THE cream always rises to the top in grand finals, and in 2016, it was the youngest player on the court who had the greatest impact in the BFNL premiership decider.
Playing her first A-grade season for Kangaroo Flat, and aged just 15, goal shooter Ruby Barkmeyer was the unanimous choice as best on court in the Roos' 56-47 win over staunch rival Golden Square.
Showing maturity beyond her years, the composed teenager slotted a game-high 49 goals, with just the odd miss, in wet and blustery conditions.
It remains one of the best individual performances witnessed in a BFNL grand final.
Four years on, Jannelle Hobbs, who coached the Roos to the flag that year, and also in 2014, still marvels at Barkmeyer's display of mastery and composure.
"I remember her being just 15, nearly 16, and she killed them," she said.
"Golden Square threw everything they could at her, but Ruby had a blinder of a day and couldn't miss.
"Just her demeanour under pressure was amazing. I was a little bit worried before the game, I remember thinking I have thrown her into an A-grade team this year and I know it's going to be physical.
"I thought it could either go one of two ways, she is either going to be shell-shocked and go into her shell, or she will be just the calm Ruby we know and nothing will phase her.
"She played her own game and the more physical it got, nothing could put her off.
"From that day on I knew she was going to go on to bigger and better things. For a goaler to be under that sort of pressure, she didn't miss a beat. I'm so happy to see where she's taken her netball."
A six-time A-grade premiership player with the Roos, including all three in the 2010s (2010, '14 and '16), Alicia McGlashan described the young goal shooter's grand final performance as 'simply amazing'.
"It was her first year in A-grade, but she was great from the start," she said.
"There were a couple of things she wanted to learn more about, like rebounding, because she just wanted to get better and she was so coachable.
"By the time the grand final rolled around, she was just the full package.
"She never flinched once all day and if she got knocked to the ground it only made her stronger."
These days, Barkmeyer - now 19 - is plying her trade with Melbourne Vixens as a training partner and Victorian Fury in the Australian Netball League.
The years in between have produced many accolades, including Australian and Victorian team selection, and a grand final MVP award in Geelong Cougars' Victorian Netball League (VNL) 19-and-under premiership in 2017.
Remarkable in some ways, but not in others giving what we know now, Barkmeyer fitted hand in glove to a Kangaroo Flat side both rich in young talent and genuine stars of the competition.
As a boarder at Geelong Grammar and playing school netball during the week, Barkmeyer rarely trained with her Roos team-mates.
Reflecting on her premiership mix, Hobbs said one of the most pleasing aspects of the win was it being achieved with a substantially different playing group to 2014.
Of the starting seven, only captain Karly Elvey, defender Alicia McGlashan and young centre Chelsea Sartori remained from the 2014 premiership line-up.
Newcomers included Zoe Davies at goal defence, dual-premiership team-mates from the club's 17-and under successes in 2014 and '15 Barkmeyer and Milly Wicks, and goal attack Jamie Lee-Clohesy, who had previously played under Hobbs at Loddon Valley club YCW.
The grand final day bench comprised club legend Nina Cass, Danielle Markwell, who would two years later finish third in the league best and fairest count won by Gisborne star Maddy Stewart, and young goal shooter Adrienne Murphy.
While many of the faces had changed, the final series and premiership decider in some ways mirrored the 2014 season.
With just one loss beside their name, courtesy of Sandhurst in round nine by nine goals, and a draw later in the season against Kyneton, the Roos entered the final series an overwhelming favourite.
Their passage to the big dance was assured with a tight four-goal win over Sandhurst in the second semi-final.
After advancing to the grand final from fourth spot in 2014, Golden Square, which was premiers in 2015, had the slightly easier task of coming from third spot this time.
But the Bulldogs hopes were dealt an early blow with a four-goal loss to Sandhurst in the qualifying final.
An eight-goal victory in the first semi final over Gisborne set up another crack at Sandhurst and this time the Bulldogs prevailed 54-39 to reach a third-straight grand final and their fourth of the decade so far.
Playing in her second grand final in just her third season at Kangaroo Flat, Chelsea Sartori can still recall the build-up to grand final day.
"I guess we were confident, but you can't underestimate anyone you play against, and we knew Golden Square were in form leading up to that game and were going for back-to-back premierships," she said.
"Even though we went straight through, I felt like the pressure wasn't on us and we knew a lot of people didn't think we could go all the way because we were a young side.
