De­niliquin just another chal­lenge Ton­gala look­ing to over­come

Shepparton News - - SPORT - By Tyler Ma­her

Ton­gala has had to do it the hard way all sea­son in the Mur­ray Net­ball League and to­day’s pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal against De­niliquin will be no dif­fer­ent.

De­spite a sea­son reg­u­larly in­ter­rupted by ill­ness, in­jury, travel and tragedy, the Blues man­aged to scrap and claw their way to a dou­ble chance.

It helps when play­ing coach Ali­cia White is a league medal­list in three sep­a­rate com­pe­ti­tions and has al­most 400 games of toplevel se­nior net­ball ex­pe­ri­ence to draw on in an at­tempt to bring her mis­matched side to­gether.

But even the stal­wart has been floored by the re­cent events sur­round­ing the Pet­tifer fam­ily.

‘‘No doubt last Satur­day was re­ally hard for the whole net­ball club,’’ White said.

Abby and Sara Pet­tifer will re­turn to the court to­day against the Rams, but goal­keeper Amy O’Neill has had a se­ri­ous health scare and will not make another ap­pear­ance for the sea­son.

‘‘I don’t know that con­fi­dent would be a word we Eye on the prize: would use but we’re def­i­nitely go­ing to give it our all,’’ White said.

‘‘We just have to keep do­ing what we have been all year, we’ve been de­pleted but credit to us for some­how still win­ning and hope­fully we can win again.

‘‘It will be nice to have the ver­sa­til­ity of the Pet­tifers back, it will give us a chance to flick them across the court in mul­ti­ple po­si­tions.’’

Ton­gala won the only clash be­tween the teams this year by 12 goals in round 10 and White be­lieves her shoot­ers will be in­te­gral to re­peat­ing the re­sult at Co­bram to­day.

‘‘I think we’ll have to shut Bec White and Amelia Wy­att down and if we can com­bat those two then it’s any­one’s game,’’ she said.

‘‘I think our at­tack­ing end will be the ones to stand up on the week­end, and it’s pretty cliche but if we shoot the goals we’ll win.’’

Mean­while, De­niliquin will take plenty of heart out of a pair of hard-fought finals vic­to­ries so far in this cam­paign.

‘‘We are con­fi­dent in our abil­ity to get across the line,’’ coach Jodie Sefton said.

‘‘We were chal­lenged in both games very late in the game and we did a very good job in both games to main­tain our run in Septem­ber.’’

The Rams de­feated Nu­murkah by three goals and Echuca United by two af­ter lead­ing well early and one mem­ber of the team has stood out as key to both wins.

‘‘Na­talie Thorpe has been out­stand­ing, her lead­er­ship and steadi­ness comes from tonnes of finals ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Sefton said.

‘‘But we’re such an even team, so we’ll look to all of them to come fo­cused and ready to stick to the team rules and get the job done.’’

The per­for­mances of Ton­gala’s Abby Pet­tifer (above left) and De­nilquin’s Na­talie Thorpe to­day will go a long way to de­cid­ing which team faces Moama in the Mur­ray Net­ball League grand fi­nal next week­end.

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