HOW THEY GOT THERE:
A SEASON-LONG rivalry will reach its crescendo when Mitiamo and Pyramid Hill clash in Saturday’s LVFNL A-grade netball grand final at Serpentine.
Just two or less goals has separated the minor round premier Superoos and Bulldogs in games played this season, with rival coaches Jenny Clohesy and Deb Forster predicting another epic encounter.
The Superoos were the first team to win their way through to the premiership decider, with a convincing 25-goal victory over last season’s grand final rival Newbridge in their only final a fortnight ago.
They were joined last weekend by Pyramid Hill, which atoned for an earlier finals loss to the Maroons with a nine-goal preliminary final win at Marist College.
The Bulldogs’ win sets up a third much-anticipated duel between the respectful rivals.
Pyramid Hill had the better of their round six clash, surviving a thriller to win by a solitary goal. It remains Mitiamo’s sole loss in an almost flawless campaign.
But the Superoos exacted their revenge in round 15 with a two-goal win.
It was the last the two sides have seen each other, with the Bulldogs’ week one finals loss keeping them from a potential second semi-final meeting with the Superoos.
Mitiamo will enter the premiership decider fresh, with just the one final and a practice match against Heathcote District club Colbinabbin under their belt since their round 18 encounter against Maiden Gully YCW.
Coach Clohesy was adamant the Superoos’ light match schedule would pose no problems for her side.
And neither would the loss of their star defender Tahnee Cannan, who will line up in Saturday’s SEABL national basketball grand final for Bendigo Lady Braves.
“When I look back at our season, we have played more than half our games without what you would call our top seven,” Clohesy said.
“With players missing through basketball (Cannan), injuries, football commitments (Abbey Hay) and people away, missing Tahnee is not going to come as a complete shock to anyone.
“And it’s no shock to us as we have put our plans in place during the season, where those girls who you might consider as the eighth and ninth players in the team, have been playing considerable netball.”
No real surprise either to Clohesy, who is in her second year at the helm at the Superoos, is their grand final opponent.
“They looked impressive last week and rattled Newbridge a bit,” she said.
“We have had a good talk about things and nutted out where their strengths are and we’ll be doing something to counteract that.
“We’ve done everything possible, now we just have to wait and see.”
Clohesy maintained last season’s agonising grand final loss had been rarely mentioned through the season, but could easily sense it had served as personal motivation.
“It’s a learning curve – sometimes you have to learn to lose to learn how to win,” she said.
“There’s no doubt the girls hurt last year, but they’ve just come back and are mentally stronger this year.
“It’s a credit to the girls, they have been mentally focused but still enjoyed the game and had fun.”
There’s no doubt the girls hurt last year, but they’ve just come back and are mentally stronger this year.Jenny Clohesy
Pyramid Hill’s ascension to grand finalist comes two years after its last flag win, but only 17 months after the club was in danger of not fielding an A-grade team following a string of player losses.
Enter coach Forster, who accepted the role of coach about two weeks out from the start of the 2016 season, guiding a team that contained just three of this year’s grand final team to a sixth place finish with six wins-10 losses.
Following the return of some key personnel, including young goal keeper Abbey Dingwall, the addition of 2016 Charlton premiership star Kate Burton, and double the amount of wins, the Bulldogs find themselves in sight of a flag.
What a difference 12 months makes, with the Bulldogs laying claim to the most settled line-up in Loddon Valley netball, spearheaded by their young captain Gabby Kennedy, goal attack Zoe Kennedy and goal shooter Jess Holdstock.
Forster, who is in her second stint as head coach, believed the recipe for grand final success was simple -that being for her side to continue doing the things that had got them to this point.
“It’s going to come down to the wire and everyone is going to have be on their toes,” she said.
“I have said it all year, Mitiamo is just a beautiful side – so composed – and that’s how we’ll have to be as well.
“We’re pretty set in our positions and last week it felt that things just fell into place finally.
“The girls are playing really well as a team and everyone knows their role, what they need to do and where they have got to go.”
I have said it all year, Mitiamo is just a beautiful side – so composed – and that’s how we’ll have to be as well.Deb Forster
Forster praised the impact of Burton on her predominantly young side.
“Just her direction down the court and her presence and talk – she is so passionate and that rubs off on everyone, she said.
A-grade: Bree Bentley, Alyssa Cole, Mel Bice (reserve).
B-grade: Mel Bice, Carmen Shevlin, Rochelle Whalen (reserve).
C-grade: Rochelle Whalen, Olivia Collicoat, Shasta Maher (reserve).
C-reserve: Katherine Jamieson, Danielle Sawyer, Emily Stewart (reserve).
17-and-under: Emily Stewart, Danielle Sawyer, Emily Stewart (reserve).
15-and-under: Shasta Maher, Olivia Collicoat, Carmen Shevlin (reserve).