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By Hugh Maclean
Round 7 was a treat for regular watchers of SFNL Division 1 netball, as some of the best netball of the season was seen at the Dingley courts.
St Pauls took on Caulfield eager to post their second victory on the spin. Caulfield on the other hand were keen to further their credentials as a genuine contender for the title in 2017. Caulfield took a little while to find their groove with their passing, while St Pauls began the game slightly hesitant in their final pass into the goal circle. It was Caulfield that settled the quicker, taking a five goal break out of the first quarter, upon which these two teams played one of the best quarters of the year. Meg Geschke came on for St Pauls and immediately made a difference at centre, Michaela Hayes ran hard and intelligently to create opportunities for herself and space for shooting partner Grace Healey. At the other side of the court Phoebe Naughton was brilliant at the rebound, Jemima Price showed intelligence and passing range, and Sophie O’Shea and Georgia Hernan missed little as shooters. Again Caulfield showed a little more class and poise, extending their lead to 11 at half time, and in the end running out victors by 54-41.
Keysborough took on Bentleigh having finally got some reward for their efforts last week, and this was a real contest early in the match. Bentleigh played some of their best netball of the season, with Madison McGaw and Kelsey Dornau combining particularly well in finishing the work of the mid-courters. Solid as Bentleigh were, the Keysborough ball movement showed speed, accuracy and increasing confidence, and they finished the first term with a two-goal advantage. It was here that Keysborough took control. Amy Burns has had a very consistent season and she continued her good form around the court, and Lesina Lalotoa was again particularly impressive in defence. Keysborough steadily increased their advantage throughout the afternoon and completed a steady 58-37, but sides will underestimate Bentleigh at their peril in the second half of the season.
League leaders Heatherton Black took on St Kilda City and from the outset flexed their considerable muscle. The likes of Mandy Quinn and Stephanie Peacock ran hard and intelligently, feeding star goalers Rahni Samason and Nat Billings, and though the St Kilda girls worked hard and scored enough to ensure that they stayed in the game, they conceded a 17-7 quarter time and 36-20 half time lead. Sadly this game ended early through the illness sustained by Heatherton’s Zali Mifsud, but Heatherton Black took away a 68-33 victory.
Heatherton White took on Dingley in an enthralling battle. Dingley started slowly, as they have on a few occasions this season, and Bella Riddell and Mia McMillan converted twice each for a 4-0 lead before Dingley had laced their shoes. Although Dingley steadied to be three down at quarter time they still weren’t their usual clean selves, and White continued the attack to lead by two at the main break. The third quarter was the one that really stoked the fire, as Dingley shot out of the blocks, then lost their lead, regained it, and lost it again to turn for home at 34-34. Dingley got the early break in the last term and got out to a 45-40 advantage, but White rattled home to again level the scores. Sadly for them they conceded the game’s last two goals, and Dingley maintained their unbeaten record by 47-45.
In Division 2, the improving Bentleigh side took the game right up to the highly fancied Dingley early, before the Dingoes took them to the cleaners in the second stanza. The third quarter was again more even, but as the match wore on the young Bentleigh combination tired to finish on the wrong end of the 49-27 scoreline.
Caulfield and South Yarra did battle to try and keep pace with leaders Heatherton (who had the bye this week), and Dingley. South Yarra were very patient in their build-up, working their way forward with hard running and short passes. Caulfield were more direct, Brie Cooper in particular being particularly impressive in feeding her shooters. Behind 25-22 at the last change, you got the feeling that South Yarra were having to work harder for their opportunities, and so it proved with Caulfield clearing out to a 39-26 triumph.
The early match on Thursday night saw a Mordialloc side desperate to shed the unwanted last position, and a St Kilda City unit looking to keep in touch with the top four. Both sides had their periods of ascendancy in this match, but it was the Mordialloc ladies that were able to keep their composure and held on for a narrow 40-38 win to keep their finals hopes alive.
The top four sides in Division 3 remained, all posting wins apart from St Kilda City, who were beaten 35-25 by fifth placed Keysborough. Dingley beat CPL by 49-19, Clayton were too good for Black Rock by 32-19, and Heatherton were never seriously troubled in their 43-30 win over Lyndale.
Dingley Red knocked their clubmates off the top perch, beating Dingley Gold by 49-43. They were replaced by Heatherton White, who were made to work very hard before trumping Black Rock by 45-42. St Kilda City’s 46-35 defeat of Keysborough also took it past Dingley Gold and into second, while Heatherton Black’s 55-35 win over Mordialloc kept it in touch. Caulfield posted their first win, beating South Yarra by 44-35.
Dingley dropped from first to third in Division 5 with their 51-32 reverse against fourth placed Heatherton. Lyndhurst gave St Pauls a 66-25 netball lesson to take top spot, and Caulfield’s 66-47 win over St Kilda City was enough to give them second. Elsewhere Skye stayed in touch by beating Highett by 48-27, Dandenong continued Bentleigh’s woes with a 66-47 win, and Cheltenham just outlasted East Brighton to win by 41-39.
It was all change in Division 6 as Doveton took the competition lead from Heatherton through beating them by 33-20. Dingley Gold’s 44-35 defeat of Dingley Red pushes them into the four in place of Clayton, who fell by 47-41 at the hands of Mount Waverley. Mordialloc meanwhile moved to within four points of the top four with their 35-22 success over Lyndale, Aspendale made short work of Hallam by 43-15, and South Yarra overtook St Kilda City at the base of the ladder by beating them by 64-40.
Winless Chelsea Heights almost pulled off the shock of the season so far in Division 7, pushing unbeaten Dingley all the way before just falling short, 34-31 being the scoreline. Oakleigh Districts maintained the pressure on the leaders with a commanding 39-15 defeat of Cheltenham. In a very close competition, CPL’s 45-28 win over East Brighton keeps them third while dropping East from fourth to seventh, with Heatherton taking their place by beating Doveton by 44-37. Lyndhurst were solid in their 46-29 win over St Kilda City, while Hampton announced themselves as a team to watch, winning their third game in four by 34-17 over Murrumbeena.
Keysborough, Lyndhurst and Mordialloc all have six wins in Division 8, with Keysborough relegating Dingley to fourth by inflicting their second straight defeat, by 33-19. Lyndhurst were given all sorts of trouble by South Yarra before winning by 33-29, while Mordialloc were too good for Black Rock to the tune of 36-16. Elsewhere Hallam maintained the pressure on the top four with a 37-24 win over Lyndale, Mount Waverley 30 defeated Dandenong 16 to taste victory for the first time in 2017, and Caulfield also registered their first win by 34-16 over Heatherton.