The QUT Wildcats netball team have won the inaugural Netball Queensland Sapphire Series defeating reigning premiers, the Brisbane North Cougars 60 - 49 at the Queensland State Netball Centre.
Head Coach Paula Stuart credited this year's success to the strength of the team behind the scenes in addition to the outstanding committment of the players.
"This is the first grand final that this team has made, the closest they've come in past was a top 4 result which dates back to 2009, so it's been an incredible turnaround this season," Stuart said.
"Often people look to the scoreboard for the result but don't see the work that goes in behind the scenes and that's been a key to our success this year.
"Working on our team culture, our strength and conditioning which included a big focus on fitness development was crucial."
The Cougars started strong, taking a 4-0 point lead in the first 90 seconds of game play which made for a tight first quarter.
As determined as the Cougars were to retain their former premiership win, the Wildcats refused to be rattled and found good rythym, capitalising off intercepts and transitions in play to take the lead in the third quarter and eventually win the game.
QUT Elite Athlete and Scholarship recipient Stephanie Bairstow, a member of the QUT Wildcats team, achieved a grand finals berth after less than 12 months of playing netball.
Studying a Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology at QUT, Bairstow came from a sporting career in basketball and joined the QUT Wildcats at the start of the 2019 season.
"It feels unreal to have been part of the team that has won the grand final this year, I still can't believe it," Bairstow said.
"While balancing netball and my studies has been a challenge, the support of my coach and QUT to assist in making exams and timetabling flexible has been phenomenal."
Quarterly Game Results:
Q1: QUT Wildcats 16 – Cougars 17
Q2: QUT Wildcats 11 – Cougars 15
Q3: QUT Wildcats 15 – Cougars 7
Q4: QUT Wildcats 18 – Cougars 10
Watch the grand final match
To learn more about the QUT Wildcats team visit the Sapphire Series website.
Photo Credit: Erin Phillips