RHONDA Allan has walked through the entrance of Wycheproof Recreation Reserve literally thousands of time since first becoming associated Wycheproof-Narraport Football Netball Club just over 50 years ago.
On Wednesday- as there has for most of the past two weeks – there was an extra spring in her step as she made her way to the netball courts.
Allan, a member of the Demons’ last A-grade premiership team in 1983, has waited 35 years for her beloved Demons to get another crack at a premiership.
At Charlton tomorrow she gets her chance when the Demons clash with Donald in the North Central Netball Association’s premiership decider.
It’s very much a rags to riches tale.
Success on the netball court has been hard won since Allan and her then team-mates – Marion McIntosh, Ailsa Allen, Cathy Clarke, Valma Sanford, Bev Schmidt, Jan Durie, Bernie Pierce, Jenny Coles and Sharon Gordon – defeated St Arnaud by eight goals at Charlton in ‘83.
The club has not only gone without a flag for 35 years, but until this season has not played senior finals since 2010.
Allan, who is one of only two players from the 1983 premiership still living in Wycheproof, said it went without saying that it had ‘been a long time between drinks’ for the Demons.
“There will be a few tears happening if we do get over the line, it will be pretty emotional for a lot of people,” she said.
“After being belted off the court for many years, especially in the senior netball, it’s going to be something special.
“We did get into a few first semis over the years – the last time was a few years back – but since then we’ve hardly won a game in the A, B and C-grade.
“It’s just great for the team to get there. They have a big game to get through, but it’s just an achievement to be on the court for a grand final. Everyone is so proud of the girls.”
In direct contrast to its football club, which has won 10 flags since 1983, Wycheproof-Narraport has endured an ongoing battle to retain netballers across the past three decades and has long struggled to recruit newcomers.
Once so heavily reliant on its returning contingent of locals, the club’s fortunes changed this season following the signing of new coach Tiarnee Hall (nee Nunn), from Berriwillock, who – after giving birth to her second child last year – was looking for a new challenge.
There will be a few tears happening if we do get over the line, it will be pretty emotional for a lot of people.Rhonda Allan
With her came younger sisters Nakia Nunn, who won the league medal in 2017 as a goal shooter with Sea Lake-Nandaly, and Shaniah, this year’s league B-grade best and fairest.
Across from Dumosa came goal attack Georgia Sheahan, who in past seasons had played the odd game as a fill-in for the Demons; also signed was goal keeper Annie Coobs, a local police officer, stationed at Culgoa.
The Demons pulled off a masterstroke with the recruitment of Stevie Bibby, a former Horsham District League best and fairest.
The daughter of former Demons senior premiership football coach Gerard Bibby and a cousin of the Nunn sisters, Bibby polled a stunning 41 of a possible 48 votes to win the league best and fairest in a canter, 15 votes clear of nearest rival Meg Lockhart, from Wedderburn.
Gun Heathcote District league midcourter Olivia McEvoy, who was one of Colbinabbin’s stars in last weekend’s two goal grand final loss to White Hills, has added some ‘icing on the cake’ for the Demons in six appearances and could again be called on against the Royal Blues.
The remaining midcourt positions are filled by Mackenzie Humphreys, Tessa Coles and Suzanna Fawcett, who were part of last year’s A-grade line-up, which went through the season winless.
What a difference a season makes. The Demons enter the grand final undefeated following a more than 30 goal win over perennial powerhouse Wedderburn in the second semi-final a fortnight ago.
Their grand final opponent are themselves a surprise packet, with Donald knocking over Wedderburn, which has dominated the NCNA with seven of the last eight flag wins, in the preliminary final.
Coach Hall is bracing for a tough battle against the Royal Blues, who are chasing a fairy tale of their own, not having won a premiership since 2006.
“The Donald girls always put up a tough fight – they’ll be the underdogs but have certainly earned their spot in the grand final,” she said.
“We are going to have to play like we have all year, and hopefully get ourselves across the line.”
“Most of the (newcomers) have Wychy connections, while a few of the girls have played here all their life, so it’s real exciting for them to finally get an opportunity to play in a grand final.”
Wycheproof-Narraport and Donald have met twice this season, with the Demons winning 50-30 in round three and 64-33 in round 10.
The Royal Blues are attempting to win the flag from fourth spot.
Hall, whose decision to take on the coaching gig was part motivated by a want to spend more time near her husband Matt, who is employed in Wycheproof and was a key contributor this season in the club’s reserves team, was unaware it had been 35 years without a flag for the Demons when she signed on as coach.
Hall insists it wouldn’t have mattered if she did know before adding she had enjoyed this season as much any of the many pleasurable ones she spent at her former club of Sea Lake-Nandaly.
Allan, who is eager to finally hand over the mantle of being a member of the ‘last’ team to win a premiership for the Demons, could not be more effusive in her praise for the handiwork of the first-year coach.
“Tiarnee and her three sisters coming to the club has really revitalised the club,” she said.
“A few of the girls did a bit of a player drive and had worked on it for 12 or 18 months, trying to get an injection of players into the club and some success, and it’s been overwhelming.
“She’s a very transparent coach – she could be the mayor of Wycheproof by next Monday.
“It’s very refreshing to have some success.”