Thrilling comeback gives Eaglehawk premiership joy

Former Sandhurst goalshooter Abby Gilmore drove a dagger into the heart of her former club by scoring the match-winning goal for Eaglehawk in the last play of today’s Bendigo Netball League A-grade grand final.

Gilmore put the Borough ahead for the first time in the game, 31-30, with the final whistle blown before the next centre pass.

It capped a thrilling comeback by the Hawks, which had trailed 15-26 mid-way through the third term.

The win broke an A-grade drought for Eaglehawk stretching back to 1999.

For Sandhurst it was the second consecutive season as runner-up.

Sandhurst lost to Golden Square last year after finishing on top of the ladder, but today’s loss will hurt even more.

The maroon and blue controlled the match from the outset.

Sandhurst burst out of the blocks and lead 9-1 as nerves clearly affected Eaglehawk’s goalers Gilmore and Christie Rogers.

At the other end, Jasmine Finnigan’s accuracy was exceptional, with the imposing goal-shooter having the better of goalkeeper Lauren Ryan.

Gilmore and Rogers soon found their range, however, as the Hawks fought back to only trail 6-9 at quarter time.

Heather Oliver switched onto her former Bendigo Spirit basketball team-mate Finnigan after the break and had a top battle with the Sandhurst sharpshooter for the rest of the match.

Eaglehawk closed the margin to two goals early in the second term, but Sandhurst soon got back on top through its mid-court.

Wing-attack Ebony Evans and centre Brianna Dalrymple-Monro’s passing game fed Finnigan and goal-attack Lucy Spalding.

Spalding required treatment for a suspected dislocated finger during the quarter, but played on and helped Sandhurst to a 12-19 half-time advantage.

The ‘Hurst looked to have put the game out of Eaglehawk’s reach in the third quarter, opening the 11-goal lead before Eaglehawk gave itself a glimmer of hope with the last four goals of the term.

Despite obviously struggling with an Achilles injury, Eaglehawk coach Amanda O’Neill willed her team back into the match from wing-attack.

Trailing by seven goals at the final change, 19-26, Eaglehawk just kept coming in the last quarter.

Gilmore was irrepressible when the game was there to be won, with the young gun scoring Eaglehawk’s last nine goals of the game.

The Borough scored eight of the last 10 goals to seal the famous victory.

First-year player Heather Oliver was named best on court, though her opponent for three quarters, Finnigan, was Sandhurst’s best player in what was an enthralling duel.

While Sandhurst lost the match, the club won three of the five netball grand finals played today.

The maroon and blue defeated Golden Square 41-33 in the A-reserve decider.

Sandhurst won the inaugural B-reserve flag with an incredible finish to the season after qualifying fifth for finals. Sandhurst opened the season with six wins from 14 games, but won eight consecutive matches to take the title 29-26 against Kangaroo Flat.

The ‘Hurst’s 17-and-under side went through the season undefeated after its 36-22 triumph over the Roos.

Eaglehawk defeated the maroon and blue in the B-grade grand final, 43-30.

For more coverage see Monday's Bendigo Advertiser.

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