De­mons cap­ture first flag

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport - BY COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY

Afew sec­onds on the net­ball court can be an eter­nity. Dur­ing Satur­day’s Hor­sham Dis­trict A Grade grand fi­nal be­tween La­harum and Na­timuk United, they were the dif­fer­ence be­tween ec­stasy and agony.

The De­mons cap­tured their first ever premier­ship af­ter 64 years in the league with a one-goal vic­tory in ex­tra time that will live on in the minds of all who saw it as a classic.

La­harum’s strug­gles against the Ewes in big fi­nals were well doc­u­mented; the two-time reign­ing pre­miers had elim­i­nated the De­mons from each of the past four fi­nals se­ries, in­clud­ing grand fi­nal wins in 2015 and 2018.

But La­harum coaches Caitlin Story and Erin Melling­ton were de­ter­mined this sea­son would be dif­fer­ent.

The club’s play­ers spent time dur­ing off­sea­son work­ing on their men­tal for­ti­tude in big mo­ments, and their train­ing was put to the ul­ti­mate test in the grand fi­nal.

Af­ter a neck-and-neck open­ing quar­ter that left scores tied at 10 goals apiece, the De­mons worked their way to a seven-goal lead through the strong work of de­fen­sive duo Re­becca Mcin­tyre and Ema Ire­dell.

Mcin­tyre had the daunt­ing chal­lenge of match­ing up on tow­er­ing Ewe goal shooter Shan­non Couch, but was able to keep her in check while Ire­dell used her ath­leti­cism and an­tic­i­pa­tion to in­ter­cept passes.

While it looked as if the De­mons would have a chance to es­tab­lish their dom­i­nance, the his­tory be­tween the sides sug­gested a Na­timuk United come­back was in­evitable.

And so it proved, as Ewe coach Ch­eryl Sud­holz and Michelle Trigg be­gan

to claw the mar­gin back with bet­ter feeds to Couch un­der the ring.

The Ewes stormed back to within a goal at half time, be­fore go­ing on a run of their own to lead by nearly 10 goals in the third quar­ter.

With more fi­nals heart­break star­ing them in the face, it was the De­mons’ turn to re­spond, and re­spond they did.

Melling­ton, Zan­dria Malone and Adele Ro­hde lim­ited their turnovers through the mid­court and Story and goal at­tack Mad­die Ire­dell cap­i­talised with six goals each in the third term.

But the De­mons still trailed by a goal in the last quar­ter and, in the fran­tic fi­nal sec­onds, looked as if they would en­dure yet an­other loss.

The team worked the ball to Story, who had been nearly flaw­less in the term, and she con­verted a shot from di­rectly in front four sec­onds be­fore the horn sounded.

With scores knot­ted at 47, the sides played four min­utes each way to de­ter­mine a win­ner.

Trigg was con­fined to the side­lines with an in­jury early in the ex­tra pe­riod, leav­ing the Ewes with no fit play­ers on the bench and forc­ing them to reshuf­fle their line-up.

Alysha Lis­ton moved to cen­tre and Candice Muszki­eta en­tered the game at goal at­tack and made some key shots un­der pres­sure, but the Ewes seemed to be bat­tling to stay in the game and trailed by a goal at the change of ends.

La­harum had sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties to find a win­ning goal in the fi­nal two min­utes but ei­ther missed or turned the ball over.

Na­timuk United pressed hard, but Ema Ire­dell in­ter­cepted two of Sud­holz’s passes in the fi­nal two min­utes to pre­serve a nar­row lead.

The Ewes worked the ball into Couch for one fi­nal shot to tie the scores, but the horn went with the ball still in her hands and de­liv­ered an elu­sive premier­ship to the De­mons.

There was ela­tion from a huge crowd of La­harum sup­port­ers that stormed the court af­ter the win.

Mcin­tyre ded­i­cated the win to the late Michele Mibus, a club stal­wart who played in five A Grade grand fi­nals with­out suc­cess for the De­mons.

Story said it was a vic­tory for all of the La­harum faith­ful, but es­pe­cially the play­ers.

“Hon­estly, I didn’t know if we could turn it around when they were nine or 10 goals up in the third quar­ter,” she said.

“But the be­lief from each and every one of the girls to never give up was amaz­ing.

“When it went to knew we could do it.

“Since 2015 we’ve been work­ing as a team, and all we’ve ever wanted has been an A Grade premier­ship.”

Story also praised Ema Ire­dell, who was named best on court.

“Ema flies out of nowhere and gets all these in­ter­cepts across the court, es­pe­cially when we re­ally need her to do it,” she said.

“It’s a credit to her be­cause she’s the fittest she’s ever been. I wouldn’t want any­one else in goal de­fence but her.”

Na­timuk United’s Sud­holz lamented a nar­rowly missed op­por­tu­nity for a third straight premier­ship, but praised her team for fight­ing to the end.

“The timer just didn’t seem to be on our side,” she said.

“It just goes to show that the game can change in a heart­beat.

“With the in­juries we’ve had and go­ing into ex­tra time with no­body left on the bench, we had to use every­thing we had in our­selves just to keep fight­ing.

“We did that down to the dy­ing sec­onds.

“La­harum got theirs to­day and full credit to them be­cause they played great, but it will make us even hun­grier and more de­ter­mined to get it back next year.” ex­tra time, we

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