Date: Friday, 14 September, 2018
Venue: Showcourt, State Netball Centre
Broadcast: Centrepass on Facebook
Tickets: At the door
The Coastal Sharks will be hoping to go one better in 2018, following their narrow defeat to the West Coast Warriors last year. Should they win, it will be their first League title since 2011. Standing in their way will be the Perth Lions, who after a two-year hiatus return to the deciding game, and will chasing their seventh League title, and first since 2015.
Expectedly, the Sharks have been the front-runners in season 2018. Their side boasts six Western Sting athletes, and that’s shown in their form, as they dropped just one game in the regular season and drew another. The Lions also had a fair showing in the Sting side, with five athletes in the squad. While many expected the Sharks to qualify for the Grand Final in the opening weekend of finals, the Lions had other plans, as they dismantled the Minor Premiers to run out 16-goal victors, earning them a week off. The Sharks had to do things the long way, however, their Preliminary Final victory over the Rangers was nothing short of clinical, as they ran out 66-27 winners.
The Lions will need to nullify the impact that Sharks defenders Olivia Lewis and Jess Penny have on the game. Both Lewis and Penny have been West Coast Fever Training Partners this season, with Lewis picking up a full-time contract for the 2019 season. The defensive duo have been the best in the competition this season, and they will be eager to pick off any lose balls that come into the their third on Friday night. Patience will be key from the Lions, and the experienced Lindal Rohde will need to be a settling factor in the midcourt if things get on edge. Lions’ shooters Maddison Schultz and Tess Cransberg will need to be on their game as well, with any missed shots almost certain to be collected by the Sharks and taken down the other end for a score. Cransberg has scored 238 goals at 76%, an average of 21.6 goals per match this year, and leads all Lions shooters. However, the Lions have shared the load this season, with Schultz having scored 230 goals at 69%, an average of 17.7 per game. Young gun Sloan Burton, who is a rapidly rising product, is waiting in the wings should she be required and has shot 183 goals at 77% in her first season in the top flight.
The midcourt battles will also be enthralling, with Courtney Kruta likely to line up in the Centre for the Sharks and face off against Lindal Rohde. Both Clubs have flexibility through the midcourt, particularly at the Wing Defence position, with Ariana Brown (Lions) and Jess Penny (Sharks) both having spent time at the position, when their respective sides have needed a change up. Bella McLernon, Keeley Fitzpatrick and Ella Sigley round out the midcourters for the Lions and will face off against Brittany Turnbull, Emily Smith and Zoe Fisher. Three incredibly important battles.
The Lions defensive circle of Sunday Aryang and Alice Coakley have been solid in the past few weeks, and will need to ensure they restrict the supply of ball into Sharks shooters Grace Parker and Emma Cosh. Aryang is one of the State’s most promising up and coming defenders, and Coakley has rejoined the Lions this year, having an immediate impact in the lineup. Ariana Brown can also play at both positions, and will be integral in Friday’s result. Parker is the third highest scoring shooter this season, with 319 goals at 89%, averaging over 35 goals per game, while Emma Cosh has added 119 goals at just 56%. However, it’s Cosh’s ability to create space that makes her so dangerous in and around the goal circle.
These two sides have met three times this season, with the Lions holding a 2-1 advantage over the Sharks. In Round 6, the Lions got the better of the Sharks by four goals, however the Coastal side got one back in Round 13, running out 14 goal victors. As mentioned earlier, the Lions were clinical in their win over the Sharks on Semi Final weekend, running out 53-37 winners.
While many touted the Sharks as unanimous favourites to run away with the title this season, the Lions have shown that they will not be pushed over easily. The League Grand Final is shaping up to be a close one, and with a capacity crowd expected at the State Netball Centre, it’s a game not to miss.
Who’s side are you on?