IT’S the grand final match-up most expected and rarely looked in doubt of eventuating.
But it’s a premiership decider that promises to be every bit as epic as the last year’s when White Hills and Colbinabbin go head-to-head for the third-straight year in the HDFNL A-grade grand final.
Just three goals split the teams on grand final day last season, with Colbinabbin sealing the third in a three-peat of premiership triumphs.
The nail-biting finish was indicative of the intense, but friendly and respectful rivalry enjoyed by the perennial netball powerhouses, which has continued into this season.
The clubs have met three times this season, with the Demons eking out a 2-1 advantage, boosted by their six goal semi-final win a fortnight ago.
In total, they have played 11 times in the last three seasons, with White Hills again enjoying a slender 6-5 margin.
Unfortunately for the Demons, two of the losses have fallen on grand final day.
It’s a trend first-year Demons coach Lauren Bowles is confident her team can reverse on Saturday.
“We’ve had such a great season; even off the court the girls get along so well and to play Colbo for a third year running is certainly interesting,” she said.
“There that’s rivalry – a real friendly rivalry – but it’s anyone’s game.
“Both sides have such experience and great skill, so it will likely come down to who can contain their nerves best and execute their game plan best.”
The Demons have benefited from some tweaks in personnel from last season, most notably the inclusion of powerhouse goal shooter Ash Gilmore.
Bowles said Gilmore, who arrived at club with a basketball background, had given the Demons their first genuine tall under the goal ring during her time at the club.
Both sides have such experience and great skill, so it will likely come down to who can contain their nerves best and execute their game plan best.Lauren Bowles
“Being tall isn’t everything, but she is a target and a great target, and she is easy to feed the ball into,” she said.
“And she’s strong – her holding is excellent.
“She’s still only learning the game, so I can only imagine that next year she’ll be even better.
“Her teaming with Rhi Moresi this year has been superb – those two are shooting at 80 per cent every game. If our goalers are doing that, we are in every game with a big chance.
Scoring has been no concern this season for the Demons, whose average of 66.8 goals per game is easily the league’s best.
The emergence of Gilmore has allowed Dannielle Sawyer to return to her preferred defensive post, to form a strong combination with star goal keeper Anna Grace Close.
That duo will be tested by the pairing of Grasshoppers coach Liz Cobbledick and Dupuy, who like many of her team-mates, has saved plenty of her best performances for grand final day.
Dupuy, the coach of the first of Colbinabbin’s three-consecutive premierships, was best on court in the 2016 triumph with an imposing 49 goals from fewer than 55 shots.
With Jess Geary making a late return to the line-up and getting plenty of game-time through the finals series, midcourter Georgia Rodger returning last week after missing the semi-final and Cobbledick expected to be back from injury, the two-time premiership coach was confident things were falling into place for her side.
“I’m really happy with where we are sitting at this stage of the season, it will all come down to how we execute things on Saturday,” she said.
“The girls really want to win a grand final. A couple of our newer girls Georgia Rodger and Tylah Marchbank haven’t won a senior grand final before, so they are as enthusiastic as anyone to get out there and play well.
“I’m sure we have what it takes, but White Hills are going to be tough.
“We’ve spoken about them playing really polished netball and they move the ball very efficiently, so I think things will just come down to the day.”
Cobbledick said talk of a four-peat had been virtually non-existent, with the Grasshoppers’ focus set firmly on Saturday and not the past.
The dual premiership coach believed the versatility of the likes of Rodger, Olivia McEvoy and Holly Guerra would hold them in good stead.
“We’re pretty familiar with their players and what they do, but I think we have a few different combinations we can use,” she said.
“I like that we’ve had the opportunity to play a few more games of netball in the last month – I think two weeks off is a long time in netball.
“Hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”
We’re pretty familiar with their players and what they do, but I think we have a few different combinations we can use.Liz Cobbledick