The composition of the 2017 finals has been determined. For the elite of the eight divisions the battle for glory over the next three weeks commences in earnest. For the rest, it is time to retreat to the caves and begin hibernation until April rolls around once more.
In Division 1, Keysborough and Heatherton White were the two sides that could take fourth place, starting the round on equal points and separated by 6.69%. Keysborough held the percentage advantage but also had the trickier match against the improving St Pauls, and this game on the Friday night contained quite a few twists and turns. The Burras took the early initiative, and looked for all the world as though they wanted to ensure that the contest was put to bed before the Heatherton girls even took to the court. However, from an 11-goal deficit the St Pauls machine kicked into gear. Grace Healey and Alice Williams had each enjoyed a fine second half to the season. Here they found their shooting range and fired their side into a two goal lead, but just when Keysborough looked like they were toast they found their second wind and steadied to take a win by 42-37.
This left Heatherton White needing to beat Bentleigh by something in the order of 42 goals to unseat the Burras, and at half time this looked a definite possibility. Bentleigh had several regulars missing and, though as game as they come, the game was done as a contest very early in the piece. It was only the margin that was in question, and when White extended their eight-goal quarter time lead to 29-12 at the half, they will have felt as though they were on course. White set about scoring as many as they could, but as so often happens when all-out attack is the aim, there are goals at the other end. White may have scored 17 goals in the third quarter but Bentleigh responded with 10 of their own. Everything had to go right in the last term if White were to have a future, and despite the efforts of the excellent Kate Moffitt and Maggie Carlon in mid-court, and Mia McMillan and Taylor Butterworth in attack, every goal that went in at the other end made the task more difficult. A White win by 60-32 meant that Keysborough take on Caulfield in next week’s elimination final.
Caulfield didn’t give Heatherton Black everything their own way, especially early in the piece. Their mid-court were desperate and hungry, their shooters accurate and Phoebe Naughton gave Rahni Samason one of her more difficult afternoons of this year’s campaign. Black recovered from their initial shock and tuned up for the finals with a 48-39 win. Dingley thus needed to beat St Kilda City to make sure of the minor premiership, and whilst City were keen to ensure that they gave their last match a big shake, this never really appeared likely. It was an even contest for most of the first half, but Dingley had too much at stake to drop this one and as the match wore on, they pulled away to win by 37-21.
Dingley therefore end the season at the summit of the Division 1 table on 54 points, from Heatherton Black on 50 and Caulfield 40. Keysborough finish on 28 points, shading Heatherton White, also on 28, via percentage. St Kilda City were a threat for long periods, but faded to lose their last five matches and end on 20 points. Conversely, St Pauls improved greatly as the season wore on to finish with 16 points, while Bentleigh recorded just the one win whilst pushing many higher credentialled opponents, and finished with four.
The Division 2 top four has been apparent now for some weeks. Heatherton have taken all before them, and their 49-31 defeat of Bentleigh completes their unbeaten season whilst consigning Bentleigh to seventh place. Dingley kept second spot and left Mordialloc second last with their 40-22 victory, while St Kilda City’s 20-17 eclipse of South Yarra ensured that they finish their season on a high while not being able to catch South Yarra for fourth spot. Third-placed Caulfield’s bye allows them to hit the first week of finals rested and ready.
Division 3 came down to the last round of the season. St Kilda City played a white-hot Clayton side and were up against it from the jump, in deficit by six goals at quarter time and a decisive eighteen at the half. Although they won the second half it was only enough to reduce the final margin to 38-21. Sadly this cost City their spot in the finals. Keysborough had no trouble with CPL in winning by 49-22, and their 28 points from 13 games was enough to unseat St Kilda City (30 points from 14 games), by the barest possible margin – 2.15 points per match against 2.14. Meanwhile, Black Rock turned around a 22-16 half time deficit to defeat Heatherton by 33-31. This means that Dingley, who had the bye, took second spot from Heatherton despite not setting foot on the court, their 3.23 points per game eclipsing Heatherton’s 3.14. In the weekend’s other match, Lyndale completed their season in a positive fashion, being too good for Caulfield by 27-22.
Division 4 has been dominated by the two Dingley teams and the two from Heatherton, with these teams playing musical chairs in constantly changing position within the top four. However, when the music stopped this week it was Heatherton White that took top spot, relegating Dingley Gold to second spot by defeating them by 47-43. Dingley Red’s 33-24 win over 10th-placed Caulfield kept Heatherton Black at bay despite their comfortable 40-17 win over South Yarra. Keysborough completed their commitments by walloping Black Rock by 45-10, while Mordialloc and St Kilda City can spend their summers reflecting on a thrilling 40-all draw.
Caulfield have been the dominant force in Division 5, and they were able to see off the challenge of a gallant Cheltenham outfit in Round 15 by 50-31. Main challengers Dingley were way too polished for Bentleigh in a 46-17 victory, while Lyndhurst mastered the tricky winds in their 60-23 win over Highett. This meant that Heatherton’s 47-40 win over St Kilda City was not enough to take third spot. Skye’s 36-29 win over East Brighton could not give them finals action but saw them finishing a creditable fifth, while St Pauls did not need to take the court, defeating Dandenong by forfeit.
When Heatherton’s Division 6 side drew with Mount Waverley in Round 5, they were not to know that the two competition points gained would be enough to give them top spot when one less goal on the day would have relegated them to fourth. That is how close this division was at the top. Heatherton retained first place on 50 points with their 23-20 win over South Yarra. The other places in the top four were decided by percentage with the three other sides all finishing with 48 points. Dingley Red beat Mordialloc by 32-22 and take second, Dingley Gold’s 44-19 win over Mount Waverley sees them in third, while Doveton take fourth after beating Lyndale by 43-22. Clayton’s 34-30 loss to Aspendale does not stop them from being the best of the rest, while Hallam finished on an up-beat note by beating St Kilda City by 46-17.
Dingley have looked the team to beat in Division 7 from the jump, having only tasted defeat once. Fourth-placed Lyndhurst pushed them all the way in this round before finally succumbing by 23-20. Second-placed Oakleigh District tuned up for the big games to come with a crushing 52-19 defeat of St Kilda City, while third placed CPL hit August running after seeing off Doveton by 43-34. Hampton can look forward to their end-of-season trip after their 21-9 eclipse of Chelsea Heights, while Murrumbeena were forced to forfeit, handing the four points in their match to East Brighton.
Keysborough’s 39-17 win over fourth-placed Lyndhurst mean that they become the second side to complete the season without the bitter scent of defeat. Closest challengers Mordialloc had a comfortable 26-12 victory over Mount Waverley, while Dingley’s surprise 26-24 reverse against a resurgent Caulfield was not enough to cost them third place. Hallam beat South Yarra by 37-19 to head the chasing pack, while Heatherton beat Black Rock by 21-17 and Dandenong had a 37-29 victory over Lyndale to complete their programme for season 2017.