EIGHT years have passed since White Hills last won an A-grade netball premiership.
It might not seem an exceptionally long premiership drought, especially when others have gone much longer without a flag than the Demons.
But for someone who has committed as much to the White Hills cause over the past 21 years as a player, eight years seems like an eternity for experienced Demons star Dannielle Sawyer.
The class inter-league defender is hoping the Demons’ run of outs will end when they go to battle against old rivals Colbinabbin at Huntly on Saturday.
Sawyer is the sole player from the Demons’ 2010 premiership line-up involved in this year’s grand final.
A flag win would be more than just reward for years of service to her club, HDFNL league and the wider netball community.
It’s an involvement she undertakes with no fuss or fanfare, but with a genuine passion for the game and especially her club.
“I do love it – White Hills is home for me, I’ve pretty much been raised there,” Sawyer said.
“I was treasurer there for 12 years, but stepped away from that two years ago.
“To be honest, it’s just real nice to concentrate on netball and potter around the club.
“I still do stuff and I’m still on the committee and do all the shopping for the canteen, but it’s really nice just to play and umpire.”
Sawyer, who has returned to her preferred defensive post this season after spending much of last season at goal attack, recalls with fondness the Demons’ last A-grade premiership victory, which ironically was won at Colbinabbin against the Grasshoppers.
She described the gap in-between flags, especially back-to-back grand final losses in 2016-17, as frustrating, particularly knowing the Demons have had the players to deliver on more than one occasion.
“I reckon we were missing maybe one key player all those years we lost,” she said.
“The first few years we lost, Mounts had Gabe Richards and Colbinabbin has had Lou Dupuy, that one real tall player.
“North Bendigo too had Rebecca Smith, but we’ve never had that type of player.”
That has changed in 2018 following the astute recruitment of former basketballer Ash Gilmore, who has given the Demons an imposing target under the goal ring and has continued to get stronger as the season has unfolded.
White Hills is home for me, I’ve pretty much been raised there.- Dannielle Sawyer
Only narrowly beaten by three goals in last season’s premiership decider, and with wins in two of their three games this season against the Grasshoppers, Sawyer is convinced the margin between the teams was virtually non-existent.
“We’re a very close-knit group and I think we have a bit more strength down both ends of the court this year,” she said.
“Ash Gilmore adds a bit of height to our goaling.
“I played goals last year and I don’t have that height and neither did Shan Keely – (Ash) adds a lot of depth to our team being athletic and tall.
“We still have Anna-Grace Close in defence and she is a good match for Lou Dupuy, so I definitely think we are in much better shape than the last two years.”
Sawyer, who passed 300 games as a player in 2016 and was an inter-league player earlier this year against Geelong District, hoped plenty of Demons netballers would share in premiership success.
There’s every chance with White Hills also involved in A-reserve, B-grade, B-reserve and under-15 finals.
“There’s a very exciting feeling around the club with so many teams in grand finals,” Sawyer said.
“It’s always great being part of a successful club.”