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Jets surge to beat Thunder and reach Grand Final

Jets surge to beat Thunder and reach Grand Final

Finn Daniels

The Jets are through to the 2020 HART Sapphire Series Grand Final after triumphing 51-48 over the Thunder on Saturday at Nissan Arena.

Tracey Jeanes-Fraser’s side trailed early but displayed their championship credentials by bouncing back, drawing in the Thunder’s lead and edging ahead towards the end.

Just as they did against the Wildcats, the Thunder began patiently. Chloe Litherland and Ali Wishier carefully and intentionally chose their passes, while Binnian Hunt spent a lot of time outside the circle to assist her teammates in finding a way past the defence and feeding Annabelle Lawrie.

Multiple Jets players were penalised for contact in the first quarter and collectively the Minor Premiers uncharacteristically lacked the alertness needed in key moments. In contrast, the Thunder refused to let their opportunities go to waste, as their shooting pair responded to any missed shots by seizing vital rebounds and helping their side to build a 16-11 lead.

In the opening stages the Thunder effectively exploited the central path to the goal circle, and the Jets worked to congest that area after the break. Their defence shut down the Sunshine Coast side’s attacking avenues and forced them to look elsewhere, resulting in backwards and sideways passes and several held balls.

The Jets had significantly less possession but took less time to score, rapidly transitioning from defence to offence and looping high passes to the 6’5” Charlie Bell, who used her athleticism to pull in any ball within reach.

A quick-thinking pass from Captain Stephanie O’Brien allowed Bell to give the Jets a single goal lead heading into half-time and they carried that momentum emphatically into the second half, soon finding themselves eight goals ahead.

Rosie Baker, introduced late in the first quarter, played an important role in finding gaps in the opposition’s structure and alongside O’Brien and Brooke Hams moving the ball to Bell.  The Thunder defence tried desperately to stop the margin from expanding but struggled to handle the Goal Shooter’s physicality.

The story was similar at the other end of the court, as Hunt’s movement outside the circle, previously so effective, now left Lawrie contending with two defenders. Jeanes-Fraser rotated the trio of Bridey Condren, Siobhan Shirlaw and Lia Woolnough and the Thunder attacking unit had to fight hard to find solutions to the problems they presented.

However, Garry Pashen’s forces were not willing to let the Jets stroll to victory and mounted a comeback to stay within two goals prior to the final quarter-hour. Ashlee Unie excelled after moving to Goal Defence in what was likely her final game for the club, while Josie Hungerford supplied energy off the bench and Hunt and Lawrie shared scoring duties.

Both sides elevated their intensity as the game neared its conclusion, shrugging off fatigue to battle for their place in the Final. The resulting chaos led to a greater number of errors, but Lawrie and Bell remained calm in front of their respective goals, keeping the score close.

The Thunder contested each and every ball and had a few chances to close the gap after forcing mistakes out of their opponents. However, as during the game, they were not consistent enough in converting their turnovers and fell to their first defeat since Round 6, leaving the competition with a commendable third place.

As for the Jets, they now face the Cougars in the Grand Final next weekend in a game that will decide the new champions of the 2020 HART Sapphire Series. Tickets are on sale now.

Jets 51 Thunder 48

Q1 11-16

Q2 26-25

Q3 39-37

Q4 51-48

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