SFNL Netball Round Reviews brought to you by yellow tail wines.
By Hugh Maclean
The business end is upon us, and while there has been some wonderful netball played throughout the course of 2016, it is fair to say that none has matched the quality of the fare offered up on semi final weekend.
Heatherton played Dingley for the first spot in the Division 1 decider, and while finals at top level can sometimes be sterile affairs as the sides know there is much to gain and just as much to lose, this game would go close to match of the season. Heatherton scored first after two turnovers through Nat Billings, and while Jess Payne quickly levelled, Heatherton had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 advantage soon enough. The experience of Alicia Wise, Shae Wonnacott and the excellent Sara Merkus gave Dingley the advantage at the first break, which was held at 33-30 at half time after a cut-and-thrust second quarter. Heatherton, however, did not finish in top spot for no reason. While Dingley looked good attacking down the flanks, they were struggling to contain Heatherton’s diagonal cross court passing. The Mifsud sisters started to take control and with shooters Billings and Rahni Samason rarely failing to convert any ball into their goal circle, scores were level at the last change. Where these girls set about winning the game for Heatherton, it was Ella Batish that saved it with some excellent defensive work early in the last term, and despite Dingley constantly pressing Heatherton were too good, avenging last years’ Preliminary Final defeat with a 63-61 victory that puts it into the Grand Final.
The First Semi Final was an absolute classic. Caulfield have, from Round 1, won plenty of admirers in Division 1, but have not managed to take the big scalp against one of the top three. In the first half here Keysborough looked the more composed in rushing to a 20-11 lead. Where Caulfield looked intent on making things happen through the killer pass, the likes of Megan Kennedy and Bec MacInnes in Keysborough’s mid-court were too smart for that, picking off numerous intercepts and using the ball intelligently themselves. The skill and know-how of Abby Mackie and Laura Agius in the Borough attack made for a difficult afternoon for Jane Keating and Gabi Coventry-Martini, but in the second half Coventry-Martini moved forward and formed an ideal foil for Sophie O’Shea as Caulfield set about reigning in the deficit. With Makayla Bulte starting to run the show in mid-court and providing a steady stream of supply for the shooters, the arrears were cut to one at the last change. While Keysborough started the last term well and looked to have the game under control, Caulfield had another shot in the locker and hit back to lead in the final seconds, but with the last shot of the game the Borough restored parity and took the game into extra time. The trend of the game continued with Keysborough netting the first three goals of the extra period and Caulfield returning fire, Keysborough taking a 45-44 lead into the final cut-throat seven minutes. Keysborough netted five of the next six goals, and this time there would be no recovery, with the brave Caulfield unit succumbing by 49-46 and ending a fine season by them.
In Division 2 it was Heatherton that started their Second Semi Final against St Pauls like a hurricane, with Sophie Clark shooting with deadly accuracy and Maggie Carlon directing traffic with cool efficiency. St Pauls were attempting to pass long and get the ball quickly to Grace Healey, but in the strong wind this tactic seemed flawed with Heatherton able to pick off interceptions at will and lead by eleven at the first change. This lead was to prove decisive as the Saints chipped away at the lead, winning each of the last three quarters but falling short by 49-45. In the First Semi Final Mordialloc faced a Dingley side that they had not beaten in their three meetings this season. Dingley were first onto the board but Mordialloc soon levelled and started to take an initiative that they were not to lose. Dingley’s Jessica Haslem and Mordialloc’s Bec Britton started well shooting, but with the excellent Nicole Ram cutting off numerous Dingley attacks Mordialloc went to the first break 11-7 to the good. The next two quarters were similar in their trend, with Mordialloc starting each well but Dingley coming into the game as the quarter continued. One of the knocks on Mordialloc this season has been their tendency not to play four quarters, but there would be no such drop-off on this day. Chelsea Goldin and Emma Gent worked their socks off to get Dingley into the game, but with Allana Harris playing a blinder in the centre Mordialloc won each quarter to emerge victorious by 35-26.
Heatherton were first into the Division 3 Grand Final with a clinical 36-29 defeat of Dingley. This game showcased the skills of the division’s two deadliest shooters, Alana Cooper of Dingley and Mia McMillan of Heatherton. It was Heatherton that was able to give their lynchpins the better and more frequent supply across the match. Dingley will play St Kilda City next week, but not before they received one heck of a scare from the tenacious Black Rock. This was a game in which neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage and could have gone either way right to the finish. When the final siren rang through the air it was City that held sway by the barest of margins, the 33-32 scoreline ending the season of the gallant Jetballers.
Division 3 saw South Yarra, playing in the club’s first final since coming into the SFNL, put in arguably the performance of the day in disposing of the threat posed by the young and agile Heatherton White side. They were in no way overawed by their lack of finals experience and established their authority early. The Heatherton girls were brave in their efforts to reel in the lead but South Yarra were too good on the day, booking their place in the Grand Final with a 38-23 victory. The Preliminary Final will be an all Heatherton affair, with Heatherton Black ending Dingley’s season with a 44-41 triumph. This one was close all day but the Heatherton Black side has the experience and know-how to get the job done in tight situations, and this experience showed when it mattered most.
Heatherton shot out of the blocks like Olympic sprinters in the Division 5 Second Semi Final, leading Black Rock by six at the first change. This stung the Jetballers into action as they set about getting back into the game. A tied scoreline after three quarters meant that the game was anyone’s, but roared on by an enthusiastic support network the Black Rock tidal wave could not be stopped as they ran out 36-27 winners. Heatherton gets another shot next week against a Bentleigh side that continued Dingley’s day of misery. This one was a goal-for-goal affair almost from start to finish and was always going to be a matter of who was in front when the final siren sounded. Bentleigh held the ultimate ascendancy by 42-40.
Lyndhurst have been the dominant side in Division 6 this year, and the Lightning are one win away from a flag in their first year of competition after annexing the charge of the South Yarra girls by 55-44. An even first quarter was the pre-cursor to a dominant display by the orange and blue which franks their competition favouritism. The First Semi Final saw Caulfield have little trouble with the threat posed by Lyndale. They established a six goal lead in the first quarter, and increased their lead at every change to win by 54-27.
Division 7 minor premiers Heatherton claimed another Grand Final place for the black and whites by seeing off the challenge from Mount Waverley. The Mountain Lionesses did not allow Heatherton to have things all their own way but Heatherton possess the best mid-court in the division, and were able to set up enough opportunities for the match to be won. Bentleigh only lost the double chance in round 15, and sadly that proved costly as they were also trumped in the elimination final by an Oakleigh District side that has come home with a wet sail in this years’ competition. While Bentleigh had plenty of ball they struggled to finish, and Oakleigh’s 39-30 victory will have it dreaming of further success.
Heatherton and Cheltenham have been the standout combinations in Division 8, and it was Heatherton that came out of this game the stronger, their 43-30 win putting them into the decider. The other final was a low-scoring affair. Dandenong will feel that this is a final that they could easily have won, but Keysborough were slightly more clinical in the shooting circle and won by 19-15 to keep their season alive.
The Under 19 finals went rather as expected, with Dingley Two advancing to the Grand Final by beating their Dingley One counterparts by 43-33, and Mordialloc One ending Mordialloc Two’s season with a 42-19 victory. Mordialloc One will attempt to prevent an all-Dingley decider in the Preliminary Final next week.
Photos courtesy of Michael Walsh.
DIVISION 1 SECOND SEMI FINAL
DIVISION 1 FIRST SEMI FINAL