The challengers are coming in Division 1 – the first three rounds showed that there is no question about that. However, strong wins in Round 4 from last year’s top sides were enough to suggest that none of them intend to relinquish their positions without one heck of a fight.
Caulfield and Hampton Park kicked off the round on Thursday evening at a windswept Sandringham netball court. This was a match where the scoreline belied the difficulty posed by a Hampton Park side that matched Caulfield for desperation, if not for scoring power. One of the main features of this match was the battle in the centre between Caulfield’s Brodie Aumont and Hampton Park’s returning Maddie Hanlen, with neither combatant giving the other an inch while setting up waves of attack themselves. A tight first half saw the score at 26-24 at half time, but Beth Wilson and Sophie O’Shea were able to get off the leash a little easier after the main break and were able to break free to salute by 60-37.
Mordialloc took on Heatherton, keen to frank their finals credentials with a victory over one of the power clubs, and in the early minutes of this high-standard clash they looked quite capable of doing just that. However, the premiers quickly kicked into gear, and with bookends Nat Billings and Kirsten Daley putting on an absolute show in attack and defence respectively, Heatherton led 29-14 at the main break despite entries into the circle being virtually equal. Mordialloc won the third quarter with shooter Emily Morris starting to find good position and sure accuracy, but this proved to be a false dawn as Heatherton pulled away again in the final quarter to win by 54-24.
Meanwhile, as impressive as Heatherton were, Dingley were equally so in disposing of the challenge brought by St Pauls. Dingley’s desperation early on was typified by the likes of mid-courters Taylah Fiddes and Sara Merkus refusing to give anything up as a lost cause, and with the shooting combination of Sarah Fischer and Laura Piper beginning to gel Dingley were able to turn a 13-8 quarter time advantage into a 30-18 lead at the main break. The third quarter provided more of the same, as this proved to be a complete performance from the Dingley machine. St Pauls looked good when they were able to move the ball quickly, and an accurate display from Grace Healey kept the scoreline respectable, but Dingley were too good on the day in winning by 65-34.
The closest game of the day was between St Kilda City and Keysborough. City started the game well, moving the ball quickly and accurately in attack, and with Tash Turner proving unstoppable led 11-6 at quarter time. The second quarter was more even as Keysborough began to force the ball to be turned over with great pressure in the transition to defence. Goaling proved tough at both ends as the game tightened, and Keysborough made a big charge in the third quarter with Sam Downie, moved into the centre, and Laura Agius particularly impressive. A 25-22 margin at the last change, with their main defenders courtside nursing ice packs, gave City no cause for comfort. However, City were able to ramp up their own pressure as Keysborough were forced to push passes to try and get back into the match, and good accuracy in attack allowed St Kilda City to surge to a 40-26 victory.
Around the divisions, and Cheltenham and Caulfield maintained their undefeated status, while Murrumbeena fell to their first defeat at this level. Dingley Red will have been confident about their game against the rampaging Rosellas, but a 14-5 quarter time deficit put paid to that and Cheltenham were able to win every quarter in a 48-32 victory. Caulfield put up a brilliant team defensive show in keeping Clayton to just seven goals in the first half and were able to coast from there in scoring a 45-19 win. Dingley Gold’s Jess Baddeley and Kathryn Quinn ran riot early, and Madison McGaw’s 19 goals from goal attack weren’t enough to prevent Bentleigh suffering a 54-30 defeat; while South Yarra won the first three quarters to lead by ten turning for home, before withstanding a big Keysborough charge in the last term to win by 40-34. In the match of the day the Heatherton machine really started to kick into gear against a hot Murrumbeena side, with both sides punching and counter-punching before Heatherton led 22-18 at the main break. Murrumbeena took control in the third term to lead 30-28, but the proud Heatherton bunch weren’t done yet. They took the lead half way through the last quarter and weren’t headed, pulling away to a strong 45-40 win that kick starts their title defence.
