Shepparton has booked its berth in the Goulburn Valley Netball League grand final with an extra time nail-biting victory over Shepparton Swans.By Hannah Driscoll
It was a match worthy of a grand final.
And in a way, it was a relief that neither of the teams were going to be eliminated after the performances they delivered at Benalla yesterday.
But there could only be one winner and it was Shepparton which booked the first spot in Goulburn Valley Netball League’s grand final after extra time against Shepparton Swans.
The Bears are the only GVNL club to not have tasted premiership success in A-grade and the emotions for all those involved was clear to see after the whistle.
It was a tough, physical game with both teams breaking each other’s centre passes before finally settling into the game.
The Swans took a three-goal lead into quarter-time, but the Bears produced a six-goal turnaround to go three ahead at the main break.
A couple of errors from the Swans gave Shepparton further opportunities in the third quarter and they were as much as seven goals in front in the third term.
But, as Shepparton coach Tracey Brereton pointed out, you can never discount the Swans and they tied 30-30 early in the fourth quarter in time for a blood rule call on Hannah Crawley, who had hit the court minutes earlier.
Crawley and Hannah Austin for Shepparton and Shepparton Swan Annie Cobbledick in particular and Gemma Toy showed nerves of steel in the final quarter, but the defenders kept them working hard.
Morgan Gibson produced some fruitful turnovers for the Bears, but Erin Hopkins was outstanding for her work ethic and efforts.
Scores were tied 34-34 at full-time, meaning the teams played seven minutes each end with a one-minute break in between.
Crawley sank a shot just in time to give Shepparton a one-goal lead after the first block of time, but Toy missed a chance to level the scores before the final whistle.
It was not a tough shot in itself, but tough enough after a full game and extra time, under pressure, with the supporters screaming ‘‘Timers up’’ from the sidelines.
Brereton was disappointed the Bears did not surge ahead when they had the seven-goal buffer, but was not surprised with the Swans’ fightback.
She was happy with how they pushed on after a shaky start and encouraged all the players to enjoy the achievement.
‘‘Enjoy the build-up to the grand final because there’s 16 teams that go around there trying to get in and only two can make it to the very last day, so let’s enjoy it,’’ Brereton said.
‘‘Be happy about it, be positive about it.
‘‘We’re not ahead of ourselves, nothing like that. I think it’s reward for a lot of effort, not just this year, but a number of years.”
Shepparton Swans playing coach Jana Bruinier said she would take some of the responsibility for changes that did not prove fruitful yesterday, but was also encouraged that the team fought back.
‘‘I said to the girls at the start of the game I asked them to focus and play intelligent netball and play it out for the 60 minutes
‘‘They did exactly what I asked and then they played it out for the 75 minutes,’’ Bruinier said.
‘‘I said sometimes when you go out there and you give yourself respect and you give the opposition respect and you still didn’t win, you still didn’t lose on the day and I’ve just asked them to hold their heads high and look to next week now.
‘‘I’m certainly not going to negatively reflect on that game at all.’’
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