West Coast Fever captain Courtney Bruce has described her team’s 70-59 grand final victory over the Melbourne Vixens as a fairytale after Western Australia’s 25-year netball drought was brought to an end.
In front of a record 13,908 adoring fans at RAC Arena on Sunday evening, star Fever goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler nailed 58 goals from 59 attempts in a match-winning display.
Bruce was also crucial with a standout performance in defence with eight gains and six rebounds, while goal attack Sasha Glasgow was player of the match with four goals, four Super Shots, and 26 assists.
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The Perth Orioles were born in 1997, and WA netball had experienced 25 fruitless seasons since, including Super Netball grand final losses in 2018 and 2020
But led by coach Dan Ryan, the Fever produced the goods when it mattered most on Sunday against the minor premiers.
“Literally it is a fairytale,” Bruce said.
“I love this club. Everyone knows that I bleed green. I’m so proud of Dan and the girls.
“The history of the Orioles to where we are now … it’s about the greater netball community.”
Ryan, who was sacked by the Adelaide Thunderbirds at the end of 2018 after compiling a 1-27 record, was thrilled with the win.
“This is the stuff you dream about,” Ryan said.
“For it all come together like it did for us on grand final day, unbelievable.
“We talked really openly about what we wanted to achieve and how we were going to get there.
“We weren’t afraid to say we wanted to create history, we weren’t afraid to put ourselves in pressure situations and find if we would rise and fall.
“I just can’t believe we’ve played our best netball in the pressure of a grand final in front of 13,000 people and in doing it created history for the first time in 25 years. It’s just ridiculously amazing.”
The Fever and Vixens had built up one of the competition’s fiercest rivalries in recent years – both on and off the court.
The Vixens beat West Coast 66-64 in an epic 2020 grand final.
And the relationship between the two clubs soured dramatically last year when Melbourne refused to travel to Perth for a game after three Vixens players were ruled out for visiting a COVID-19 hotspot.
Sunday’s decider was physical and tough, with a number of players hitting the deck in utter desperation to get the turnover.
Melbourne trailed by just one goal approaching the midway point of the second quarter.
But Fever kicked up a gear from that point on, entering half-time with a 35-29 lead before blowing the game wide open in the third quarter.
The Vixens were wooden spooners last year, but they rebounded superbly this year to claim the minor premiership before falling to the Fever at the final hurdle.
“It’s devastating,” Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said after the grand final loss.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ve had a chat. I’m extremely proud of the girls on what they’ve achieved and turned around from last season.
“I know that with the squad that we have and with the new athletes that were added to the group, there’s so much room still to grow.”