PREMIERSHIP favourite Elmore survived a close call and White Hills produced the pick of its solid three early-season performances to both remain undefeated in HDFNL A-grade netball on the weekend.
The Bloods overcame a spirited Colbinabbin by one goal, while the Demons, with several key players back in the line-up, proved too strong for North Bendigo in a 72-25 victory.
An intriguing round of netball brought a drought-breaking win for Lockington-Bamawm United, while Mount Pleasant got its first win of the season against a vastly-improved Heathcote.
The Cats' 47-41 victory over Leitchville-Gunbower was their first since round one of the 2019 season against Heathcote and only their fourth win in five years.
It was a proud moment for playing coach Jessie Hardess, who took over the duties last season as a non-playing coach and has worked diligently towards turning the Cats' fortunes around.
Mount Pleasant's win was also a first as A-grade coach for Carine Comer, who is in her first season in charge of the Blues A-grade team.
At Elmore, the Bloods had to dig deep to shake off a young and enthusiastic Colbinabbin.
The margin was 13-goals fewer than when the teams met earlier this month in a standalone game before round one, won by Elmore 55-41.
Bloods joint coach Allira Holmes paid full credit to the Grasshoppers for a tough contest.
"Their defensive pressure in the second half really pushed our goalers and highlighted a few things that we could work on and build on in the next few weeks," she said.
"Our aim for the last quarter was to just convert our own centres, which we were obviously able to do as we got over the line.
"If we hadn't done that it could easily have gone Colbo's way."
Elmore was superbly led on court by Holmes' fellow coach Gabe Richards at goal shooter.
"I felt our goalers were able to adapt well to the defensive pressure put on them," said Holmes, who missed the game with a calf injury.
"We're happy where we are at the moment - Saturday was a bit close but it won't hurt us to have those sort of games.
"We'd prefer to have that pressure early in the season and build on the areas we need to, so hopefully when we get to the pointy end, we don't have that problem."
Elmore was again below full-strength, which has been a weekly occurrence so far in 2022.
The same could be said of White Hills, which won praise from coach Lauren Bowles for a convincing performance, despite the absence of recruit Tegan Elliston with family commitments.
"Everything just fell into place from the get-go; we had an aim of trying to get 15-goals on the board every quarter and we knew if we did that we would put ourselves in a good position to win," Bowles said.
"We were able to get over that 15-goals, putting up 72 for the game.
"We were rapt. Our defensive pressure was fantastic and we were really able to convert on that down the attack end.
"Alyssa Cole had a superb game in goal attack, dropping long bombs from everywhere.
"It's great to see that confidence in her game building each week."
Bowles said the win had put the Demons in good stead for a crucial two weeks ahead, with a clash against Colbinabbin to be followed by a showdown against top side Elmore.
The Demons will be bolstered by the return of Elliston, who was best on court in her lone appearance so far this season against LBU in round one.
"She absolutely starred in that game for us, so it will be nice to get her back and see what our combinations do look like when we are at full strength," Bowles said.
"In saying that, we still have a few players in A-reserve who are knocking on the door to play A-grade.
"Britt Fitzpatrick has come on for a quarter the last two weeks and really dominated with some fresh legs.
"And Meg Storer, who played in A-grade last year and is that borderline player, is really striving to play A-grade this year.
"The competition for spots is making everyone play better."
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