23 Nov Cougars secure championship in dominant display
The Brisbane North Cougars are the 2020 HART Sapphire Series champions after producing a commanding performance to defeat their season-long rivals the Ipswich Jets 62-47
Following a fairly balanced start, the Cougars overpowered the Jets in the second quarter, outscoring them by 15 goals, and maintained their lead for the remainder of the contest to seal the title.
The game featured several highly anticipated battles, including that between Bridey Condren and the Cougars shooters, Rylie Holland and Mia Stower. It was Condren that gained an early upper hand, delivering a sharp warning to her opponents by blocking two shots within minutes of each other and forcing them to reconsider their approach.
Ruby Bakewell-Doran and Remi Kamo made sure the defensive pressure was no less intense at the other end, directing the majority of their energy towards Charlie Bell and for a while nullifying the Jets’ main scoring threat, making the Ipswich side work hard for each goal.
Bell, however, adapted to the challenge and soon returned to her usual scoring form. The Cougars attack did so similarly. Stower showed her versatility by operating in and outside of the circle, creating chances for Holland by combining with Chanel Dyer and Maddie Hinchliffe and converting those created for her.
The Cougars showcased all the skills that led them to the Final in the second quarter, scoring an astounding 22 goals to the Jets’ 7. Each of Liz White’s players fulfilled their responsibilities and positioned themselves perfectly to allow the team to retain long stretches of possession and execute their game plan better than they could have imagined.
Captain Chanel Dyer overwhelmed the Jets defence with her constant movement, while Holland managed to impose herself against Condren. The Jets had no answers to the onslaught and looked fatigued, throwing away loose passes and falling victim to intercepts from the likes of Bella Sorby and Hinchliffe, that the Cougars gladly capitalised on to further expand a rapidly growing lead.
Tracey Jeanes-Fraser had to make changes, and she did, moving Stephanie O’Brien, who was playing her 100th game, to Wing Attack and bringing on Lucinda Benjamin in her final game before retirement. The pair drew motivation from their circumstances, fighting to maintain their side’s hopes and matching the Cougars goal for goal.
A comeback, however, would only be possible if they outscored their opponents by a wide margin, and the Cougars did not open the door for them to do so. Last year’s runners-up were focused on going one step further this time round and upheld their industry and intensity, still searching for and finding turnovers, exploding through transition and adding to their tally.
Going into the last fifteen minutes the Jets were relying on a miracle, and it is testament to the character of their players that the effort they supplied did not drop for a moment. They took the risks necessary to chase what seemed to be an unassailable lead, lobbing passes forward, and they mostly paid off as the gap was reduced by two goals by the final whistle.
Bella Sorby had to leave the court with a worrying injury after an excellent showing, but Ally McLeod was an able replacement, frustrating the Jets as they worked towards goal. Just like the Jets, the Cougars fought until the end and were deserving of the victory, both for their performance on the day and their consistency throughout the season.
Cougars 62 Jets 47
Grand Final MVP: Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Brisbane North Cougars
Katie Walker Medal: Ava Black, Bond University Bull Sharks