A GRADE – MILLICENT v NORTH GAMBIER
MILLICENT and North Gambier have played three high-quality Western Border netball matches in 2021 and the preliminary final looms as another epic battle.
Preliminary final day is uncharted territory for the reigning premiers, but despite not playing anywhere near their best in the second semi-final, they did only lose to a rampaging East Gambier by six goals, so with some more hard work on the training track and a few tweaks, the Saints will still be a force.
North Gambier had a stunning opening half against West Gambier, but would be well aware maintaining that kind of pressure in defence and patience in attack will need to be a four-quarter effort this weekend.
It would be dangerous to leave the door ajar as they did last weekend against the Roos.
North defenders Maddie Whaites and Noni McConnell refuse to give an inch and they face a daunting task, denying supply to Millicent shooter Tabatha Sanderson and also rein in the creativity of Demi Verbena.
At the other end of the court, young defender Portia McRae will need to make life tough for star Tigers shooter Caroline Davey.
Hannah Nitschke will need to not only assist in limiting supply to Davey, but also ensure Ellen Brown does not do the damage she was able to do last weekend when her work rate, pace and well-timed drives saw her open up space for Davey and take and convert more shots than she has in weeks.
The mid-courts are both all class – Millicent’s Lucy Denton, Lisa Duldig and Paige Nitschke up against North’s Mel Renko, Brianna Walters and Teneille Barry – and the mid-court that plays with the most patience with ball in hand and applies relentless pressure when they do not have possession will decide the outcome of this clash.
Millicent has a title to defend and a point to prove – there is life after Donna Denton and Hayley Dunn – and they will make it four narrow wins for 2021 and advance to the title decider.
A RESERVE – NORTH GAMBIER v EAST GAMBIER
North Gambier challenged top-ranked Millicent last weekend in the A Reserve second semi-final and will be eager to earn another shot at the reigning champions.
On the flip side, East Gambier knows they got out of jail at the weekend, letting the Roos back in after they set up a solid lead and it will need to be a four-quarter effort to topple the Tigers.
Both sides have strong holding goal shooters and creative, hard running goal attacks and much will depend on the supply they enjoy.
East will not die wondering, but the Tigers should earn their rematch with the Saints on grand final day.
B GRADE – MILLICENT v NORTH GAMBIER
The B Grade preliminary final does not have the same form line as some of the other finals as North Gambier did not have to hit the court in the first semi final when Casterton Sandford were disappointingly stuck in lockdown in Victoria.
Millicent will be smarting from coughing up a five-goal half time lead to see South Gambier win the final quarter 14-5 to advance to the grand final.
North will challenge and ironically might be hampered by no competitive netball for a fortnight, but the Saints will bounce back and earn another chance to knock off South Gambier.
C GRADE – NORTH GAMBIER v SOUTH GAMBIER
South Gambier is somewhat of a surprise inclusion in the C Grade preliminary final but earned it in a hard-fought contest against East Gambier.
It is one of the those finals, where the Demons will enter the clash full of confidence after their upset win, while North Gambier is coming off a tough loss to Millicent.
Betting against the tenacious Demons is a risk, but the Tigers should advance to try and deny the Saints the premiership.
17 AND UNDER – SOUTH GAMBIER v WEST GAMBIER
This looms as the match of the day, outside of the A Grade final, as South Gambier and West Gambier go head to head.
South has won all three clashes in 2021, but none of those victories have been easy and with some of the best talent in the association on show, this will be a high-quality arm wrestle.
South certainly challenged Millicent last weekend and would be desperate to earn one more chance to knock the Saints off.
Much will depend on which team looks after the ball best and which team can apply relentless pressure.
West will make the Demons earn every possession, but South should advance to the grand final with another narrow and tense victory.
15 and UNDER A – NORTH GAMBIER v WEST GAMBIER
North Gambier took it up to an undermanned Millicent in last weekend’s semi-final and it was only a drop off in the second half that saw the margin blow out slightly.
The Tigers have rising stars in every area of the court, while there is planet of depth on the bench, allowing them to inject some fresh legs into the contest.
The Roos will need to be at their best if an upset is to be on the cards.
However, the Tigers are just a little more experienced and should earn one more chance to knock over the undefeated Saints.
15 AND UNDER B – CASTERTON SANDFORD v MILLICENT
Everyone has their fingers crossed the 15 and Under B Cats will be able to cross the border and continue their season after finishing minor premiers.
If that is the case, Casterton Sandford will start the preliminary final hot favourites.
Millicent was impressive in its win over West Gambier and the young Saints will give everything, but the Cats should earn a grand final berth.
13 AND UNDER A – NORTH GAMBIER v SOUTH GAMBIER
North Gambier lost the 13 and Under A second semi-final by 17 goals, but for much of the match the young Tigers looked outstanding.
South had a strong start to its first semi-final and did take the foot off the pedal late, which they cannot afford to do this weekend.
The Demons will not make it easy for North, but the Tigers should get the job done.
13 & UNDER B – MILLICENT V WEST GAMBIER
The 13 and Under B clash is another hard read, with West Gambier another one of the teams that sat out at the weekend when the Victorian lockdown was extended and the Cats could not cross the border for the first semi-final.
The Saints will start strong favourites and should earn a rematch with the Tigers.