Up for chal­lenge

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Hdfnl Finals - BY COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY

For La­harum’s A Grade net­ballers, the past four years have largely been a case of ‘close, but no cigar’.

Since 2015 the Demons have reached two grand fi­nals, a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal and a semi-fi­nal, but each sea­son has ul­ti­mately ended in de­feat.

Last year ap­peared to be the team’s best chance af­ter an un­de­feated home and away sea­son, but the team was pipped twice by Na­timuk United – first by a goal in a semi-fi­nal and then by five goals on grand fi­nal day.

This year the Demons be­lieve they fi­nally have the right mix to usurp the two-time reign­ing pre­miers and break through to claim a pre­mier­ship.

Co-coach Caitlin Story said her play­ers were ea­ger for an­other crack at the Ewes. “The mar­gin al­ways seems to be un­der five goals in the games we’ve played against them in the past few years,” she said. “For us, I think a lot of it comes down to pa­tience.

“They’ve ob­vi­ously played to­gether for a long time and they’ve gelled re­ally well as a team and they’re quite a lot older and more ex­pe­ri­enced than we are.

“I think with the younger heads we some­times panic in those sit­u­a­tions, so we’ve been try­ing to work on stay­ing calm and in the mo­ment, and hope­fully it trans­fers to the court.”

Al­though the Demons are a younger side than the Ewes, they are far from lack­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Story has been ar­guably the most for­mi­da­ble goal shooter in the com­pe­ti­tion for the past five years, while the ath­letic Maddie Ire­dell is a

per­fect foil at goal at­tack. To­gether, the duo has helped the Demons be­come the high­est scor­ing team in the league.

La­harum is far from a one-di­men­sional side, how­ever.

The Demons also boast the league’s best de­fence, with goal keeper Rebecca Mcin­tyre and goal de­fence Ema Ire­dell mak­ing life hard for op­pos­ing goalies each week.

Erin Melling­ton and new­comer Zan­dria Malone have helped so­lid­ify a strong mid­court.

Story said Malone’s in­clu­sion could help de­liver a pre­mier­ship for the Demons.

“I think we’ve got a lot of speed in our mid­court af­ter picking up Zan­dria from War­rack,” she said. “It’s a bit dif­fer­ent to what we had last year. “Nati has been the bench­mark for a long time and the way they play to­gether is the way we want to play.

“They have a lot of ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, but we’re younger and I think speed might be one of our strengths against them.”

Story said her play­ers were cherry ripe ahead of the fi­nals, de­scrib­ing the team as ‘the fittest we’ve been for the past two years’.

With only two goals sep­a­rat­ing La­harum and Na­timuk United in their only meet­ing this year, a fi­nals re­match has been hotly an­tic­i­pated. Story said her charges were up to the chal­lenge. “We’re ex­cited and we can’t wait for the fi­nals to start,” she said.

“We’ve been there the past three or four years so hope­fully by now we’ve learned some sort of les­son we can use.”

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