Seventy-five seconds is not a lot of time. It’s not enough time for the world’s fastest runners to finish an 800-meter race. It’s barely enough time for an NRL team to score a try. If someone was committed to saving water, they could squeeze in a shower in that time.
However, the last 75 seconds of Saturday night’s Suncorp Super Netball preliminary final was long enough for hearts to break, find hope and then explode with joy. Long enough for fans to scream in excitement, anguish, despair, belief, and finally, n agony. Long enough for both teams to believe multiple times that the place in the grand final was theirs and numerous times that all hope was lost.
It started with a Vixens’ center pass – which the home team knew was being taken at a difficult time and necessitated making a quick decision. Score a one-point goal quickly, and the Giants would have the opportunity to go ahead with a two-point shot. Go for the two-point image and miss, and the Giants could score and take the next center pass. Play the ball around to eat up time and risk the chance for a turnover.
Vixens’ goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda could not quite decide which way she wanted to go. Holding the ball under the goal post, she knew there was too much time left on the clock to take the one-point goal with the super shot specialists in Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer looming at the other end of the court. But in trying to reset the ball, she panicked, and the Giants’ Amy Parmenter pounced on what looked like a match-winning intercept.
Not to be outdone, Vixens’ goalkeeper Emily Mannix – knowing it was one of those all-or-nothing moments – left Harten to swoop across the circle and intercept a ball meant for Dwyer. Finally, the Vixens had the game where they wanted it. If this was some convoluted time-eating tactic, it was ridiculously risky but brilliant in its execution. A simple one-point shot for Kumwenda put them ahead, and despite the best efforts of the Giants, Dwyer’s two-point shot fell through the ring after the final whistle had blown and was not counted. The Vixens were through to the grand final.
It was a short – but pivotal – period that epitomized the 2022 Super Netball season. While off-court drama, such as selling the grand final hosting rights to Perth and the state of Netball Australia’s finances, dominated headlines, the on-court action was better than ever. When the make-up of the finals came down to a shot after the final siren in the last game of the regular season, “close” does not seem like a strong enough word to describe it. So it was only fitting that this elimination final featured an action-packed finish that kept the fans guessing until the last second.
Like much else this season, it raised more questions than it answered. Should goals be counted if they leave a shooter’s hands before the whistle is blown, rather than the rule that the ball mustto pass fully through the ring? It may not have saved the Giants, as it is unclear whether Dwyer got the ball away in time. But the last thing a player can control is when they let go of the ball. Whether it bobbles or rolls around the ring before falling through is out of their control and can be incredibly costly under the current rules.
With only seconds left to play after Kumwenda’s shot went through the ring, Giants’ goalkeeper Tilly McDonell sent the ball back as quickly as possible. Still, a hand from Vixens’ goal attack Rahni Samason cost her a few seconds in regathering it. Had the clock been stopped, the Giants may have been able to secure the win. It is a ruling currently left to individual umpires’ discretion. Still, the situation at the death of this game has raised questions about whether the clock should be unilaterally stopped after every goal. It also left many people asking – should there be a more concrete ruling around when the clock is stopped?
With only one game remaining in this 2022 season, there is room for more twists in the tale. While the Fever secured a comfortable win over the Vixens in the major semi-final and will play the grand final in front of a passionate home crowd, a lot can change in two weeks. The Vixens wrote and rewrote their story so oftimesen during s the final 75 seconds of the preliminary final; there is no telling how much drama and excitement they can pack into the last 3,600 seconds of the season.