A GRADE – EAST GAMBIER v MILLICENT
IT should be the highlight of Western Border netball grand final day and there is nothing to suggest it will not be, as the benchmark of the past decade goes up against the new leaders of the pack on Saturday.
East Gambier has dominated 2021 with only one loss – a final-round one-goal defeat at the hands of Millicent when Tarsh McCallum was missing and Lisa Fyfe sustained an early injury but stayed on court.
However, Millicent has been building and last weekend in the preliminary final showed they are far from done with yet with their largest margin win over a top-four side for the entire 2021 season.
The Bulldogs have been around the mark for the past five years without breaking through for that elusive premiership and adding paying coach Emily Hunter to the line-up, along with star defender Lisa Fyfe, has seen the Bulldogs add even more quality to the line-up.
The elevation of star teenage shooter Amryn Bosko to a permanent A Grade role has also been pivotal.
She might be the sidekick for association three-time best and fairest Tenille Gray, but she is no shrinking wallflower, not only clearing space for her star shooting partner but taking on plenty of the scoring responsibility herself and has arguably been the rookie of the year with her composure and work rate.
Five of the Bulldogs’ starting line-up this weekend were named in the 2021 Western Border Team of the Year which shows how the rest of the competition rates this line-up as well, with goal keeper Bo Creek and mid-courter Tarsh McCallum joining the big three in the line-up.
Creek has the unenviable task of limiting supply to in-form Saints shooter Tabatha Sanderson, who had a strong preliminary final thanks to the patient feeding of her team mates, while McCallum is the level head in the East frontline, who works the angles, directs and encourages and has a great connection with her two goalers.
For the Saints, they will need to bring the relentless defensive intensity that they brought to the preliminary final and right from the first whistle if they are to topple the Bulldogs.
Portia McRae was on song at the weekend, with Hannah Nitschke and Lisa Duldig providing their usual no-nonsense hard work out front, denying time and space to the North frontline.
They will need to do that and probably more to limit the scoring power of the Bulldogs, with Hannah Nitschke having the toughest task on the day – ensuring Gray does not earn too much ball in dangerous positions.
At the other end of the court it will be all about speed of ball, avoiding long cross-court entries, which Fyfe and Creek will swallow up and trying to isolate Sanderson one-on-one.
Paige Nitschke, Demi Verbena and Lucy Denton were much more patient in the preliminary final and will need to continue that high work rate to shake of the tight checking of the East defenders, with Hunter and Tyne Bosko two of the best at pressuring the feeders.
It will be physical, uncompromising and tense, with the Bulldogs to claim a drought-breaking title years in the making.
A RESERVE – MILLICENT v NORTH GAMBIER
This game looms as one of the tightest contests of the day as Millicent and North Gambier go head-to-head as they have so many times before in the A Reserve grand final.
There are pivotal match ups all over the court and none more so than at either end.
Millicent goal keeper Alice Pratt has the tough task of quelling the influence of star Tigers goaler Alisha Bryan – a battle that was epic in the second semi-final.
Pratt is tight checking and agile and Bryan is just plain smart and if Bryan gets too much supply, the Tigers will certainly have the edge.
At the other end it is rising teenage star Annelise Janssen with the goal shooter bib, against classy North defender Emily Stafford and Stafford will hope her team mates pressure the delivery from outside the circle into the accurate tall Saints shooter.
That is where the most critical of all battles will be as Millicent’s goal attack and association best and fairest Sophie Ellis is the key, meaning North’s Jessie Little will need to be at her tight-checking best to deny time and space.
The toughness and speed of Phoebe McInerney and Libby Howe-Morgan in the Tigers mid-court also looms large and Shelby Gallio will need to be at her best defensively outside the circle to ensure they do not get easy access to their shooters.
Looking after the ball and accurate shooting will be the key and as Janssen will not get any shorter during the contest.
Her presence under the post will prove the difference with Millicent to win.
B GRADE – SOUTH GAMBIER v MILLICENT
The B Grade clash is also expected to go down to the wire, as South Gambier and Millicent go head-to-head.
South goalers Jaymee O’Neil and Leyna Bruggemann will need to be on song in the season decider.
They play a moving circle that tests all defensive combinations and Heather Douglas and Nicole Domaschenz will need to deny this duo supply or the scoreboard will favour the Demons.
At the other end, association runner up best and fairest Charlene Riley headlines the Demons defensive line, with strong support from Bella Morale, who has been a revelation in 2021 as a circle defender and Tash Attiwill who is the heart and soul of this South line-up.
They will harass and pressure the Saints forward line that boasts plenty of experience in coach Jacqui Matthews, alongside the talent of Mia Varcoe and Kate Walker.
It is all about speed in the mid court for the Saints with association best and fairest Jackie Sunderland and Tayla Werchon who run hard all day and create turnovers.
The Demons mid-court is all about experience and smarts, with Maddie Burley and if Shelby Auld remains sidelined, it will be up to youngsters Sophie Wight and Ruby Richter to run the centre.
Based purely on the fact South generated 23 more scoring shots in the semi-final, it would appear the Demons have the slight edge and will secure South’s only opportunity for a flag in 2021.
