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By Hugh Maclean
Round 8 brought change to the top of the Division 1 ladder, as a gauntlet was thrown down by one of the chasing pack to reveal a genuine challenge to the existing Dingley and Heatherton order.
Dingley v St Kilda City was an occasionally scrappy affair in which the Saints were intent on making their highly fancied opponents fight for every ball. Dingley were on the board three times before City made their first shot, with Sara Merkus and Taylah Fiddes making good early interceptions. Dingley’s passing was the more certain early, and while the two Joneses were sure on the shot for St Kilda City their opportunities were fewer than their opposing shooters were given. Rosie Augl’s introduction into the goal circle helped open the ring, but with Alicia Wise leading well, Dingley’s all court pressure allowed them to win every quarter in a comprehensive 63-29 success.
St Pauls took the early initiative against Keysborough in a frenetic first quarter in which both sides went flat out, with no tempo netball being played at all. Going into the first change behind 12-8, Keysborough started to find their rhythm in the second term, their passes finding their mark with more regularity, and they were able to turn the momentum to the degree that they were able to take a five goal lead to the main break. As if adjusting to the lesser pace, St Pauls also had patches of excellent ball movement in the second half. While the defences made shooting difficult, Elise Boyd and Megan Hendry being particularly impressive for their sides, the Borough were able to convert often enough in the second half to close out a 44-35 victory.
Whilst Heatherton White were not totally satisfied with their game, they were able to take the points against a game Bentleigh unit. White ran hard in the first quarter to establish a 15-6 advantage, but Bentleigh noticeably slowed the tempo in the second term which threw the Heatherton girls out of rhythm, and were it not for some brilliant intercepts from Erin Naismith Bentleigh may well have gone to half time in front rather than only three down. The third quarter was a goal-for-goal affair until late but with Maggie Carlon and Sienna Kelly pulling the strings, White were able to steal the vital break to lead by 10 at three quarter time. While Bentleigh never gave up and the excellent Maddy McGaw and Kelsey Dornau were a constant shooting threat, White were too strong and won well by 45-36.
Caulfield began their Division 1 life at the start of 2016, and in the time since have been very impressive without ever taking the scalps of a big club above them. The first quarter looked like more of the same as everything went wrong for the Bears against Heatherton Black. A 14-7 quarter time deficit was a fair reflection of the first term as Heatherton’s defensive pressure led Caulfield’s passing to be inaccurate. In the second stanza Heatherton continued to find the circle edge rather more easily than Caulfield would have liked, and with Teena Mifsud and Sophie Clark working well under the ring their lead was maintained into the second half, but it was here that the likes of Makayla Bulte and Fotini Stavrou took control in the midcourt and slowed the Heatherton delivery. This allowed Sophie O’Shea to take the initiative at the other end and cut the deficit to three. Heatherton began the last term well, but Caulfield struck back hard to level half way through. From this time on Black were unable to regain the lead as Caulfield would go ahead, then Black would level. As the final siren rang out it was Caulfield that were in front by 50-49 to record their first top division win over Heatherton Black.
This all means that Dingley take the lead in the competition on 30 points from Heatherton Black on 26 and Caulfield on 24. Keysborough take fourth spot from Heatherton White, both on 16 points, with St Kilda City on 12, St Pauls 4, and Bentleigh still yet to record competition points.
Division 2 this round showcased the top sides playing the bottom sides, and while the scorelines weren’t as clear cut as many expected, it is difficult to see any of the top four losing their positions with fourth-placed South Yarra having an eight-point buffer over St Kilda City in fifth. This gap was opened up as the Yarras overturned an early deficit to defeat City by 42-30. Dingley were always in control of their match over Mordialloc. They scored the first three goals of the match and established a lead by quarter time that they were never to relinquish. The final margin of 47-36 reflected a solid performance from Mordialloc but one which was never likely to deliver them the points. The closest match was the one between the unbeaten Heatherton and the last-placed Bentleigh. The red and blues belied their lowly position by taking the game right up to their fancied opponents. Many Heatherton girls were backing up from also playing in Division 1, and another five minutes may have seen a major upset as Heatherton tired. The final siren however saw Heatherton in front by 30-29 to maintain their 100% record.
The top three sides all had convincing wins in Division 3. Dingley were too good for Caulfield by 50-15, Clayton beat CPL by 46-25, while Heatherton made short work of St Kilda City by 57-29. Keysborough retained fourth spot whilst having the bye. Lyndale stayed in the hunt for fourth with a 30-27 victory over Black Rock.
Division 4 remains a fascinating competition. Heatherton White remain frontrunners, tipping St Kilda City out of the top four with a 50-31 win. The two Dingley sides consolidated their spots in the top four, Gold beating South Yarra 57-36 and Red edging Black Rock by 28-24. Heatherton Black took fourth spot by defeating Caulfield by 57-47. Elsewhere, Keysborough outlasted Mordialloc by 36-32.
Lyndhurst, Caulfield and Dingley maintain a three-way share of the Division 5 competition lead, all scoring wins this week (Lyndhurst by 58-42 over St Kilda City, Caulfield by 52-46 over Skye, and Dingley by 44-18 over Dandenong). Heatherton’s 53-43 victory over East Brighton keeps them fourth. Cheltenham were too good for St Pauls by 59-16, while Highett just got the chocolates over Bentleigh by 23-22.
In Division 6, Heatherton dropped from second to fourth, being replaced by their vanquishers Dingley Red after their 51-30 loss. Doveton’s 46-36 win over Aspendale kept it at the summit, while Dingley Gold’s 48-35 win over Clayton gave it third spot. Mordialloc moved to within two points of fourth by beating Hallam by 45-31, while Mount Waverley kept in touch with a 54-48 triumph over St Kilda City. South Yarra kept their hopes alive with a 46-22 victory over Lyndale.
The top nine sides in Division 7 will still see themselves as legitimate finals chances. While Dingley remain unbeaten by beating ninth placed Doveton by 42-23, Oakleigh Districts maintained second with a 36-35 win over CPL in fourth. Heatherton stay third with a solid 34-30 win over the charging Hampton. Lyndhurst were surprised by Murrumbeena, losing by 28-20, but East Brighton maintained their challenge by accounting for an improving Chelsea Heights by 30-22. Cheltenham stayed in touch by defeating St Kilda City by 41-39.
The top four have cleared out in Division 8, establishing a twelve-point gap on fifth-placed Hallam. Keysborough maintained their unbeaten record by beating Lyndale 31-16. Mordialloc’s 38-17 win over South Yarra catapults it into second spot, thanks to Dingley’s 27-25 defeat of Lyndhurst. Outside the top four Heatherton beat Hallam by 34-23, Black Rock beat Dandenong by 40-28 and Caulfield handed last place to Mount Waverley with a 34-28 triumph.