The Melbourne University Lightning, City West Falcons and the Geelong Cougars are the 2016 Victorian Netball League Premiers following an entertaining triple-header of Grand Finals at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Saturday.
Championship – Melbourne University Lightning v City West Falcons
The Melbourne University Lightning celebrated their first Grand Finals appearance in five years by defeating the City West Falcons, 53-52 in a thrilling Grand Final.
The opposing defences dominated the opening stages of the match with Falcons Goal Defence Maddy Balson and Lightning Wing Defence Shannon Eagland each collecting an intercept pass.
Both sides went goal-for-goal with the Falcons clinging to a 11-10 lead at quarter time.
The Falcons increased their lead to four early in the second quarter before mid-court pair Danielle Stewart and Elle Bennetts helped the Lightning regain the ascendancy, the teams heading into halftime deadlocked at 25 apiece.
The same pattern continued in the third with the Falcons jumping out to a four-goal lead, before the Lightning worked their way back into the contest. However, this time the Falcons pulled away, with Goal Shooter Kathleen Knott helping to secure a 42-38 lead at the final break.
The Lightning came out firing in the final quarter to overcome the deficient and record a memorable one-goal victory.
Lightning Captain Danielle Stewart said it “felt amazing” to fight back the way they did to secure the Championship title.
“We went into the last quarter knowing that we had to give everything and that the intensity had to stay for 15 minutes,” said Stewart, who was named match MVP.
“I think it [victory] just creates a great morale for our club and hopefully it invites other players to come across and we can get stronger, and maybe next year we have our Division One and 19/Under teams alongside us.”
Division One – City West Falcons v Boroondara Express
The City West Falcons put on a strong Grand Final performance to come away with a 56-49 victory against the Boroondara Express in the Division One Grand Final.
In a game that promised plenty, it didn’t disappoint with both sides throwing caution to the wind in a physical and fast-paced match.
After an evenly-contested first half, the experienced Falcons outfit put the foot down in the final stages of the game to take the 2016 title by seven-goals.
Falcons Wing Attack Emily Post continued her stellar season to be awarded match MVP.
“We are really happy with the result in Division One because we never thought at the start of the year we would be in that position,” conceded Falcons Head Coach Marg Lind.
“But the girls did really well to work themselves through the season and get to that point and to be here at the Grand Final, so it is very pleasing.”
19/Under – Geelong Cougars v DC North East Blaze
The Geelong Cougars created their own piece of history with a 46-40 victory against the DC North East Blaze in the 19/Under Grand Final.
An evenly-contested start to the game saw the Cougars hold a narrow one-goal lead at halftime.
The Cougars pulled away after the main break, with their Co-Captain Riley Stephens at her influential best at Wing Defence.
Goalers Hannah van Gemst and Mary Waldron shot accurately to help the Cougars to their first VNL Premiership in any division.
“We have now created a legacy that no one else can achieve, we are the first team to be premiers from the Geelong Netball Club so that gives us enormous satisfaction,” Geelong Cougars Head Coach Melanie Savage said.
The victory caps off an outstanding year for the Cougars after they finished undefeated.
“I am just so proud of the girls, they just fought and fought, it was our last game together and we certainly made it a good one, so I am absolutely thrilled,” said Savage.
Blaze Goal Attack Abbey Ellis received the MVP award.