C GRADE – MILLICENT v NORTH GAMBIER
Aside from a hiccup against a strong East Gambier line-up in the final minor round, Millicent’s C Grade team has been unstoppable in 2021 and they did comfortably defeat their grand final opponent North Gambier in the semi-final by 17.
With long-range specialist Jodie Reilly and association runner up best and fairest Sapphire Sims in goals, plus Sophie Skeer and Nicola Batten delivering the ball, the Saints have been a high-scoring outfit.
Defensively they are also sound with the likes of Abby McShane, coach Kalli Brown, Ella Wesolowski and Lilly Gray rotating through the defensive goal third.
Then there is association best and fairest Krystal Coghlan, who creates turnover ball at will and also proves critical in transition as a link player through the mid court.
North has plenty of potential match-winners as well, with the star shooting combination of Hannah Fox and Bailey Young coming off a stunning preliminary final performance.
At the other end, the Tigers have been rotating their defensive combination with Ilana Adam, Chloe Miller and Kate Dyson providing a close-checking style of defence.
The Tigers are not without a chance, but it is hard not to see the Saints go marching in.
17 AND UNDER – MILLICENT v WEST GAMBIER
It will take some kind of game in the 17 and Under grand final to top the overtime preliminary final, but these two teams could deliver.
Millicent will rely on the leadership and sheer talent of association best and fairest Lucy Denton, as well as the classy mid-court with the likes of Daisy Tunkin and Paige Lucas running the show.
Defensively Portia McRae will be pivotal in her battle with Sarah Ritter which will be one of the match-deciding clashes.
West goal attack Zoe Malseed is coming off a strong preliminary final and will need to reproduce that form, while much will rely on the mid-court smarts of Tara Bryant.
West’s defensive line of Hayley Pearson, Hannah Seidel and Maddie Milich went above and beyond in the preliminary final and will need to reproduce that tight checking effort to stem the Saints scoring.
It would not be a shock if West won, but it would be an upset – the Saints to defend their title.
15 AND UNDER A – MILLICENT v NORTH GAMBIER
The 15 and Under A promises entertainment value as the association’s best young talent from Millicent and North Gambier face off.
There are enticing match ups all over the court and perhaps the most critical will be in the Millicent shooting circle where Western Border team mates Annelise Janssen (Millicent) and Stella Mobbs (North Gambier) will go head-to-head.
Janssen has been one of the competition’s big improvers in 2021, while Mobbs has the athleticism to trouble her.
Injured Millicent goal attack Abby Denton hopes to be back on court and with her in goals out the front of Janssen, it is a strong scoring combination.
Lillie Paul and Ella Easterby will be critical in the mid-court and the return of Edie Easterby further boosts the Saints.
Lauren Van Eeden is an athletic defender, who along with Maya Tarrant will need to be at her best to stop the shooting combination of Cara Nulty and Macey Griffith.
Ava Collins will be the key for the Tigers mid-court, in transition and with that last feed into the shooting circle.
North’s X factor is Tenielle Human, who had a strong semi-final and is the queen of the interception for the Tigers as well as driving hard through the mid-court.
Considering Millicent is adding two class acts to the line-up from the second semi-final, the Saints should prevail.
15 AND UNDER B – EAST GAMBIER v CASTERTON SANDFORD
The 15 and Under B grand final is the hardest read, given East Gambier has not played a game in this finals series and Casterton Sandford was finally able to hit the court last week to earn a grand final spot.
The Cats have been the benchmark all season and start favourite, especially with the likes of association best and fairest Indi Longhurst controlling the mid-court.
Her team mate Phoebe Carlin is also a key with her ability to play in both the shooting and defensive circle.
Ivy Lane is as solid as a rock in goals, while Chelsea Hulm stepped up when injected into the game at quarter time and was a key in the Cats taking control of the preliminary final.
Laura Michelmore is a key in defence for the Cats, while Sarah Richardson will be critical in creating turnover ball.
East has plenty of talent, with Ambah Beveridge running the goal attack bib and combining well with either Matilda Lamb or Millie Button.
At the other end Indi Dwyer, Tonique Burford and Tahlia Geraghty are tight-checking defenders who will make the Cats earn every possession.
The mid-court of Bridget Facey, Lillie Lamb and Mia Young are all hard running and will need to work hard both with and without ball to get the job done.
Not having played any matches let alone tough matches might work against the young Bulldogs and the Cats will win a nailbiter.
13 AND UNDER A – MILLICENT v NORTH GAMBIER
Millicent and North Gambier faced off in the second semi-final and will now go another round in the grand final.
Despite a strong first half showing by the Tigers in that semi-final, the Saints just seem to have the edge.
The second half was all the Saints as they started to get important touches and deny the Tigers much ball.
The Tigers will need to step up to challenge the Saints for more than just a half, but it does appear Millicent just has too many weapons to let this one slip.
13 AND UNDER B – NORTH GAMBIER v MILLICENT
North Gambier advanced to the 13 and Under B grand final with a solid 10-goal win, but if Millicent finishes a little more accurately this will be the tight affair most expect.
Both sides boast plenty of class around the court and it could well come down to a defensive stoush.
It is expected to be a nailbiter, but the Tigers could just hang on.