It was a big night of netball at the State Netball and Hockey Centre Wednesday night with the 2019 Bupa Victorian Netball League (VNL) season commencing.
Returning victors, a debut club, and teams with a thirst to come back from 2018 grand final losses made for competitive contests from six out of the 10 VNL clubs. The remaining four clubs will take the courts on Saturday.
In case you missed out on the action, here’s what happened at Round 1 of the Bupa VNL.
Casey Demons (59) def Melbourne University Lightning (54)
With former Super Suncorp Netball players Emma Ryde and Erin Bell recruited to the Casey Championship team, the club’s inaugural match against Melbourne United Lightning was one to watch.
Ryde said preparation during the off-season gave them a hunger to step up to the VNL ranks.
“The girls have worked so hard over the pre-season. We’ve been well conditioned to come out and hit the court, ready to go.”
Casey came in hot to take a quick four goal lead in the first minutes of the game, after a turnover in their favour at the first centre pass. This lead was short lived, Lightning hitting back hard with 100% goal accuracy in the second quarter to lead 34-26 at half time.
Some consistent defence and strategic play in the centre by Casey provided some much-needed turnovers to tie the game up, 44-all going into the final quarter. The Demons persevered during the final 15 minutes to win their first ever VNL match, 59-45.
Ryde reflected on the efforts of the team to achieve the first victory in Casey Demons history.
“It was a really good game,” she said. “Coming from eight down to win was just awesome and it was great to get out there with all the girls for the first time for Casey Demons.”
“The second quarter they came out blazing… so in the third quarter we changed our game completely and our defence killed it stopping their goalers from getting any entry to the circle.”
Ryde praised fellow goaler, Kassidy Withers, and her ability to beat defensive pressure.
“Kass, our Goal Attack, she was just bombing them from everywhere. Her goaling was spectacular”
According to Ryde, 2019 could be the year of opportunity for VNL’s newest arrivals.
“I think after that game it’s looking pretty bright. I think we can only grow from that game.”
Peninsula Waves (47) def Boroondara Express (34)
Casey weren’t the only comeback queens of the night, with Peninsula Waves shaking things up in their second half, resulting in Boroondara Express’ first upset of the season.
Peninsula, down by one goal at the end of the first half (20-21), changed their gears and tightened their offensive play. In doing this Peninsula doubled Boroondara’s six scoring shots in the third quarter, sinking 14 of their own.
Despite persistent work from Boroondara’s defenders in the circle, Peninsula powered through to the end to win by 13 goals.
Geelong Cougars (77) def Ariels (44)
Geelong Cougars set their bar high in their first match of the season against Ariels. After finishing as runners up in 2018, the Cougars had a point to prove.
Calm and composed, Cougars established a steady lead in the first quarter, doubling Ariels’ 10 goals.
Maintaining a minimum of 18 goals per quarter, Cougars were consistent enough to win their first match of the year by a solid 33-goal margin.
Blaze (59) def Saints (43)
A determined Blaze couldn’t be stopped at Bendigo despite strong efforts from Saints. Both teams opened with solid work in their defensive ends with turnovers seeing the ball go up and down the court. A seven-goal lead in the first quarter gave Blaze the boost they needed to maintain steady lead, securing a 16-point win.
Eyes were on former Selkirk Sovereigns goal attack and 2018 Division 1 MVP, Chloe Wilson, as she stepped out in the Saints red for the first time.
“It was weird putting on a red dress compared to a blue one, but the girls have been really welcoming, the coaches are amazing and it’s good to be back in a team again.”
With Sovereigns folding, Wilson said she was unsure how a change in clubs would affect her, but is feeling secure in her choice after today’s game.
“I had a few different offers from different clubs but Saints was the right fit for me and I got such a great vibe from the get go.
“I think I bring something to the team that’s a little bit different and I think that’s what I can offer which in today’s game seemed to work for us.”
According to Wilson, some height challenges in their defence and Blaze’s outstanding goaling saw them miss out on the win.
“Blaze shooters were amazing and just did not miss a shot. Our defenders being smaller also meant that they could get it in a bit easier.
“It’s not the result we wanted, but for our first hit out as a team against a strong team like Blaze was really good to see us be competitive with them.”
Even with the loss, Wilson is optimistic about the skill of her new team and what it may bring for 2019.
“Our attacking combinations still need a little bit of work but our focus this year is mainly on centre pass receives because we’ve had a few difficulties with them in the past.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people. I think people don’t know what to expect with us, so hopefully we’ll see you in the finals.”
