WHITE Hills has laid the demons of two past grand final defeats to Colbinabbin to rest by claiming a stirring first HDFNL A-grade premiership since 2010.
The Demons were able to convert a season of dominance into a thrilling two goal win.
As expected from a defending champion chasing its fourth-consecutive premiership, Colbinabbin did not let go without a fight, with the Grasshoppers at least twice in the dying minutes clawing their way to within one goal, after trailing by four earlier in the quarter.
But the determined Demons, led by a standout performance from best on court Rhian Moresi, were able to hold their nerve and composure to score a 48-46 win.
It was a sweet victory for first-year coach Lauren Bowles and her team after consecutive grand final losses against the Grasshoppers in 2016 and 17, including another epic encounter by three goals last season.
The class midcourter, who enjoyed a colossal battle in centre, first against Olivia McEvoy and later Tylah Marchbank, was effusive in her praise post-match for the Demons’ long-standing rival.
“Colbinabbin has set the benchmark in this league and we’ve worked so hard over the last few years to match them,” she said.
“Today we were able to beat them and that is something we haven’t been able to do in a grand final for a couple of years.
“Being the first time we’ve won an A-grade premiership at White Hills since 2010 makes it very special.”
As both coaches predicted during the week, there would be only a few goals in it. And that was how it unfolded throughout the match.
Colbinabbin had the slight better of the first quarter and led 13-12 at quarter time.
Star Grasshoppers goal shooter Lou Dupuy was instrumental in the strong opening – as she was all match – and scored 11 goals.
At the other end of the court Ash Gilmore made life difficult for the reigning premiers and slotted 10 goals of her own.
Being the first time we’ve won an A-grade premiership at White Hills since 2010 makes it very special.Premiership coach Lauren Bowles
The Grasshoppers were able to stretch their lead to three goals at one point, before Gilmore and Moresi combined for three of the last four goals of the quarter to have the game back on even terms at 24-all at half time.
Despite racing to a four goal lead during the third quarter, White Hills held just a one goal margin at three quarter time.
Urged on by a large and vocal crowd, players from both sides gave it their absolute all in a frenetic final quarter, with the Demons able to hold a two to three goal margin throughout to cap a remarkable day at Huntly during which all four of the club’s senior netball teams won premierships.
Bowles said she always had belief the Demons could withstand the pressure in a tense second half.
“We were expecting it,” she said.
“But we just focused on each 15 minutes, and once we pegged that lead back and went back to some of our basics, that was what won us the game.
“We were steady under pressure – two goals is anyone game really.
“I think both teams would have been happy with the players they put out there and the performance they got. I know I am.
“Sometimes in a grand final, you don’t get the best quality game because there is so much pressure and so much riding on it, but I couldn’t fault any player’s performance.
“Everyone rose to the occasion.”
Bowles fully agreed with the choice of goal attack Moresi as the best on court medal winner.
“She worked hard all day and was so accurate and steady,” she said.
“She’s had a great season – and in everything – football, netball.”
The Demons were brilliantly led on-court by their captain Danielle Wee-Hee.
For Bowles, who joined the Demons in 2016 from Kangaroo Flat, the premiership was her first as player for eight years.
It was also the first in eight years for goal defence Dannielle Sawyer, who was the only player in Saturday’s line-up to have played in the club’s last A-grade flag in 2010.
For some in red and black, it was their first flag in A-grade, and for others their first in any grade of netball.
The win capped a dominant season in which the Demons lost just one game during the minor round season, against their grand final opponent.
For Colbinabbin, there was disappointment in coming so close to completing a rare four-peat.
Coach Liz Cobbledick, who played just a handful of minutes in the third quarter before succumbing to the calf injury which had sidelined her in the Grasshoppers’ two previous finals, was nevertheless proud of her players’ effort.
“They definitely wore their hearts on their sleeves and didn’t give up,” she said.
“There were a few little things that cost us, but we won’t dwell on them – credit to White Hills, they played really well and have worked hard on being focused and determined to win.
“We gave it everything we had, it just wasn’t our day. We still walk away with our heads held high and we’ll now turn our focus to what we can do next year.”
The Grasshoppers had excellent contributors in McEvoy, who shifted into the goal ring after half time, wing defence Holly Guerra and wing attack Georgia Rodger, while the youngest player on court Mardi Ryan impressed at goal attack in her two quarters on court in the opening half.
“Mardi did really well – the only reason we made some changes was so I could test out my calf, but I just wasn’t comfortable,” Cobbledick said.
“And we wanted to try a few different combinations and get some fresh legs in there.
“It almost worked (the fresh legs), but we just couldn’t quite get over the line.”