Dingley’s physical presence was too much for Mordialloc in Division 3’s Thursday night match. An even first half gave way to Dingley dominance after half time as they cruised to a 40-30 triumph. Lyndale threw everything at Caulfield but the Bears were always able to hold Lyndale just at bay before holding on by 42-41. A St Kilda City defence led by Kate Hyland and Sarah Murphy-Gamble held Bentleigh to just one goal at the first half in a 47-9 victory. And two depleted sides in Heatherton and Black Rock could not be separated in the first quarter, but it was all Heatherton from there in winning by 38-27.
Heatherton Black and Caulfield Blue met as two unbeaten sides in Division 4, and after an even first quarter it was the Heatherton girls that kept their record intact, winning by 43-29. Caulfield Yellow’s Jodie Brown scored 38 goals in three quarters, including all 26 of her team’s first half goals, in beating a gallant Keysborough by 47-42, but if anything she was overshadowed by Bianca Waras-Carstensen who scored 58 goals for Dingley in their 60-33 win over St Kilda City. South Yarra led Black Rock by the barest possible margin at half time before pulling away to win by 40-29, while CPL were too good for Heatherton White in a 39-31 victory. Springvale Districts received a forfeit from Cheltenham.
Dingley Gold remained unbeaten at the head of Division 5, their shooter Nicole Carmeni scoring 42 goals in a head-to-head battle with Verity Sheppard (35) in their 46-40 eclipsing of Heatherton. Cheltenham had a good go at pegging back a 13-goal three quarter time deficit against Dingley Red before falling just short, Dingley prevailing by 30-25. East Brighton bettered Caulfield all day, winning by 46-8, as did St Kilda City in beating Bentleigh by 36-16. Lyndhurst matched Murrumbeena in the first quarter before losing a high-scoring 53-46 encounter, while Mordialloc posted the division’s highest score of the day in beating St Pauls by 67-13.
Clayton drew with Lyndale in a see-sawing Division 6 clash. The Pumas had the last attack of the game but Clayton were able to secure their share of the points. Lauren Martin scored 52 goals as Doveton Eagles led all day in beating East Brighton by 67-26. St Kilda City led Dingley by one at the main break but were strong after half time in dismissing the Dingo challenge by 30-21. A great defensive display by Keysborough kept Mordialloc to only six goals in the first half, and they coasted to a 38-14 win. Hallam were able to win the second quarter but that was as good as it got for the Hawks as Aspendale won by 55-22. Oakleigh District led 18-5 at quarter time and led all day in beating South Yarra 55-26.
High scores were the order of the day in Division 7, with Mordialloc topping the charts in beating Hallam by 78-12. Lyndhurst were too good for CPL, especially after half time, winning 42-10. Hampton (58-22 over Cheltenham), and Murrumbeena (53-30 over Doveton), both topped the half-century, while Springvale Districts beat Mount Waverley by 38-31. Aspendale and Heatherton played the match of the day before Aspendale were able to prevail, just, by 27-26.
Lyndhurst established a solid base in the first half and increased their advantage after half time in beating Lyndale by 53-30 in division 8. Oakleigh District’s strong defensive base got them over the line in a 22-10 win over Highett. Hallam controlled the match against Springvale Districts, although Springvale won the final quarter in their 50-24 defeat, while Dingley were too good all day for Keysborough in winning by 52-13.
Dingley held South Yarra in the first quarter of their Division 9 encounter, but it was all the Yarras after that as they scored a convincing 53-11 victory. Lyndhurst outscored Springvale Districts by ten in the last quarter to emerge victorious by 40-25, while Heatherton and Black Rock had the close one before Heatherton were able to annex the points by 25-24.
So ends the grading phase of the competition. The ladders will now begin to take shape and the battle is on in earnest. This promises to be the best yet of the SFNL’s seven seasons as new challengers for the crown emerge.