Hawks (57) def by Falcons (68)
Melbourne University Lightning (54) def Casey Demons (35)
Despite their Championship team just missing out on the win, Melbourne University’s Division 1 team played a game of netball built on teamwork to help secure their first win of 2019.
Clearly doing a lot of work over the off-season, Lightning were able to position themselves with purpose to execute plays through the mid court well.
Down their defensive end, pressure on Casey’s goalers by Lightning resulted in some turnovers that allowed them to claim a sizable lead that was consistent over the course of the match, finishing on top 54-35.
Geelong Cougars (64) def Ariels (36)
Also securing a win for Division 1 were 2018 runners-up, Geelong Cougars.
After just missing out to Hawks Netball in last year’s Grand Final, Cougars entered into their game against Ariels from with ferocity, doubling Ariels score in the first quarter to come out 28-goals on top.
Cougars Goal Defender, Genevieve O’Connor, highlighted their third quarter as an important quarter for their team.
“Our third quarter was really great, considering that in the third quarter you usually have a bit of a lull. I found we actually picked it up a lot and we kept the consistency.”
O’Connor said that after last year’s upset, Wednesday’s win was vital for restating their strength in the VNL.
“I feel like we needed that confidence boost coming out of last year to set out standard and remember that we are a quality team and that we can get to finals again,”
“Last year we came out with some slow starts. We’ve worked really hard and we’re working hard on our intensity.”
“We want to be that team that people are scared to play.”
Boroondara Express (56) def Peninsula Waves (46)
Just like the other Division 1 matches, Boroondara Express demonstrate in their win against Peninsula Waves that a dominant lead in first quarter can make or break a victory.
Some intercepts in the first quarter helped Boroondara get up on Waves by five goals. Boroondara’s consistent plays helped expand their lead every quarter to achieve their first win, 56-46.
Blaze (47) v. Saints (42)
A consistent game from both teams, it was Blaze’s dominance in the first quarter that secured their win against Saints.
A 7-point lead at the end of the first quarter allowed Blaze to take control of the game. Despite Saints outscoring Blaze in the second and fourth quarter to close the opening margin by 2, Blaze’s tight plays saw them come out on top, 47-42.
Hawks (60) v. Falcons (27)
19 & Under
Peninsula Waves (46) def Boroondara Express (45)
An almost goal-for-goal match between Peninsula Waves and former 19 & Under victors, Boroondara Express, saw Waves just getting across the line to beat Express with a last minute goal.
A game filled with contest and drive, it was clear Waves had built upon last year’s experiences to come out with some new plays that caught Boroondara of guard.
“We can take out a lot of things from this game which is really great for the rest of the season, which is what you want for the first game,” explained Boroondara player, Zali Anderson.
She said despite the loss, her team showed some excellent displays of netball.
“It was a close throughout the whole game, Peninsula pipped us right at the end.”
“The speed through the attack end was something that I felt we did really well tonight, catching their defenders off guard.”
“The transition between the defence to attack was really smooth and with all those things there’s heaps we can take away and go work on Monday.”
With some new additions to the Boroondara side, Anderson feels optimistic for the 2019 season.
“It was some of the girls VNL debut which was really nice and great for them.”
“We’re not looking back on last year, that was a really good season. We’re looking forward this year.”
Geelong Cougars (47) def Ariels (45)
Another nail biter of a match was seen between Cougars and Ariels. A maximum of two goals separated the teams over the period of the match.
Some turnovers for Cougars in the first quarter gave them a small lead on Ariels throughout the course of what was goal-for-goal game.
What looked like a glimpse of hope for Ariels at half time, taking back a goal, soon was taken back by Cougars to finish on top, 47-45.
Melbourne University Lightning (55) def Casey Demons (34)
Scores similar to that of their Division 1 team, Lightning managed to take the club’s second win of the night thanks to their 19 & Under team.
Starting strong with a five goal lead at quarter time, Lightning left no room for Casey to get in front, despite strong efforts from the new arrivals.
Consistent progression and intensity by Lightning allowed them to more than quadruple their initial lead to secure a notable 21 goal win, 55-34.
Saints (64) v. Blaze (35)
From the very first centre pass, it was clear the Saints had nothing but victory on their mind today. A goal for the Saints from a starting Blaze centre sparked a runaway win to start off the Saints’ season.
Strong transition work between thirds allowed Saints to take a comfortable 30-point lead going into the last quarter. Determined to tighten the margin, Blaze entered their final 15 minutes with a heightened intensity. Although achieving some much-needed turnovers, Saints were too strong to be beat, 64-35.