Net­ballers in grand fi­nal re­match

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Classified­s - BY COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY

Af­ter a year of wait­ing, Hor­sham Dis­trict net­ball fans will get a grand fi­nal re­match for the ages.

Two-time de­fend­ing premier Na­timuk United has its sights set on an his­toric third flag in suc­ces­sion but stand­ing in the way will be the team it van­quished in last year’s premiershi­p de­cider – La­harum.

The Demons have fa­mously been on the re­ceiv­ing end of some heart-stop­ping losses to the Ewes in re­cent sea­sons, in­clud­ing a five-goal loss in the 2018 grand fi­nal.

But if ever there was a golden op­por­tu­nity for La­harum to de­throne the reign­ing pre­miers, this is it.

The Demons put a long­stand­ing hoodoo to rest by de­feat­ing Na­timuk United in the sec­ond semi-fi­nal, earn­ing a week off and a spot in the grand fi­nal.

The Ewes were forced to slug it out with Har­row-bal­moral, another ex­cel­lent team in its own right, in Saturday’s pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

The Ewes started slowly in blus­tery con­di­tions, trail­ing the Roos 10-5 at quar­ter time.

It looked as if the team’s premiershi­p de­fence might be com­ing to an end when coach Ch­eryl Sud­holz left the court early in the sec­ond quar­ter with a balky knee, but the Ewes found a way to rally.

Jo Taylor and Casey Vanstan, play­ing in the de­fen­sive goal ring, used their guile, length and the tricky con­di­tions to cre­ate nu­mer­ous turnovers, which goalie Shan­non Couch be­gan con­vert­ing at the other end.

Ebony Rin­toule re­placed Sud­holz on the court and did not miss a beat at wing de­fence, while Danielle Fleay shifted to Sud­holz’s po­si­tion of goal at­tack.

Har­row-bal­moral goal shooter Amy Lewis con­verted at a high rate but sim­ply had few op­por­tu­ni­ties as the Ewes clicked into high gear.

The team had turned a five-goal deficit into a one-goal ad­van­tage by half time and con­tin­ued to roll af­ter the break.

The Roos fi­nally got the play back on their terms in patches of the last quar­ter, but it was too lit­tle, too late, as Na­timuk United fin­ished with a 37-34 win.

Har­row-bal­moral coach Ebonie Sal­ter said her team was dis­ap­pointed to lose, but praised the un­flap­pable com­mit­ment of the Ewes.

“We prob­a­bly re­laxed a bit af­ter we went into quar­ter time with the lead,” she said.

“Ch­eryl came off the court and to their credit they re­ally lifted.

“As they al­ways do, they kept util­is­ing their cen­tres. We threw away a few of ours, the mo­men­tum swung and they cap­i­talised.”

Sud­holz said she would leave no stone un­turned in her ef­fort to re­turn in time for the grand fi­nal.

“I’m do­ing ev­ery­thing I can to try and get out there,” she said.

“The past cou­ple of weeks I’ve been deal­ing with tight mus­cles in my calf and knee.

“It hasn’t just been this week, but I’m try­ing ev­ery­thing to get it right.”

La­harum co-coach Caitlin Story said re­gard­less of whether Sud­holz was coach­ing from the court or the side­lines, the Ewes would present a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge.

“I went and watched on Saturday and when she did come off, I don’t think their team changed too much,” she said.

“I reckon the player who came on for her ac­tu­ally did quite a good job.

“We’ll pre­pare the same whether it’s her or whether it’s Danielle at wing at­tack, be­cause they’re pretty sim­i­lar play­ers, it’s just that Ch­eryl has a bit more ex­pe­ri­ence.”

With the league’s top two goal shoot­ers – Couch for the Ewes and Story for the Rams – at ei­ther end of the court and ex­cel­lent con­di­tions fore­cast, the game will likely be won and lost in the mid­dle of the court.

Sud­holz could be a big loss for the Ewes, but Rin­toule proved a more than handy re­place­ment at the week­end, while Michelle Trigg and Fleay add ex­pe­ri­ence and zip.

Zan­dria Malone will have a big job at cen­tre for La­harum, while wing at­tack Erin Melling­ton will be tasked with feed­ing the ball to Story and Mad­die Ire­dell in goals.

Story said the big­gest hur­dles for her team would be men­tal ones.

“We’ll just fo­cus on what’s next in the play and we don’t worry about what the um­pire calls be­cause we can’t do any­thing about that,” she said.

“We’ve tried re­ally hard to work on that all sea­son be­cause I feel like that’s been our down­fall men­tally.

“We feel like it’s our turn to get it, so we’re go­ing to give it ev­ery­thing we’ve got and hope­fully come away with a win.”

Only time will tell who emerges vic­to­ri­ous, but one thing is cer­tain: spec­ta­tors at Hor­sham City Oval on Saturday are in for a treat.

Pic­ture: COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY IN FRONT: Na­timuk United goal de­fence Jo Taylor grabs the ball ahead of Har­row­bal­moral’s Sa­man­tha Crick.

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