FOR the third-straight season, Colbinabbin will battle White Hills in the HDFNL A-grade netball grand final.
The Grasshoppers won their way through to a seventh consecutive premiership decider after a convincing 25 goal preliminary final win against Mount Pleasant on Saturday, on the Blues’ home court at Toolleen.
Their win was rarely in doubt from the moment powerful goal shooter Lou Dupuy sunk the opening six goals of the match to give her a side a handy buffer.
By the time the Blues youngster Paris Bickley confidently slotted her team’s first goal, the margin was already seven goals.
The Blues would trail by 11 goals at quarter time, 15 at half time, 23 at three quarter time and by just three more at game’s end.
To their credit, the Blues never threw the towel in and were able to produce their best netball for the game in the final quarter.
But the damage had been done earlier, with a relentless and well-drilled Grasshoppers making a statement that they are not done with their premiership-winning streak.
Colbinabbin will be chasing a fourth-straight premiership when it meets arch-rival White Hills at Huntly next weekend.
The Grasshoppers had to contend with some injuries, with class centre Olivia McEvoy exiting the court during the first quarter after she sustained a knock to the head, and Dupuy heading to the sidelines late in the third quarter with a leg complaint, but not before contributing an influential 34 goals.
McEvoy returned to the court in the third quarter at goal attack and played out the last at goal shooter.
Instead of hindering the Grasshoppers, those injuries only served to highlight the reigning premiers’ considerable depth, with centre Georgia Rodger, Tylah Marchbank and Alexandra Nixon all stepping in to make strong contributions.
Grasshoppers coach Liz Cobbledick, who did not play due to a calf injury, could not have been more impressed by her team’s performance.
“Like last week we were really focused on coming out and playing strong in the first quarter and we did that,” she said.
“To get the first eight goals on the board was excellent and from there it was very hard for Mounts to work their way back into the game.
“There were some patches where it wasn’t pretty and we didn’t execute our plays as well as we would have liked, but I think when it rains and the conditions were ordinary, I’m happy to come away with a 25 goal win.
“Having players like Georgia, Tylah and Allie being able to come in is a real luxury, but we’ve spoken about not relying on those changes and the seven who are out there giving their 100 per cent.”
There were some patches where it wasn’t pretty and we didn’t execute our plays as well as we would have liked, but I’m happy to come away with a 25 goal win.Liz Cobbledick
The Grasshoppers got great service again in defence from their experienced trio of dual league medallist Brydie Lawford, Kate Chirnside and Holly Guerra.
In her third year as playing coach, Cobbledick was naturally rapt to get another crack at a premiership and White Hills, which defeated the Grasshoppers by six goals in last weekend’s semi-final.
“We are pretty familiar with each other’s style of play now and like anytime we play them, it will come down to who puts it out there best on the day,” she said.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Mount Pleasant, which was hit harder than most by injuries through the year, but still finished one spot higher than last year in the minor round season and managed a second-straight preliminary final berth.
“It was disappointing because we didn’t play well, but credit to Colbinabbin, they are a very good netball side,” coach Belinda Pinner said.
“But to not play well was frustrating. We had possession straight away and threw it away, and our attack struggled to get the ball into the circle and struggled to convert.”
Despite a fourth loss this season to the Grasshoppers, Pinner drew plenty of positives from the game and season overall.
“We’re a young side and hopefully we’ll get the majority of these girls back,” she said.
“Clearly we have got a lot to work on and one of the main things is consistency.
“When we play well we can push them, but we have to get that consistency into our game.
“But we’re pretty happy to finish third and make another prelim.”
Regardless of their A-grade loss, the Blues will be a part of grand final day, with their A-reserve and B-reserve teams winning through on Saturday.
The Blues won a thrilling A-reserve encounter against North Bendigo, which rallied late in the game from nine goals down to get within four, while their B-reserve team won another nail-biter by three, also against the Bulldogs.
We’re a young side and hopefully we’ll get the majority of these girls back (next season).Belinda Pinner
White Hills will play in all four senior grand finals and also the under-15s against Colbinabbin.
The Grasshoppers will meet Elmore in the under-17s, with the Bloods looking for back-to-back flags.