Giants Netball will embark on the path to the Super Netball Grand Final the hard way.
Despite a brave comeback led by captain Jo Harten and young shooter Sophie Dwyer, they couldn’t peg back the inevitable one goal margin.
It was a battle of two different styles: the Giants methodical and measured play noticeably contrasting with the Swifts blisteringly fast passing.
The third quarter was the highlight for the losing side, winning the scoring 20-16 and seeing some of the strongest individual performances across the court.
Harten was one of those players, drawing level with the cross-town rivals after firing off a well-placed Super Shot and riling up her teammates.
Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald was visibly disappointed with the result, but still had plenty of praise for her squad.
“I thought [Harten] did really well in the circle,” Fitzgerald told media post-game.
“Most of the time we were able to get the ball to her it was more of a matter of getting the ball through the court to a position where we could feed Jo.”
There were moments, however, where the Giants looked “overawed” as Fitzgerald described.
Particularly around the circle, there were a few moments that were the Giants undoing. Playing it a bit too cute with their passing led to a turnover as Maddy Proud dove on the ground ball for a pick up and quick transition down the court.
With an early opportunity to break the Swifts, Dwyer tried for the long shot at the post and couldn’t convert the score, also missing the rebound.
Giving balls to Sarah Klau’s advantage, going for the Super Shot, there were moments where it showed that the Giants hadn’t played finals since 2018.
“We tried to prepare as best we could, but there was a little bit of inexperience in that start,” Fitzgerald said.
“We were a little bit overawed even though we didn’t think we were going to be. I think it was quite evident that we were.
“To be eight goals down and be able to fight back the way that we did, you’ve got to give them credit for that and be proud of the effort.”
Dwyer was one of the players crucially lacking finals experienced. Fitzgerald praised the 19-year-old, however, for working back in the game and providing a comeback spark.
“We’ve got four who’ve never played finals, so today’s game will be a great benefit for them as it will for Sophie.
“She’s just that calm head. For a 19-year-old, the development we’ve from her across the season and today will be invaluable for her.”
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Mid-courter Maddie Hay had a slow start to the match, her first quarter stat line of two goal assists and six feeds not doing as much as the Giants would have hoped.
“I think the second half will build her confidence a little bit,” Fitzgerald said.
“I think she was one of the ones who was a little bit nervous going into it and took a little bit of time to get into the game.
“Once she did get into the game she gave us the impact she needed, and gave us the intercept to give us the opportunity we needed.”
Where to now?
Gaining the double chance after finishing the home and away season as minor premiers, the Giants now tasked with facing the winning of the Fever and Lightning next Saturday.
It’ll mean the Swifts get a valuable rest after the hectic end to the season, while the Giants have to keep on rolling.
Fitzgerald sees it as just another obstacle to overcome.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we’ve become very resilient,” she said.
“We’ve had a lot thrown at us this year and we’ve gotten over it. I don’t think [playing the extra game] changes my outlook.
“We’ll go back to having a normal week and doing the normal things we need to do to prepare for who we play next week.
“Obviously bitterly disappointed to go down by one goal and give up that spot in the Grand Final, but we’re still alive. We’re grateful that we’ve got a second chance.
“I’m hoping I might be right that it might be an advantage to us to back up again next week.
“We knew we have to beat everybody if you’re going to get to the Grand Final that we’d rather play.
“We’ll go back to our normal routine, we’ll review this match, we’ll review the match that’s about to happen, we’ll train at our regular times in a regular way.”
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