Wales and Celtic Dragons centre Kyra Jones was at the centre of emotional scenes at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff.
Australian-born Jones played her last Vitality Netball Superleague home match for Dragons in their 58-51 win against Surrey Storm.
“It’s been a pleasure to be a part of. #Diolchynfawr”
Jones came to Wales a decade ago, has played a major role for the Dragons and married a Welshman.
The hugely talented mid-court player from Perth, admits she sent off an application to potentially join a team called Celtic Dragons without knowing anything about the Welsh organisation.
“I have had so many amazing opportunities to play with, and against, some of the World’s best netballers,” says Jones, who has played in more than 150 Superleague matches and earned 50-plus international caps for Wales.
“It is amazing to think that had I not started as an import player, I would have never had come over, met my husband and stayed to play in this netball league.
“A whirlwind journey and one I am proud to say I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
Welsh club Dragons now have one Superleague fixture left and that is against Loughborough Lightning away on Saturday, May 4.
The win against Storm completed a double for Dragons against the Surrey team, having beaten them by two goals earlier this season.
Fab to be at the last home match for the season for the @celtic_dragons and to cheer @kyrajones09 on in her final match along with a bit of slowmo @SuzyDrane action to boot! pic.twitter.com/hviI9Hf4wE
— saz statto nightingale (@saznightingale) April 27, 2019
Kalifa McCollin nailed the first goal after Dee Bolakoro’s early tip in from Storm’s centre pass.
Jones, Dragons captain for her final home game, was composed throughout.
The second quarter belonged to the Dragons defence as Nia Jones made a close-up interception and Stacian Facey tracked well around the circle to pick off some of Storm’s looser feeds.
As a result, Dragons had plenty of ammunition to fire up court and led by eight at one point. However, a couple of mis-fired feeds gave the visitors an out as half-time approached and they made no mistakes as the game remained close.
The ball was turned over both ways early into the third quarter. However, once again, Jamaican ace Facey was immovable in defence and forced the opposition feed out for a backline pass.
Dragons were not quite able to run away with the game, but they looked in control at all points and played with the patience head coach Tania Hoffman has been emphasising all season.
Ahead by six going into the final quarter, Dragons kept their discipline well and were careful to avoid unforced errors as Storm looked to snatch victory.
Bolakoro was in flying form and when Lucy Howells came on for Nia Jones at wing-defence she made an immediate intercept as Storm’s hopes quickly faded.
Dragons won all four quarters, two of them by one goal, one by two and the first by three.
Celtic Dragons victory not only sees them go seventh in the league, but it also means that they have secured qualification for the British Fast5 All Stars tournament for the first time.
Quarter scores (Dragons v Storm, Dragons first): 17-14 (17-14); 15-14 (32-28); 14-12 (46-40); 12-11 (58-51)
Player of the Match: Stacian Facey
Celtic Dragons: GS Chelsea Lewis, GA Kalifa McCollin, WA Suzy Drane, C Kyra Jones (Capt), WD Nia Jones, GD Dee Bolakoro, GK Stacian Facey. Replacements: Bethan Dyke, Lucy Howells, Lucy Herman, Ellie Nawele, Abby Tyrrell.
Surrey Storm: GS S Burger, GA Y Hodge-England, WA Y Parsons, C M Austin, WD S vd Merwe, GD Katy Hughes & GK L Kowalewska. Replacements: R Dixon, L Goss, E Gulvin, L Morton & A Priest.
The British Fast5 All Stars tournament is in London on October 12 and further information about the event is here: http://www.fast5allstars.com/
Vitality Netball Superleague results last weekend: Strathclyde Sirens 41, Wasps 56; Celtic Dragons 58, Surrey Storm 51; London Pulse 62, Loughborough Lightning 67; Saracens Mavericks 62, Severn Stars 48; Manchester Thunder 53, Team Bath 56.
Fixtures in final round of League games:
Saturday, May 4: Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons (6pm), Saracens Mavericks v Strathclyde Sirens (6pm), Team Bath v London Pulse (6pm, televised live on Sky), Severn Stars v Wasps (6pm), Surrey Storm v Manchester Thunder (6pm).