SANDHURST will use another big match against Gisborne to sharpen its game ahead of a tilt at a third-straight BFNL 17-and-under premiership.
A well-drilled Dragons defeated fellow flag contenders Golden Square 38-24 on the Bulldogs's home court on Saturday, to notch up their 13th win of the season from 15 games.
It was enough for the Dragons to leapfrog the Bulldogs into second spot on the ladder and give them plenty of confidence ahead of a top of the table clash against last season's grand final rival.
Sandhurst was beaten 34-48 by Gisborne in their earlier season encounter at Gardiner Reserve, but will be stepping out on its home court at the QEO this weekend.
The Dragons have done incredibly well to sit just six points behind the Bulldogs on the ladder, while being affected by player availability most weeks.
It's a situation, which is on the improve, and one that fills 2018 premiership coach Rose Gallagher with plenty of confidence for the weeks ahead.
"If we can get a full complement, we will be just as strong as we have in the past ," she said.
"We just haven't had the opportunity to play and/or train together as a full team for most of the year, with basketball commitments, school camps and overseas trips.
"We're looking forward to getting to train together as one full unit over the next few weeks."
Gallagher praised her players' maturity to withstand a strong challenge from Golden Square in atrocious conditions on Saturday.
"They (Golden Square) played very well the first time round and they played very well on Saturday. We were just fortunate to be able to handle the conditions a bit better," she said.
"It was pretty arctic and the rain was falling. One of the quarters produced just six goals for us to their three, so it was very hard to score goals."
The Dragons will be able to call on plenty of finals experience come finals, with Pip Robertson, Bronte McConnachie, Darcy Lloyd, Tess Keating, Meg McCarthy, and Sahara Rodda, who was best on court in last season's premiership decider, all returning from the 2018 grand final day line-up.
"Sandhurst are very lucky, we have a lovely array of young children coming through that show a lot of growth and skill, which can be seen in our higher grades with girls like Sophie Shoebridge, Ruby Turner, Matisse Perez and Emmie Banfield, who have been through our 17-and-under program in the past," Gallagher said.
In a season in which it has becoming increasingly harder to win games, Gallagher praised the depth of the region's top junior netball competition.
"It's tough, but it's good fun to have those challenges every week, and it would be for the other teams as well," she said.
"You don't know what you are going up against on the day and it's great from a coaching perspective - you really need to know your strengths and the strengths of the the other teams to counteract that."
In other games last weekend, fifth-placed South Bendigo accounted for Kangaroo Flat 47-23, while Strathfieldsaye defeated Castlemaine 65-41.
The Storm meets South Bendigo at Harry Trott Oval this Saturday, while Golden Square hosts Castlemaine, and Maryborough and Kangaroo Flat clash at Princes Park
Eaglehawk has the bye.
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