After 21 years, the A-Grade premiership is a sweet one for the Shepparton Swans.By Hannah Driscoll
It took four years, but the wait was worth it.
Shepparton Swans ended a 21-year A-grade premiership drought yesterday at Deakin Reserve with a comprehensive 21-goal win against Shepparton.
It was the Swans’ fourth consecutive appearance in a Goulburn Valley Netball League A-grade final and they would be making no mistakes this time.
The match between these two sides went to extra time only two weeks earlier in the second semi-final, with the Bears eventually winning by a goal to advance to the major final.
But the Swans had the game all but in the bag by three-quarter time yesterday when they held a 17-goal lead.
Shepparton looked like it would be the one to control the match early when they shot to a 4-0 lead, but the Swans levelled 5-5 and that was the last time the Bears were in front all day.
Coach Tracey Brereton tried every combination possible to spark the team — only wing attack Jacinta Todd stayed in her position all game while Hannah Crawley and Hannah Austin swapped goal positions at half-time.
Ann Austin and Morgan Gibson — who was forced briefly off the court in the second quarter when they called a second injury time — started in defence before Ash Allan swapped in from wing defence in the second half.
Austin and Mia Fallon also swapped between defence and midcourt roles while Taylah Shanahan played centre the first and third quarters and Katie Thorn came on for the last.
But this day belonged to the Swans.
Erin Hopkins and Gracie Hide were again solid in defence; Kate Toy, playing coach Jana Bruinier and Nat Simpson gave plenty of drive to the top of the ring; and Gemma Toy and Annie Cobbledick shot and rebounded well.
Shinea Sali, another alumini from last year’s loss, came on in wing defence and played a good second half.
Cobbledick shot 41 goals and was named most valuable player for the match.
There was time to savour the win long before the final whistle, but the excitement, and relief, when it finally did go was evident.
Bruinier admitted to feeling stressed with the starting deficit, but knew the team had come back from worse and was happy to back them to work into the game.
‘‘Again, if you said there was no pressure on us, because we’ve lost three, we haven’t won one in 21 years, it wouldn’t be the truth, but it’s a little bit of weight off our shoulders I guess,’’ Bruinier said.
‘‘A premiership’s special and it’s special to enjoy it with nine amazing girls.’’
Bruinier spoke candidly about the coaches who came before her, from Janet Kirkman 10 years ago to Sharna Saunders to Colleen Toy, and how the work they had done before her had helped get the team to this point.
She also paid credit to team manager Julie Cobbledick, her mother and the club’s president Janette Bruinier, mentor Julie Hoornweg and all the other support around her this year.
‘‘I’ve had a lot of support this year, as the coach you’ve got to take the good and the bad, but I certainly think a lot of credit needs to go to everyone else as well,’’ she said.
Bruinier said it was not until three-quarter time when the team allowed themselves to think they had won, but still were keen to push out the match.
‘‘We spoke at the start of the week about this being a game of moments and not being outcome-driven, not looking at the end of the match, but looking at the first play and then the second play
‘‘It was a real 60-minute performance and I think even at three-quarter time I said to them, ‘This is ours, but we still have 15 moments and 15 minutes, so let’s really push it out and play the game that we have and not slacken off.’
‘‘Even though I definitely felt we had the momentum and the game I really wanted them to push it out, which they did.’’
Brereton said she thought the team had settled into the game after the first five minutes, but then it appeared their workrate dropped off.
Comparatively the Swans were ‘‘more hungry, they were more physical, they were more wanting of the contest and ball and I don’t think we were quite ready for that or whatever, but it is what it is now’’.
Brereton said it was a ‘‘shame’’ the Bears did not push on after gaining the early lead, which was something they had prided themselves on doing for the rest of the season.
‘‘I am very disappointed about that as a coach, but at the same time I’m very proud of what they’ve done this year,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ve created history in our own club by doing what we’ve done, it was just a shame that it blew out.’’
She could only put the performance down to the fact it was the first time the Bears’ A-grade had made a senior grand final ‘‘because it certainly was probably nearly, unfortunately, one of our worst performances of the year.’’
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