Newcastle Netball: Wests clinch 2018 title against Souths to complete perfect Championship season

CHAMPIONS: Wests have rounded out their perfect 2018 season with a 47-41 victory over Souths in the Open Championship decider. Picture: Isaac McIntyre
CHAMPIONS: Wests have rounded out their perfect 2018 season with a 47-41 victory over Souths in the Open Championship decider. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

AFTER an undefeated season in the Greater Open Championship, defending champions West Leagues Balance 1 have completed the premiership double with a 47-41 victory over arch-rivals Souths.

Until the half-time switch however, it looked like the Lions were set to take home the chocolates and deny Wests a perfect finish to their invincible season, as dominant shooting duo Brooke Fennings and Katelyn Stansfield guided Souths to a two goal advantage through the opening two quarters.

While Fennings and Stansfield were in control in the Lions’ attacking circle, their defensive end were going about their assignments with aplomb, as Georgia McVey and Tianna Cummings were able to force Maddie Taylor out of the game and keep the Premier League star out of the match.

It was Tracey Baggs’ key swap heading into the third stanza that decided the championship tilt for Wests however, as state representative Laura Rodger was injected into the contest to silence Fennings’ impact.

While Rodger took control in the aerial duel, even collecting four straight intercepts five minutes into the quarter to slow Souths’ offence, Taylor and goal attack Emma Prince found their way back into the battle, shrugging off McVey and Cummings’ defensive efforts to force a ten goal swing.

Taylor herself slotted 13 goals for Wests in the third quarter, while Fennings and substitute goal attack Tiffany Gilmour combined for just five at the other end of the court, to put Wests in command with a 40-31 lead.

Souths returned to form as they brought Katelyn Stansfield back into the fold as leading shooter for the fourth quarter, winning out the last period 10 goals to 7, but it wasn’t enough to climb the major third quarter mountain Wests had set, and the ladies in black claimed the 2018 Championship title.

While coach Tracey Baggs waived away conversations of what an undefeated season would mean for her Wests outfit during the season, in the post-match celebrations she praised the achievement has “something really special”.

“I’m so proud of my girls, they really deserve everything that they’ve achieved this season,” Baggs said. “Now that we have a chance to stop and reflect on it I think it’s a massive achievement.”

“It’s something really special. We hope that we have inspired a lot of younger girls playing netball at the moment to look up and see something to aspire to.”

While Wests did record zero losses during the regular season and throughout finals, Baggs believes the competition was one of the closest in recent history, and praised the “strong teams” that made it a great year.

“All these girls choose to play here because competition is good, and it’s a strong league,” she said. “As far as this season goes it’s been a very good competition.”

“Hopefully that level can be maintained here in the comp over the next few seasons and beyond. It’s a massive achievement to have a league this great.”

Finally, Baggs pointed to Rodger’s – who left the court with an ankle injury just minutes before the final whistle – massive contribution to Wests’ victory.

“She was amazing, we had a gameplan for the opening quarters but when things started to go Souths’ way we knew that Laura was going to be key,” Baggs explained.

“It’s disappointing that she’s come away with an injury, especially considering she has  Premier League semi-final this week that she’s now in doubt for, but she had such an amazing game up to that moment.”

Wests completed the regular season with a 14-0 record.