Casterton returns to winners’ list after three-year drought

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Lechelle Earl, owner/editor

Casterton returns to winners’ list after three-year drought

It was a victory three seasons in the making but Casterton Sandford broke its A Grade netball drought with an impressive 10 goal victory over South Gambier at Island Park at the weekend.

The Cats last won an A Grade match in 2019, before COVID wiped out senior netball in 2020 and then Casterton Sandford spent the 2021-2023 seasons winless.

But they were up for the fight on Saturday and with the perceived lucky charm of Madalene Cleary’s famous headband, which she spent the week searching for, the Cats put in a stunning final quarter to secure the result beyond doubt.

Cleary, the longest serving Cats player on court on Saturday, was, as usual, the architect of the victory with her four quarter effort in centre, having an impact with her safe feeding in attack and her tenacious defence at the other end of the court.

Cleary has played a role in defence, goals and the mid court over her career and no player deserved this breakthrough victory more than the popular Cat.

The victory was also built on emerging talent.

Indi Longhurst had a great battle with fellow rising talent Sophie Wight on the wing, while Chelsea Hulm took on South’s best player Ellie Bouchier and managed to be influential, having one of her best shooting games in recent memory, converting 13 from 15 in the tense second half.

Speaking of young talent, Ebany Jarrad had a great battle with South recruit Teresa Humphris on the wing, using her height to make life tough for the South feeders and securing a number of critical disruptive defensive touches.

Caeleigh Humphries was arguably the other architect of the victory with the young defender creating turnover ball time and time again as she contested every delivery to the South goalers and also picked up a few of her trademark interceptions, where she was prepared to take the risk and leave her opponent to win back the ball higher up court.

Both Jarrad and Humphries have spent much of their late junior career and early senior careers as part of the struggling Cats and their resilience saw them rewarded with this drought breaking victory.

Then there were the new recruits.

Holly Smith was a strong target at goal shooter and also set up opportunities for Hulm with her screens, while Chloe Finnigan was physical from the first whistle to the last and her consistent pressure forced the Demons into error.

The Cats had the better of the opening, taking a four goal lead into the first break, before the Demons regrouped to dominate the second and get things back on an even keel by half time.

It may well be the quarter that cost the Demons in the end – they generated 25 scoring shots to 13 but just could not convert enough of that possession on the scoreboard.

The third quarter was an arm wrestle as both sides seemed to find new ways to cough up possession in an error ridden 15 minutes but in the final quarter the Cats switched back on and with Hulm netting nine from 10 and the Casterton Sandford defence limiting South to only eight scoring shots, the result looked set around halfway through the stanza.

Bouchier was impressive for the vanquished Demons as she continually turned over the ball and also did a mountain of work in transition.

She dominated the rebounding, got her hands on balls she had no right to reach and did everything in her power to drag her team to victory, but it was not to be.

Wight also did a mountain of work and had a great battle with Longhurst, while Gracie Dalton, still on the road to recovery from illness, was a constant threat in the South shooting circle.

But in the end, Casterton Sandford showed more composure when it counted and more desperation when it was needed.


A good start was going to be critical for North Gambier in its road trip against Millicent and the Tigers produced exactly what they needed, setting up a five goal quarter time lead.

North shooters Kelly Lockwood and Macey Griffith combined for 16 from 19, while Millicent struggled to find good connection in its frontline as it still searches for the best offensive set up.

Things settled into an arm wrestle in the second quarter as Millicent defenders Portia McRae and Lauren Van Eeden upped their intensity to make it tougher for Lockwood and Griffith while Lillie Paul and Lisa Duldig also made life tougher for the North feeders, which also included a brief debut from Maggie Collins at wing attack.

The half time margin was still five and Millicent looked to shake up its attack line by moving Duldig to centre and Paul to the attacking wing but North was again able to get the better of the Saints on the back of a perfect shooting performance from Lockwood and Griffith – converting 14 straight.

It was a three quarter time margin of nine but the Saints were not done with yet and they mounted a spirited final quarter comeback but had basically given themselves too much work to do and fell four goals short.

The Saints generated plenty of scoring opportunities, scoring 14 from 19, while defensively, they basically put the clamps on the Tigers’ frontline but the three quarter time lead proved insurmountable.

The speed and smarts of Kaitlin Egan have been a weapon all season for the Tigers and Saturday was no exception, while Griffith is not only embracing her increased shooting role but is also combining well with Lockwood as the Tigers’ fast moving goal circle continues to test every defensive combination.

Edie Easterby continues to be a critical piece of the puzzle for the Saints with her strength and accuracy in the shooting circle, as well as her ability to create turnovers, while Van Eeden has had an outstanding fortnight in defence for Millicent.


East Gambier has again troubled a top side but ended up going down by 14 goals to competition pacesetter West Gambier.

Hosting the Roos at McDonald Park, the match saw the return of star West shooter Sarah Ritter, who had been sidelined by an ankle injury and for the first three quarters it was basically a goal for goal contest.

West led by two at quarter time and the main break before pushing it out to six by the final change.

The Roos had the better of the final quarter to post what ended up being a 60-46 win.

Neither side found great rhythm with their ball movement and both teams’ goalers made sure they made the most of their scoring opportunities.

The story of the last quarter, where West put the result beyond doubt, was supply with West securing 19 scoring shots to East’s 11 and with a similar conversion rate, that was the bottom line.

Ritter was part of the problem for East in the final quarter, nailing 12 from 13, on a day when East keeper Sharna McKinnon did an admirable job on the star shooter.

Both mid courts had to work overtime in the tense contest and East’s Teagan Nunan continues to show her class in her first season of A Grade competition, rarely making a mistake with ball in hand, while Tara Bryant’s hard running both ways proved critical for West.

East coach Malinda Foster was again the dominant goaler for the Bulldogs and must seriously be considering spending all four quarters at goal attack going forward as she often is more dominant when playing higher up the court.

The good news for West is that even when they are challenged at this point of the season, they always find a way to dominate at least one quarter to secure the result.

Ritter will also no doubt be better for the run after a couple of weeks on the sidelines.v

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