The Western Border Netball Association A Grade grand final rematch at McDonald Park loomed as an intriguing clash with the new look reigning premiers East Gambier against top of the table Saints.
It was a tense, goal for goal opening quarter as perfect shooting 10 out of 10 shooting from Sarah Lock ensured the Bulldogs were right in the contest and they held a three goal lead at the first change.
After not finding their usual smooth connection into Tabatha Sanderson, Millicent started to establish their free-flowing game with speed on the ball as Paige Nitschke and Lillie Paul, combining for the first time in the mid court, started to work together as a combination.
It saw more supply for the Saints’ goalers and Sanderson netted 12 from 13 as the visitors built a three goal half time lead.
Amryn Bosko also worked her way into the contest after a quiet opening quarter and her nine from 12 shots kept the Bulldogs in the game.
Bosko and Lock swapped bibs in the third quarter, while Kate Dempsey injected some fresh legs into the mid court at wing attack but the defensive intensity of the Saints started to take its toll.
Hannah Nitschke, Portia McRae, Georgia Clarke and Paul piled the pressure on the feeders and kept the home side to only seven goals for the quarter to extend their lead to eight at the final change.
Sanderson was still a factor in the last and while Lock and Bosko produced a perfect 14 from 14 between them, they could not eat into Millicent’s lead and the final scoreline was 51-44.
Morgan Amy took on the tough task of denying Sanderson the ball and she applied pressure all day and generated some important touches, while Bosko and Lock both had their times in control of the East shooting circle.
The hard running, both ways, of Paul through the middle was impressive and gives the Saints plenty of versatility through their mid court, while Sanderson was again impressive with her accuracy.
NORTH GAMBIER V CASTERTON SANDFORD
Caroline Wakefield was always going to be an issue for Casterton Sandford when it headed to Vansittart Park and the North Gambier shooter proved to be a real headache.
Wakefield shot 18 from 19 in the opening quarter to help set up a 10-goal quarter time lead but to the Cats’ credit they refused to be disheartened and ran goal for goal with the home side in the second quarter.
The circle defenders tightened up, while the pressure through the mid court from Tessa Narra and Scarlett Jarrad cut down supply to the Tigers shooting combination and after giving up 22 attempts in the opening quarter, North was reduced to only 13 shots on goal.
The improved accuracy from Cats goalers Madalene Cleary and Charlotte Rice saw the reward on the score board and it was only a 10 goal game at the half.
Unfortunately, it is hard to sustain that intensity and Wakefield dominated the second half netting 30 from 32 as her connection with Brianna Walters, who fed the ball with precision all game, could not be disrupted.
Lauran Norman entered the game for North at the main break and she also teamed well with Wakefield, while at the other end Mel Renko and Zarah Crough-Heaton had a strong third quarter, denying Cleary and Rice time and space and creating plenty of turnover ball.
The 20-7 third quarter put the result beyond doubt and despite a much better showing again in the last, the damage had been done and the Tigers recorded a 28-goal win.
Defender Caeleigh Humphries and Cleary were the Cats best, while Wakefield and Walters were the pick of the Tigers line-up.
SOUTH GAMBIER V WEST GAMBIER
South Gambier thudded back to earth at the weekend when the West Gambier Roos flexed their muscles in a dominant performance that showed why many rate them as a strong premiership chance in 2022.
The Roos came out firing generating plenty of scoring opportunities as Tara Bryant and Mikaela Horrigan moved the ball quickly and precisely into Sarah Ritter who converted 14 from 18 as the Roos powered to an 11 goal quarter time lead.
West defended relentlessly and the Demons were also plagued by unforced turnovers and were it not for Lara Munro and Alyssa Duncan converting without a miss, the scoreboard damage may well have been worse.
Things settled in the second as South lifted their work rate without the ball and also worked their way through the tough defensive unit of Amy Cram and Jade Ritter with better patience.
West still had plenty of the ball but improved defensive pressure ensured their accuracy on the feed and the finish was not as good and the turnovers started to come for the Demons.
The lead was 15 at the half and in a bid to shake things up, Ruby Richter and Tuly McShane swapped roles, with Richter moving to the attacking wing and McShane to the wing defence role.
It did little to change the complexion of the match, though, with South again struggling to generate scoring opportunities across the second half, as errors and defensive turnovers continued to see the ball in Roos’ hands more often than not.
Ritter continued to be the target for West and Horrigan and Bryant continued to run hard and feed with accuracy with Ritter and Lisa McGregor converting 20 from 22 in the last to put an exclamation point on the 36-goal victory.
The battle between Bryant and Megan Reid was a highlight of the match as the two young guns worked just as hard defensively as they did in the attacking third, while Richter was also a consistent performer for the Demons.