Souths defender Tianna Cummings played a starring role late as the Lions booked a shot at Newcastle open netball championship grand final redemption with a 50-38 win over Forsythes.
Forsythes fought back from a poor first quarter and 15-9 deficit on Saturday at National Park to stay within reach of Souths in the preliminary final until the closing minutes.
The second-placed Lions will now take on minor premiers and defending champions West Leagues Balance in the decider for a second consecutive year.
The Lions led 26-21 half-time on Saturday and maintained the advantage at three-quarter time. Forsythes got within three goals with five minutes left but Souths stormed home.
Lions coach Trude Yen was pleased with the clinical performance.
“They heavily put on their defence in the second quarter, which caught us by surprise, because basically an entirely different team came out,” Yen said. “We lost that second quarter but came back and decided to do something about it. The last quarter was our best. I put on some fresh legs and we ran away with it by seven.
“We were very confident of the win. We never take Forsythes lightly. You never know what [coach] Traci [Baber] is going to bring out on court and they have very talented players, and yesterday’s game showed that. They belonged in that final. It’s always a great game against them.”
Yen said Cummings played a key role late at wing defence to ensure Souths kicked clear.
“Sabina [Gomboso] is always the one to beat against them and I just wanted some fresh legs in the goal defence area,” Yen said of the Forsythes shooter. “I wanted to keep Bronte Magin out of the circle so the pressure was put on Sabina, which worked perfectly.
“Tianna plays the most beautiful wing defence and she was getting tips and turnovers everywhere in that last quarter.”
She said centre Narelle Eather, wing attack Natalie Hilder and the defensive team of Nakita Jackson, Cummings, Eliza Hand and Georgia McVey were standouts for Souths, who had one eye on the decider before Saturday.
“If anything, yesterday was 50-50 talk about semi-final and grand final,” Yen said. “Usually we’re just focused on the game at hand, especially at this pointy end of the season, but the girls were champing at the bit to get to the grand final. I had to keep saying first things first.
“But they already have in their heads what they want to do next week and we will work on that this week. We are looking forward to a fantastic game next week.”
Baber said her side did well to get back in the game after “a terrible first quarter”.
“We got back to one just before half-time and it was still only three or four with five minutes to go, so the score wasn’t really indicative of the game,” Baber said.
“Souths played well and it was very physical, as it always is against them. They probably handled it better than we did. We were outmuscled.
“The girls are still really happy with our season and I’m happy with how we went considering everything that went wrong, with injuries and whatever. And they always try their best.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle’s Sam Poolman has re-signed for a third Super Netball season with GWS Giants.
A part of the Giants’ leadership group, Poolman recorded the best defensive stats for her team during the recently completed Super Netball regular season, taking 16 intercepts and 17 defensive rebounds, while making 40 deflections.