SFNL Netball Grand Final Review

By Hugh Maclean


2018 gave us a grand final day to remember. For the first time in the finals series the weather played its part, giving all players the opportunity to show off the skills and ability that had got them to the big day. Throughout the divisions, those that were lucky enough to be watching were not disappointed.

Grand finals in Divisions 3, 6 and 7 kicked the day off. Division 3 saw St Kilda City pitted against Dingley Gold. This was the clash of the giants, both physically and metaphorically, as these are the two tallest and most imposing sides in 2018. The main key was always going to be the influence of star shooter Bianca Waras-Carstensen, with City being one of only two sides to control her all season, and from the jump Dingley were hungry to prove that their Second Semi Final loss was an aberration. Unrelenting mid-court pressure and strong leads from Sarah Heenan (who was named best-on-court), at goal attack were instrumental in Dingley leading by three at the first change, and extending that as far as nine just prior to half time. It was the introduction of wing defence Mallory Watters in the third term which gave City the intensity they had been trying to find, and with the pressure ramped up Dingley’s advantage was restricted to 28-25 at the last change. With the game up for grabs however, it was Dingley that steadied the ship early in the last term, and outstanding pressure from goal defence Matilda Davies and centre Eliza Hewitson coupled with a 33-goal haul from Waras-Carstensen gave Dingley the premiership after a 43-35 win.

The two dominant sides in Division 6 squared off with Mordialloc Red and Doveton Eagles looking to annex the cup. Mordialloc started the match as favourites and were rattled early in an open and entertaining affair in which the Eagles led 12-11 at quarter time. When the lead was extended to 22-20 by half time some observers were sensing that the upset may be brewing, but there was a bit of magic dust in the half time energy drinks in the Mordialloc huddle, as the ladies in red were a different side after half-time. Best on court Jerzie Vernall teamed with star shooter Touri Bowtell to take the game away from the Eagles, establishing a 36-25 advantage at the final change. Doveton Eagles needed to pull something special out of the bag to win this one, but despite the best efforts of the excellent Talarna Olsen and Kaitlyn Cipressi they could not create the opportunities to make up the deficit, leaving Mordialloc to crown an undefeated season with the premiership title.

Division 7 saw second pitted against third as Murrumbeena took on Hampton with both sides looking to win their club’s first Grand Final. Hampton were rocked by a pre-game car accident that cost them the services of Ashleigh Beckett, but they seemed unfazed by this setback and by Grand Final nerves as they took what proved to be a decisive 10-3 lead to the first break. This margin gave lie to the way that the game was being played as Murrumbeena had the majority of the ball and control but couldn’t convert. The move of Kathy White from goal keeper to goal attack was a great move that allowed Murrumbeena to gain some traction on the scoreboard, but Hampton had worked hard for their lead, and were in no mood to give it away. 22-10 looked like a difficult advantage for Murrumbeena to arrest, and Hampton simply continued to play their game throughout the second half ensuring that there would be no comeback on this day. Keeley Brookes and Lindsay Anderson tried hard for the Beena, but led by Erin Moody and Abby Dougherty, Hampton were too good. Hampton hadn’t played a single final in the history of the club three weeks ago. Now they have a premiership after winning this Grand Final by 36-26.

Divisions 8, 5 and 2 took the second timeslot, and the Hallam derby decided Division 8. Yellow had the momentum after overcoming Lyndhurst in the preliminary final, while Red had the week’s break, and it was Yellow that started slightly the stronger taking a 9-8 break to the first change. The Yellow half of the club began to really take control in the second quarter as Katie Cornish cut off wave after wave of Red attack, and Kirstin Brice shot accurately to create a seven-goal lead that could not be reeled in. A quarter of few opportunities saw the lead extended to eight turning for home, but the final quarter was the Yellow show as, despite the best efforts of goal attack Brooke Wiramanadan to keep Red in the game, best-on-court Maeve D’Arcy and Eiryn D’Arcy Gunn shot brilliantly. In a final played in fine spirits, Hallam Yellow populated their club’s trophy cabinet for the first time with a 46-31 win.

Division 5 was probably the best game of the day, as high-flying Lyndhurst took on the fast-finishing East Brighton. Lyndhurst shot out of the blocks early on as East Brighton took their time getting to grips with the grand final speed, but towards the end of the first quarter the Vampires started to get their game rolling and went into the second term behind by 16-11. This advantage shrunk by one in the second quarter, but it was the third term that changed the match. East Brighton started strongly, winning the ball well around the court and feeding it into the circle with penetration and precision. Elysia Davis and Nicole Kenny were particularly impressive, and shooter Felicity Dawkins did not let them down, with a 40-goal haul netting her a best-on-court medal. This gave East Brighton a 39-31 lead turning for home, but Lyndhurst were not done with yet. East Brighton made several changes at the last change, and this seemed to throw them off stride as Kelly Cross and Clare Field began to regain control for the Lightning. With Melissa Mair seemingly unable to miss they reduced the margin to one goal with two minutes to play, but turnovers due to a step call and two unforced errors handed East Brighton the Grand Final by 47-46.

