West Coast Fever captain Courtney Bruce has described her team’s big 70-59 overall win over the Melbourne Vixens as a fairy tale after the 25-year netball drought in Western Australia came to an end.
In front of a record 13,908 adoring fans at the RAC Arena on Sunday night, Fever star Jhaniele Fowler scored 58 goals from 59 attempts in a match-winning display.
Bruce was also pivotal with a standout performance in defense with eight wins and six rebounds, while Goal Attack Sasha Glasgow was player of the game with four goals, four Super Shots and 26 assists.
The Perth Orioles were born in 1997 and WA netball had endured 25 fruitless seasons since then, including Super Netball’s big final losses in 2018 and 2020
But led by coach Dan Ryan, The Fever produced the goods on Sunday when it mattered most against the petty prime ministers.
“It’s literally a fairy tale,” Bruce said.
“I love this club. Everyone knows I’m green blood. I am so proud of Dan and the girls.
“The history of the Orioles to where we are today… it’s about the larger netball community.”
Ryan, who was sacked by the Adelaide Thunderbirds in late 2018 after compiling a 1-27 record, was overjoyed with the win.
“This is the stuff you dream of,” Ryan said.
“Because it all comes together like it did for us on the big final day, unbelievable.
“We talked very openly about what we wanted to achieve and how we would get there.
“We weren’t afraid to say we wanted to make history, we weren’t afraid to put ourselves in pressure situations and find out if we were going to rise and fall.
“I just can’t believe we played our best netball under the pressure of a grand final in front of 13,000 people and made history for the first time in 25 years. It’s just ridiculously amazing.”
The Fever and Vixens had built up one of the league’s fiercest rivalries in recent years – both on and off the field.
The Vixens beat West Coast 66-64 in an epic 2020 grand final.
And relations between the two clubs soured dramatically last year when Melbourne refused to travel to Perth for a match after three Vixens players were banned from visiting a COVID-19 hotspot.
Sunday’s decider was physical and tough, with a number of players storming the deck in utter desperation to take in the turnover.
Melbourne trailed by just one goal by the middle of the second quarter.
But from then on, Fever geared up and went into halftime leading 35-29 before blowing the game wide in the third quarter.
The Vixens were wooden spoonbills last year, but they made a great recovery this year to claim the small premiership before falling to the Fever at the final hurdle.
“It’s devastating,” Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said after the big final loss.
“It’s disappointing, but we’ve had a conversation. I am extremely proud of the girls for what they have achieved and changed from last season.
“I know that with the squad we have and with the new athletes added to the group, there is still so much room to grow.”