Sandhurst caps run to historic achievement on netball court
A POWERHOUSE on the court for many years, Sandhurst capped a remarkable run to a history-setting achievement at the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League’s grand finals on Saturday.
The Dragons were in pursuit of a fourth consecutive A-grade premiership and became the first club to do in the competition’s 31-year history.
The Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst was under pressure from Kangaroo Flat for a lot of the showdown for the premiership cup.
The Roos made a flying start to open a four-goal buffer in the early minutes, but the Dragons fired up to lead by a goal at quarter-time.
A wet court and occasional heavy downpour tested the skills of all players, as well as the resilience of spectators and officials.
Led by strong defensive play and the hot hand of Rebecca Smith in attack, Sandhurst gained a three-goal lead by half-time of the clash with the Jayden Cowling-coached Kangaroo Flat.
The work of goalkeeper Imogen Sexton and play of Sophie Shoebridge and Ruby Turner in defence was capped by excellent goaling from Smith and Kelsey Meade in the final minutes of the third quarter.
A key was the Dragons’ defensive efforts against Roos’ gun goalers Lou Dupuy and Abbey Ryan.
Sandhurst led by seven goals at a quarter to go.
Defences were well on top at the start of the final quarter before the Dragons took control to win the term, 14-6, and claim a memorable 48-33 victory.
Best on court honours went to Imogen Sexton, who along with Rebecca Smith and captain Meg Williams became the first players to win four A-grade premierships in a row.
Victorious coach Tamara Gilchrist praised Kangaroo Flat on the way it bounced back from a 39-goal loss to the Dragons in the second semi to win the preliminary final against Gisborne and then put in a strong showing in the grand final.
“They are just so hard to win. It’s hard enough to make it to a grand final, but then to win four, it’s just amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Gilchrist.
Sandhurst’s tally of A-grade premierships now stands at 11.
The club’s latest A-grade premiership-winning team:
Shae Clifford C/WA; Holly Lockhart GA/GS/WD; Kelsey Meade GA/GS; Paige Ryan WA/C/WD; Charlotte Sexton GK/GD; Imogen Sexton GK/GD/WD; Sophie Shoebridge WD/GD/GK; Bec Smith GS; Ruby Turner GD/GD/WD; Meg Williams WA/C; and Tamara Gilchrist, coach.
For Kangaroo Flat and coach Jayden Cowling it was a case of the opposition being better for longer, but the Roos could reflect on another great season.
“With Sandhurst going for four in a row, it was always going to be a tough day. Unfortunately, we weren’t good enough towards the end.”
Best for the Roos’ were skipper Carly Van den Heuvel in defence.
Mid-court star Chelsea Sartori again brought the form that earned runner-up honours for the Betty Thompson Medal awarded to the league’s fairest and best player.
It was another grand day for Sandhurst as three of its four teams triumphed in the premiership showdowns.
Fans were treated to thrilling finishes.
The B-grade match ended in a 37-35 win for the Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst against South Bendigo.
In B-reserve, Sandhurst took on Gisborne.
The Rose Gallagher-coached Sandhurst won 48-46.
Other premiership spoils went to Gisborne in A-reserve and 17-and-under.
The Bulldogs faced a three-goal deficit at the start of the final term in the A-reserve clash with Sandhurst.
Despite the heavy rain and cold, the Bronwyn Slater-coached Gisborne lifted to win the last quarter, 8-3, and claim a 29-27 victory.
The Bulldogs’ bucked the trend as Sandhurst had won the previous three contests between the teams.
On grand final day it was Gisborne which made a strong start and confidence grew.
Conditions meant the pace was not as high as what Sandhurst would usually play.
Gisborne’s defensive work in all thirds of the court was also a key factor.
Best on court honours went to Sandhurst mid-courter Paige Ryan.
Grand final day began with Gisborne taking on Kangaroo Flat in the 17-and-under clash.
The Rylee Connell-coached Gisborne was aiming to cap an unbeaten run to take the cup.
Goal defence and co-captain Emily McDonald earned the best on court medal in a 44-34 victory for Gisborne.
Other stars in the red, white and blue were league best and fairest Torie Skrijel and goaler Bella Connors.
The pressure was on from a talented Kangaroo Flat line-up, but Gisborne played inspired netball in front of a boisterous crowd.
Gisborne turned a four-goal lead at half-time into an eight -goal buffer going into the final term.
The Bulldogs went on to achieve their 20th and most important win of the season.
A great example of the bond in the Gisborne team was shown as players embraced team-mate Olivia Murray who missed most of the season because of an ACL injury sustained while representing the BFNL 17-and-under team.
In the lead-up to the grand final, Connell injured her Achilles in the final minutes of the A-grade preliminary final against Kangaroo Flat.
Bendigo FNL netball grand final scoreboard:
A-grade: Sandhurst d Kangaroo Flat 48-33
A-reserve: Gisborne d Sandhurst 29-27.
B-grade: Sandhurst d South Bendigo 37-35
B-reserve: Sandhurst d Gisborne 48-46
17-and-under: Gisborne d Kangaroo Flat 44-34
Written by Nathan Dole.