"More than half of our team had never played in an A-grade grand final before, so to go out there and win that premiership was very special and a day you'll never forget."
McGlashan, who had the key role on Golden Square goal shooter Gabe Richards, also remembered feeling a little wary in the lead-up, but said any feelings of nervousness quickly faded as the Roos assumed control of the contest.
A standout highlight for the Roos' long-time anchor in defence was the side's strength in all seven positions.
"Ruby and Jamie Lee-Clohesy were a great combination in goals; Jamie was so fast and such a great feeder into Ruby," she said.
"As was Karly Elvey - you probably couldn't find a better feeder than Karly."
For Sartori, no mention of the 2016 grand final could go without acknowledging the momentous role played by their coach, who would wind up leading the Roos to three grand final appearances in her six-year stint at Dower Park, before taking up the A-grade coaching role at South Bendigo.
"Jannelle is definitely one of the best coaches I've ever had, I probably haven't thanked her enough for the opportunities she has given me," she said.
"She's really helped me develop as a player and most importantly as a person.
"Because of her I've been lucky enough to win two premierships and play alongside some very talented and experienced netballers.
"I got to play with the likes of Lauren Bowles, Karly Elvey, Alicia McGlashan, Nina Cass and Simone Butler, who are all legends of the game. I have so much respect for them and learnt so much playing with them.
"The great thing about Hobbs is how passionate she is about the game and how much belief she has in her players. She's a legend and a coach who players always play for and with a lot of respect."
As for the last words on an unforgettable grand final day, Sartori reserved those for the Roos' brilliant young goal shooter.
Despite Barkmeyer leaving Kangaroo Flat at the end of the 2018 season, the premiership duo reunited as VNL team-mates last year with Boorondara Express.
"Ruby played amazing that game, was very calm under pressure and hardly missed.," Sartori said.
"It was one of those games where we all played our roles well for the team and anyone could have won the best on medal.
It's absolutely no surprise to see how far Ruby has gotten. I'm very proud of her and honoured to have played alongside her, it's great to see all her hard work pay off."
It's absolutely no surprise to see how far Ruby has gotten. I'm very proud of her and honoured to have played alongside her, it's great to see all her hard work pay off."Chelsea Sartori
Roos claim state netball challenge title
IF OVERCOMING grand final opponent Golden Square and Sandhurst, which finished with the second-best home and away record, was not proof enough of Kangaroo Flat's strength in 2016, the Roos went on to flex their muscles on a wider stage.
With all premiership teams from across the state invited to participate in Netball Victoria's inaugural league club challenge the following March, the Roos were quick to accept.
The round robin tournament tossed up a gruelling schedule of matches at the State Netball and Hockey Centre, with the Roos going on to do not only their club, but the Bendigo Football Netball League and wider North Central netball region proud.
"We went through undefeated and beat some really good teams .... Drouin, Narre Warren, Diamond Creek, Echuca United, Kyabram, Crib Point, Edithvale-Aspendale and were crowned the best side in the state," coach Hobbs recalled.
"It was an amazing weekend and something I will always remember."
A key intercept in the dying seconds of the final by Zoe Davies proved instrumental in a 22-20 triumph for Kangaroo Flat over Drouin.
The Roos had earlier defeated Drouin in their qualifying round match 22-15.
The tournament would be Davies' last appearance for the Flat, after earlier signing to play the 2017 season with Eaglehawk.
Acknowledging the toughness and uniqueness of keeping a premiership line-up intact, Hobbs was rapt to be at the helm of the 2016 combination for one last time.
Standouts throughout the tournament included goal shooter Ruby Barkmeyer, who carried on from where she left off in the grand final, star centre Chelsea Sartori and wing defence Milly Wicks.
The challenge also provided the perfect opportunity for the Roos to introduce their two key recruits for 2017, Ingrid Hopkins, who had switched clubs from Maryborough, and Julia Clarke.
The win netted the Roos a $2500 in prizemoney.
2016 premiership line-up
Alicia McGlashan (GK), Zoe Davies (GD), Milly Wicks (WD), Chelsea Sartori (C), Karly Elvey (WA), Jamie-Lee Clohesy (GA), Ruby Barkmeyer (GS), Nina Cass, Danielle Markwell, Adrienne Murphy.
- NEXT UP: 2017 - Dragons lay foundations for a premiership three-peat
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