The 2018 semi finallists are now known, after 15 rounds of thrust and parry. The final home and away round promised to be pivotal in shaping the destiny of several sides, and it did not disappoint.
The double chance which comes with finishing in second place changed hands in Division 1, as Heatherton reversed their Round 8 loss to Dingley. Heatherton have frequently used the formula of applying peak pressure early in the match against Dingley, establishing a lead that cannot be caught. They used this plan to perfection here, netting the first three goals before Dingley were able to even launch an attacking raid. The pressure applied forced numerous passes out of defence to be misplaced, and Heatherton will make you pay when that happens. A 14-6 quarter time advantage and 22-10 at half time foreshadowed a rout, but Dingley showed their mettle by flying back at Heatherton in the second half. A final margin of 33-26 will give the Dingoes faith that they will still have a part to play in the next month, even if they’ll have to do it from third place for the first time in the club’s history.
Mordialloc did what they had to do against Hampton Park to collect their 11th win in a row and secure the minor premiership. Hampton Park, as is their way, didn’t give them the game completely on their own terms. They were tight defensively early and strong on the counter attack, but went into the quarter time break four goals down. The second quarter was where Mordialloc took control, winning the quarter comprehensively and going in to half time 26-15 to the good. Despite the best efforts of the Hampton Park girls, this was a deficit that they never looked like reeling in, and a total of 53-37 at the final siren delivered top spot to the ladies in red.
Caulfield showed that they are back in their best form with finals looming. They took control against Keysborough from the outset, and with close to their best squad on the court they were far too good for their game and plucky opponent. Caulfield are a very even side, with few weaknesses all around the court, and a 45-24 margin was reflective of their dominance. In the final game of the round, St Kilda City played St Pauls in a match between two sides that will have no further interest in the 2018 season. Both sides played a brand of netball that reflected the lack of consequence from the result, which resulted in an entertaining fixture for the spectators, and St Pauls were a bit too good on the day, winning by 34-26.
Mordialloc thus finished the home and away season having been beaten just twice, with 52 points. They will play Heatherton (48 points), next week for the first grand final spot. Dingley finish third with 44 points, and will play Caulfield (40 points) in the elimination final. St Pauls (24), Heatherton (14), Hampton Park (10) and St Kilda City (8) round out the Division 1 table for 2018.
There were no such machinations in the last round of Division 2 netball, with all of the top four tuning up for the business end of the season with victories. This leaves Cheltenham (50 points) facing Heatherton (46) in the qualifying final. Heatherton finished ahead of Caulfield (also 46 points) on percentage, with the Bears playing a local derby against Murrumbeena (42 points) in the elimination final. In the final round Cheltenham beat South Yarra by 56-24, Heatherton were pushed by Bentleigh before winning by 43-35, Caulfield were too good for Keysborough in winning by 46-20, Murrumbeena outlasted Dingley Red by 43-34 and Dingley Gold beat Clayton by 40-18.
Division 3 also saw no change in the top positions, with the finallists being St Kilda City, Dingley Gold, Heatherton and Dingley Red in that order. City had a tricky last round clash with Dingley Red, and in a very competitive affair won by 46-42. There were no such scares for Dingley Yellow as they cut a swathe through the Mordialloc defence in winning by 63-30. Heatherton 30 were given a solid workout by Caulfield 23, while in matches not affecting finals Cheltenham 41 beat Lyndale 10, and Black Rock 59 beat Bentleigh 17.
Murrumbeena completed an unblemished Division 4 season by beating Springvale Districts by 69-25. Heatherton Black were equally impressive in beating Caulfield Blue in 52-24, hence securing their position in the qualifying final. The elimination final will be between CPL, who were clinical defensively in beating Heatherton White by 38-14, and Caulfield Yellow, who come to the final on the back of a surprise 42-39 defeat at the hands of Keysborough. In other matches St Kilda City consigned Hampton Park to the foot of the ladder in winning by 37-20, and South Yarra finished the season on a positive note by beating Mordialloc by 54-23.
Division 5 has been the tightest division in the league for most of the season, although the top two spots have for a couple of weeks been secured. Lyndhurst have top spot – they weathered an early storm in the first quarter before completing a solid 39-27 win over Highett. Oakleigh District however battled injury and less than precise ballwork in succumbing to a shock loss at the hands of a worthy Black Rock, by 34-33. They will play off for a grand final spot next week. The real interest lay in the battle for third and fourth, with Aspendale, Dingley Gold and East Brighton starting the day level on points. Dingley Gold looked a little sick for much of the first three quarters against a fired-up St Kilda City, but came from the clouds to win by 29-18 and secure their elimination final berth. This left Aspendale and East Brighton to play in a winner-take-all battle for the last finals slot. Aspendale made the early running but were caught by East Brighton half way through the third term, and whilst there was never much between the two sides East Brighton won the clash by 25-24, thereby relegating Aspendale from third to fifth.
Mordialloc Red played Doveton Eagles in a dress rehearsal for next week’s Division 6 qualifying final, with the Mordialloc side completing an undefeated season by winning by 42-30. Keysborough jumped from fourth to third after their 27-16 win over a tenacious Mordialloc White. Lyndale, previously third, played fifth placed Clayton and were defeated by 23-18. This left the two sides level on 40 points, but their superior percentage means that Lyndale live to battle Keysborough in next week’s elimination final. Elsewhere St Kilda City beat Dingley by 26-25, Caulfield beat Hallam by 27-22, and South Yarra beat Bentleigh by 45-10.
Lyndhurst completed a routine 49-19 win over CPL to remain unbeaten at the top of the Division 7 tree. Murrumbeena demolished Doveton Eagles by 63-17 to show that they will come to the qualifying final with every intention of toppling the leaders. Hampton and Dingley swapped places, with Hampton taking third spot after their 41-9 win over Cheltenham, while Dingley were well and truly turned over by fifth placed East Brighton, to the tune of 57-31. Heatherton 38 beat Aspendale 32, and Mount Waverley 56 beat wooden spooners Springvale Districts 18 to complete the final round.
Positions did not change in Division 8. Hallam Red had a good hit-out against Keysborough, winning by 47-19 ahead of their qualifying final against Lyndhurst. The Lightning were given plenty to think about however by fourth placed Highett before posting a 42-20 win. Highett’s opponents will be a Hallam Yellow side that beat Lyndale by 36-32 this week, while Oakleigh District had the bye.
South Yarra and Heatherton will play in the Division 9 qualifying final. They warmed up for the clash by playing each other in round fifteen, with Heatherton taking top spot from South Yarra by winning by 30-26. Black Rock and Lyndhurst were untroubled in the lead up to their elimination final clash, with Black Rock beating Springvale Districts Red by 29-12 and Lyndhurst prevailing over Clayton by 38-25. In the final Division 9 match Dingley beat Springvale Districts Blue by 35-33.
This column wishes all combatants the best of good health and fortune over the 2018 finals series, whilst thanking all players for their efforts this season.