Burras and Demons in decider
Horsham and Minyip-murtoa will vie to replace Horsham Saints on Wimmera Netball Association’s A Grade throne after the two-time reigning premiers were eliminated in Sunday’s preliminary final.
The Saints have produced giant-killing runs in each of their past two seasons, coming from fifth place to storm to premierships.
But an attempted premiership threepeat from fourth place in 2019 proved one bridge too far, with the Saints falling 60-47 to a fired-up Minyip-murtoa.
The Burras topped the ladder for most of the season but have been up and down in recent weeks.
They looked to be on their knees after a hefty 30-goal loss to Horsham in a second semi-final but responded magnificently on Sunday at Dimboola.
Minyip-murtoa, playing through Georgia Mclennan at goal attack, opened up a three-goal advantage by the end of the first quarter but truly got on top in the second with 16 goals to 10.
The nine-goal gap was one the Saints was never able to peg back despite the persistent efforts of goal attack Lavinia Fox and midcourters Abby Hallam and Ashlee Grace.
Mclennan was arguably best acourt, but the Burras got contributions from each of their players, including their bench.
Taylor Mentha’s efforts on towering Saints goalie Maggie Caris were also noteworthy, as Caris was kept to just 19 goals – easily her lowest total of the season.
Coach Billie Bibby said her players had been galvanised by the loss to Horsham and came out with a point to prove in the preliminary final.
“Grand finals don’t come easy, and we can’t take them for granted,” she said.
“I think losing to Horsham made us more determined to make sure we didn’t go out that way. We want to go out with a win.”
Bibby said the Burras’ Jekyll and Hyde performances in the finals were mystifying, but she backed her team to perform at its best on grand final day.
“There’s nothing I can really put my finger on as to why we’ve been up and down,” she said.
“If I knew that, it wouldn’t have been happening.
“We learned the hard way what happens when Horsham gets a jump on us, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on.
“We’ve got a very versatile team and a lot of the girls can play anywhere, so we’ll be looking to use all nine in the grand final.”
Saints coach Shannon Cross paid credit to the Burras and said they could win a premiership if they duplicated their performance in the grand final.
“I believe our players gave their all and played really well, it’s just that Minyip-murtoa played better,” she said.
“Going for a three-peat was always going to be a difficult task, and we just fell one game short of another grand final.”
The Demons are well rested after playing only once during the finals series and are celebrating goal defence Georgia Hiscock’s win in Monday night’s Hatcher Medal count.
Hiscock and Faith Mckenzie will attempt to match up on the red-hot McLennan and Kirby Knight respectively.
The Burras could throw different combinations into their midcourt, with Hayley Campbell, Ash Knight and Sheridan Petering able to play different positions against Horsham’s Paige Lloyd, Liv Jones and Tamika Mentha.
In the defensive goal ring, Burra Taylor Mentha will try to replicate her stellar performance against Horsham sharpshooter Emma Buwalda, while Alex Lang is likely to take Georgie Carberry.
Demons co-coach Amanda Worthy said her side would be prepared for a much-improved Minyip-murtoa in the grand final.
“Two weeks ago the game certainly didn’t go the way we anticipated – we expected it to be really tight – and going into Saturday we’re expecting a tight game again,” she said.
“I believe we’re quite evenly matched teams for height and speed across the court.
“It will probably come down to who settles quickest on the day and handles the pressure of the game, the umpires and the whole atmosphere.”
Minyip-murtoa’s Hayley Campbell