Dubbo Netball 2018: St Collegians march past Fusion Heat to claim first grand final spot

Just three weeks ago, an under-strength St Collegians suffered a narrow, four-point loss against ladder leaders Fusion Heat.

But on Saturday the Saints peaked when it counted, delivering the Heat their first loss of 2018 in the major semi-final.

The 49-44 victory secured Saints a weekend off, and the first spot in the Rawson Homes Premiership decider on September 15.

They once again had only seven players, and wing attack Dani Smith said keeping level heads had been the key.

“We were really knackered by the end and just hoping it wouldn’t go into overtime!” she said.

While you’re here: Are you interested in receiving breaking news direct to your inbox as it happens? Sign up to the Daily Liberal's free breaking news email newsletter alert here.

“It’s nice to get the win. They’ve beaten us twice now so it was really encouraging to see that we can win a game against the.”

Jess Mawbey and Abbie Merritt set a blistering pace in the goal circle, while Kate O’Shaughnessy and Kellyann Grayson did well to contain the considerable threats of Michelle Regan and Ally McLean at the other end of the court.

“[Heat] have such a strong shooter and attacking end … always on the ball and it’s pretty hard to get a rebound off them,” Smith said.

“Our girls in defence did really well to hold them off. They’re really strong individually, but as a team they’re amazing.”

Heat captain Tash Robinson commended Saints on their “nothing to lose” attitude, saying mindset was probably the difference on Saturday.

“We actually started really strong, it was one of the best starts we’ve had all season,” she said.

“But we played it a bit safe, let the pressure get to us.

“I think the lead swapped about 10 times throughout the game, they just managed to pull away in that last quarter.”

She commended Regan, who was “absolutely hammered” in the shooting circle, as well as “surprise packet” Izzy Attwater.

“[Izzy] played shooter for a quarter and we chucked her into wing attack and whatever position we put her in she plays with amazing composure and skill,” Robinson said. “Really, really proud of her.”

The Heat now face Fusion Giants in the sudden-death preliminary final, after the fourth-placed Giants overcame Fusion Vixens in Saturday’s other semi-final.

The Saints will no doubt head down to size up their opponents, and embrace the opportunity to “sit back and enjoy a good game of netball”.

Smith said the Heat are a hard team to beat but, as Saints showed on Saturday, it can be done.

“If I had to put my money on it, it would be the Heat,” she said. “They’ve got a lot of experience but the younger players as well … They’ve been so strong all year and they’re not slowing down by any means.

“No matter what happens it will be a very exciting game to watch.”