Wedderburn's six of the best on North Central Netball Association grand final day

WEDDERBURN will be aiming to convert a 2017 netball season of dominance into a premiership feast on Saturday.

The Redbacks will be represented in all six North Central Netball Association grand finals at Boort Park, including the A-grade premiership decider against Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers at 12.30pm.

It’s not the first time a single club has been so prevalent on grand final day and neither is it Wedderburn’s first.

The Redbacks have now achieved the feat in each of the last three seasons.

With nine teams in total involved in either netball, football or hockey grand final, Redbacks president Sharyn Lockhart said it was shaping as an exciting day for the club and town.

“I guess in terms of netball, we have been successful for a long time,” she said.

“We had a lot of success back in the 60s – we won a lot of A and B-grade premierships back then.

“Then we had a bit of a lull, but we’re back on track and this is the third year in a row we’ve had all six teams in.

“We have never won all six, we’ve won two or three, but having six in is a good start.”

A busy day for the Redbacks faithful will start with the under-13 grand final between Wedderburn and Donald at 9.30am.

This will be followed by the junior B clash against Birchip-Watchem and  junior A match against Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers, before the A-grade squad hits the court for a showdown against the Tigers.

B-grade and C-grade clashes against Donald and Boort respectively follow at 1.45pm and 3pm.

A massive day for the red and black army includes grand final in the women’s and men’s hockey, and reserves football against Wycheproof Narraport.

The Redbacks will enter five of their netball grand finals as favourites following second semi-final wins a fortnight ago.

Junior B will be the exception after it was forced to negotiate a tough preliminary final contest last week against Sea Lake Nandaly.

Lockhart, who is captaining the B-grade team, was guarded about the club’s chances of winning all six netball titles and predicted things would be especially tight in the main game.

“It would be nice, but you just don’t know come grand finals, they’re a different ball game, different umpires,” she said.

“We’ve had a few teams finish on top of the ladder, but you have to finish it off.

“In A-grade, Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers are tough. They’re obviously only in their second year in our league, but have stepped straight in and made a huge impact.

“They made finals in their first year, but obviously not the grand final.

“They’ve got the league best and fairest in their side, Nakia Nunn – she’s a great goaler.”

Wedderburn will be aiming to rebound from a grand final defeat to Charlton last year – a premiership decided by just one goal (53-52) in extra time, after scores were locked on 44 at the end of four quarters.

The Navies’ win broke a remarkable streak of six-straight Redbacks premiership.

Shelley DeAraugo, who together with good friend Sophie Taylor, have led the Redbacks to a so far undefeated season as joint coaches, said the side would not be taking anything for granted on grand final day, despite three good wins over the Tigers this season.

“Sea Lake has certainly been good and their goal shooter won the league best and fairest so she will be key for them,” she said.

“But being undefeated certainly gives us confidence.

“We won by 20 in the semi-final, but most of our games (against the Tigers) this year have been closer than the scoreboard has showed.

“We pulled away in the last quarter (in the semi-final), but if you were watching it and didn’t know the score, you wouldn’t have thought we’d won by that much.”

For a team which boasts an average age in the low-to-mid 20s, the Redbacks have an incredibly settled line-up, and one laden with premiership experience.

Most of this year’s side have been a part of at least four of the six premierships; co-coaches De-Araugo and Taylor, who missed last year’s grand final while overseas, have played in all six.

From last year’s line-up, 2016 coaches Maddison Holt and Meg Lockhart, and Nikki and Emma Lockhart will again suit-up for the Redbacks.

They will be joined by goal keeper Taylor and the returning Laurel Weston.

Missing will be Tara Wingfield and Alisha Pickering, who both had the year off, and Olivia Holbert, who is playing C-grade due to work commitments, while Ella Turnbull and Carly Issac will again be part of the bench.

DeAraugo, who followed footballing husband Ben to Wedderburn a decade ago, said the club prided itself on its local player content and its adherence to fair play.

 “Apart from me, they are all local girls, who have grown up paying juniors in Wedderburn, and come through our seniors,” she said.

“Lots of them have ended up in Bendigo with work or uni, but still travel back.

“It shows how well the club is that everyone wants to keep coming back.

“The club has established a really good culture, lots of really good coaching in the juniors.”

She added any grand final success would reflect on the efforts of the entire club and not individuals.

The club has established a really good culture, lots of really good coaching in the juniors.

Shelley DeAraugo