ON-COURT leaders Meg Williams and Carly Van Den Heuvel believe defensive tips and intercepts will play a key factor in deciding the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football League’s A-grade netball grand final on Saturday.
Just as it was three years ago, Sandhurst and Kangaroo Flat will contest the premiership decider on the court adjacent to Queen Elizabeth Oval.
The Roos line-up has changed markedly since the grand final loss to Sandhurst in 2019, while the reigning champions coached by Tamara Gilchrist have retained a strong core group chasing a fourth premiership in a row.
No club has achieved the feat.
Either way it will be player/s or a player that marks a fourth consecutive grand final win on Saturday.
Sandhurst has several in the running for the honour, while Van Den Heuvel is now a key pillar in the Roos’ defence after a hat-trick of premiership wins with the Dragons from 2017 to ’19.
Captain and Sandhurst’s mid-court star, Meg Williams expects the grand final to be vastly different to the second semi.
“It will be a very intense game and intense from the first whistle,” she said at this week’s grand final media conference.
“Depending on the weather, it will be a different story on the type of game that is played, but we just need to focus on ourselves and try and get the job done.”
Both teams have plenty of strength in all thirds of the court.
“(Winning) will be dependent on a full team effort,” Williams said.
“There’s not really one player that we single out to shut down, we build it as a team.
“I know Lou (goal shooter Lou Dupuy) could be a big target for them, but we just need to build the pressure throughout the whole court.”
In mid-court, Williams teams up with talented teenager Shae Clifford, winner of this year’s Rising Star award.
The Dragons’ mid-court faces a huge challenge against a Kangaroos’ line-up led by Chelsea Sartori, runner-up for this year’s Betty Thompson Medal as league best and fairest to Gisborne star Maddi Stewart.
Another key player for the Roos is Milly Wicks at wing attack or wing defence.
It’s a unique occasion for Carly Van Den Heuvel.
“I’m very, very lucky – it’s surreal to sit here and think about that, seeing both of the (club’s) ribbons sitting on the cup,” Van Den Heuvel said at the grand final press conference.
“I’ve been very lucky to have played in such strong sides.”
The Roos’ leader said it may be just one or two intercepts that can decide the result.
“Our mid-courters have been excellent at not only setting up attacks and working the ball to our goalers, but also their work when the opposition have the ball.
“The workate of Chelsea Sartori to be in position to intercept or affect a pass is incredible, and lifts all of the team.”
The Roos go into the match without mid-courter Ash Ryan, foot injury, but the ability for many players to switch to various roles is a key strength of the Jayden Cowling-coached line-up.
“Throwing our defenders into the midcourt, throwing our defenders into the shooting ring and vice versa, we’ve been really lucky to have that depth,” said Van Den Heuvel.
This season’s meetings between the grand finalists stand at two-one in favour of the Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst.
Most recent showdown was second semi-final on September 3 which ended in a 65-26 victory for Sandhurst.
The Dragons and Roos met in the fourth round at the QEO where Sandhurst won 52-51.
In round 13 it was the Kangaroos who dominated on their court at Dower Park for a 66-49 victory.
Day one of the finals series was the qualifying final in which Sandhurst marked a 48-33 victory against Gisborne.
After a 16-2 run to finish top of the ladder, Kangaroo Flat was blitzed by Sandhurst in the second semi.
The Roos bounced back brilliantly for a three-goal win against Gisborne in the preliminary final to earn another chance to play for the premiership cup.
Most recent grand final victory for the Roos was against Golden Square to cap the 2016 campaign.
Teams for the Bendigo FNL A-grade netball grand final:
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/GK/WD; Meg Williams WA/C.
Coach: Tamara Gilchrist.
Julia Clarke GA/GS/WA; Lou Dupuy GS; Meg Ginnivan WD/WA; Ingrid Hopkins GD; Ava Lowndes GK; Laura McDonald GD/WD; Abbey Ryan GA/GS; Ashley Ryan WA/C; Chelsea Sartori C; Carly Van Den Heuvel GK/GD; Ella Wicks WA/C; Milly Wicks WD/WA.
Coach: Jayden Cowling.