Bendigo Thunder roars to inaugural Northern Country Women's League premiership win

BENDIGO Thunder has ended the Northern Country Women’s League season as it started – with a dominant performance against Benalla Saints.

The Thunder thrashed the Saints by 93 points in Sunday’s grand final at Weeroona Oval to claim the inaugural league premiership.

It was the third time this season the Thunder had beaten the Saints, who were their opponent in round one and again in the second semi-final a fortnight ago.

The win capped a remarkable season for the Thunder, which was rarely behind on the scoreboard all season.

Their only blemish was being stripped of the points following a round three win over Kyneton for playing an unregistered player.

Thunder coach Alan Last paid tribute to his “special group” of players, whose ranks included a few who were part of the club’s senior grand final loss in 2016.

“It’s all quite surreal to be honest,” he said.

“I akin myself to being in charge of a very responsible team – a very good team – but they had to be responsible right to the end.

“They were the best team and they have done everything I have asked of them all season and they have finished off strong again, as they have all season.

“They play with a lot of passion – they’re just a very special group.

“Our whole season was something out of a box, it was just unbelievable.

“Right from the word go they kept improving and played for each other all year.”

The Thunder were always in control of the contest, from the moment livewire Molly Giggins slotted her team’s opening goal two and a half minutes in the game.

It was Giggins again who booted the Thunder’s second goal seven minutes later to extend the lead to 15 points.

A snap from skipper Erin Ross and a follow up goal from Tarsha Graham helped the Thunder to a 30 point break at quarter time.

Any chance of a Saints revival was quickly doused in the second quarter, with Giggins, who topped all Thunder players in the league best and fairest count during the week, kicking three goals for the term, to have the Thunder fully in charge.

Goals apiece to Ross, who kicked four for the day in a lively effort at full forward, and Graham helped the Thunder to a 61 point lead at the main break.

Erin Ross boots a goal

The Thunder wasted little time in reasserting their authority in the third quarter, with Paige Conder adding a goal in the opening minute, before setting up Jaime Sawers for the first of her two goals for the quarter.

It took the Saints nearly seven minutes into the final quarter to register their first goal through Natalie Pritchard.

But another goal to Ross from a set shot and Conder’s second of the day put the lid on an emphatic 15.12 (102) to 1.3 (9) victory.

Giggins capped a best-on-ground performance for the Thunder with five goals.

They had other star performers in Paige Conder, Rochelle Daley, ruck Chloe Vella, Sophie Maddock, full back Bobbie-Lee Keene, Kate Hare and Tarsha Graham.

For Benalla, Kylie Relf won the best-on-ground medal, as judged by the umpires, for a strong game as a rebounding defender, while Brittany Button and Elly Ploegmakers worked hard throughout the four quarters.

Coach Last paid credit to Benalla for fighting the game out.

“At the start of the third quarter we had some really good passages of play, but they took the ball off us time and time again,” he said.

“They are a very good team; they have a bright future.”

The grand final was officiated by a full-female contingent, led by field umpires Bronte and Adelaide Annand, who did a great job.