From last-second thrillers to perfectly timed intercepts, here’s a selection of seven game-defining moments and players from previous Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Finals.
Grand Finals are always exciting, and the 14 contested since the Vitality Netball Superleague began have brought some absolute classics to our court.
From the very first Grand Final between Team Mavericks and Team Bath in 2006 to last year’s showdown between Wasps Netball and Manchester Thunder, there has been no shortage of excitement, twists, turns, comebacks and edge-of-the-seat thrilling moments.
2014 – Manchester Thunder v Surrey Storm, Helen Housby’s last-second goal
Ask anyone about an exciting moment from Vitality Netball Superleague Grand Final history and chances are they’ll remember Helen Housby’s last-second goal in the 2014 final. Then aged just 19, her long-range goal won Thunder the match 49-48, helping to put her on the netball map.
In an interview with Helen in England Netball’s magazine at the time, she said: “I don’t think I’ll ever have a moment like that again.” Little did she know that her career-defining moment would be echoed four years later when she netted the last-second goal at the Commonwealth Games to win the Vitality Roses the gold medal.
2006 – Team Bath v Galleria Mavericks, Geva Mentor’s defensive lean
Just seconds into the first Vitality Netball Superleague final in 2006 (prior to this, the national competition was the Super Cup), Geva Mentor’s impressive lean over GS Louisa Brownfield’s shot resulted in a miss and a rebound, which set the tone for the game.
Strong defensive pressure from Team Bath saw them win the match and, although Mavericks went on to appear in six consecutive Grand Finals, their score of 35 goals to Team Bath’s 43 is the lowest score to date recorded in a Vitality Netball Superleague final.
2019 – Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball, Eleanor Cardwell’s cool demeanour
It was a Grand Final that had it all and there was no way to predict who would win this one. Wasps were ahead for most of the game and, when Joyce Mvula went down with a knee injury with less than nine minutes on the clock, it was Eleanor Cardwell’s cool entry to the court that kept Thunder in the game.
Immediately sinking her first shot off a penalty pass or shot, she went on to score almost all the remaining goals of the quarter, leading to a tie with seven minutes to go, and missing only one goal for the game, taking her team to a 57-52 victory.
2015 – Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks, Bongiwe Msomi’s important turnover
It was Surrey Storm’s fourth Grand Final appearance in five years, where they’d finished runners-up every year, and they were desperate to finally change their fortunes and get the win. With a front line that included Rachel Dunn, Pamela Cookey and Tamsin Greenway, they had the team to do it, and ended up winning the game 56-39.
It was an important patch of play at the beginning of the final that set the tone though, after a wobbly first few minutes stopped Storm from settling into their game. However, after a fantastic turnover from Storm’s South African import Bongiwe Msomi, playing in her first Vitality Netball Superleague season, Storm got the momentum and never gave it up.
2010 – Team Bath v Hertfordshire Mavericks, Pamela Cookey’s slick shooting
In the fourth final featuring the two teams – who’d previously met in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 finals – it was some Pamela Cookey flair that turned the game. Mavericks were leading until, just before half-time, Cookey sank a long shot to give Team Bath the lead for the first time, which they held for the rest of game until Mavericks drew level in the fourth quarter.
Some more slick shooting from Cookey (and a defensive line-up of Serena Guthrie, Stacey Francis and Eboni Beckford-Chambers, now Usoro-Brown) saw Team Bath pull away to win 51-44.
2018 – Wasps Netball v Loughborough Lightning, Rachel Dunn’s intense focus
Playing in her 10th final and targeting her fourth successive league title, Wasps star shooter Rachel Dunn put her team’s first goal on the scoreboard. Up against Shamera Sterling, one of the best defenders in the league, the shooter used her experience and focus to chip away at the scoreboard, giving Wasps their first lead of the game just before half time, and sparking a goal-scoring run.
With Lightning on their tails and closing the gap to three at three-quarter time, Dunn kept her reliable shooting up, earning her team a 55-51 win and herself a player-of-the-match performance.
2008 – Galleria Mavericks v Loughborough Lightning, Karen Atkinson’s speed
As WA, Karen Atkinson was a dynamo on court in the Grand Final match between Mavericks and Lightning. But it wasn’t just her speed around the circle edge and fast first-time releases into the circle that gave Mavericks the edge.
One important game-changing moment came when Loughborough Lightning’s Jade Clarke made an impressive intercept on Mavericks’ attacking third line, at a point where the game’s scoreline was in the balance. But seconds later, Atkinson, who was then England’s vice-captain, immediately made a return intercept, winning back the ball for Mavericks and keeping her team’s momentum going, eventually taking the lead in the final quarter to win 43-39.
Written by Lucy Higgins