MILLICENT 86 d NORTH GAMBIER 40
NORTH Gambier continued to be plagued by injury and player unavailability in round six of Western Border netball.
That challenge, combined with a Millicent line-up which arguably produced its most slick and polished performance of 2019 meant the scoreline was never going to be pretty.
In the end, the reigning premiers racked up an 86-40 victory.
Without Amanda O’Shaughnessy, who looks set to miss the season, Olivia Patzel, who continues to battle knee issues and Mel Renko and Ash Kalantarian, who were both unavailable, the Tigers had a totally new-look and untried line up.
Coach Noni McConnell took the goal attack bib alongside Alisha Bryan, with Lisa Fyfe returning to the court to resume her defensive combination with Maddie Whaites and Meg Gazzard, a blast from the past, taking the centre bib.
The match also marked the debut of hard working defender Claire Day, who took the wing defence bib, while Ellen Brown, who has had some time on the A Grade court this season, was at wing attack.
The Saints, started with their usual starting combination, but the Tigers refused to give an inch and Fyfe took little time to produce a highlight reel of interceptions, as North was able to force the Saints into error.
But with Millicent also creating turnovers, the difference was seven goals at the first break.
A 21-10 second quarter saw the Saints take control as their speed of ball started to take its toll and did not allow the Tigers to create the turnover ball they had in the opening stanza.
Demi Verbena created havoc in the attacking goal third and with Lisa Duldig and Paige Nitschke finding good connection with the speedy goal attack, the scoreboard started to tick over regularly.
Things did not improve for the Tigers in the third term as the Saints continued to dominate the contest, extending their lead by another 13 to go into the final quarter with a convincing 31-goal lead.
Millicent swung the changes in the last term, with Hayley Dunn heading to the bench and Madi Haggett and Hannah Nitschke taking over defensive duties.
Duldig moved to the defensive wing and Lucy Denton brought fresh legs to the centre.
It was actually Millicent’s best quarter as they racked up 25 goals.
Lucy Denton was hitting the circle hard and feeding with precision, while the young defensive combination still managed to shut down time and space for the Tigers forward set up.
Bryan was the spearhead of the shooing circle, nailing 30 of North’s 40 goals and doing so with impressive accuracy, missing only 10 goals for the game.
McConnell battled hard in a position that is not less familiar to the usual defender, while Ellen Brown also never stopped trying to find space and feed her goalies with accuracy.
North will be sweating on the fitness of Patzel and looking forward to the return of Kalantarian and Renko so they can start to build a stable line-up towards another finals campaign.
The flip side of the 86-40 scoreline is the outstanding form of the Saints, with the young players now completely comfortable in senior company and showing maturity beyond their years as they become key players in the reigning premiers’ defence.