PAST two matches have been blown-out results, but the coaches of A-grade netball grand finalists Sandhurst and Kangaroo Flat are prepared for a much closer battle to decide the ’22 season premiers.
Sandhurst will be chasing a Bendigo Football Netball League first of four A-grade premierships in a row when it takes to the court at Queen Elizabeth Oval to play the Jayden Cowling-coached Kangaroo Flat.
A triple premiership-winning coach at Sandhurst, Tamara Gilchrist said at Wednesday’s grand final press conference that the Dragons would be ready for a fierce challenge from the Roos.
“We are so excited about being in another grand final,” Gilchrist said.
“It’s what every player strives for, to be in a grand final, and to win it.
“Whether it’s a first grand final or a fourth, it does not change the focus of the playing group.”
Most recent showdown between the grand finalists was the second semi-final on September 3 which ended in a 65-26 victory for Sandhurst.
It was a different route to the season decider for the maroon and blue who were dislodged from the top rung on the ladder by Kangaroo Flat after a one-goal loss on Castlemaine’s court at Camp Reserve in the 18th round.
“It was not the loss we needed to have, but we learnt a lot from that match,” Gilchrist said of the 46-47 result.
“We were up by 12 goals at half-time of that match, but could not stop Castlemaine’s run in the second half.
A week after the loss to the Magpies it was the Dragons who fired up for a 48-33 win against Gisborne in the qualifying final, and then blitzed the Roos in the second semi.
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.
“We walked away from that game knowing we had a lot of work to do, and the team has done that,” Gilchrist said.
There is plenty of grand final experience in the Sandhurst line-up.
“There have not been a lot of changes the past six years.
“We have a strong core group that has played a lot of netball together and is so focused.”
Kangaroo Flat coach Jayden Cowling said the team had endured a tough run to the grand final.
“It’s been a great season performance wise,” Cowling said of the Roos’ run of 16-2 in the home and away series.
The Roos were rocked by the late-season injury to Ash Ryan who will be on the sidelines for the grand final.
“For Ash to be injured a week before the finals was devastating.
“Her attitude at training and on game-day is amazing.
“Ash was a huge part of our success so far this year.”
Cowling was rapt with the team’s response from the second semi-final loss.
“I had never seen an A-grade team from Kangaroo Flat be beaten by 40 goals before,” Cowling said of bouncing back to play Gisborne in the preliminary final.
Last Saturday the Roos faced a six-goal deficit at three quarter-time, but lifted to the win by three goals.
“I was extremely proud of how the team responded from the loss to Sandhurst and to earn a place in the grand final.
“It took a huge effort to beat Gisborne.”
Kangaroo Flat will need to produce another big performance to beat a red-hot Sandhurst and put the A-grade Cup in Roos’ hands for the first time in six years.
Written by Nathan Dole.