SFNL Netball Round Reviews brought to you by yellow tail wines.
By Hugh Maclean
Dingley took on Keysborough on Friday night to open the first division proceedings for Round 7, and as if possessing a brand of magic that reaches far beyond the confines of a netball court, they brought the rains with them. And did it rain! But those that braved the chill and damp of winter’s first Friday evening witnessed a spirited and entertaining battle between the two main challengers for Heatherton’s top spot.
This was a physical battle befitting of the high stakes, and neither side was prepared to concede the high ground in the first half. Dingley turned a one-point quarter time deficit into a one-point half time surplus, but as in the previous week’s battle with Heatherton, it was in the third term where Dingley took a stranglehold on the match as Amber McHenry began to run the show. With shooters Sarah Fischer and Jess Payne missing rarely, what looked like a winning lead was established. And as Keysborough fought to reign in the arrears with Amy Burns prominent, so it proved to be, with Dingley finishing 48-42 to the good.
The Saturday dawned neither warmer nor drier, but the standard of the netball played proved no poorer. Heatherton took on Caulfield knowing that they needed victory to retain pole position. This would be seen by many as a battle between star shooters Nat Billings (Heatherton) and Sophie O’Shea (Caulfield), but this would be to over-simplify the occasion. The masterstroke was made by Heatherton, who switched Bayley Mifsud into goal keeper to nullify the Caulfield shooting threat. It is rumoured that Bayley once conceded her opponent an easy ball, but as no-one seems to have witnessed this it cannot be confirmed, and whilst Sophie O’Shea will always score her share of goals in a game, she was really made to earn every one here. Heatherton took an 18-11 lead to quarter time, and as the match progressed it was their mid-court that was able to give their shooters the more plentiful and higher quality supply, increasing their lead at each break to win by 73-48.
St Kilda City and Bentleigh have had lean seasons to date, but both had plenty to play for here. St Kilda City wanted to send departing captain Beth Viner-Smith off in style before she left to live in the UK, whilst Bentleigh were looking to increase their points tally from the dreaded zero, and both got something from this battle as the teams played a tense and gripping 27-27 draw. Defences were well to the fore in the first half as St Kilda City took in a hard-fought 12-11 lead. Bentleigh scored the first four goals of the third term before the reliable Billie Nukunuku snared the next three for the Saints to tie it up once more. Bentleigh were able to take the narrowest of leads into the home turn, and some of the best passing movements were seen as the game began to open up, but while St Kilda City looked the most likely to take the points through the middle of the quarter Bentleigh would not go away, and when the siren rang the points were shared.
Match of the day in Division 2 was between the unbeaten Heatherton and the second-placed St Pauls, and this one really lived up to its top billing. St Pauls looked for all money the victors in the first half. Heatherton appeared to be playing dry weather netball, looking for the long pass which with a wet and slippery ball was risky in the extreme. St Pauls’ ball use and movement was much more precise, and with a 13-point half time deficit Heatherton had one heck of a fight on their hands. In the third quarter the machine began to roll, but the last break still saw a nine-goal St Pauls lead. Now Bella Riddell began to shoot the lights out for Heatherton as they converted eight of the next ten goals, and though St Pauls were dangerous going forward themselves it didn’t happen that often as Heatherton got on a big roll. Late on Teena Mifsud put the girls in black in front for the first time, and they held this lead to finish in front 54-51.
Third placed Dingley faced fourth placed Bentleigh. Early on Bentleigh were fast of foot, strong of hand and deadly of shot but Dingley started to come into the match with slick play of their own, and with both teams’ shooters having great games this was a game that was well worth watching. In the end it was Dingley that created the better opportunities, and they posted a 42-30 victory.
Mordialloc won the early exchanges against winless Chelsea Heights, leading 15-7 at the first break, but an injury led to main shooter Bec Britton being switched to defence. It took a little time to adjust to the change, and Chelsea Heights capitalised to go to the main break all square. Mordialloc wrested control little by little as the third term progressed, and were able to hold their advantage to salute by 46-39, and enter the top four for the first time.
CPL took the early lead against St Kilda City, and really pressed home their advantage by posting 16 goals to two in the second quarter. Although St Kilda City had their periods of dominance in the second half, they were unable to reel in the lead, and CPL won every quarter to emerge victorious by 43-21.
Division 3’s leaders Heatherton retained their unbeaten record, beating Caulfield 40-20. St Kilda City dropped their first points, drawing 32-32 with Keysborough. Dingley held third spot, beating Clayton 35-14, while Black Rock 36 beat Mordialloc 16. Division 4 saw third placed Keysborough end Dingley’s unbeaten record, winning 30-25, but Heatherton White were unable to join them on the top of the table, being held to a 27-27 draw by fourth placed South Yarra. Heatherton Black in fifth kept the pressure on with a 65-17 walloping of Springvale.
Heatherton stay unbeaten in Division 5, seeing off St Kilda City by 46-23. Dandenong and Lyndhurst played the days’ third 27-27 draw, while Black Rock firmed their place in the top four by triumphing 51-30 over Cheltenham. Division 6’s top two sides did battle, with unbeaten Lyndhurst making a fine mess of Lyndale, winning 48-19. Third and fourth also played, with South Yarra causing Caulfield to forfeit fourth place by winning by 57-21. They are replaced by St Kilda City after their 38-26 victory over Highett.
Mount Waverley hold sway in Division 7, despite losing 49-23 to fourth placed Oakleigh Districts. Bentleigh beat South Yarra 52-16 to hold second, while Heatherton’s 44-29 win over Black Rock means it stays third. Cheltenham remains unbeaten in Division 8, their 30-20 defeat of Keysborough meaning that the Burras fall from third to fourth. Heatherton beat Doveton 72-3 to stay second, while Dandenong take third by beating Lyndhurst 28-11. The two Dingley sides were strong winners in the Under 19s, holding the top two spots from the two Mordialloc sides.