TONGALA has made it through to the grand final of the Murray Netball League after downing Deniliquin by 11 goals in Saturday’s preliminary decider at Cobram.
The Blues overcame the odds to be the unlikely winner on Saturday having gone into the match with a slim list of players and facing an in-form Deniliquin team.
Blues coach Alicia White said her team’s consistency and ability to turn the ball over won them the game.
‘‘We were quietly confident (going in to the game),’’ she said.
‘‘We have always matched up well against Deniliquin and knew we could beat them if we kept up our pressure through the mid-court and worked hard to give our goalies multiple opportunities.’’
The Blues had control from the first whistle and managed to build on their lead each quarter.
They were five goals up at quartertime and went on to outscore the Rams 11 goals to nine in the second for a seven-goal lead at half-time.
The Rams made changes at halftime with Emily Mildren moving out into wing defence and star mid-courter Amelia Wyatt switching into goal defence from centre.
But the Blues turned it up in the third and held strong in defence to limit the Rams to seven goals.
They were up 35 to 25 going into the final term and White said there was always the risk of Deniliquin coming back.
‘‘We knew Deni would keep coming at us and we couldn’t afford to take our foot off,’’ she said.
‘‘They got within seven goals at one point in the last quarter, but I knew if we were in front at three-quarter-time we would give ourselves a good chance at winning.
‘‘Amelia (Wyatt) was desperate for Deni to win and put her body on the line.
‘‘It was pleasing to see our girls stuck to the game plan and kept up the pressure; that’s what won it for us.
‘‘We made good choices from our turnovers and Deni didn’t capitalise on theirs as much as they could have.’’
Despite their depleted bench the Blues held strong in the final 15 minutes, running out the game 45-34.
Abby Pettifer shot with brilliant accuracy under the post while Phillipa Hodge played a dynamite game in goal defence and took several intercepts in the middle third to keep awarding her team opportunities.
Paige Wade was the standout though, running out a full game in centre having played four quarters at centre in B grade the game before.
From page 20 Her drive down the court and pressure in defence made it difficult for Deniliquin to halt Tongala’s run-on.
‘‘It was a tremendous effort from both Abby and Paige considering they had already played full games in B,’’ White said.
‘‘But they’ve been doing it all year and I had no doubt they would be able to run out both games.’’
Caddison Mulholland came on to the court for a few minutes in the second term as wing attack with Sarah Pettifer needing taping.
But Mulholland was still managing a torn Achilles and will not be likely to play in the grand final.
Tongala tried a different defensive line-up this week with White back in goal keeper in place of Amy O’Neill, Inglis in goal defence, Amy Hammond as wing defence and Wade in centre.
‘‘It’s a combination we’ve never played before,’’ White said.
‘‘We had tried it a few times at training and it seemed to work and flow quite freely.
‘‘We started with that and knew we could make changes if needed, but we didn’t need to.’’
Tongala will look to cause an upset this weekend as it takes on Moama in the grand final at Rumbalara.
Again they will go into the game undermanned but White said they looked forward to the challenge.
‘‘We’ve been training with around 13 players in A and B in recent weeks, which isn’t even enough to make up to teams,’’ White said.
‘‘That’s how depleted we are at the moment, but we will still go out and give it a red hot go against Moama.’’
Supreme effort: Tongala’s Phillipa Inglis shows the determination that helped an undermanned Blues side overcome Deniliquin Rams on Saturday to book a spot in the Murray Netball League grand final.
Centre of attention: Paige Wade was a standout player for Tongala on Saturday.