Abbey’s Jets role a boost for Flyers as Sapphires survive
AS the defending premiers reflect on an earlier than hoped for finals exit, the Goodna Sapphires can prepare for another grand final duel.
The Ipswich Flyers bid for back-to-back Queensland Premier League SEQ Cup titles was shattered in their 43-27 elimination final loss to Downey Park.
The Flyers ended a season of promise as the Sapphires survived a major challenge from Western Districts to make their fourth consecutive QPL competition decider.
The Sapphires advanced to the grand final after winning 36-31.
"We had a terrible start,'' Sapphires captain Robyn Walsh said.
"We felt prepared and ready to go. However clearly we were caught off guard.
"We missed our first couple of shots, threw some bad passes, which Western Districts capitalise on and converted their own centre passes, which quickly gave them a 7-0 lead. "Fortunately we did not panic and took it in our stride.''
Goodna's experience provided the lift when needed.
"The third quarter, or better known as the championship quarter, was our strongest quarter and at the third quarter break we led by nine,'' Walsh said.
Flyers coach Nicole Grant said her team had a similar early setback.
"We didn't have a great start so it felt like we were on the back foot from the first quarter,'' Grant said.
"The girls have had to endure a lot of change this season.
"We were really gelling together well towards the end of fixtures and all in a few weeks we lost Rayna (Verrenkamp), Abbey (Gallagher) and Lusa (Segi).
"It's definitely disappointing as our goal was to make the grand final.
"However I am so proud of how the team fought to the very end. We had to try many different combinations and the team never dropped their heads.''
A positive for the Flyers is Gallagher receiving a permanent spot on the Jets Ruby Series team still in Netball Queensland finals contention.
"We all wish her the best of luck with the rest of her season,'' Grant said.
"I know a lot of the team will be trying to get down to see her play.''
Walsh praised Renee Kalalo and Sarah Cullen-Reid for keeping their cool and stepping up in their physical qualifying final.
"Everyone played their part throughout the match with some great intercepts, deflections and pick-ups from the defence end when they where needed,'' Walsh said.
"We can all handle pressure. As they say, 'it's not our first rodeo' and we never doubted that we would not come away with the win.''
Goodna's grand final opponent will be either Downey Park or Western Districts.
"It feels great,'' Walsh said, when asked about the Sapphires making another grand final.
"But I feel it adds pressure to our team as everyone wants to beat us. Plus there is nothing worse than going through the season undefeated and losing the GF.
"Yes, we have been there too (losing to the Flyers last year) and do not wish to revisit it.''
Preparing for the grand final, the Sapphires players will continue with their indoor netball commitments and work on their own finess.
A positive for the Sapphires was having senior player Rebecca Asquith return after her calf injury sidelined her for the past six weeks.
"She played well with no reason for concern, so we welcome her back into the defensive end,'' Walsh said.
Reflecting on her team's season, Grant appreciated having matches to play despite it being a "very tough'' challenge.
"I think we were lucky to be able to have a netball season during a pandemic so I am very pleased with how the team continued to adapt to so much change and uncertainty,'' Grant said.
"Everyone felt that it was such an unusual year and I believe they are all just happy they could play the sport they love alongside their friends.''
Grant was planning some time out before committing to coaching next year.
"Last year was incredible (winning the grand final),'' she said. "It's one I think I'll treasure for a long time.
"This year it was nice to bring a few more younger players into the team while retaining some of the more mature players. My leadership team led by example and I hope the younger players have learnt from the experience.
"It has been quite a unique season so at the moment I am going to enjoy the break.''
The Flyers players are planning a "Silly Saturday'' in a few weeks.
The leadership team is also attending the City of Ipswich Sports Awards on Friday night as the Flyers are a finalist for team of the year.
STATE OF PLAY
QPL SEQ Cup elimination final: Downey Park def Ipswich Flyers 43-27.
Qualifying final: Goodna Sapphires def Western Districts 36-31.
Sapphires qualify for grand final in two weeks.