The scene is set for a thrilling Super Netball finals series after Collingwood Magpies claimed the last spot in the dying minutes of the regular season.
Sunshine Coast Lightning remains on track for a historic three-peat after securing the minor premiership and hosting rights to Saturday’s major semi-final against second-placed NSW Swifts.
But it was the Magpies who announced themselves as serious contenders after Sunday’s emphatic 58-47 victory over third-placed Melbourne Vixens at Melbourne Arena, pipping the Sydney-based Giants for fourth spot in dramatic fashion.
The result sets up a mouth-watering rematch between the two Melbourne clubs in Sunday’s minor semi-final at the State Netball Hockey Centre.
Despite the absence of coach Rob Wright after his mother passed away, and Diamonds midcourter Kelsey Browne joining sister Madi on the sidelines with a season-ending knee injury, the Magpies capped a turnaround of form this month.
“I reckon we’ve got a lot of momentum and we are building confidence with the group we’ve got there now,” assistant coach Nicole Richardson said after Collingwood’s third consecutive win.
We’re not there to make up numbers so we’re there to give this a real shake-up.’’
The Giants had the opportunity to shut Collingwood out of the finals by winning every quarter of Saturday’s home clash with West Coast Fever.
But they could only grab six competition points in their 70-60 home win over Fever, leaving open the door for Collingwood.
And Collingwood delivered in emphatic style, the 11-goal win with three bonus points enough to wrap up fourth spot on percentage, denying retiring Giants captain Kim Green one last shot at a Super Netball crown.
While the Vixens could not be shifted from third place, coach Simone McKinnis was disappointed with her side’s performance against a desperate Magpies outfit.
“If you are heading into finals, you really should be able to withstand that sort of drive … I don’t think that we handled it very well,” McKinnis said.
“We’ve got to get ourselves ready to go again and make the result different and we have every opportunity to do that.
“But we’ve certainly got to sit down and nut out a few things.”
The Swifts momentarily moved into top spot on the ladder after Saturday’s nail-biting 64-63 home win over bottom-placed Queensland Firebirds, but Lightning wrapped up the minor premiership hours later by easing past Adelaide Thunderbirds 58-37 at the USC Stadium.
The win was Lightning’s eighth in a row, with the two-time champions on course to send departing coach Noeline Taurua out a winner.
First week of Super Netball finals
Saturday, August 31 – Major semi-final: 1-Sunshine Coast Lightning v 2-NSW Swifts, USC Stadium, 3pm (AEST)
Sunday, August 2 – Minor semi-final: 3-Melbourne Vixens v 4-Collingwood Magpies, State Netball and Hockey Centre, 1pm (AEST)