Thunder aim for third flag against Diamond Creek in Northern Football League women's grand final

BENDIGO Thunder coach Cherie O’Neill believes playing consecutive matches in the lead-up to Sunday’s Northern Football League women’s grand final will hold her team in good stead.

The Thunder have played the second semi-final and preliminary final the previous two weeks en route to Sunday’s flag decider against Diamond Creek at Preston City Oval.

Last year the Thunder had 21 days between winning their second semi-final and playing in the grand final.

And what happened in the grand final still stings all those involved – the Thunder lost their only game of the season when beaten by Deer Park in a major upset.

GAME FACES ON: Bendigo Thunder vice-captain Jac Louttit, skipper Leah French and coach Cherie O'Neill. Having won senior flags in 2012 and 2013, the Thunder has a chance to add another on Sunday. Picture: DARREN HOWE

GAME FACES ON: Bendigo Thunder vice-captain Jac Louttit, skipper Leah French and coach Cherie O'Neill. Having won senior flags in 2012 and 2013, the Thunder has a chance to add another on Sunday. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Unlike last year, though, the Thunder don’t have the extra burden of trying to protect an undefeated season, with the side having lost two games – including the second semi-final by 11 points to Sunday’s opponent, Diamond Creek.

“Having lost a couple of games we’ve had to regroup and it’s made the girls realise that no win is a given and that we’re going to have to work right until the final siren,” O’Neill said on Friday.

“But last year was also a lot different in that we had three weeks off leading into the grand final and we lost momentum.

“This time having played the past couple of weeks, I think that will really help us going into Sunday.”

While they can’t atone for last year’s missed opportunity, eight players – captain Leah French, vice-captain Jac Louttit, Hannah Perry, Sarah Baldwin, Emily Findlay, Abbey Hay, Laura Flanagan and Sarah Moerke – plus O’Neill have the opportunity to ensure they don’t experience the bitter taste of grand final defeat again.

“Watching our reserves team win their grand final a couple of weeks ago, that has really sparked the fire in the belly of the girls,” O’Neill said.

“But they know they’ve got to work hard for four quarters on Sunday to get the same result.”

The Thunder and Diamond Creek have met three times this season, with the ledger 2-1 in favour of Bendigo.

Sunday’s grand final will be played at Preston City Oval from 1.30pm.

……………………………...

Thunder team:

B: Hannah Perry, Sarah Baldwin, Jess Ross

HB: Leah French, Michelle Barkla, Andrea Wilson

C: Emily Findlay, Billie-Lee Humphrey, Abbey Hay

HF: Amanda Carrod, Samantha May, Ayrlea Bailey-McClanahan

F: Kodi Jacques, Andrea Walsh, Aisling Tupper

R: Jac Louttit, Tiahna Cochrane, Kerryn Harrington

Inter: Bonnie Pearson, Ruby Campbell, Laura Flanagan, Sarah Moerke, Yasmin Colley, Jackie Radnell, Louise Bibby