Cobram focuses on improvement after loss to rival
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.’’