Coach Faye Eden, obviously a great motivator, said that getting the girls to believe they could subdue Jacks was a key to their performance.
"They [Jacks] are the best team and this [result] is worth celebrating.
"We went out there with nothing to lose and we left everything out on court," said Eden.
That Jacks came prepared with celebration drinks may have said something about the confidence they had going into this match, but that confidence never looked like arrogance as they gave the Waimea team the respect they deserved.
That was a major element in the build-up for Jacks, Leonard said.
"It was one of those games where we had all the pressure and they had nothing to lose to an extent. But as we said in the team talk, they [Waimea] earned the right to be here as much as we did and you have to respect that.
"You can never assume you have got anything won . . . that's what a final should be. But when we needed to, we dug in, came through and won.
"Thank God for that."
And, naturally, the Champagne didn't go to waste.
■ More images by photographer Chris Symes from last night's premier netball final can be viewed at shuttersport.co.nz
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