WEDDERBURN has returned to the summit of the North Central Netball Association after defeating Sea Lake Nandaly Tigers in Saturday’s A-grade grand final at Boort.
A year after relinquishing the crown in a one-goal extra-time thriller against Charlton, the Redbacks bounced back with a hard-fought 47-42 victory.
It was the Redbacks’ seventh flag win in eight years.
They were forced to dig deep throughout a high-calibre premiership decider by a determined Tigers, who led by one goal at quarter time.
The Redbacks led by three goals at half time and four goals at the final break and were able to extend their league to six goals in the final quarter.
But the Tigers were able to claw their way back to within two goals in the closing minutes, before the Redbacks steadied to push the final margin out to five goals.
Entering the grand final with three wins over the Tigers this season – each by more than 15 goals – Redbacks joint coach Sophie Taylor said her team had been given an almighty fright.
“It was a lot closer than we would have liked, but Sea Lake have been really good competition all year,” she said.
“It was probably not all that of a surprise it was that close.
“I like that last bit of a grand final when you know you’ve won, but there was none of that today.”
In a game in which all 15 players who took the court made valued contributions, Redbacks goal attack Meg Lockhart shone brightest to be voted best on court.
Lockhart, who celebrated her birthday on grand final day, had plenty of competition for the honour from life-long friend and long-time defensive teammate Maddison Holt.
Lockhart was afforded high-praise from the Redbacks other coach Shelley DeAraugo, who has been part of all seven premierships since 2010.
“She was excellent, really steady and shot brilliantly from everywhere,” she said.
“She just continues to drive all game – she is always an option.”
Joint Tigers coach Jodi Cox said while naturally disappointed to lose, she was proud of her players efforts in taking the challenge right up to the Redbacks.
“We knew coming into it that Wedderburn were a class act, so we had to bring the fight today and we did,” she said.
“They really showed us up in the second semi, so I am really proud of everyone for not letting it slip away.
“And we did have our chance to pinch it, but they just stepped it up another level and beat us by five.”
Goal attack and vice-captain Abby Walklate and captain Ash Roberts at goal defence were standouts for the Tigers.
Cox also praised the game of best on court Lockhart for the Redbacks.
“She’s all class – playing them for the first time last year, I just love the way both those sisters (Nikki) go about their game,” she said.
“They’re clean on the court, fast and really read off each other so well.
“They’re so skilful and they bring out the best in the rest of their teammates.”