The Greater Open Championship’s postseason picture has become a little clearer after Nova staged a successful second-half fight back against finals rivals BNC as Newcastle Netball celebrated its first Indigenous Round on Saturday afternoon.
Last week saw the Thunder mount a second stanza 27-22 victory over league leaders Forsythes that brought them within a single goal of the draw. This time around, Nova’s “on song” shooters got the job done against Whanau.
BNC held momentum in the opening quarters, grabbing a 13-8 advantage and retaining the margin after a 10-10 second quarter. Thunder’s attack circle sparked to life in the third, edging Nova into the lead with an 11-5 run. A two-goal margin in the fourth sealed the win.
“Brooke [Fennings] and Abbie [Gray] were great, they knew when to shoot long and when to move the ball in. They played with confidence, and that bled through to the rest of the court. When our shooters are on song the whole teams lift to meet them,” Nova captain-coach Katie Robinson told the Chronicle.
“Knowing their our go-to shooters has given everyone that lift, and Brooke especially really came alight. She’s found her place in the team, and just owned the entire court yesterday. It may just be her best performance she’s had for us. We all fed off that.”
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After the agonisingly close loss last weekend, Robinson said it was a great feeling to flip the script in Round 12. After falling behind in the opening quarter, Nova’s captain revealed co-coach Desley Cowan issued new marching orders: short play.
“We really wanted this win, so we played with a lot of grit and determination. There was great teamwork. Des came up with our plan, and we switched into a short passing game so BNC couldn’t find an avenue in our attacks,” Robinson said.
“Sometimes we get a plan together like on Saturday and then get out on court and it falls away. This time we played brilliantly with it, the whole team had Des’ idea of what we needed to do and executed it well.”
After fellow playoff hunters the Junction Tavern were slapped with a 69-36 defeat by Forsythes, Nova have opened a gap between fourth and the teams following. They now sit on 31 points, three ahead of BNC and six away from Stella.
With this season’s refreshed roster, and a leading light at the front with Fennings, Robinson believes Nova could shape as a wildcard inside the top four.
“We’ve always been in the race, and now we’re pulling everything together for the team. I think it’s an exciting time for Nova, I believe we can knock over the top of the league and we have so many players playing well,” she said.
“If we can make finals I think we’ll have a bit of fun. We could knock over a few of the top teams to make it exciting. It’s always fun when there’s a newcomer looking to make a bit of an impact on the regular order.”
Souths and Wests have both clicked into their finals form alongside Forsythes, as the Lions defeated West 2 in a rapid-pace 63-36 win, and the two-time defending champions rolled over seventh-placed Maryville 62-30 on Court 9.
STANDINGS: Forsythes (39), West 1 (35), Souths (33), Nova (31), BNC (28), Junction Hotel (25) Maryville Tavern (21), West 2 (19).