SFNL Netball Preliminary Final Preview

By Hugh Maclean

DIVISION 1 - Heatherton V Caulfield

Court 1, 12:00pm

Wins by Mordialloc and Caulfield in the Division 1 semi finals last week mean that for the first time in the history of the SFNL netball competition, Dingley will not be in the Grand Final of the top grade, and it’s still possible that fellow heavyweights Heatherton may join them with a watching brief. The Tunners had to endure extra time before being on the losing end of a two-point margin in the Second Semi Final, and must now overcome a Caulfield side that has found its best form at just the right time after a mid-season hiccup. The return of Beth Wilson has given them a huge fillip - she has shown on many occasions this season that she is more than a foil for Sophie O’Shea, but a match-winner in her own right. With the likes of Makayla Bulte and the underrated Brodie Aumont providing the bullets to fire, Caulfield are now at their most potent. Heatherton on the other hand are virtually at full strength with only the return of Nat Billings needed to complete a full deck, and have players in form all over the court. Jaya Blandthorn in defence comes off a best-on-court performance in the semi final, Ella Batish and Bella Riddell are shooting accurately and the Mifsud sisters never seem to play a bad game. Mordialloc provided the blueprint on beating Heatherton - control the game and obtain scoreboard pressure early, and don’t let the intensity drop. Caulfield bat deep in the mid-court, and their elite runners will need to go all day to win this one. Will Heatherton be caught out twice? I’m not so sure. Heatherton to win this one in a classic.


DIVISION 2 - Heatherton V Murrumbeena

Court 1, 1:20pm

Heatherton also have the chance to join Cheltenham in the Division 2 decider, but will have to defeat a confident and well-prepared Murrumbeena to do so. Heatherton has finished on top of the Beena in both their clashes this season, but this is a far different Murrumbeena side. They have been trained to the minute, with the aim of peaking at finals time prominent in coach Chris Dent’s mind. The manner in which they dismissed Caulfield’s challenge last week was clinical, weathering the opening onslaught and gradually wresting control. Heatherton were jumped by Cheltenham last week and almost reeled the minor premiers in, falling one goal short, and it’s not too much of a stretch to say that another two minutes may have seen a different result. They have the confidence gained from their chase, on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run, behind them, and may have too many guns for a gallant Murrumbeena, although the opposite result would not be a huge shock.


DIVISION 3 - Dingley Gold V Heatherton

Court 2, 1:20pm

Heatherton has earned a shot at Dingley Gold for the right to play St Kilda City in the Division 3 Grand Final after beating Dingley Red in the First Semi Final. City did a great job in keeping star shooter Bianca Waras-Carstensen under control, restricting Dingley Yellow to just 27 goals for the day, and Heatherton will need to do something similar if they are to progress to the main match. The black and whites have the best defensive record in the division- will they also have sufficient potency in attack to win this game? They have their best attacking combination available in this match, but Dingley Yellow won convincingly in their only clash this season and I’m tipping them to do so again here.


DIVISION 4 - Heatherton Black V Caulfield Yellow

Court 2, 12:00pm

Caulfield Yellow tipped CPL out of the division four competition last week, needing extra time to do so, and now will need to beat Heatherton Black if they are to keep their premiership hopes alive. The Heatherton outfit have been the most likely challengers to the unbeaten Murrumbeena all year, but they face a seasoned Caulfield side that knows how to get the job done in the big end-of-season matches. Both sides had their wobbles in late season matches, dropping games that they would have thought likely to win, and it’s difficult to get an accurate read on this match based on form line alone. Heatherton were successful in the only clash between these sides in 2018, and although that game was in the cold June air and much has happened since then, I’ll tip Heatherton again here, although with little confidence.


DIVISION 5 - Oakleigh District V East Brighton

Court 3, 1:20pm

East Brighton has spent most of 2018 as fifth cog in a very tight gear in Division 5. Indeed, at half time in the final home and away round they were sitting out of the finals race. Now they find themselves one game away from a grand final berth against an Oakleigh District side that has been hit by the injury stick at just the wrong time. This match may hinge on the fitness of Oakleigh playmaker Hayley Burnett, who may return from injury in an attempt to give her side the added edge needed to win their way through. East Brighton have the momentum here, and the last round defeat to Black Rock exposed frailties in the Oakleigh side that they may have wished stayed hidden. This is the game most likely to provide an upset on the day, and the fairy tale may well continue for at least one more week. East Brighton to win here and play in the first Grand Final in their netball club’s history.


DIVISION 6 - Doveton Eagles V Keysborough

Court 3, 12:00pm

Mordialloc White and Doveton Eagles have played in two fascinating clashes in the last two weeks, with the Mordialloc side finishing to the good on both occasions. Doveton has been the main challenger all year, their only reverse before the Round 15 clash being at the hands of subsequently-promoted Aspendale in Round 3, but they will need to overcome a fired-up Keysborough to earn a Grand Final position. The Burras come into the Preliminary Final with a game based on strong defence all over the court, and their best chance is to turn this game into a close-checking defensive scrap. Keysborough were only able to restrict Doveton to 46 goals when last they met, and they won’t be able to win a Preliminary Final by doing that. Doveton should have enough ammunition to win through here.


DIVISION 7 - Lyndhurst V Hampton

Court 4, 12:00pm

Lyndhurst enjoyed an unblemished home and away season, but the Second Semi Final saw them unable to overcome a committed Murrumbeena side and injury problems to finish on the wrong end of the score line for the first time. Hampton ended Dingley’s season by winning the first final in the club’s history and will come into the Preliminary Final without fear and with nothing to lose. They will know that they scored 17 more goals than Lyndhurst, and in their only meeting they were only beaten by 25-20 and could easily have won. However, Lyndhurst got where they have by knowing how to win close matches, and I think will do so again.


DIVISION 8 - Lyndhurst V Hallam Yellow

Court 4, 1:20pm

Hallam Red beat Lyndhurst and Hallam Yellow beat Highett last week in Division 8, in two close and competitive finals. Now Lyndhurst will attempt to deny the Yellow side the opportunity to create an all-Hallam Grand Final. These two sides met two weeks before finals, with the Hallam side winning by three goals, and it’s difficult to see this match being any less close and competitive. Hallam Yellow have not been beaten since Lyndhurst themselves beat them in their first meeting in round seven, and I feel that the trend may continue here. Hallam Yellow are going just a little too well, and I think will win through to the decider.


DIVISION 9 - Heatherton V Lyndhurst

Court 5, 12:00pm

Division 9 threw up two unexpected results in the semi-finals, with both lower placed sides victorious. Heatherton beat South Yarra in Round 15 to deny them top spot; last week that result was reversed. Lyndhurst finished below Black Rock after 15 rounds, but were too good for the Jetballers in the First Semi Final, and come into this match riding high on the confidence that comes from winning form. Heatherton won by 10 goals when these sides met in Round 14, but Lyndhurst were missing some key players that day, and will feel that they have the height and speed to win their way through to the decider. I concur - Lyndhurst to win this one.

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