ROYALS QUEENS IN EPIC GRAND FINAL FINISH
Royals Saints 1 have emerged with a second A1 premiership in three years, withstanding a brilliant comeback from Magpies 1, as less than three goals separated the two clubs for the third consecutive grand final on Saturday.
In a rapidly growing rivalry in the Albany Netball Association, Royals Saints surrendered a 10-goal lead to fall behind in a pulsating final term against the Magpies before they fought back to edge ahead following a Nardia Humphries goal inside the last minute.
With seconds ticking away Magpies had the resulting centre pass and went forward, but a penalty and then an advantage took precious time off the clock.
Magpies’ Rebecca Goodliffe had possession but the whistle blew before she had the chance to pass the ball into the attacking circle.
There would be one last moment of drama as players initially celebrated before looking to the scoreboard which displayed 37-37.
Nardia Humphries’ final goal had not been added, but once confirmed it was added as Royals Saints prevailed in another classic between the two best teams of the last three seasons.
Royals Saints won by two goals in 2017 in double overtime before Magpies won a two-goal thriller last year.
The 38-37 was another fitting finish between the two sides, defender Narelle Humphries winning the Lucille Holt award after being judged best and fairest.
Magpies had the initial lead as sharpshooter Brittany Finigan hit four of her first five attempts but Royals Saints hit back and led by four goals at quarter-time.
Nardia Humphries and player-coach Carly Szczecinski combined for 12 goals in the second term as their side skipped 10 goals clear, with Sophie Lynch influential in centre court while Narelle Humphries had put the clamps on Finigan.
Finigan went to another level after half-time, as she along with Rebecca Goodliffe dragged Magpies back from a double-figure deficit.
Magpies outscored their opponents 13 goals to eight in the third, term trimming the margin to five at the last change, as Finigan netted 10 of her 11 attempts.
The first three goals of the final term were scored by Magpies as their charge continued.
Finigan was five from five and then added a sixth goal to level scores, the crowd at fever pitch.
Caitlyn Wheatley put Magpies in front but it was only briefly as Royals Saints steadied with the next two goals.
Finigan levelled scores for the third term but it was not enough, as Royals Saints did enough to hold out the gallant Magpies in the last 60 seconds.
Szczecinski said it was a wonderful finish and paid credit to her resilient defence led by Narelle Humphries.
“We knew Magpies had a lot of fight in them,” she said.
“We let them back into the game because we missed so many shots.
“The defence worked so hard to create those last four, five turnovers. Its been great to attract such great youth to our club, the average age of the team is very young but they have been very successful which is great for our future.”
Nardia Humphries finished with 26 goals from 41 attempts, at 63 per cent, while Szczecinski was vital hitting 12 goals from 16 attempts.
Finigan was outstanding in a losing affair, her 27 goals from 36 attempts ultra-impressive while Wheatley added 10 from 19.
Rebecca Goodliffe and captain Claire Warburton were also strong contributors.
Magpies coach Lisa Goodliffe said she was full of pride for her side’s efforts.
“I was so proud of the way they fought back, there is no way the girls should be disappointed with that effort,” she said.
“Another 30 seconds would have been handy but in the first half we let them in. They did awesome, it was a fantastic game.”
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