The South Australian 17U team won gold at the National Netball Championships defeating Victoria 40-26 in front of a home crowd at Priceline Stadium on Sunday 22 April.
The win meant the team claimed the elusive ‘three-peat’ after winning the title in 2016 and 2017.
In the 19U gold medal final the South Australian team put on a gallant performance, however the strong start by Victoria proved too much for SA to rein in, with the final score 31-26.
The honours continued for SA’s 17U team after the final siren with defender Molly Watson named the Most Valuable 17U Player of the Championships, and Nyah Allen awarded MVP in the gold medal match.
The SA U17 team got off to a shaky start facing a 7-goal deficit at quarter time. However, the SA team settled and then stepped up to equal the score 18-18 at half time.
From then, there was no looking back for The Reds who scored 12 goals to 3 in the third quarter and extended their lead in the last to win by 14.
The South Australian 19U team faced Victoria in the gold medal game. The teams had played in Round 1 of the Championships with Victoria the clear winners by 14 goals.
Victoria got the best of SA in the first half taking the lead 18-9 at half time. The lead was extended to 10 goals at three-quarter time. SA managed to tighten the score in the last quarter, with Victoria victors by 5 goals.
SA coach Kirsty Leonard-Down said she was proud her team never gave up.
“I’m glad the girls fought back, they never gave up over the four quarters,” she said.
“Today we just didn’t play to our game plan for the first three quarters, but in the last we showed what we can do when we commit to our game plan.”
“From the start of the week, when we lost to Victoria in Round 1, to now we are a completely different team. Our players have come together over the week. I’m really proud of them.”
Leonard-Down said best on court for the SA team was captain Maisie Nankivell.
“Maisie kept control of the game, kept up with the pace and just never gave up.”
The team behind the team
Along with the coaches and teams’ support staff, throughout Nationals there was another integral group of people – the players’ families and friends. Donned in red and cheering for their sisters, daughters, best-friends and grand-daughters the SA supporters were in the stands every game.
Speaking after her daughter Lucy captained the 17U team to gold, Meredith Austin said SA’s shaky start in the first quarter had her on the edge of her seat.
“I was feeling very nervous. I was hoping that they could pull themselves back together and they sure did, and for the rest of the game they were absolutely awesome,” Meredith said.
“Lucy played so well all throughout the tournament. She probably didn’t get as many goals as should would have hoped for today, but her and Nyah Allen in the goal circle together worked so well together. I’m very proud.”