By Hugh Maclean
Northern 81 def Southern 54
Southern were matched up against a very tall, talented and well-drilled Northern unit, and while the scoreboard may suggest that the game was somewhat uneven, the fact that the endeavour never waned will have pleased the coaches, especially in the last quarter.
It all started so positively. Sophie O’Shea made Southern’s first foray forward count, and while that advantage was quickly wiped out at the other end of the court the first five minutes were very competitive. However, one asset that could not be denied was the height of the opposition goal attack and the expertise of those further afield in using it. Amber McHenry at goal keeper, as brave as they come, battled gamely but was unable to make any impression due to the quality of the delivery and the size and skill of her foe. She rebounded excellently and often, but to do that of course the Northern shooters had to miss, which they didn’t do particularly frequently in establishing a 20-11 quarter time lead.
Billie Nukunuku gave Southern the first two goals of the second term, and when Sophie O’Shea added a third the Northern girls may have wondered whether a serious challenge was headed their way. They needn’t have worried too much as normal service was soon resumed. Sarah Fischer was brought on to play goal attack with Billie Nukunuku moving out to wing attack, and that gave Southern some impetus late in the quarter, but Northern were able to go to the main break holding sway to the tune of 39-26.
As if stung by the impetuosity of their smaller opponents, the Northerners brought on a goal shooter as tall as their goal attack to start the third quarter, and she soon showed that she was an equally potent danger. This was to prove the quarter in which the game was broken open. Jane Keating joined Amber McHenry in the coconut shy that was Southern’s defensive goal circle, but they had little chance as Northern continued their tactic of sweating on any Southern error then moving the ball quickly, accurately and high going forward. At the other end Shae Wonnacott gave Southern some bite and the goalers made the most of their opportunities, but the scoreboard still read 63-38 to Northern at the last change.
When Northern began the last quarter with the first four goals a rout looked in the offing. Southern continued to press, and Makayla Bulte, swung into the centre at three-quarter time, started to gain a foothold. Sarah Fischer started to find her range beneath the hoop early in the quarter and with Sophie O’Shea coming to the party as the quarter progressed, Southern began to give as good as they got on the scoresheet. Northern continued to score at the other end – a side as skilled as they were always going to do that – but the Southern girls showed enough to leave the court with their heads held high.
Captain Alicia Wise was clearly Southern’s best performer across the four quarters, rarely making a handling error and showing a range of passing that always gave Northern something to think about. Shae Wonnacott was a threat all night, and Sophie O’Shea replicated her potency at club level on the representative stage. All in all a difficult evening, but one that will see the Southern girls well prepared for the battle next Saturday.
Northern 52 def Southern 34
After the long drive up to Bundoora our under 19s took to the court against the Northern Netball League with great enthusiasm and no small degree of quiet confidence. The girls looked slick in the warm ups, and looked ready to take the game right up to the locals.
After the defences were on top in the early exchanges, with representative nerves contributing to early turnovers, Northern opened the scoring, only for Southern to equalise with Madison McGaw converting. Ann Cooper at goal defence started excellently with numerous early interceptions, and Southern looked the more composed of the two teams early on. Northern, however, started to get their teamwork in order as the quarter progressed, and went to the first break 10-8 to the good.
Northern shot out of the blocks in the second quarter, scoring the first two goals, before the Southerners replied with two of their own as Bella Riddell began to gain some control at wing attack. The next six scores of the match, however, went to Northern as the Southern defence struggled to cope with the angles being run by the Northern shooters, and with their centre supplying ample ammunition it appeared as though the locals may run away with the match right there. This Southern side though is made of stern stuff, and as they steadied late a 23-17 deficit looked anything but insurmountable.
In need of a strong start to the second half, conceding the first seven goals was not part of the script, and here is where the initiative was irretrievably lost as Northern began to own the middle of the court. Southern showed a tendency to push the pass in an attempt to get back into the game, and as a result turned the ball over to their opponents rather more than they would have wished. Towards the second half of the third stanza the play became more even, and with Bella Riddell, switched to goal attack, converting her chances accurately and frequently, the damage to three-quarter time was limited to 38-25.
This became 41-25 early in the last term, but Southern then mounted a charge, scoring the next four goals. That though was as close as Southern got as the Northerners replied with the next four of their own. The South never dropped their effort but Northern were a bit more composed, and were able to hold steady to close out a comfortable victory.
Maggie Carlin was named as Southern’s best on the night for her efforts at wing defence and centre. Erin Naismith never stopped battling away in defence, and Jemima Price formed a constant threat at wing attack and at centre in the third quarter. A defeat then, but the Southern coaching panel will feel that they saw plenty to work with for next week.