The Victorian Fury have justified all regular-season credentials to claim the 2015 Australian Netball League title for a record third straight year, defeating Southern Force by 12 goals at Waverley Netball Centre this afternoon.
Leading at every change and surviving a third-quarter scare, the 58-46 win takes the Fury’s record to an unprecedented 32 consecutive wins dating back to 2013.
At the helm of another ANL crown, Fury coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell said her side – with the record aside – had achieved their goal of continuing to better their performance from the previous year.
“Yes the wins came, but what’s been really amazing has been that it has been a different group of athletes over the course of the 32 wins,” Keppich-Birrell said.
“For this group of athletes to display inner individual improvement is the main thing.
“The 32nd win and this title just sit on the back of the process.”
The Force appeared to start the better of the two sides with South Australia shooters Cody Lange (15 from 22) and Chelsea Lemke (21 from 24) flawless with all their opportunities inside the shooting circle in the first quarter.
By contrast, the Fury struggled from mid-range and found ball retention through the mid-court difficult as the South Australians consolidated an early two-goal lead.
Carrying on her scintillating form from Saturday night’s semi-final, captain Fiona Themann asserted herself as the cool head the Victorians needed; the flow-in effect seeing the home side level in the last few minutes before the first break.
A crucial stop from Alice Teague-Neeld (14 from 19) and trigger shooting from Emma Ryde (44 from 50) saw the Fury then take a two-goal lead into quarter time.
Teague-Neeld again set the tone in the opening seconds of the restart to force a South Australia turnover and Victorian goal.
In spite of some more inaccurate shooting from mid-range, the margin would be as close the Force could get to the Fury, as Ella Priestley and Kelsey Browne’s defensive pressure and offensive execution created chance after chance for the home side.
Fury defenders Jo Weston and Themann’s height advantage snuffed out the Force’s attempts to float the ball deep into their circle; regular deflections orchestrated a game-defining last five minutes before half time, during which the Fury went on a 6-1 run.
The Fury appeared to have almost one hand on the trophy, leading by eight goals at half time, but the Force had other ideas.
South Australia’s full court defensive pressure – absent through much of the second quarter – suffocated the Fury into mistakes, as the visitors piled on seven straight goals to trail by just one goal forcing the Fury into a time out.
“While the want and desire was there, the process and execution wasn’t,” Keppich-Birrell said of the third term.
“It was just a reminder that all of the little things have to be done all of the time, not just some of the time.
“We just spoke about our intensity in attack having to be just as good as our intensity in defence.
“South Australia did a great job in changing our focus.”
The stop in play would eventually halt the South Australians’ charge, before Browne again stepped up through the mid-court, with great assistance from Teague-Neeld.
Fury landed five of the last six goals of the quarter to take a 41-35 lead into the final break.
Sensing the need for some energy through the mid-court, Keppich-Birrell sent the experienced Browne to wing attack, and introduced Elle Bennetts into centre for Priestley.
It would prove to be the icing on the cake as Themann and Teague-Neeld dominated their respective areas to put the game beyond reach and onward to the eventual double-digit margin.
“I don’t think there are any limits with this group of girls (for their careers),” the premiership-winning coach said.
“The beauty of this group is that we’ve got a mix of the young and the experienced, and what they’ve been able to do together.
“Just because you’ve got experience, doesn’t mean you’ve got more to bring to the table. All the girls have learnt something from each other this season, and for a coach that’s a wonderful and unique thing to have.”
Southern Force defender Kate Shimmin was named the competition’s most valuable player.
Official Match Result: Victorian Fury 58 defeated Southern Force 46
Fury Shooting Statistics
Emma Ryde 44/50 (88%)
Alice Teague-Neeld 14/19 (74%)
Force Shooting Statistics
Chelsea Lemke 21/24 (88%)
Cody Lange 15/22 (68%)
Georgie Virgo 10/14 (71%)
San Remo Australian Netball League MVP: Kate Shimmin (Southern Force)