After two weeks of fiercely fought contests, all six Grand Final teams have been decided. With variety in each section and unexpected sides securing their place, it really is anyone’s game in 2019.
The anticipated matches feature grand final rookies, runners ups from prior years and six unwavering sides determined to have their names associated with a premiership.
But before these match ups were determined, teams with second chances took to the Preliminary Finals in the final contest before the big one next week.
In Championship and Division One, the underdogs upset the favourites to shake up the entire Grand Final layout. For 19 & Under, City West flew in on Geelong Cougars to come back from their Semi Final loss, landing them in a rematch with Waves next week.
PRELIMINARY FINAL – City West Falcons (46) def by Casey Demons (65)
Coming into their first ever Preliminary Final, Casey looked surprisingly calm and confident in the warm ups before the match. On the opposite end of the court, City West Falcons had determination in their eyes.
As reigning premiers, Falcons had a lot riding on the match. Casey had just as much to prove as the newest club to take the VNL stage.
The match-ups on court were riveting to watch and so much talent stood on one court. Falcons took the first centre pass. It was in this moment though that would express the type of match to be played. Casey forced a terrific turnover which resulted in Emma Ryde to take the first goal of the match.
The first quarter showcased the strength of Casey’s attack end, in their ability to execute precision passes to secure goals. It also highlighted Falcon’s known defensive pressure in the midcourt. This pressure forced Casey to rush some passes in the first quarter and hesitate over their choices in play.
Only 3-goals in it at the beginning of the second quarter, something ignited within Casey’s defence. Karli Foster and Demi Woodlock were as dynamic as each other. They may have lacked height against Falcons’ Jane Cook, but they made up for it in their reach over the ball and around their players.
In Casey’s Wing- Defence, Christie Hillberg performed with immense pressure to stun Falcons to create turnovers. She continued her efforts until the ball was in her team’s goal third, transitioning the play with complete strategy. Casey’s strong work saw them gain a 7-goal advantage going into the second half.
With two large crowds of Falcons and Demons fans, everyone expecting City West to bring it back to a tight score in the second half. Casey were not going to let that happen.
With their defence lifting the rest of the team, Shannon Blackman in Casey’s Centre manoeuvred the ball with pace to ensure control of the ball. Almost like clockwork, her and Kass Withers would get the ball to the goal third then execute some big passes into goals for Emma and Erin to shine.
Erin Bell’s positioning allowed her to move faster than her opposition to create space for Emma or slyly move under the ring for Emma to pass the ball.
By the time the final quarter came around, it was clear Casey’s confidence and ‘can do attitude’ had earned them a lead to large for Falcons to overcome, finishing with a final score of 65-46.
Co-Captain of Casey Demon’s, and former Australian and SSN player, Erin Bell said she was proud to be with a club who has had such a successful year and thrived when it was needed most.
“Our defensive end got turnovers straight away and I think that really just set the tone of the match,
“It was a little bit of an up and down game at times with us, we did have a few patches where we dropped a few goals in a row but then we managed to pull it back”.
Bell also confirmed her relationship with Ryde that makes them such an iconic duo.
“I’ve been loving playing with Emma. Yes, she is a tall holding shooter, but I think in terms of her game she has grown so much this year in her strength and her variety. She’s come so far because she doesn’t just stand and hold, she moves, she rolls, and we saw her come out of the circle tonight a number of times. It really just makes my job easier.”
According to Bell, after their victory this week there is no telling the things they can do now.
“I guess it’s just good to know we can put the foot down and we can capitalise when we need to and we can play under finals pressure which is important.”
PRELIMINARY FINAL – Geelong Cougars (45) def by Boroondara Express (46)
Boroondara’s turn around season showed no signs of slowing down this week as they knocked Geelong Cougars out of the Grand Final Race.
Boroondara have been a team with consistency in their play that can be inconsistent to provide results. However, with the rounds behind them and a premiership within sights, Captain Emma Wallmeyer couldn’t be a happier player.
“I am bloody stoked!”
“To be honest, tonight I think it was just our patience and our work ethic. We had to go hard for the ball and that was it really.”
Wallmeyer detailed the importance of her team’s mental and physical preparation that she feels was pivotal in the end result.
“The last few training’s we’ve been working bloody hard and it’s just paid off.
“We kept saying to each other no fifty-fifty balls, we need to be safe. Yes, there were a few patches where we threw the ball away due to Geelong’s pressure, but all in all we played it safe.”
The battle between Boroondara and former Grand Final players Geelong was heated. The scores were near identical for most of the match and it all came down to a consistent final quarter.
Scores remained level for Express and Cougars in the first two breaks to bring the half time score to 22-all. It seemed when one team lifted, so did the other.
In Boroondara’s defence, Tegan Stephensen put up constant defensive pressure against Simone Hickman and Aleisha McDonald, resulting in rebounds and intercepts in the goal circle.
Geelong’s tight defence forced Boroondara’s goalers to rush shots in the third quarter which gave them the chance to capitalise.
In the midcourt, it was Boroondara who was tough to beat with some of their secret weapons being unleashed.
“It was great to throw in Emma Allman and have Zali Anderson in our Wing-Defence and have Chelsea Sartori in at Wing- Attack,” explained Wallmeyer.
“I think the additions caught Geelong off guard and gave us an extra something special.”
As the fourth quarter closed to end, goals were still going back and fourth with scores fluctuating by a single point. With just minutes left, Boroondara broke Geelong’s centre to shoot a goal from it. They then shot another, now 2-goals in front.
With the final centre pass, Cougars delivered near perfect execution of play to their goalers to shoot, but as the siren went it was just too late and Boroondara saw victory.
19 & Under Female
PRELIMINARY FINAL – City West Falcons (55) def Geelong Cougars (37)
In a contest with ferocious players such as Ellen Doyle, Sophie Shoebridge, Tiarah Minns and Emma Walters, it came as a shock to spectators as the game was decided in the first quarter.
City West were on the hunt to come back from their Semi Final loss and Cougars were in spirits to play their quality netball displayed all season.
Keeping scores close for the first few minutes of the match, Falcons and Cougars gave off nervous finals energy that was shown in their speedy play. As the quarter progressed, City West Falcons appeared a formidable force to shoot 3-goals in a row, then 4-goals in a row, then break Cougars centre to take an early 9-goal lead.
Entering the second quarter, Geelong increased the intensity in their goal end to secure needed goals. However, their determination couldn’t match Falcons who showed no signs of slowing down and found themselves 18-goals in front by the time the match concluded.
A standout player for the night was Emma Walters in Falcon’s Centre. Her in-charge attitude and strategic movement to transition the ball assisted her team to secure a much needed win.
Walters reflected on the match and said the result proves why they should be in the Grand Final next week.
“I think we came out and just played as a team, played together and played for each other. That’s honestly what got us over the line.
“Last week, obviously our start wasn’t the best against Waves so I think this week it was our main focus to have a really strong start and then each quarter build from it.
“We didn’t even look up at the score board in the end. We kept playing our game, goal by goal, and look at us now.”