The main game in the second timeslot was the Division 2 encounter between Cheltenham and Heatherton, and a great start was seen to the game as the sun shone and the warmth on the players’ backs aided them in playing some quality netball. Four lead changes in the first 10 minutes made it clear that this match was going to be a fight to the end. Cheltenham came out firing, with amazing centre court work from Sarah Matthews, demonstrating not only strength in speed to shooting goals, but defensive pressure that saw three centre court intercepts within the first quarter. Heatherton struggled to find their groove but were far from letting Cheltenham have it all their own way. Strong play particularly from goal defence Courtney Weiske to allow options to bring the ball down the court, and calm holding from shooter Sophie Clark saw both teams go into quarter time at 11 apiece. The opening minutes of quarter two saw Cheltenham take the scoreboard to 17-11 before Heatherton were even able to blink. Despite their best efforts, including strong pressure and great deflections from Heatherton wing defence Taylor Leeson, they were unable to break that deficit. Strong defensive pressure from Anna Donnelly and Lauren Hucker was too much for any of the Heatherton shooters to crack and Cheltenham were able to steadily push the final score to 44 - 33. Sarah Matthews was able to continue her strong early-game form to be named best-on-court.

This left divisions 9, 4 and of course 1 in the 2:20pm time slot. South Yarra took the court feeling confident in Division 9 against a Lyndhurst unit that had won their way through from the Elimination Final. The Lightning gave up the first five goals of their Preliminary Final against Heatherton; there was to be no such sluggishness this time as Lyndhurst started as they intended to finish. Tenielle Potter read the play well in goal defence to repel many South Yarra attacks, while at the other end Montanna Schuld and Jenna Bousfield made the most of the feeds into the Lyndhurst circle. A Lyndhurst 10-8 quarter time lead was extended to 21-16 at the main break as South Yarra battled a tall, strong mid-court, a committed defence, and injury to main shooter Julie-Anne Telfer. The third quarter gave more of the same as Lyndhurst took control, and a 33-20 three quarter time lead was always going to be too much. South Yarra played this game out until the end and won the last quarter, but a strong defence led by best-on-court Sharon Otai carried Lyndhurst to a 39-28 win and a Division 9 premiership.

Division 4 left Murrumbeena protecting an undefeated season against a Heatherton Black side that didn’t do themselves justice in the Second Semi Final but bounced back to win the Preliminary. The Heatherton girls certainly weren’t there for a haircut on this day and started strongly, rattling Murrumbeena early and taking an 11-10 lead into the first break. Murrumbeena steadied in the second quarter to lead by three at the half, but this game was certainly not over. Young star Haylee Krepp joined the excellent Heidi Samason in the goal circle as Heatherton set about reducing the deficit and creating the upset, and with Murrumbeena leading 31-30 at the last change the season had a quarter to go and there was all to play for. A rousing pep talk from Nicki Arnold set Heatherton along their way, but Murrumbeena were not to be denied. Olivia May and Mia Lopez loaded the bullets, and Melanie Robinson and Jarrah Thomson fired the shots that propelled Murrumbeena to their first ever SFNL netball premiership by 41-36. Dakota Thomson was named best-on-court for her impeccable defensive game for Murrumbeena.

And so to the big game – Division 1 between Mordialloc and Caulfield. These sides were both in their first Division 1 Grand Final having eliminated big guns Dingley and Heatherton, and they provided a fitting contest. Both sides appeared nervous to start with, many errors being made, but it was Caulfield that steadied early with the first two goals. This stirred Mordialloc into action, and with Sophie Durnan starting to run the show in the centre the Reds were not wanting for opportunities. Erratic shooting kept the game close, but a 10-7 lead was no less than Mordialloc deserved from their first quarter. Caulfield brought Megan Ellett into wing defence in the second quarter, and her influence seemed to give the Caulfield mid-court stability in a competitive period of the game. However, Amy Gledhill and Caity de Garis were supreme in defence for Mordialloc, forcing Sophie O’Shea away from the ring and quelling the influence of Beth Wilson.

Mordialloc broke clear late in the second term to lead 20-12 at the main break, which left Caulfield with a mountain to climb. Tiffany McConnell in defence for Caulfield wasn't going to go down without a fight and was smart in her intercept attempts, taking a lot of balls cleanly from Mordialloc. She provided a bit of fire and intensity that Caulfield really needed. Phoebe Naughton also had her best period of the game, keeping Emily Morris and for a short time, Lucy McKeown under control as Caulfield kept Mordialloc to three goals for the quarter to go to the last break only 23-20 down. This, however, was as close as they were going to get as Mordialloc were too strong. Their big strength was their ability to mould themselves into one cohesive unit throughout the season, and this was shown as the Reds had no passengers in the last quarter of the season where the premiership was there to be won and lost. The final margin was 33-29 as Caulfield huffed and puffed with all their might but could not quite blow Mordialloc’s house down. Caity de Garis was a popular choice as best-on-court for her flawless display at goal keeper.

NOTE: this column was co-written by Elise Jagintavicius, Hayley Burnett, Lisa Fox, Rach Arkley, and Sarah Murphy-Gamble; and was expertly curated by Mel Aitken. A finer bunch of ladies you will not find, and their assistance when it was most needed is greatly appreciated and valued.

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