NORTH Central’s 17-and-under netball squad has come agonisingly close to being crowned the state’s best for the second time in four years.
The squad, coached by South Bendigo A-grade coach and director of coaching Jannelle Hobbs, came up one goal short against Jika in a gripping Netball Victoria State Titles grand final encounter in Shepparton on Sunday afternoon.
Jika was able to reverse an earlier 18-9 tournament loss to North Central to win a dramatic championships decider 16-15.
The margin was 8-7 Jika’s way at half time.
It was a heart-breaking end to the championships for North Central, which went through the qualifying rounds undefeated with 16 wins and a draw, and set up a grand final berth with an 11-8 semi-final win against Gippsland.
Coach Hobbs said her players had
North Central last won the 17-and-under crown in 2015, when the championships were hosted at the Golden City courts in Bendigo.
That squad, coached by Carol Cathcart, included a host of current BFNL A-grade players, led by Sandhurst’s dual premiership star Meg Williams, Eaglehawks’ Abbey Ryan and Elley Lawton, and Kangaroo Flat’s Milly Wicks and Annie Spear.
The 2018 squad was also high on players who made their mark in A-grade this season, including Sandhurst premiership defender Sophie Shoebridge, BFNL Rising Star award winner Bree Heiden (Golden Square) and Ruby Turner (Sandhurst).
Meanwhile, despite a run of six consecutive wins on day two, the 15-and-under squad’s campaign ended just shy of a semi-final berth.
The squad, coached by Betty McCoomb, finished in sixth place with an 11-4-2 record.
North Central did well to overcome a pair of losses to start the weekend, against Jika (14-8) and Two Bays (13-11) and two others on day one to Central Highlands and Elmer, to win seven and draw one of its last eight games.
Underpinning the evenness of the competition, North Central defeated both grand finalists – East Gippsland and Chisholm – during the qualifying rounds, while Two Bays missed a spot in the championships decider despite finishing as minor round premiers with a 15-2 record.
17-and-under results: d Jika 18-9; d Dandenong Valley 13-10; d Central Highlands 19-9; d Murray 17-6; d Elmer 13-11; d Barwon 13-5; Goulburn 15-14; d Henderson 12-10; d East Gippsland 15-5; d North East 13-5; d Western 18-9; d Chisholm 12-4; d Latrobe Valley 18-11; d Sunraysia 15-8; d Wimmera-Mallee 19-9; drew with Two Bays 10-10; d Gippsland 19-12; d Gippsland 11-8 (semi-final); lost to Jika 16-15 (grand final).
15-and-under: lost to Jika 14-8; lost to Two Bays 13-11; d East Gippsland 13-9; d Murray 19-4; drew with Barwon 12-12; lost to Central Highlands 15-11; lost to Elmer 15-8; d Latrobe Valley 17-6; drew with North East 12-12; d Gippsland 14-12; d Goulburn 12-9; d Henderson 10-9; d Sunraysia 12-9; d Western 11-7; d Wimmera-Mallee 13-8; d Dandenong Valley 14-6; d Chisholm 11-10.