ALLY Feely’s first finals match in eight years of playing netball was always going to be special.
But the Hamilton Kangaroos midcourter never dreamed it would be as memorable as it was on Saturday.
Feely was pivotal in her side’s historic Hampden league finals debut as the Kangaroos upset defending premiers North Warrnambool Eagles 41-39 in the qualifying final.
She produced her best match of the season opposed to one of the competition’s premier midcourters, Maddie Smedts, in the centre.
“It was my first ever final,” Feely said after starting her career in the 15 and unders with Coleraine eight years ago.
She said the size of Saturday’s crowd had surprised her and heightened pre-game nerves.
But playing against Smedts and the powerful Eagles line-up, she knew she had to be on her game.
Feely said Smedts had played “unreal” in their last head-to-head battle two weeks ago when she turned the game in the Eagles’ favour.
The 22-year-old said she had studied video footage of the game extensively in a bid to do better against the Eagles star.
Feely said the win was important psychologically for her and her teammates.
“We really needed to win that game for more confidence going into the rest of the finals,” she said.
“We knew we could do it. We played the four full quarters. It’s what we’ve been trying to do.
“We all played really well and combined really well.”
Kangaroos coach Sara Byrne and Eagles mentor Sharon Kenna both nominated Feely as the player of the match.
“Ally Feely, she was sensational,” Byrne said.
“That is the first ever final she has played in and to come out and do that on the big stage against a very, very good netballer was great. She was brilliant.”
Byrne produced something of a surprise starting Amanda Huf, who has played the majority of the season at goal defence, at wing defence and teenager Aly Smead at goal defence.
“That’s the third week I’ve played Amanda there,” Byrne said.
“I did a lot of experimenting in swinging my centre court and defensive combinations around to see who would work the best together.
“The numbers tell me and the stats are showing Rhianne Lewis and Aly play really well together.”