SFNL Netball Round Reviews brought to you by yellow tail wines.
By Hugh Maclean
So it’s all come down to this. Two teams remain in the hunt in each division, and as per the previous week in the semi finals, some of the netball played in the preliminary finals has been of the highest quality.
This was amply illustrated in the Division 1 clash between 2015 Grand Finalists Dingley and Keysborough. It is often said that big finals are won by the side that settles the quickest – here Dingley scored the first two goals of the match through Sarah Fischer and built on that to lead 7-1 half way through the first term. Keysborough steadied and went goal for goal with the Dingoes for the rest of the quarter, but this is where it really started to get interesting. Keysborough threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Dingley in a second quarter that was pulsating viewing for the neutral observer and heart stopping for both sets of supporters. The tenacious Keysborough mid-court started to win a good share of ball and moved it quickly and accurately to the goal circle. It was here that Burra shooter Abby Mackie and Dingley defender Brittany Goldsmith engaged in a two-woman war that was enough on its own to keep the crowd enthralled, and Laura Agius nailed a clutch of goals that reduced the margin to two at the main break.
The third quarter could easily have been the best quarter of the season. It was goal-for-goal for the first eight minutes as the assembled audience waited to see who would blink first. Dingley’s success over the past three years has been built around a very strong core of players backward of the centre, and here it was the experienced axis of Wise-Merkus-Wonnacott that took control, bringing in numerous intercepts and setting up play in attack. The advantage turning for home was 39-30, and it was an advantage that Keysborough were unable to reel in. Dingley were able to score often enough early to prevent Keysborough from creating the run of goals that were needed to get back into the game, the final score being 53-37. We have been blessed to see some fine netball from this Keysborough outfit this season, and I am convinced that they will be back just as strong next season.
Division 2 saw St Pauls pitted against Mordialloc in a game that looked as if it would be a battle for mid-court supremacy in order to feed two shooters with 679 goals for the season between them. After Grace Healey opened proceedings for St Pauls, Bec Britton quickly equalised for Mordialloc and added three more. This early dominance could not last though, with St Pauls steadying and taking a one goal lead into the first break. The arm wrestle continued in the second quarter with neither side able to make a decisive break. The definitive move came either side of half time. The excellent Eliza Barnes worked her socks off all day, and now she was able to get away from the clutches of Jess Morgan to create space and opportunity for her strike partner. Grace Healey benefitted from this work and as happened for much of the season, she wasted few of her opportunities, scoring the last two goals of the second term and the first three of the third. This gave St Pauls a six-goal advantage which they extended to eight at the last break. Mordialloc charged at St Pauls early in the last quarter and got within three half way through, but the next three goals to St Pauls finished the game as a contest, with the final margin being 42-36. St Pauls therefore face Heatherton in the decider next week.
The third division clash between Dingley and St Kilda City was in the balance for the whole match, with both sides having their chances to put the game away. Dingley took the early lead mainly through the strength of their press around the whole court. St Kilda City stayed in the match due to the efficient finishing of their shooters, but Dingley were able to finish the quarter with a four goal lead, which they were able to extend to five by half time. It was late in the third term that St Kilda City began to make their move, closing the gap to two at the last change and hitting the lead with a run of five goals after Dingley had started the last quarter the better. It was here that the turning point came with a brilliant intercept by Kasey Blizzard with the marauding City looking to take the decisive lead. Instead the ball was worked forward to Alana Cooper who levelled the scores for Dingley, who then steadied to take the game out by 44-41 and earn another shot at Heatherton for the title.
Division 4 showcased the Heatherton derby, with the younger White side taking on the more experienced Black unit. Heatherton White looked to run hard and create opportunities for their shooters, and their endeavours bore fruit with a 10-7 quarter time lead that was held at each break. Black had their chances but couldn’t break clear of their intra-club counterparts. White held their three goal lead at both the half and three quarter time breaks, and then won the last quarter by one, their 37-33 victory condemning Heatherton Black to be the only one of Heatherton’s eight sides not to compete on grand final day.
Heatherton’s Division 5 combination was left smarting after a defeat to Black Rock which they will feel could have been avoided. They faced a Bentleigh side that took great confidence from the previous week’s Semi Final victory but had several players out of action for the preliminary. They did, however, welcome back tall goaler Kelsey Dornau who engaged in a great battle with a defence led by captain Kristy Loyd. At the other end of the court, Verity Sheppard was in commendable shooting form for Heatherton. Bentleigh looked good for their slight half time lead but Heatherton turned the screw in the third term and Bentleigh’s scoring dried up in contrast to the showery weather. Heatherton’s 43-34 victory thus ended a gallant late season run of form for the Bentleigh girls and set up a return bout with the Jetballers.
South Yarra and Caulfield squared off in an occasionally feisty affair in Division 6. South Yarra finished the home and away season with an advantage of two wins and considerable percentage over their Caulfield opponents, but found very early that this Caulfield unit was not there for a haircut. South Yarra take pride in their attack on the game, but while they were able to score reasonably freely early they were unable to prevent Caulfield from doing the same. One of the more intriguing aspects of this match was the battle for control of the middle of the court, with Caulfield’s Tanya Hiscock and South Yarra lynchpin Hannah Smith looking to clear the path for their attackers to impact the scoreboard. Caulfield led by three at the first two breaks and four at the third, but the dam broke in the last quarter, with the twin Traeger towers in the Caulfield goal circle leading the Bears into the decider with a 48-38 win.
Division 7’s Preliminary Final was a stirring battle between Mount Waverley and Oakleigh District. This was a tight affair all day, and the closeless of the game was matched, it must be emphasised, by the excellent spirit in which the contest was played. Mount Waverley took the early lead with a 13-8 first term, which was reined in by half time by an Oakleigh side that at no stage gave up the ghost. With the match all square at three-quarter time there was all to play for, but neither side could gain a winning lead and at the full time siren once more the teams could not be separated, taking the match into extra time. During the first extra period Mount Waverley looked like a snowball that would not be stopped, taking a four-goal lead into the second period that they quickly extended to six. Oakleigh rattled home with the last four goals of the match, but it was too little too late as Mount Waverley’s 45-43 victory takes them into the Division 7 decider.
Division eight pitted Cheltenham against Keysborough, with Cheltenham the hottest favourites on the day. The Rosellas lived up to their billing by controlling this game from the opening siren. Keysborough had to wait until the second term to get onto the scoreboard as Cheltenham went to the first break 7-0 to the good, a lead that was extended in a scrappy second quarter to 11-3. Cheltenham started to get their attacking game going after half time, and were never seriously troubled in running out victorious by 33-13.
The Under 19s final proved a bridge too far for Mordialloc One, as Dingley One took control of this contest from the outset. A 13-6 opening quarter set the game up for them, and although the gallant Mordialloc girls gave everything they had on the day there was no coming back in this one. Dingley won every quarter and a 46-26 result was probably a fair reflection of their dominance on the day. This win creates an all Dingley Grand Final in the inaugural Under 19s competition.
Photos courtesy of Michael Walsh
DIVISION 1 PRELIMINARY FINAL
DIVISION 2 PRELIMINARY FINAL
DIVISION 3 PRELIMINARY FINAL
DIVISION 4 PRELIMINARY FINAL