Wellington sports fans are known for their patience, and the Pulse finally repaid the faith by beating the Northern Stars 52-48 for their maiden ANZ Netball Premiership.
It was the third final in a row for the Pulse, and the first for the Stars, whose surprise appearance in the decider was a memorable one. The game was a tight affair, with the result ultimately decided by both sides’ big name defenders.
Sulu Fitzpatrick and newly-recalled Silver Fern Katrina Rore made their presence felt at the back for the Pulse, while at the other end Leana du Bruin and Storm Purvis were in excellent form as well.
The Pulse took a slender 12-10 into the first quarter break, then the same margin separated the sides at halftime as they headed in at 27-25.
The Pulse then managed to gain a six goal advantage in the third quarter, which was the difference-maker in the end. The final fifteen minutes saw the Stars pull the deficit back to four, but they ran out of time to take an unlikely win.
As she has done all season, Pulse shooter Aliyah Dunn was in outstanding touch, landing 40 from 43 attempts and probably raising a few question marks about her omission from the national side for the upcoming World Championships. Maia Wilson landed 34 from 41 for the Stars.
The win will go some way to making up for the heartbreak of last year and the year before, when the Pulse lost both finals to the Southern Steel. They seemed destined to meet again in this year’s decider, however the Stars pulled off a massive upset in the elimination final in Invercargill last Wednesday.
The match also marks farewell for two of New Zealand netball’s stalwarts, as 43-year-old Temepara Bailey and 41-year-old du Bruin are now headed for retirement. Du Bruin, who previously represented her native South Africa, has played 104 tests for the Silver Ferns. Bailey has had a provincial netball career amazingly stretching back to 1998, and has won three Commonwealth Games gold medals and one World Championship for the Silver Ferns.