HUNTLY has sensationally reclaimed a spot in the top five of HDFNL A-grade netball with one round remaining after a scoresheet protest from last weekend's match against Elmore was upheld.
The Hawks, who entered last weekend in seventh place and struggling to force their way into the five, were awarded the four points after the Bloods were deemed to have played a player not listed on the original scoresheet.
In a decision which has consequences for several teams both in and outside the five, Elmore, which easily won the game 84-25, was stripped of the win and its score, incurring a massive blow to its percentage.
The decision was made in accordance with the international laws of netball and HDFNL by-laws.
It has left the Bloods four points behind top-placed White Hills and 16.6 per cent in arrears of the Demons, who clash with Huntly this Saturday at Scott Street.
Just as big a casualty is Lockington-Bamawm United, which dropped from fifth to sixth place and now needs to defeat a fired-up Elmore to have any chance of again sneaking past Huntly into fifth place.
A sixth win for the Hawks has relegated Heathcote (currently on four wins) from finals contention, while the odds of Leitchville-Gunbower forcing their way into the five have shortened, particularly if they can defeat the eighth-placed Saints at Heathcote on Saturday.
The decision is not without recent precedent, with North Bendigo awarded a win in the 2019 B-grade second semi-final over White Hills, after the Demons played a player not originally listed on the official team sheet.
The Bulldogs were awarded that match 38-0.
White Hills went on to defeat the Bulldogs on grand final day as part of a clean sweep of the senior premiership deciders.
HDFNL chairman Peter Cole insisted the league needed to be seen as consistent in applying its rules.
"This is an extremely unfortunate and disappointing set of circumstances," he said.
"After much discussion, the board unanimously agreed that the precedent for this breach of by-laws has been already set and the board needed to be consistent with the penalties," he said.
"Unfortunately, this has meant that Lockington Bamawm United FNC A-grade side is now out of the top 5 and will mean they have to win in the last round to make the finals.
"I would like to make special mention about the LBUFNC, on how they have taken this news, it shows great character of the club the way they accepted the news on this situation "
In a season in which they have been bereft of luck for the most part, Hawks coach Emily Eliades said they had finally benefited from some, albeit at others' expense.
"I haven't seen anything official from the league, but looking at the ladder, it looks as though we've been awarded the win." she said.
"It's put us back in the five, so I guess, finally something has gone our way.
"But realistically, we have White Hills this weekend and we are unlikely to win that one, so that will put us level with whoever can get a win and our percentage might not be good enough."
Eliades, who will step down as Huntly coach at the end of the season after six years at the helm, was sympathetic to those clubs, including Lockington-Bamawm United, affected by the decision.
A calm and philosophical LBU coach Jessie Hardess declared the Cats' demotion from fifth spot as 'unfortunate', but was 'totally understanding' of Huntly's position.
"I don't blame Huntly at all - they want to play finals - I'm sure any club would have done the same," she said.
"It's not what we want, but we missed opportunities earlier in the season that we should have taken, so it's much of a muchness.
"It's just the way things go sometimes and we happen to be affected.
"It's a bit of a shock, but who knows, we may end up beating Elmore.
"It's been a good season regardless. Who would have thought at the start of the season we would have been having finals conversations, so I'm happy with it."
Hardess said she felt for Heathcote, which until Wednesday afternoon was in with a shot at also claiming fifth spot, albeit needing a few things to fall their way.
Whichever team qualifies in fifth will meet Colbinabbin in an elimination final on the Grasshoppers' home court on Sunday, August 14.
The team finishing second, now likely Elmore, will play Mount Pleasant in the qualifying final at Lockington on Saturday, August 13.
Elmore has been contacted for comment.
1. White Hills 14-1 (169.75%)
2. Elmore 13-2 (156.15%)
3. Mount Pleasant 10 -5 (107.96%)
4. Colbinabbin 8-7 (99.54%)
5. Huntly 6-9 (85.51%)
6. Lockington-Bamawm United 5-10 (89.56%)
7. Leitchville-Gunbower 5-10 (80.38%)
8. Heathcote 4-11 (84.40%)
9. North Bendigo 3-13 (63.66%)
Round 18 games (Saturday, August 6): Heathcote v Leitchville-Gunbower; Elmore v Lockington-Bamawm United; White Hills v Huntly; Colbinabbin v Mount Pleasant.
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