The Central Pulse have beaten the Northern Stars 52-48 in the 2019 ANZ Premiership Grand Final to win their first championship in front of a sold out home crowd in Porirua.
The match was the last for Stars captain Leana de Bruin, Temepara Bailey and Ellen Halpenny who announced their retirement from netball.
The Stars were long odds to make the final but upset two-time defending champions Southern Steel in Invercargill last week to make their first premiership final.
It was going to take a mighty effort to topple the minor premiers and the Stars enjoyed their best start of the season keeping in touch with the competition favourites thanks to tight defensive work from de Bruin, Storm Purvis and Kayla Cullen.
Both goal attacks Charlee Hodges (Stars) and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (Pulse) had shaky starts on goal but Maia Wilson and Aliyah Dunn had their targets set early as the Pulse went ahead 12-10 at the first break.
Bailey and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan had their work cut out against Karin Burger and Claire Kersten as each player wouldn’t give an inch and often left their opposite partner in their wake each time they had the ball.
The Pulse built a five-goal lead in the second quarter, but the visitors held their nerve as Hodges played herself into the match to cut the deficit to two goals heading to the main break down 25-27.
To start the third quarter Kiri Wills made the exact same change in the midcourt as last week with Holly Fowler coming on at center, shifting Bailey to wing attack and Reuelu-Buchanan to the bench.
The Stars went on a mini run to take the lead momentarily before the Pulse tightened the screws and built a six-goal lead and held the advantage to go ahead 40-34 at the final break.
Wills changed her squad back to the starting seven to open the final quarter as the Stars searched to continue their fairy tale run to the final. But it wasn’t meant to be.
The Pulse held strong and absorbed the last onslaught the Stars threw at them.