Listen back to the podcast of Sunday’s ‘Nothing But Net’ radio show, with special guests Sophie O'Shea (Caulfield FNC) and Meg Geschke (St Pauls FNC) in the player below.
By Hugh Maclean
Netball watchers were treated to some of the best matches in the young season in Round 4. The young Heatherton White lost their undefeated record as the 2016 grand final combatants, as if chastened by the precociousness of the upstarts, regained their seats at the top table.
It was not without a heck of a battle that the younger Heatherton, although not at their best, succumbed to a hungry St Kilda City. They led by three at quarter time and then two at the main break despite the Saints looking the stronger side. Chloe Ballard and Carly Buhagiar set up a lot of City’s best work with intelligent angle running and incisive passes, while at the other end Tash Petroff was at her intercepting best. Bella Riddell made the most of her chances to keep Heatherton White in front, and their lead was extended to 25-20 at the last change, but its here that the two Joneses in the City goal circle went to work. Six of the first seven goals put St Kilda City level, and four further lead changes finally saw City run out victorious by 34-32.
At the other end of the netball complex, Caulfield and Keysborough played their own battle that, while scrappy at times, was every bit as competitive. Keysborough converted the first centre pass but it took them over a minute to do so. Caulfield took even longer to level at 1-1 as the speed of the match was frenetic and as a consequence the handling was less than sure. Keysborough led by two at the first change, a lead which was halved by half time, but the decisive sequence of play came through the middle of the third term where Sophie O’Shea and Georgia Hernan converted some sterling entries forced by their mid-court. Tara Bickham and Jaimee Plumb in the other goal circle started to find their range late, but they could not prevent a six-goal lead for Caulfield turning for home, and a tight last term saw this to be the final margin, 44-38 the final score.
Dingley scored the first six goals before St Pauls found their feet on court three. St Pauls began to get their patterns working, feeding the excellent Grace Healey and Mikaela Hayes to square the remainder of the quarter. However, this is a Dingley side that does not have flat patches in their games, and St Pauls were unable to get a run of goals that would rein in the deficit. With the evergreen Shae Wonnacott and young apprentice Tayla Fiddes prominent, Dingley were able to control the mid-court well enough to extend the lead to 10 at the main break, and hold it through the second half to win by 49-38.
Heatherton Black were decimated by VNL commitments, but were able to summon the troops to form a team that hardly missed a beat. Bentleigh had problems of their own, with injury and illness meaning that nine of their best were missing across the grades. It was Heatherton that got their combinations working quicker, and by the time the first change came around they were 10 goals to the good. In the second term Maddison McGaw and Kelsey Dornau started to look more dangerous for Bentleigh, but the Heatherton defence led by Leah Seeto held firm and the lead was extended to 15. The third quarter showed star shooter Rahni Samason switched to defence as Heatherton decided they needed height, and after steadying an 18-4 final term put Bentleigh away, the final score being 64-33.
Four rounds therefore see Dingley and Heatherton Black lead the way with 14 competition points from Caulfield and Heatherton White on 12. St Kilda City has 8 points, Keysborough 4, while St Pauls and Bentleigh are yet to register a point.
The undefeated Heatherton and Dingley faced off in the rain in Division 2, and Heatherton gave their opponents a netball lesson. They looked a threat every time they went forward while their defenders continually picked off the forward thrusts of their foes. 54-23 was a fair reflection of their dominance. The play was camped around the Caulfield goal circle early on in their clash with St Kilda but they were unable to make their early dominance count enough to kill St Kilda City off. The Saints ended Caulfield’s undefeated run by winning 36-29. The close battle came between South Yarra and Bentleigh, with the Yarras continuing to look very much at home after their promotion to Division 2. Bentleigh had players leaving their sick beds to play in this one, but they contested strongly. South Yarra holds fourth spot after triumphing by 32-29.
Clayton, who had the bye this week, Dingley and St Kilda City are the early pacesetters in Division 3. Black Rock pushed City before falling to a 37-28 defeat, whilst Dingley had a comfortable 46-12 win over Lyndale. Heatherton rounds out the top four after their 55-13 demolition of CPL, and Keysborough got on the board by beating Caulfield by 31-19.
Dingley Gold strode to the top of the fourth division tree with a convincing 43-25 victory over winless Mordialloc. Heatherton White joins them, although South Yarra pushed them all the way in their 38-34 win. St Kilda City beat Black Rock by 36-29, and Heatherton Black were too strong for Dingley Red by 35-30, completing the top four. Keysborough 52 beat Caulfield 28 in the other match.
Lyndhurst, Dingley, Skye and Caulfield are the early leaders in Division 5. The Lightning lived up to their nickname in their 67-21 thumping of Highett. Dingley were challenged by Bentleigh before scoring by 25-22, while Skye were impressive in setting aside the threat posed by East Brighton by 45-25. Caulfield prevailed in a 52-40 shootout with Cheltenham, while Heatherton and Dandenong stayed in touch by beating St Kilda City (54-26) and St Pauls (31-15) respectively.
Congratulations to Aspendale on their first victory in the SFNL, by 27-25 over Clayton. Heatherton are the only unbeaten side in a very even competition with Doveton, Clayton and the two Dingley sides also looking strong. Division 7 looks similarly competitive with Dingley leading the way with four wins from four. CPL, Oakleigh Districts and East Brighton head the chasing pack. Keysborough, Dingley, Lyndhurst and Mordialloc lead the way early in Division 8.