Up for challenge
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.”