The KDL under-15 netball final is a local derby.By Chalpat Sonti
It’s not quite back to the future, but Saturday’s KDNL under-15 final will certainly feel like it for some of the participants from Avenel and Nagambie.
Swans coach Helen Dawson explains.
‘‘Thirty years ago we played in four successive grand finals (at age-group levels),’’ she said.
‘‘Nagambie won the first one, we won the next two, then Nagambie won. I played my first final then and they were against the likes of Alison Biggs and Tracey Bryant. Now we’ve all got daughters playing against each other.’’
Back in those days the rivalry was more intense, being tempered since by the formation of the Tabilk junior club, where many of the players are team-mates on Sundays. Many also played in the combined Nagambie-Avenel Monday night competition where they are used to coming up against each other.
While the bitterness might have eased, it’s still likely to be a tough and close game. It doesn’t get any better at KDL level than an Avenel-Nagambie grand final.
The Swans won the qualifying final by two goals after the Lakers won the home-and-away game by three. In both games the winner had to withstand a mighty last-quarter comeback, and both sides only lost one game in the regular season.
For Dawson, it is third time lucky after the Swans made the preliminary final the past two years, while for Nagambie co-coach Michelle Fothergill, who also has a daughter in her side, it’s a case of trying to go one better than last year’s runner-up finish.
Dawson said she knew at the start of the year her side would be contenders.
‘‘A lot of them play Saturday and Sunday so fitness isn’t an issue,’’ she said.
‘‘The pre-season was so good I had to stop them training twice a week. They’re very committed and they all gel so great together, given we’ve got girls going to school at St Mary’s, Seymour and Euroa.
‘‘I believe they’ll all come up and play under-17s which is very exciting for the club. We were very successful in the ’80s and ’90s but it’s been few and far between since. I feel like we’re going back to those old Avenel-Nagambie eras.’’
Nagambie won its way into the big one with an easy 53-25 win over Violet Town in the preliminary final at Girgarre on Saturday. Mahony Fothergill picked up the medal for best-on-court and she and Gabby Finnigan dropped goals from anywhere in the circle in an impressive performance.
For Nagambie co-coach Tegan Gent — Maree Findlay is the third of the trio which oversees the Lakers age-group sides — the grand final promises to be totally different.
‘‘It’ll be very tough,’’ she said.
‘‘We can’t go into it thinking we’ve won it. I think the girls we have in our side are talented and highly skilled, we have a lot of versatile players who can play anywhere on the court which is great. They all also put in 110 per cent.
‘‘They were probably happy with what they did (in the comeback against Avenel) but disappointed with the result in the end. They’re looking forward to having another go.’’
Five of the Lakers have extra motivation — they were in the side beaten in last year’s grand final by Lancaster. So was that a motivation at the start of the year?
‘‘It was a bit of two things,’’ Gent said.
‘‘Obviously our main goal was to make the grand final but we also had a lot of girls play up the grades. We’ve taken it game by game, playing them in a lot of different positions (for their development).
‘‘But both teams are very supportive of one another and I think both have been wishing they would play one another in the grand final. It’s great actually to have Nagambie-Avenel in the grand final.’’
Whatever the result, it promises to be a great game — and whoever wins, the beaten side will feel genuinely pleased for them.
READ THE COACHES THOUGHTS ON THEIR PLAYERS IN THIS WEEK’S TELEGRAPH
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