Super Netball: Lightning strike to beat Giants for inaugural Super Netball title

ON THE BALL: Sam Poolman rips down a rebound for the Giants. Picture: Getty Images.
ON THE BALL: Sam Poolman rips down a rebound for the Giants. Picture: Getty Images.

JULIE Fitzgerald said all season that Sunshine Coast Lightning were their biggest threat to her side tasting Super Netball success in the competition's first year, and unfortunately for the Giants coach she was proven correct on Saturday in Brisbane.

The Lightning became the inaugural Super Netball champions with an emphatic 65-48 win, a Caitlin Bassett shooting masterclass combined with the Sunshine Coast's trademark defensive press snuffing out the Giants' premiership hopes in front of 8899 fans.

It was disappointing end to a brilliant season for Newcastle’s Giants defender Sam Poolman.

In the end, the Lightning's big three of Bassett, Geva Mentor and Laura Langman simply proved too much to handle.

Bassett had 49 from 51 when the final hooter at a packed Brisbane Entertainment Centre drew the curtain on the first year of this new competition.

Mentor was impeccable at the back shutting down Kristina Brice who had been so prolific in the Giants' first two finals, while Langman's typically tireless shift at wing defence helped Sunshine Coast gain the ascendancy in the middle of the court.

Credit must still go to Fitzgerald's Giants who lost two of their three initial signings to season-ending injuries over the course of this year.

Fitzgerald's first three signings last year when building this new club were Jo Harten, Kim Green and Kristiana Manu'a. Green suffered a torn ACL in round five, while Manu'a tore her Achilles tendon before the season even began.

That they still managed to make the grand final suggests this club very much has the makings of a future championship-winning team.

But they'll still need to improve, because Noeline Taurua has built a formidable roster of her own on the Sunshine Coast which will prove very difficult to wrest this title from next season.

They started slowly and the Giants raced to an early five-point lead before Mentor picked off a Susan Pettitt pass meant for Brice, and kick-started her side in the process.

Both teams made errors in the opening quarter as so often happens in a grand final, but the Lightning resumed the more composed after the first break and started squeezing their opponents through the middle of the court.

The supply to Brice dried up while captain Harten was restricted to shooting from distance. Most of those went in, but Bassett was doing significant damage at the other end of the court.

She had 22 from 23 to half-time and the Giants simply couldn't find a way to restrict her opportunities.

Less than five minutes into the third quarter with the Lightning leading by seven points, Fitzgerald took Brice off, shifted Pettitt to goal shooter and injected Sarah Wall at wing defence.

Mentor had simply been too clever and agile for the young Giant throughout and this was a necessary roll of the dice.

But the damage had already been done and the Sunshine Coast refused to let up in the final quarter cruising to a historic win.