SFNL Netball Round Reviews brought to you by yellow tail wines.
By Hugh Maclean
It is a common truism in sport that a champion will never concede defeat, and if the challenger is to ascend to the throne it will have to fight tooth and nail to the very end in order to do so. And so it was on a wet court in conditions better suited to roasting chestnuts on an open fire that the unbeaten challenger from Heatherton took on the three-time Division 1 champion Dingley, and the contest left none of the watching gallery disappointed.
This was a physical battle from the start as neither side was prepared to concede an inch to their foe. The first quarter was a real thrust and parry affair with no decisive break achieved, but from an even start to the second term it was the Heatherton defence that began to take control. The Dingley unit started to become rattled as Heatherton’s advantage blew out to six goals, with their defensive pressure leading to numerous turnovers and goal chances.
Dingley responded with three of the first four goals after the main break, but with the excellent Courtney Weiske and the combative Bayley Mifsud controlling each end of the court Heatherton steadied to lead by four. It’s here though that the champion climbed off the canvas with Dingley scoring the last five goals of the third quarter, and the first four of the fourth. With the rain-heavy ball making shooting and passing accuracy difficult, Dingley were able to hold their composure and their lead, finally closing out a 36-33 victory, thereby joining Heatherton on 20 points at the top of the ladder.
With Caulfield having completed a narrow 47-45 victory before last week’s Interleague fixtures, the only other Division 1 match was between third placed Keysborough and St Kilda City, and while this one was done as a contest early on, St Kilda City coach Mel Starr will take some positives from the day. It was the Saints that began the brighter, leading 3-1 before the Keysborough machine clicked into gear. With their finishers deadly in the goal circle, conceding the midcourt initiative would always be problematic for the team in black, and so it proved with Keysborough leading 12-4 at the first break. The advantage was increased to 15 at half time and then 21 at the final change, before St Kilda City, showing great fight and no little skill, won the last quarter by five goals. But this Keysborough group is not one of the main challengers by accident. They are a skilful and well organised team unit, and won this one by 39-23.
In Division 2, the three matches played on the day were not in the main close encounters. CPL’s battle with St Pauls remained in the balance for the longest, with the St Pauls three-point quarter time lead being extended to 18-14 at half time. At this point the St Pauls defence really started to take control. CPL were able to get their share of the ball, but were unable to convert their possession into shooting chances, to the point that they were only able to score five goals for the entire second half. St Pauls took their time getting their shooting boots on, but once they did the result was never in doubt, with St Pauls annexing a 44-19 victory.
Mordialloc took on St Kilda City, and whilst St Kilda probably looked the more composed of the two sides in an even first five minutes, it was Mordialloc that took an 8-6 lead to the first change. That was the last that St Kilda City saw of their opponents as they conceded complete control to the ladies in red. The lead was extended to 22-10 as the last pass continually went astray at the St Kilda City end. Mordialloc remained the more clinical of the two sides after half time, and blotted out the St Kilda City side to the extent that the final score was 52-14.
By far the most impressive side in Division 2 to this point has been Heatherton, and they continued their dominance over their nearest rivals Dingley. Their defence around the back of the middle third has been a feature of their play to this point of the season. Here it was paramount as time and again the pressure that they applied forced the turnover, and their shooters ensured that the lead-up play did not go to waste. The result of all this is that Heatherton won every quarter, extending their lead at the top of the ladder to eight points with a 56-31 victory.
Heatherton also lead Division 3, on percentage from St Kilda City. They defeated Clayton and Mordialloc respectively. Dingley (31-19 victors over Black Rock), and Caulfield (who beat Skye 56-29), round out the four. Dingley beat Heatherton Black in the match of the day in Division 4 to lead that ladder. Heatherton White’s win over East Brighton consolidated second spot for them, with Keysborough and South Yarra in third and fourth. Elsewhere St Kilda City had a fine win over Highett, and Lyndale had a close win over Springvale.
Dandenong suffered their first loss in Division 5, to third-placed Black Rock. Heatherton, who had the bye, now stand alone in top spot. Lyndhurst remain fourth despite their loss to Dingley, by percentage over Bentleigh, St Kilda City and Mordialloc. Caulfield were the only side in Division 6’s top four to taste defeat, with Hampton having their first win of the season. Lyndhurst, Lyndale and South Yarra are the top three after six rounds.
Mount Waverley were pushed all the way by Doveton in Division 7, but emerged victorious to lead the table by a game and a half from Bentleigh, who played a thrilling draw with Murrumbeena. Heatherton are third, while Oakleigh Districts won to jump ahead of Murrumbeena into fourth spot. Cheltenham won the top of the table clash with Heatherton in Division 8, with Keysborough and Dandenong rounding out the four and Lyndhurst claiming their first victory over Doveton. The two Dingley sides and the two Mordialloc sides make up the four in the Under 19s, with both Dingley sides claiming victory this week.