SPLIT THEM IF YOU DARE.
Saturday’s Suncorp Super Netball grand final is so evenly balanced it could take a finely calibrated laser level to separate the two opponents.
The Sunshine Coast Lightning and GIANTS Netball have much in common, statistically at least, as they prepare to fight for the national league title.
Vastly experienced coaches, international flavour, ruthless defence ends and finals poise are part of the makeup for both teams who were created last year and upstaged established clubs on their way to the decider.
“They’re a slick unit,” Giants goal attack Jo Harten said of the Lightning defence facing her and circle partner Kristina Brice.
Lightning duo Geva Mentor and Karla Mostert were the most miserly defence in the league this season, conceding just 51 goals per game.
The Giants pairing of Bec Bulley and Sam Poolman gave up only 52.
Everywhere you look it’s close.
The Giants have five players with grand final experience. The Lightning have four.
World Cup stars – Laura Langman, Caitlin Bassett and Geva Mentor (Lightning), and Bulley, Jo Harten, and Serena Guthrie (Giants) – are everywhere.
Even the average age – 27 – of the squads is the same.
“They’re dynamic, in-form and very smart,” said Lightning centre Laura Scherian.
“They tick all the boxes, particularly at the attack end.”
The Sunshine Coast has a more settled line-up but the major recent change for the Giants has been a strength.
Scherian and Harten both praised the performances of Susan Pettitt who has made a success of her move from goal attack to wing.
The vision and timing that earned her 54 Australian Test caps as a goaler seem equally suited to her new role.
“We trust each other. She’s a great feeder,” Harten said.
A premiership would provide a fairytale chapter to the career of Scherian who had seasons at the AIS Canberra Darters (2007) and Queensland Firebirds (2010) before re-emerging at the Lightning.
She fired off resumes to all the national league clubs – as she had done for each of the past seven seasons – last year and now finds herself as the starting centre in a Grand Final.
Scherian credits maturity, and the culture bubbling away under coaches Noeline Taurua and Kylee Byrne, as the reason behind her breakthrough season.
“They believed in us as individuals and as a team,” she said.
“They know our abilities and trust us to use our instincts.”
Sunshine Coast Lightning will host GIANTS Netball on Saturday June 17 at 7.00pm AEST. Get your tickets, or if you can’t make it to the game, tune in live on Channel 9 (9Gem in WA, NT and SA) or the Netball Live mobile app.
photo Getty Images