FIERCE modern-day rivals Colbinabbin and White Hills will look to scale new heights when they collide in Saturday’s HDFNL A-grade grand final at Huntly.
The battle between the Grasshoppers and Demons will be their eighth in the last two seasons and second straight in a premiership decider.
A 19-goal semi-final win a fortnight ago tipped the ledger 4-3 in favour of the Demons.
But it was the Grasshoppers’ brilliant 18-goal win in last year’s premiership decider that has to this point defined the rivalry.
They enter this contest chasing a third-consecutive premiership and fourth in five years, in an era that has totalled six-straight grand final appearances.
Despite going through the home and away season undefeated, their path to the grand final has been a tough, with a loss to the Demons followed by a four-goal preliminary final thriller against an unrelenting Mount Pleasant at Elmore last Saturday.
But grand final coaches Nadine Anderson (White Hills) and Liz Cobbledick (Colbinabbin) agree the semi-final result would count for nothing with a premiership up for grabs.
With a week break’s under their belt, Anderson believed her team would be “refreshed, fit and raring to go”.
“But we’ll need the whole team to play well – we have a good goaling game and good defensive pressure game and that’s where we can win,” she said.
Anderson said Colbinabbin would undoubtedly have been stung by their semi-final loss and her side would was anticipating a strong response from the league leaders.
“I think it will be a totally different game (to the semi-final),” she said.
“They have been the benchmark and deservedly so.
“They are a super team and go very deep – as I’ve said before, when one goalie goes off another comes in, and the same with their defenders.
“They have some exceptional players in their team.”
Even more inconsequential for White Hills will be last year’s grand final result.
Anderson said the defeat would not be a driving force for her side, neither would it be mentioned.
“We have certainly left that alone, but I am sure the three or four players still remaining remember that game quite well,” she said.
“But we are a new-look side really from last year.
“I think our girls have that defeat stored away, but we haven’t used it as motivation at all.”
Those fronting for their second-straight grand final are star midcourter Lauren Bowles, Brooke Watson, Danielle Sawyer and Shannyn Keely, who played just the final quarter in 2016 after playing a starring role earlier in the day in the Demons’ A-reserve premiership.
Significant inclusions include class goal keeper Anna-Grace Close, who finished runner-up in the league best and fairest, wing attack Danielle Wee-Hee, goal attack Alyssa Cole and Bronte Deary.
The Demons will be well-represented on grand final day, with their A-reserve, B-grade and B-reserve teams also in contention for premiership honours.
As unlikely as it sounds, Colbinabbin’s preparation received a boost with all nine players taking part in Thursday night’s final training session at Sunbury.
With players spread across two locations – in Bendigo and Melbourne – that’s considered a rarity.
In further good news for the Grasshoppers, newly crowned league medallist Brydie Lawford will play after overcoming an ankle injury sustained in last week’s win over Mount Pleasant.
Cobbledick, who is in her second season as coach, said her side had not spent time dwelling on their semi-final loss to the Demons, and had been prepared to write it off as “just a bad day”.
“We have so much respect for White Hills as a team and opposition because they have been so strong throughout the year,” she said.
“The way they put it together on that semi-final day, they were exceptional.
“We’ve had some things we needed to address – we were probably a bit mentally beaten on that day.
“We’ve spoken about putting a lot more pressure on through the midcourt and also spoken about what we’ll do if they get a run on like they did in that game.
“We won’t be waiting until half time to make changes, but overall we’re feeling confident and ready to go.”
Like White Hills, the Grasshoppers will have a different look on grand final day, with 2015-16 premiership stars Olivia McEvoy, Carly Geary and Gabby Barlow all missing.
Kate Chirnside, who missed last year’s flag with an injury, has slotted back in to enjoy a fine season at goal keeper, while the fresh faces are headed by goal shooter Annie Cobbledick, midcourter Emma Eggleston and defender Sophie Robertson.
The Grasshoppers also welcomed back the versatile Holly Guerra after a season in the BFNL with Golden Square.
A key match-up will be that of Demons goal keeper Close and Lou Dupuy after the star Grasshoppers shooter proved such a difference in last year’s grand final with a near-flawless performance under the hoop.
Cobbledick said Close was one of few defenders able to match Dupuy for height and reach and would prove a handful for the Grasshoppers as a whole.
“She is a smart netballer and really hard-working,” she said.
“They are strong all over the court and have that real physical strength and gel really well together.
(White Hills) are strong all over the court and have that real physical strength and gel really well together.Liz Cobbledick
“No one else in the league can centre like Lauren Bowles, she’s an excellent player with her defence and the way she feeds her goalers.
“It should be a really good match.”
The Grasshoppers will have three teams playing grand finals. Its under-15 team plays Lockington-Bamawm United, while 17-and-under clashes with Elmore.
The A-grade game starts at 3.20pm with second-half action to be live steamed on the Bendigo Advertiser Facebook page.