Co­bram fo­cuses on im­prove­ment af­ter loss to ri­val

The Cobram Courier - - SPORT - By Pa­trick Tansey

Its sea­son is over, but Co­bram’s A-grade net­ball side can take pride in its im­prove­ment from last year.

On Sun­day af­ter­noon against Ba­rooga at Ton­gala, a youth­ful Tiger out­fit was brought un­done largely by one player they sim­ply could not con­tain in Abbey Jones.

There is no shame in that, though, con­sid­er­ing Jones is an Ovens and Mur­ray pre­mier­ship player and now one of the bright­est stars in the Mur­ray league.

Los­ing to its main ri­val is a bit­ter pill to swal­low for Co­bram con­sid­er­ing its sea­son started in such promis­ing fash­ion, but the play­ers will take heart know­ing they fi­nally made it back to fi­nals net­ball af­ter a long hia­tus.

While dis­ap­point­ment will be felt, the fact the Tigers dou­bled their win tally with 11 this sea­son com­pared to only five last year shows they took gen­uine steps for­ward.

‘‘I said to the girls af­ter the game that they could be re­ally proud of what they man­aged to get done this year with a lim­ited list,’’ coach Jac­quie Ryan said.

‘‘We also lost one of our most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers in Jo Bourke halfway through the year, but we man­aged to cope with it quite well.’’

Of course, the re­turn of mother-and-daugh­ter pair He­len and Tessa Bruni helped the Tigers’ de­vel­op­ment pro­foundly, while young guns Meg Den­son, Lili Mur­phy and Keely Bond all en­hanced their bur­geon­ing rep­u­ta­tions and showed they could more than com­pete at A-grade level.

In the lat­est en­counter, Ryan said Co­bram’s lack of ex­pe­ri­ence po­ten­tially im­pacted its per­for­mance early and ad­mit­ted the long sea­son had fi­nally caught up with the youth­ful Tigers.

‘‘Ba­rooga prob­a­bly set­tled into the game a lit­tle bit quicker than us. They just played so well,’’ Ryan said.

‘‘It’s been a long year for some of our younger girls and prob­a­bly a cou­ple of them were car­ry­ing nig­gles late in the year, but take noth­ing away from Ba­rooga, they played ex­tremely well.

‘‘It’s not that we didn’t play well — I would have been more dis­ap­pointed if we had not played well, but we just didn’t quite play well enough and that was ba­si­cally the game in a nut­shell.’’

Goal shooter Jones was a con­stant thorn in Co­bram’s side, with the Tigers hav­ing no an­swers when it came to cur­tail­ing her in­flu­ence.

‘‘She was ab­so­lutely sen­sa­tional and we just couldn’t find a way to stop her,’’ Ryan ad­mit­ted.

‘‘Qual­ity play­ers al­ways seem to play well in fi­nals and that’s ex­actly what she did.’’

Ryan said while Co­bram’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence played a fac­tor in the re­sult, she pointed to goal at­tack Keely Bond, 17, as one of the younger bri­gade who im­proved as the sea­son pro­gressed.

‘‘Prob­a­bly our best player on the week­end was Keely Bond in her first year of Agrade, so it was re­ally good to see her play well and cre­ate some headaches for Ba­rooga’s de­fend­ers,’’ she said.

Kate Bird was also de­pend­able for Co­bram, while league best-and-fairest win­ner Tessa Bruni coped well with the added pres­sure to per­form.

Co­bram strug­gled to gen­er­ate at­tack­ing moves from its de­fence, some­thing that has been a strength all sea­son.

While Co­bram ac­counted for most teams it was ex­pected to de­feat this sea­son, it could not quite bridge the gap to the very top sides, but Ryan be­lieves they showed glimpses of what they could do — they just needed to do it more con­sis­tently.

‘‘It’s there for them. It’s al­ways been there for them to play well this sea­son if ev­ery­one per­formed,’’ she said.

‘‘Be­lieve it or not, we are the team who scored the most points in a match against Moama this sea­son. We have played well against Deni as well who are one of the top teams.’’

While the de­feat is raw, with a young list Co­bram is in a po­si­tion to have an­other suc­cess­ful sea­son if it can keep its core group of youngsters to­gether.

Ryan ad­mits there is one glar­ing piece of the puzzle that ap­pears to be miss­ing if the Tigers want to chal­lenge next year.

‘‘We’d be look­ing for a re­ally tall and strong goaler,’’ she said.

‘‘Thank­fully He­len Bruni came back and played this year, but her body prob­a­bly can’t take the rigours of net­ball too much longer, so I think we’d want to find some­one who fits that bill.

‘‘Be­sides that, I don’t think we need too much more be­sides build­ing on what we tried to cre­ate this sea­son.’’

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