Gisborne star Maddy Stewart predicts Sandhurst BFNL grand final win

GISBORNE star Maddy Stewart has backed Sandhurst to end its BFNL A-grade premiership drought in Saturday’s grand final.

The Dragons are chasing their first flag since 2007 against Golden Square, after the Bulldogs eliminated Gisborne in last week’s preliminary final.

Asked for her prediction at Sunday’s league presentation night, Stewart, who finished runner-up to Sandhurst’s Heather Oliver in the Betty Thompson Medal vote count, predicted a Dragons victory in a close game.

“I think it will be an awesome game – Square are so strong,” she said.

“Gabe (Richards) is obviously a huge target for them, but if (Sandhurst) can shut her down and stop the ball getting to her.

“Sandhurst is amazing all over the court and their bench players are just as good to come on.”

The Dragons have beaten Golden Square in all three previous meetings this season, including by nine goals in the second semi-final a fortnight ago.

It was another fine season for Stewart, who finished runner-up in the league best and fairest for the second year in a row, this time behind her Melbourne University Lightning teammate Oliver.

The pair polled 33 and 32 votes respectively, with Golden Square’s Richards third on 23.

Stewart was naturally disappointed to have missed a grand final with Gisborne, which ended the home and away season in second place, but lost twice to Golden Square during the finals series.

The Bulldogs scored one finals win – a semi-final victory over reigning premiers Kangaroo Flat.

“We went into the year wanting to win the grand final and to get in there to start with, but unfortunately we haven’t,” Stewart said.

“We got beaten by a better team on the day, so credit to them.”

Stewart said she had never anticipated winning the medal at any stage of Sunday’s exciting vote count and was glad the honour went for a second time to her good friend Oliver.

“Ollie is an amazing player and an even better person and she's had an awesome year," she said.

"She is very worthy winner of the award and I wish her the best of the luck in finals.

"I’d do absolutely anything to be playing there on Saturday instead - I would give all this back in a heartbeat."