BRIDGEWATER has mastered atrocious conditions and an experienced Calivil United to claim its first Loddon Valley league A-grade netball premiership in seven years.
A spirited and tight-knit Mean Machine, led by a standout performance from their sharpshooter Olivia Treloar, defeated the Demons 39-32 on their home court at Bridgewater.
It was the Mean Machine’s first A-grade flag since 2011 and added to their B-grade premiership triumph earlier in the day.
The win was their third in four games this season against Calivil United, but reversed a second semi-final loss to the Demons a fortnight earlier.
Bridgewater came out firing and scored the first five goals of the game, a margin the Demons were never fully able to reel in.
After they trailed by nine goals at half time, Calivil United worked their way back into the contest with a 12-6 third quarter, and were behind by just three goals headed into the final term.
The Demons were able to get as close as two goals early in the final stanza, but with league best and fairest winner Jessey Wilson in control in the midcourt, and Meg Allen, Ash Donnan and Anita Dorrington holding firm at the defensive end, the Mean Machine were able to regain the ascendancy and pull away for a stirring seven goal win.
It was an emotional win for first-year Mean Machine coach Claudia Powell, who was forced to watch from the sidelines this season, as her young team set themselves up for a crack at a premiership with a 13-2-1 minor season and two previous finals wins.
Powell said she could not have been any prouder of the seven girls who took the court on Saturday, and had combined brilliantly all season.
“The conditions were ridiculous to start with,” she said in reference to the driving rain and hail which marred a much-anticipated opening to the game.
“We started the game really well, but they started to pull it back a bit in the second quarter and it remained a really good contest into the last (quarter).
“But they just kept their cool in the last quarter and really rose to the challenge.
Powell said she had never doubted her side’s ability to hang tough as the Demons challenged.
“I have full belief they can play great netball …. and as a team,” she said.
“Olivia Treloar was amazing, especially in the last quarter – she stepped up out of sight.
“Our defence, Meg and Ash played great games, and Leah Sartori at wing attack played a ripping game as well.
“Calivil too were really tough all day, they were really hard at the ball, which made for a great grand final.”
The premiership win was the first as either a coach or a player for Powell, who joined the Mean Machine at the start of this year from BFNL club Strathfieldsaye.
Former Storm players in the line-up included wing defence Anita Dorrington, goal attack Emily East (originally Bridgewater) and Wilson, who capped an outstanding year in the LVFNL, punctuated by a win in the league best and fairest vote count.
The 22-year-old midcourter and Mean Machine captain believed the lousy conditions had played in her team’s favour.
“They like to play quick and hard and they certainly slowed them down,” Wilson said.
“Our start again was awesome (and) that was our goal.
“Building up that good lead was always going to hold us in good stead for the rest of the game.
“We always knew they’d come back, but we held our lead and never dropped it. We persevered and kept our composure.
“That lead did get down to two (goals) – we were up by nine – but none of us girls got frazzled or lost our heads, we kept clawing back at them.”
Wilson was eager to ensure much of the credit for the premiership went the way of her coach.
“It’s been a great out here at Bridgewater and she’s made that happen,” she said.
“This (premiership win) was all for her.”
Calivil United joint coach Karen Pascoe was gracious in defeat.
“It’s not what we were hoping for, but credit to Bridgewater, they played really well and were the better team on the day,” she said.
“Bridgewater got a really good start, which we were hoping to stop, but we weren’t able to do that. We were on the back foot from the get go.
“We knew they were going to start fast, but we weren’t able to do much about it.
“Their first quarter was very strong and that was where we let ourselves down.”
The Demons had impressive performers in goal attack Christie Rogers and wing defence Lauren Rogers, while Cassie-Anne Penno worked hard in centre for the duration of the match.
Pascoe praised the composure and accuracy of rival goal shooter Treloar as pivotal to the outcome.
The Demons were without their joint coach Teigan Redwood, who injured her Achilles in the qualifying final win against Bridgewater and missed the Demons’ next two finals.
“That didn’t help at all – she was very unfortunate to miss out,” Pascoe said.
“She would have made a massive difference with her tenacity and natural skill.
“She would have made it a bit harder for Olivia in the goal ring, but I don’t think our defenders could have done much more, she just shot well to win them the game.”
Ten of Treloar’s game-high 29 goals came in the final quarter, following hauls of eight, seven and four in the first three quarters.
Calivil United’s were spread more evenly with Kellie Brunker ending with 17 and Christie Rogers 15.
Best on court Treloar said she was just satisfied to play her role in a great team win.
“I was getting a bit worried there for a while when they came back, but somehow in that last quarter we kept going and were able to finish it off,” she said.