Hawks on a high after win
It might have taken nearly 20 years but it was worth the wait for the Barooga faithful.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Barooga’s A-grade was finally back playing finals netball and there was no better way to announce its return than by sending its greatest rival, Cobram, packing.
Barooga co-coach Taylah Hazelman was understandably ecstatic with the result.
‘‘It’s been about 20 years since Barooga A-grade played a final so that was our goal at the beginning of the year,’’ Hazelman said.
‘‘To be going into the second week is awesome. We were happy just to get to the first final but now to be going to week two and to be playing the netball we are is very exciting,’’ she said.
The Hawks’ 54-41 victory over their old foe was the stuff of dreams.
Beginning the season at 0-5, it seemed highly improbable Barooga would get near its intended goal for the season, let alone be marching into the second week high on confidence after a tremendous back half of the year.
The fact it was without star goal shooter Hazelman, who is sidelined with a serious knee injury, only added further gloss to a special win that will go down in Barooga folklore.
‘‘We’ve been a bit unsettled in the last few weeks but to come out in a final and for everyone on the court to step up and play their role for the team and produce that kind of netball was awesome, I’m really proud of them,’’ the injured co-coach said.
With only one win separating both teams at the conclusion of the home and away season, the match against the Tigers was always going to be relatively close, but one particular player ultimately proved the biggest difference between the two teams.
Big-name recruit Abbey Jones, who crossed over from Yarrawonga this season, lit up the court in Tongala, shooting an incredible 47 of the Hawks’ 54 goals.
‘‘She was outstanding, by far best on the court. To produce her best game of netball for the season in a final is a real credit to her,’’ Hazelman said.
‘‘It showed her experience as well, she’s only 20 but has played in many grand finals for Yarrawonga‘.‘In saying that, everyone played well but for her to step up and finish off everyone’s good work was pretty awesome to watch,’’ she said.
Ironically, Jones’ star showing would never have happened if not for her coach’s untimely injury.
With goal shooter Hazelman ruled out of the finals series, usual goal attack Jones was thrown into shooter and the move proved to be an utter masterstroke from the Hazelman sisters Taylah and Sharni.
‘‘We’ve had to shift positions around in the last couple of weeks which meant Abbey went deep and Carmen Shannon who has played defence all year went into goal attack.
‘‘It wasn’t ideal — we had to make those changes when we’ve been really settled in our positions all year, but it worked well on the day.’’
The challenges don’t get any easier this week for the Hawks, who come up against a Rumbalara outfit that will be hungry to play well after a three-goal loss to Deniliquin in its qualifying final.
‘‘It will be tough, they’ve been the only team to knock off Moama this year so that shows the level they can play to, and we haven’t played them since round two or three so we can’t really base anything off that game.’’
Hazelman said it was obvious where Rumba’s strengths were, but she knew stopping it was easier said than done.
“They’re a physical team, they’re tall at both ends and everyone knows that their biggest strength is definitely their speed so if we can shut down their mid court and take that away from them we will be in the game with a chance.’’
Mine: Cobram’s Tessa Bruni and Barooga co-coach Sharni Hazelman jostle for the netball in the air. Pictures: Jackie Vogel
Got it: Hawk Sarah Bruce gets a timely hand in to prevent Tiger Keely Bond from grabbing the netball.