The Tasmanian team had never reached the DUANL finals until this year, but looked right at home on the big stage, knocking off the Netball NSW Waratahs on Saturday and then withstanding a tenacious Giants outfit 54-53 on Sunday afternoon.
The teams split the points when they met for two games a fortnight ago in the penultimate round of the regular season, with the Magpies winning the second of those clashes 53-51 in a hint at how tight the gold medal decider would be.
Leading by four goals at the final change, the Magpies had their lead quickly cut to one when a Giants turnover ended in centre Maddie Hay’s hands.
A miraculous Hay tip and chase-down with less than seven minutes remaining would have allowed Canberra to tie the scores, but a miss in the goal circle let the Magpies off the hook and allowed them to push their advantage back out to two goals.
It was goal for goal for the rest of the quarter with the premiership on the line, until the Giants gained the ball back with the score at 52-54 and less than 30 seconds on the clock. But they were slow in converting, and though they eventually scored to put themselves within a goal, the final whistle beat them before they could fire off their centre pass, giving the Magpies the most memorable of victories.
To start the game both teams selected almost identical starting lineups from their second meeting two weeks ago, but the big inclusion for the Magpies was towering goal shooter Jane Cook, who decimated the Waratahs with 55 goals in the semi-final.
And Cook (37 goals from 45 attempts) looked like doing similar damage and taking the game away from Canberra early in the final, netting the majority of her team’s first 10 goals in quick time as the Magpies took a 10-4 lead. Their advantage threatened to swell to double digits until the Giants finally clamped down defensively, restricting the supply and then cutting the margin to just three goals.
A Cook goal on the buzzer – her twelfth for the quarter – gave Tasmania a 16-12 edge.
The Giants began to find their rhythm early in the second quarter, with an intercept from Hay allowing them to squeeze the deficit back to one goal, prompting Magpies coach Kate Upton to substitute Gabrielle Sinclair (13 from 16) into the game at goal attack for former Collingwood player Cody Lange (four from six). The switch yielded immediate results, with Sinclair’s speed opening up more space and helping the Magpies quickly reestablish a four-goal lead, but a flying intercept from Giants wing defence Amy Parmenter helped keep things close. When Canberra goal attack Beryl Friday (22 from 29) netted one on the half-time buzzer, the scoreline was 28-27 the Magpies’ way.
Both teams barely blinked for much of the third term, trading goals throughout and every turnover met with an almost instant reply from the other side.
A Kara Styles intercept with less than four mins remaining allowed the Giants to level, and goal shooter Georgia Marshall (31 from 38) nailed the next to put the Giants in front for the first time since the opening minute of the game.
But this time it was Tasmania’s defence’s turn to lift, with goal defence Sharni Lambden intercepting to help put her team back in front. and centre Kelsie Rainbow tipping a pass on the Giants’ circle edge to create another scoring opportunity and helping the Magpies fire off the last five goals of the quarter to lead 44-40.