COLBINABBIN has completed a premiership three-peat with a hard-fought 43-40 win in Saturday’s HDFNL A-grade grand final at Huntly.
The Grasshoppers exacted their revenge on White Hills for a 19-goal semi-final defeat two weeks ago, by coming from one goal down at three quarter time to win by three.
Little separated the fierce modern-day rivals all game, with the Demons leading by a single goal at quarter time and three quarter time and scores tied at 22-22 at half time.
But a run of goals at the start of the final term, most of them from the accurate hands of class goal shooter Louise Dupuy, allowed the Grasshoppers to skip to a six-goal lead.
The Demons, led by star centre Lauren Bowles, were able to regain their composure and were twice able to reduce the margin to three goals before the final siren marked the end of one of the most exciting and evenly contested HDFNL grand final encounters in league history.
The win delivered the Grasshoppers their third straight premiership win, the last two coming under the coaching of Liz Cobbledick.
Saturday’s grand final appearance was their sixth-straight, for a return of four flags (2013, ’15, ’16 and ’17).
Cobbledick said her side had been forced to work hard for their success against a quality White Hills line-up.
“They came home really hard and definitely had a strong fight-back – a couple more minutes and it could have come back into even,” she said.
“But we were composed – it was such a good win.
“Our focus for the game was to really come out hard in the first five minutes, but we probably didn’t do that.
“They got that really quick run-on.
“But unlike our semi-final, we stayed focused and were able to peg it back before quarter time.
“Had it been seven goals at quarter time it would have been really hard to chase down.”
After battling an ankle injury during the week following last weekend’s preliminary final against Mount Pleasant, goal defence Brydie Lawford dispelled any doubts over her fitness with another big game.
The star Grasshopper capped a remarkable season and added a best-on-court medal to her collection that includes a 2017 league best and fairest award and premiership medal.
In a tough choice for umpires, Lawford had plenty of opposition for the best-on-court honour from her defensive teammates Kate Chirnside and Holly Guerra, whose influence grew stronger as the game went longer.
Lawford said Chirnside, who missed last season’s premiership with an Achilles injury, Guerra, Jess Geary and Sophie Robertson, who replaced Geary at wing attack for one quarter, were an amazing group of defenders to play alongside.
“The minute you look like you are starting to drop your head they are there getting you focused back on the game,” she said.
“We really support one another, so it’s a real team, effort down there.
“Defence is often quite a thankless position to play, so working with girls like that just makes it really worthwhile – it’s awesome.”
At the other end of the court, Dupuy finished as the game’s leading goal scorer with 30, including hauls of 10 in the second quarter and nine in the last.
White Hills was not without its own potent scoring option, with Shannyn Keely finishing with 28 goals, including eight in a fast-paced opening term.
Midcourters Danielle Wee-Hee and Bronte Deary were other fine contributors for the Demons, who were exceptionally led by their class centre Bowles.
The grand final win squared the ledger between the Grasshoppers and Demons over the last two seasons at four wins apiece.
Colbinabbin’s now dual premiership coach predicted there was still plenty more thrilling encounters to play out in what had developed into a gripping and dramatic rivalry.
“White Hills are just such a good team and they gel really well together,” Cobbledick said.
“They play some really strong netball – I can see plenty of good tussles into the future.”
Beaten but unbowed, White Hills coach Nadine Anderson praised her players’ brave effort and fighting spirit.
“That last half of the third quarter we just started to miss some goals and when it’s a one goal difference (at three quarter time) that can mean the difference between winning and losing,” she said.
“But we continued to fight – I’m very proud of our group.
“They’re an amazing group. They have an amazing work ethic and there is a great culture at our club, so we will just keep working hard and building on that.
“But congratulations to Colbinabbin, they have some great players. I think we will have many more top battles with them in the years ahead.
“Hopefully we can continue to grow and get better, like they have, and beat them one day.”
Anderson declared Bowles as her side’s standout player in an even team performance.
“You don’t stay with Colbo if everyone doesn’t play their role,” she said.
The Demons were chasing a fourth premiership for the day, following big wins in the A-reserve and B-grade and a 10-goal B-reserve win.
Colbinabbin finished one from three, with its 17-and-under and 15-and-under teams losing by six and four goals respectively to Elmore and Lockington-Bamawm United.
Colbinabbin’s premiership line-up comprised Louise Dupuy (goal shooter), Liz Cobbledick (goal attack), Jess Geary (wing attack), Emma Eggleston (centre), Holly Guerra (wing defence), Brydie Lawford (goal defence), Kate Chirnside (goal keeper), Sophie Robertson, Annie Cobbledick and Kristen Moroney (subs).