THE BFNL's 17-and-under representative team is bound for next month's Netball Victoria Association Championships following a brilliant performance in Sunday's regional qualifiers in Bendigo.
Played in miserable conditions at the Golden City Netball Association courts in West Bendigo, the BFNL defeated Wimmera 16-4 in its qualifying final to book a spot in the championships field on Sunday, July 24.
It followed a near-perfect effort in the minor rounds, with the BFNL winning nine of 10 matches.
The only blemish was a one-goal loss to Sunraysia (12-11), which has also qualified for the finals in Melbourne.
The BFNL, coached by Nicole Donnellon and Sharni McPherson, entered the qualifying final with confidence having already beaten Wimmera earlier in the day, albeit the margin was a much closer 16-14.
A 12-goal win underlined the team's commitment and improvement throughout the day.
"Probably our first three or four games were played in dry conditions, but from there the rain started," Donnellon said.
"Playing 11 games in total makes it a big day, so the girls did a great job.
"Our one loss against Sunraysia, we were four goals down at half time, but we made a couple of changes at half time and ended up losing by one.
"We were pretty happy with that, they're quite a strong team."
Matches comprised of two eight-minute halves with the last three and the final reduced to six-minute halves due to the wet weather.
With the top two teams advancing to the championships in Melbourne, Sunday's grand final clash against Sunraysia, which won the other qualifying final, was cancelled.
Donnellon praised the 12 players who took to the court on Sunday, drawn from seven of the league's clubs.
An unfortunate absentee on the court was the squad's captain Olivia Murray, from Gisborne, who injured her ACL while playing for the BFNL in a lead-up tournament at Echuca on May 22.
"She's a massive out for us and sadly will be out for a while," Donnellon said.
"Olivia was in our team last year as a bottom-age player and we are absolutely devastated for her.
"But no matter what combination we put on the court, they were just fantastic. And we really swung the changes.
"There was probably only one game where we made just the one change, other than that we changed them up the whole time.
"We've only had three training sessions due to club and other commitments like work and study, so to come out and play as they did was awesome.
"The improvement in the team structures from where we were in Echuca to (last) Sunday was amazing."
The team will have further training sessions in the lead-up to Melbourne, where it will be joined by the BFNL's open team.
The full BFNL 17-and-under squad is Megan Wilson (Castlemaine); Poppy McPherson, Kearley Stone (Eaglehawk); Emily McDonald, Olivia Murray (Gisborne); Isabella Allen, Lindsay Andrews, Rose Kennett, Amaya Schmidt (Kangaroo Flat); Reese Gilchrist, Eliza Oxley (Sandhurst); Maggie Burke, Milla McKimmie (South Bendigo); Adele Barber (Strathfieldsaye).
Regional qualifier results (played at Golden City on Sunday June 6): d Loddon Valley 13-6; d Deniliquin 15-4; d Echuca 13-1; d Wimmera 16-14; d North Central 12-7; lost to Sunraysia 11-12; d Central Murray 16-2; d Horsham FNL 13-8; d Heathcote 13-3; d Golden Rivers 10-6.
Qualifying final: d Wimmera 16-4.
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