The runners-up have plenty to look forward to. (Photo: giantsnetball.com.au)

Although the Giants were unable to claim their first ever championship title, the young stars of the club provide plenty of hope for the future.

Although the Giants were unable to claim their first ever championship title in 2021, the young stars of the club provide plenty of hope for the future.

After 67 days on the road, the Giants fell four goals short to the NSW Swifts in the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final, but the loss doesn’t overshadow the triumphs of the team this year.

Plenty of injuries, quarantine and time away from home characterised the Giants’ season, but at the end of it all, head coach Julie Fitzgerald believes the playing group has the ability to produce something special in the years to come.

The Inner Sanctum looks at the Giants Netball season in review.

Maddie Hay, Jamie-Lee Price and Amy Parmenter grew stronger with every game this year. (Photo: Giants Netball/Twitter)

What Worked?

Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer successfully slotted Super Shots for the Giants all season, using the two-point goal in times where the team needed to edge back into the game.

Knowing the right moment to pull the trigger on Super Shots gave the Giants the ability to dictate how the last five minutes of each quarter would play out.

Harten and Dwyer lead the league with Super Shot attempts and conversions for a combined total of 109 Super Shots with 215 attempts – an accuracy of 50.7 percent.

Harten’s leadership also worked in the Giants’ favour this season, as the English international boosted team morale in times of despair to lead by example.

As a foundation member of the team, the sharpshooter found herself stepping up an extra level, giving expert advice to each and every player on court.

Not only did Harten bury the celebrations of her 150th national league game with a ‘team-first’ attitude for the grand final, she was humble in defeat and set the example for her teammates.

The defensive effort of Sam Poolman, April Brandley, Kristiana Manu’a and Tilly McDonell also played a significant role in the Giants’ path to the grand final.

Tasked with the job of shutting down some of the leagues best shooters, the Giants defenders rose to the occasion, especially in the decisive moments.

Poolman produced a season-best performance in the preliminary final against Jhaniele Fowler, whilst Brandley, Manu’a and McDonell contributed to the Giants’ 10 wins this season.

What Didn’t?

It’s fair to say there were a number of things that didn’t work in favour of the Giants, from injuries to travel troubles and quarantine, life away from home proved to be difficult.

Injuries plagued the Giants’ playing group this season, and it all began in Round 1 with the loss of star shooter Kiera Austin.

Austin tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the second quarter of the first round in Adelaide, injecting 19-year-old Dwyer into the full time role of goal attack for the rest of the year.

Brandley and McDonell also faced injuries prior to the Round 14 clash with the Fever, leaving eight of the Giants to fight for the minor premiership.

In Round 5, Brandley was forced to choose her family over playing the West Coast Fever when the team faced West Australian quarantine without notice.

From then, the Giants travelled around the country to escape lockdowns and carry on their chances in the league.

Flying to Queensland, Melbourne, Adelaide and back to the Sunshine State, the Giants spent a total of 66 days on the road before meeting the NSW Swifts in the grand final on day 67.

With only Jamie-Lee Price’s family based in Queensland and Brandley’s husband and son travelling with the team, many of the players haven’t seen their loved ones since June 23.

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April Brandley demonstrated she is back in career best form this season, following the birth of her son Clay. (Photo: giantsnetball.com.au)

Season Highlight

The season highlight for the Giants comes after handing the Fever defeat, twice.

After a one-goal loss in dying seconds of Round 5, the Giants were hungry to show the Fever they were a force to be reckoned with in Round 14.

Without Brandley and McDonell, the Giants would take to court with only one reserve. Coming agonisingly close to victory in Perth ignited a fire under Harten, who rallied her troops with strength.

Going onto secure the minor premiership by two goals, the Giants would meet the Fever again in the preliminary final.

Across the court the Giants rose to the occasion, and at the end of the first quarter, Amy Parmenter had three gains, while Jhaniele Fowler had coughed up four turnovers and three penalties.

Poolman earned herself player of the match with a season-best performance against the league’s top goal scorer, but coach Fitzgerald was quick to credit the whole team in the three-point victory that saw the Giants book a spot in the grand final.

Season Lowlight

For a relatively young squad to spend 67 days away from their families and come within four goals of a maiden premiership, losing the grand final was definitely the lowest point in the season.

In Harten’s 150th national league game, the Giants were defeated by their cross-town rivals 63-59 at Nissan Arena last Saturday, earning the runners-up title for 2021.

To go so far without the reward of the trophy is absolutely devastating for the playing group, but especially for the skipper, who felt she could have performed better in the Giants’ 2017 grand final loss, with this year’s result bringing back heartache.

The Swifts proved to be too good for the Giants on Saturday. (Photo: NSW Swifts/Twitter)

With the Giants earning more Nissan Net Points, it was discipline that played a large role in their defeat with the Swifts being called for 18 less penalties.

Team MVP

It’s hard to choose a singular most valuable player for the Giants this year, with many players still very new to the Super Netball world, but Amy Parmenter has come leaps and bounds this season.

Earning herself the title of ‘Members Player of the Year’ in 2019 and 2020, Parmenter produced yet another incredible season in the orange dress and has earned the opportunity to secure another club award for the third consecutive year.

Parmenter finished the season with a total of 71 deflections and 31 intercepts, featuring in the Nissan team of the week seven times as wing defence, an effort that earned her recognition from Diamonds selectors.

Amy Parmenter contests against Steph Wood. (Photo: giantsnetball.com.au)

At 24 years of age, Parmenter is making a name for herself in just her third year of Super Netball.

Partnering with Price and Maddie Hay in the mid-court, her growth under the tutelage of Fitzgerald has been astronomical.

Rising Star

Sophie Dwyer is no-doubt the rising star for Giants Netball. Producing arguably one of best breakout seasons the league has ever seen, the 19-year-old calmly slotted into Kiera Austin’s shoes in Round 1 and worked to develop her game under the guidance of Harten.

Since then, Dwyer has held her own against international talent including Karla Pretorius and Jodi-Ann Ward.

Sophie Dwyer provides insight into the talented Netball NSW pathway. (Photo: giantsnetball.com.au)

Calling Eastwood Ryde Netball Association home, Dwyer and Austin have unquestionably bonded this year.

Austin’s off-court mentoring has been instrumental for the young goaler’s growth, as she has quickly moved up the shooting ranks in the league displaying incredible composure week in, week out.

Coming in as an unsung hero for the Giants in a time of despair, Dwyer has done everything within her power to fill the gap left with Austin’s absence.

Humble, hard-working and forward-thinking, her ability embodies the NSW talent pathway and shows the Giants have an extremely bright future ahead.

Moving Forward

In the final post-match press conference of the year, Julie Fitzgerald explained that in order to maintain success, the core of the Giants playing group must stay together.

With potential to grow and develop as athletes under Fitzgerald’s experience, it’s easy to assume the team would want to remain united for years to come.

Questions will be raised about where 19-year-old Matisse Letherbarrow fits in the squad when Kiera Austin returns in the new year, but it’s likely the shooter will remain a training partner for 2022.

Matisse Letherbarrow was elevated to the team following Austin’s injury in Round 1. (Photo: giantsnetball.com.au)

The bond between Fitzgerald and Harten seems unbreakable and as core members of the organisation, the coach and captain are expected to continue as a dynamic duo next year.

If the Giants can keep the core of their group at the club, then natural development from the likes of Dwyer, McDonell, Hay and Parmenter will ensure the future of Super Netball is bright orange.

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