INGLEWOOD’S netball season might have got off to a rocky start, but the Blues will have plenty of reasons for cheer on Loddon Valley grand final day this Saturday.
The Blues, who were without an A-grade team this season due to a shortage of sufficient calibre players, have much cause for future optimism, with both their junior sides – 17-and-under and 15-and-under – playing off in grand finals.
They will be coached by seasoned coach and club stalwart Vicky Tierney, who could just be the busiest person involved at Bridgewater.
She will also coach the club’s C-grade team into a grand final against Mitiamo.
That will require a remarkable balancing act, with the C-grade and 17-and-under premiership deciders scheduled for the same starting time on adjacent courts.
While Tierney has proven to be a first-class problem solver in her years in netball, especially in recent times at Inglewood, the scheduling conflict has her stumped.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do yet,” Tierney said, before she insisted having three teams in grand finals on the one day was a problem any coach would gladly take on.
The Blues’ ascension to under-age grand finalists would be no surprise to those who have followed the progress of the coach and her teams.
Tierney coached the 17-and under team to a premiership in 2016 against Bears Lagoon-Serpentine and third place in 2017.
It followed just one win and a last place finish the previous year.
The 15-and unders have followed a similar trajectory.
In 2016, the team won just two games and finished last.
A year later in Tierney’s first season as coach the girls won eight games and finished fifth, while this year they won 13 and are grand finalists against Maiden Gully YCW.
A modest Tierney credited the hard work of her girls for the turnaround in performance.
“They are a good bunch of kids,” she said.
“We have one girl who has come up from Bendigo, Ava Broderick, who is 11. She is amazing.
“It will be a huge day for Inglewood – and partly because we struggle to get netballers.
“It’s been difficult without an A-grade side, but we have five under-17s, who will go up next season.
“Not all of them will go to A-grade, but we think we’ve got our structure right by building with the juniors.
“One of our minis teams, of which we have two, didn’t get beaten this year, so it’s got to filter through to seniors eventually.”
The club is hunting high and low for a new A-grade coach and hopes to entice someone with BFNL A-grade or A-reserve experience and perhaps not getting as much court time as they would like.
“And maybe with three or four friends who would come along … I’m sure someone like that would be a really strong Loddon Valley player,” she said.
We think we’ve got our structure right by building with the juniors.Vicky Tierney
Tierney estimates the club already has three A-graders already ready to go for next season.
It’s been an exciting week for not just the coach, but the players and town of Inglewood.
Holly Martin, who will captain the 15-and-under team, said the season had brought ‘a few up and downs’, but the team was confident of success after bouncing back from a qualifying final loss against Pyramid Hill to defeat Bridgewater and the Bulldogs to advance to the grand final.
“The team has improved a lot since Vicky started coaching us,” the goal shooter said.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but I think us girls will get through it well.
“It’s our first (15-and-under grand final) for a long time – if we happen to lose we just want to play well - a win will be a bonus.”
The 17-and-under team has been the club’s shining light in recent times, with a premiership in 2016 and a preliminary final loss last season.
Vice-captain Macey Martin was expecting a tough challenge against a Calivil United team, which defeated the Blues a fortnight ago by eight goals.
“We lost one and won one during the season against Calivil, but lost again to them in the semi-final,” she said.
“We beat YCW last week, which gives us some confidence, but we know it will be tough.
“We just need to play a solid four quarters and never give in.”