The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Jess Gled­hill

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.’’

Photo: Luke He­mer.

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.

Photo: Luke He­mer

Cen­tre of at­ten­tion: Paige Wade was a stand­out player for Ton­gala on Sat­ur­day.

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