Claws to face stern test of finals credentials

Capricorn Claws will face a stern test of their Samsung QSNL finals credentials this weekend when they tackle a tough triple header on their home court in Rockhampton.

Opening with the bottom placed Wide Bay Thundercats on Saturday morning, they then take on surging finals contenders Whitsunday Sharks at night and back up against top two rivals Marlin Coast Marlins on Sunday morning.

Claws coach Barb Ahmat said she was confident her side had learned from their last triple header in Mackay, where they lost two of their three games to put finals qualification on a knife edge.

“This is our second triple header and they don’t get any easier,” Ahmat said.

“It’s about trying to keep fresh legs for every game. We tried it with differing success in Mackay and we learned from it. With that weekend under our belt, I think we’re more confident in our combination line-ups and coping with the three games.

“One of the tough things for us will be playing well against the Sharks and then backing up strongly the following morning against the Marlins. They’re a big strong team. They’ve got a fast centre court, have accurate shooters and they’ll be one game rested on us.

“We were glad to come away with the win last time when we met in Mackay. They came back at us towards the end as our legs started to fade due to other matches that weekend and we’ll be focused on a strong finish this time.”

The Claws expect a big crowd to come out in support at CQ University, with the Saturday night fixture against the Sharks expected to be a highlight.

Ahmat said her side were determined to put on a show for their fans and take the advantage in their rivalry with Whitsunday after splitting their previous clashes this season.

“We get massive support locally. We have the biggest crowds in QSNL and for our players being able to play in front of all those supporters is huge,” she said.

“We make it a big event and hopefully the girls will bring it on the weekend for all of our fantastic supporters.

“We’ll try a different combination this time against Whitsunday Sharks. We know we’ve beaten the Sharks before and the girls will be switched on. Even though the Marlins are neck and neck with us for second place, it’s not out of the reach of the Sharks to take that second finals spot. It all depends on these last few rounds. We just need to put out good netball and let the ladder take care of itself.”

After posting a near perfect 11-1 regular season in 2016 and falling agonisingly close of a grand final spot, many expected the Claws to be similarly dominant this year.

Ahmat said a stronger 2017 competition had made for a tougher season, but would ultimately benefit the country teams at finals time.

“There has been improvement in every single game. The way they have applied themselves to improving every single game is outstanding,” she said.

“I don’t know many athletes who could play three hard games over a weekend and play just as hard in the last game as they did in the first. They’re very keen and they want to make finals.

“We’re helped by the fact other country teams have lifted their game. The competition is a lot harder and seeing how they’ve evolved is just fantastic. It’s great to see these other teams stepping up and we’ll be better for it at finals time.”