The ‘dark horse’
Southern Mallee Giants were labelled the ‘dark horse’ of the Horsham District A Grade competition in 2016, but significant injuries late in the season dashed the team’s finals hopes.
The Giants have earned the same tag in their second year in the league – the major difference being this season, coach Kelly Gray has a full team at her disposal. Southern Mallee has won 12 of its 16 matches and generated plenty of speculation from opposition teams about what it is capable of.
Gray said she was feeling fairly confident heading into the finals series.
“I think we have the ability to do well, but it will come down to each game,” she said. “The competition is so even this year, anything can happen.”
The Giants have a versatile outfit, with several players able to slot into various positions.
The accuracy of Codie Robins and Annabel Stewart has been a highlight – if they are on song, they are hard to beat.
“Codie is quick and has a strong hold. She’s deceptively tough for her size,” Gray said. “Annabel has been away the past couple of weeks but she’s a very accurate shooter. She also helps out a lot to bring the ball down the court.”
The Giants also have a strong midcourt, with Kimberley Shannon adept at winning the ball and feeding it to the goalies.
One of the team’s biggest strengths is the talent and experience of centres Emma Mill and Annie Noonan.
Noonan was a great pick-up for the Giants mid-way through the season and adds strength and depth to the midcourt and defence.
“They are both steady players who are very safe with the ball and play a defensive role. They both have finals experience and are great leaders,” Gray said.
Newcomer Caitlin Hickey has led the defence this season, aided by Noonan, Trudi Hallam and Courtney Wareham.
Nicki Dalton, who also plays C Grade, is another defensive option.
Gray believes her side’s biggest asset is its composure.
“We have a belief in ourselves that as long as we keep in touch, we can make up the deficit,” she said.
The Giants play Noradjuha-quantong at Stawell’s North Park on Sunday.
“I think it’s going to come down to what happens on each given day,” Gray said.