THE reigning premiers were challenged, but again Sandhurst has shown why it has been the dominant team of the past two BFNL A-grade netball seasons.
As Kangaroo Flat has done better than most in recent times, the Roos took the challenge right up to the Dragons, who were buoyed by the return to the court of their versatile star and joint coach Heather Oliver, in their Saturday night season opener.
But after a tight first half, Sandhurst was able to wrest control of the contest in the third quarter - or the 'premiership quarter' as it is often referred - to win 53-48.
It was a result that pointed to a bright season ahead for both clubs, with Sandhurst not losing any of its trademark hunger and intensity as it chases down a third-consecutive title.
For Kangaroo Flat and its second-year coach Jayden Cowling, a five-goal loss to the competition benchmark represents a solid foundation on which to build a succesful season.
"We were pretty happy .... we were up by two at half time, but the third quarter blew it out a bit," he said.
"At the end of the day it's only the first game. We had no real expectations to go out and beat the reigning premiers, but we were keen to work on the things we did in pre-season and hopefully back up with a win next week."
"Heather Oliver really stepped up their attack end, she didn't miss in the goal circle."
Cowling nominated centre Chelsea Sartori as his side's best, ahead of new recruit, former Charlton and Pyramid Hill premiership defender Kate Burton.
"Kate just got back from overseas this week and decided yesterday she was keen to play," he said.
"For her first game in about a year and a half, it was a really good one."
A strong win for Sandhurst was helped by strong games from defender Imogen Sexton, who came up with several key intercepts during the crucial third quarter, and midcourt ace Meg Williams.
Meanwhile, Maryborough has won a key opening round battle against South Bendigo, in a clash of two teams with definite designs on taking a leap into the top five in 2019.
Magpies coach Deb Symes sung the praises of her team, which was bolstered by the inclusion of quality defender Eliza Roughead.
"I really thought going into the game that we could take a step up from last year, I felt the girls had become more confident," she said.
"They looked at home. It was a great team effort, everything just flowed.
"It's a pretty similar team to last year, although we did have that inclusion of Eliza, who went very well in goal defence.
"She has been playing football, but because of her job she can't train for footy and is giving us a few games of netball now.
"She really added to the team."
A morale-boosting win was underpinned by strong contributions across the court, with Jordan Macilwain and Keely Hare deadly accurate in goals, Ella and Maggie Tranter in excellent touch in centre, and wing defence Alicia Cassidy providing some poise and class.
"Alicia was her amazing usual self on the wing .... she's an amazing team player," Symes said.
"I could count about one error from her in four quarters.
"Last year, we would play that good first half and then drop off or let it slip, but today we really stepped up after half time and our third quarter was our best."
The Bloods entered the match without two of their three major recruits, with Chloe Langley away at the national under-17 championships and Danielle O'Toole on Bendigo Braves duty.
In other games, Kyneton celebrated its return to A-grade in style with a convincing and eye-opening 59-19 win over Golden Square, while Strathfieldsaye showed much improvement in a 55-40 loss to Eaglehawk at home.
The Tigers, who have equalled the number of wins they had in their last season in A-grade in 2017 in just one week, will be the first 2019 opponent for Gisborne, which had the bye in round one.
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