They say that it’s the biggest moments when legends are born.
And that’s exactly what crowds witnessed at the Nita McGrath courts on Saturday afternoon.
The match-up of Britt Hill and Abbie Merritt had been flagged before the final between Fusion Heat and St Collegians, and both well and truly stepped up in key moments.
Despite being Heat’s goal defence, Hill’s dynamic ball handling was key in attack.
And aside from a slow start in the opening quarter, Merritt was typically accurate under the ring, drawing cries of amazement from the hundreds gathered to watch Dubbo’s best go head-to-head.
But it was a 14-year-old star in-the-making that well and truly turned heads, and helped guide Fusion to the club’s third successive A Grade premiership.
Izzy Attwater had the crowd in awe of her efforts in goal attack, showing no signs of the fact she hadn’t played in a shooting role before this year.
She scored 18 of Heat’s points, playing second fiddle to the towering Michelle Regan and effortlessly filling the massive shoes of Ally McLean.
“It feels amazing!” Heat captain Tash Robinson said post-game.
“The first half of that game was probably the most intense I’ve had in a really long time, they definitely gave us a run.
“But for the second half my heart was in my throat, my stomach was just in knots and they killed it. They absolutely killed it!”
Fusion got off to a blistering start in the first quarter, and with Merritt unusually quiet down the other end Regan and Attwater helped the Heat to a 14-10 lead at the first break.
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In the second Merritt came out firing and racked up 12 points alone, combining with goal shooter Jess Mawbey to pull gap back to 26-25 at half time.
If the second quarter belonged to Merritt, then the third belonged to Attwater.
Visibly growing in confidence, the youngster was popping up all over her attacking third, putting away five shots of her own and setting up even more.
On one occasion, Regan’s shot bounced once, twice, three times on the top of the ring before veering out of the court, only to be regathered and flung back in by a leaping Attwater. The pass hit Regan squarely in the chest and the goal was scored before Attwater had even turned to run back onto the court.
By the third and final break the Heat were up 43-36 and Saints shifted Kellyann Grayson from goal keeper to goal shooter for more height in attack.
But Heat had the momentum and narrowly extended their lead to claim the 62-52 victory.
“I was a bit nervous at the start but as the shots started to go in I got a bit more confident,” Attwater said.
“It’s been fantastic [season]. I grew so much … it was good to get the win with the girls.”
“All our young girls were out on the court for most of that game and they just absolutely nailed it,” Robinson said.
“I could not be prouder of them. They’re just amazing. Amazing.”
“Today wasn’t our day,” said Merritt, pointing to the absences of Jacinda Spicer and Megan Cox as costly.
“They were hungrier than us which is, well done to them … they played really well adn they deserved in on the day.
“We’ve had a pretty good season. We were very unlucky with that loss but heads up to the girls, we all played really well and tried our hardest.
“We’ll come back next year bigger and better and hopefully we can do it next year.”
“They played really well, they never got flat or flustered so I think at the end of the day they were the better team to win,” Mawbey said.
“I think we could have … had that last combination [Grayson at shooter] in at half time but all-in-all, as long as it was a good game to watch.
“There’s no point coming to an A Grade final if it’s not going to be a good match, if one team is going to flog the other, so as long as we put on a good show and it brings a bit of intensity and publicity to netball!”
FUSION HEAT 62 (Michelle Regan 44, Izzy Attwater 18) defeated ST COLLEGIANS 53 (Abbie Merritt 33, Jess Mawbey 13, Kellyann Grayson 7)