REIGNING premiers Sandhurst has sent an early and ominous warning to its BFNL netball rivals with a powerful 38-goal victory over Strathfieldsaye at the QEO on Friday night.
The Dragons - led by a standout game in defence by Carly Van Den Heuvel - shrugged off a tough early challenge from the Storm to wrest control of the contest in the second quarter.
They were at their most devastating in the final quarter, adding 23 goals to the Storm's five on their way to a 72-34 victory.
It was a performance that pleased dual premiership coaches Tamara Gilchrist and Heather Oliver and sent a signal to the rest of the competition that the Dragons would be hard to counter in their quest for three-straight premierships.
Gilchrist acknowledged the importance of early wins in an increasingly tough A-grade competition, as the Dragons became the first team to reach 2-0.
"It is always good to get the early ones, you don't want to worry too much about percentages and points at the end of the year if you can help it," she said.
Thrilled to walk away with a convincing win, Gilchrist paid credit to the Storm for a spirited battle.
"It was a really good first quarter, quite tough. Strath are going to be really competitive this year, they have some great players and a lot to work with," she said.
"Half way through the second quarter our girls really took it up a notch and settled into our game and what we do well.
"From there we were able to kick away."
The Dragons can only strengthened by the inclusion of dual premiership defender Imogen Sexton, who missed the game.
Her place at goal defence was taken by Sophie Shoebridge, who performed brilliantly alongside goal keeper Van Den Heuvel, who was the pick of the Dragons players on a night where all players executed their roles with class and precision.
"We have a lot of depth in our defence - Carly Van Den Heuvel at goal keeper was outstanding," Gilchrist said.
"Anyone watching the game will tell you she was amazing, just reading the ball and intercepting constantly.
"And Erica Dalrymple-Monro at wing defence was fantastic too. Her and Brianna are really teaming up well and bringing out the best in each other.
"It was quite hard to pick a best on court and single out players when you have won by 30 (plus) goals and everyone has done all the team things."
The Dragons got great service at the attacking end of the court from Heather Oliver, who continues to excel in her two games back after missing last year's final series.
Sandhurst will look to continue its undefeated start to the season next Saturday against South Bendigo, which claimed a draw against Eaglehawk on Good Friday to get its first two points of the season.
Meanwhile, Gisborne opened its 2019 campaign with a solid win against big round one winners Kyneton.
The Bulldogs won 54-41 at Gardiner Reserve after leading by just one goal at half-time.
Golden Square and Kangaroo Flat complete the round on Saturday at Wade Street.
WHITE Hills has marked star defender Dannielle Sawyer's 350th club game with a convincing win over Mount Pleasant at Scott Street on Friday night.
The reigning premiers never looked back after scoring six of the game's first seven goals to run out 70-26 winners.
The Demons restricted the Blues to just four goals in the second quarter to build up a match-winning 25 goal lead at the main break and never took their foot off the pedal.
Ashley Gilmore (50 goals) and Rhian Moresi (20) were in brilliant touch in the goal circle for the Demons, who moved to 2-0.
Demons coach Lauren Bowles said she was rapt to score a big win on such an important occasion for the club and one of its greats.
"It was special for Sawyer's 350th and she had a great game ... she's just an absolute legend to have at the club," she said.
"We are so lucky, she does so much off and on the court and really deserves this big celebration and all the well-wishes that have come her way this week.
"To have two wins on the board is great, but in saying that we have put some really good things into place the last two weeks in preparation fora tough game next week against North Bendigo."
The Demons remarkable versatility was on show with only Gilmore and Moresi playing all four quarters in the one position.
"I think that versatility is important. Sometimes you like to rest on your laurels a little bit with just seven players," Bowles said.
"But knowing we won that premiership last year and people now know what combinations work best for us, it's vital we focus on varied combinations to keep our opponents guessing."
The Blues used nine players in a variety of positions as they tried to stem the Demons, but slip to 1-1 ahead of a bye.
Colbinabbin coach Georgia Rodger says her side still has plenty of things to work on despite emerging with a 30-plus goal win over a less than full-strength Lockington Bamawm United.
It was an unusual preparation for the game for both sides, with the Cats signalling their intention to forfeit the game during the week due to injuries and unavailabilities, before reconsidering.
The Cats kept pace with the Grasshoppers during an even first quarter, before the home side took control of the contest to score a second big win to start the season after the previous weekend's victory over Elmore.
The Grasshoppers were brilliantly led by sisters Jess Geary in the goal circle and Carly Ladson.
They ended the match with a pair of sisters at both ends of the court in the final quarter, with Geary and Ladson at one end and Jacqui Dupuy joining Louise at the other end.
Coach Rodger was pleased to be able to play a few different rotations in the warm conditions.
"It was a bit of a slog, but to get 60 goals on the board was real impressive considering it was the first time the two goalers had played together this season," she said.
"We had Jess Geary back in the side and she was dynamic. She's super-fit and it was great to have her back.
"Her and Carly in goals in the last quarter was just amazing to watch.
"It was good to walk away with a good win, but we do have a lot to work on - there's definitely some key takeaways in how we are meshing and how we consolidate our line-up."
In Saturday's games, Huntly hosts Elmore, while Leitchville-Gunbower meets North Bendigo at Leitchville.
MAIDEN Gully YCW has opened its account in season 2019 of Loddon Valley netball after a hard-fought victory over Marong at Marist College.
The Eagles, who started the season with losses to Mitiamo and Bridgewater, rebounded strongly to claim a 60-51 over the Panthers.
Marong had been hoping to add to their round one win against Inglewood, but fell nine goals short despite a gallant effort.
The Eagles will have a bye next week.
In Saturday's games, Newbridge returns to action after a bye for a showdown against undefeated Mitiamo, Calivil United (1-1) meets Bears Lagoon-Serpentine (1-0), and Inglewood (0-2) hosts undefeated Bridgewater.
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