West Leagues Balance 1 stormed into a third straight Greater Open Championship grand final with a 56-30 victory over Forsythes Business Advisors.
The defending champions claimed a fast-paced 17-4 lead in the opening quarter and never let up the pressure. Forsythes were able to improve their own goalscoring in the second with 11, but Wests added 14 more to extend their lopsided lead.
Forsythes were Newcastle netball’s top-grade pacesetters for most of the regular season, holding first for thirteen rounds before a fourth-quarter slip-up against Souths in round 14 cost them the top spot. Both clubs finished on 41 points.
There was no hint of the title race that had been settled by a +243 to +220 goal difference between the two red-hot teams. West Leagues squeezed Forsythes in the third 10-8, before closing out the landslide win with a 15-7 final stanza.
The victory puts West Leagues straight through to the Newcastle netball decider, and gives them a chance to equal Souths’ historic three-peat achievement. The Lions secured three straight Greater Open titles from 2014-16.
The two-time defending champions are peaking right at the pointy end of the season. According to centre Sophie Buckley, the team’s “complete” performance on Saturday has been a shot an extra shot of confidence.
“We’re just so happy that we could pull together a team effort, it’s the first time all year we’ve started really strong,” Buckley told the Women’s Chronicle.
“Our goal was to start strong, everyone wants to, and it gets rid of your nerves. We are confident now, you have to be confident in yourself and your team.”
That confidence may be put to the test in a fortnight’s time, as the decider comes under the NBN Television cameras in a new first for the Hunter. As well as an online stream, the channel will air the match’s highlight package that weekend.
For some West stars, like Premier League shooters Maddie Taylor and Tarsha Hawley, televised games are nothing new. For others, it will be the first time they’ve had a chance to show off their wares to a television audience.
“No matter whether it’s Souths or Forsythes the grand final day is completely different, especially considering they’re doing all this televised stuff,” said Buckley.
Tracey Baggs’ championship outfit now have a week off, with the chance to sit back and watch Souths and Forsythes duke it out in the preliminary final.
The Lions, who ousted Nova in the minor semi-final, will be playing to reach their sixth consecutive final. Forsythes were last in the decider in 2016. Traci Baber’s ladies in blue played three straight finals against Souths.
The Greater Open Championship preliminary final between Souths and Forsythes will be played from 2.30pm on Saturday afternoon at National Park.