The best Australian grand final of all time?

“Who would have thought the sequel would be as good as the original?” – Anthony Hudson said it back in 2006 when West Coast and Sydney played the second of their epic consecutive grand finals decided by under a goal.
It was a quote worth reviewing as the Queensland Firebirds and the NSW Swifts played the second of their awesome, hard-fought, no holding back ANZ Championship Grand Finals on the weekend.

Sunday’s double extra time thriller between the two eastern seaboard clubs will go down in history as one of the best Grand Finals in any code in Australia ever.

It was seventy-seven minutes of pure, tough sport. If the game of netball ever needed an example of how good it can be and why it needs the ‘every game live’ on TV exposure, this was the moment. Actually the 2015 Grand Final might have been the moment. This was more a farewell to one competition, make sure you make the next one better moment.

This Grand Final had just about everything. Pivotal storylines, which lead to critical moments.

Romelda Aiken has been on fire all season. Her combination with Gretel Tippett was one of the major reasons that the Firebirds have been so dominant. She got a case of the ‘yips’ on Sunday. A clear example of the sort pressure displayed in this game. You don’t see this sort of stuff very often. One of the best in the game, missing shot after shot. She finished with a shooting percentage of 70.8% and shot the winning goal though, so in the end she won’t mind, but what if the result had gone the other way?!

The Swifts on the other hand have never won at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. With only a few minutes to go, they found themselves five goals down, somehow managing to come back and level things up just before the whistle for ordinary time. It looked unlikely, but one goal at a time and with the 2015 finale loss on their minds, that lead narrowed.

There were battles all over the court. Sharni Layon against Aitken, Laura Geitz against Caitlin Thwaites. Gabi Simpson in the middle. Laura Langman, Kimberlee Green. These are no slouch players. It was a game with star power.

I bet Green in the moment was counting her lucky stars that she had changed her mind on retiring after this season. Perhaps even more so now that final whistle has gone and redemption in 2017 is on her mind.

Rob Wright made the bold call in the dying stages to bring on shooter Stephanie Wood. She had an influence in those final moments. Had she managed a long shot on the buzzer of the first period of extra time, the game would have had a very different result.

Sport can be cruel sometimes, but it was that sort of game. Risks had to be taken and nothing was to be left on the court.

When you think of big Australian sporting finales in the last ten years that have been this good and won by such a narrow a margin, the 2015 NRL Grand Final comes to mind. The drawn AFL Grand Final too was packed with drama, but this one tops them all.

In the end the defending champions, the Queensland Firebirds go back to back. Queensland may have two AFL sides in deep trouble, but they won Origin convincingly, have all their teams in the eight of the NRL and now add another ANZ Championship title to the trophy cabinet.

So after all that, nine years of the ANZ Championship comes to an end. Sunday’s Grand Final shows why those in charge at Netball Australia must get it right with the new competition. I’m still not convinced the new competition is being handled correctly given we still do not have a name, salary cap nor are players allowed to be contracted as yet.

However if they can get that right, there is no reason to think that Sunday’s Grand Final cannot be topped and that would mean that sports fans are in for a brilliant journey over the next few years. Watch this space.

 

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