MILLICENT V WEST GAMBIER
It was a match that lived up to its star billing as Millicent and West Gambier went toe-to-toe in a top of the table Western Border netball clash.
In the end, it was the Saints who prevailed by three goals in an arm wrestle contest that saw the sides rarely separated by more than a handful of goals.
West was missing star shooter Sarah Ritter who was at the 2022 National Netball Championships as part of the silver medal winning South Australian line-up, as well as her sister Jade, who normally teams with Amy Cram in defence, while Millicent still had Lisa Duldig sidelined as well as Demi Verbena.
Those personnel issues ledd to a couple of débutantes taking to the court with West elevating goalkeeper Tayla Wilson-Smith and Millicent giving star junior mid courter Lillie Paul her first taste of the top grade.
West had the better of the early game as their fast ball movement was rarely challenged by the Saints’ defence line, with Lisa McGregor and Claire Hunter combining well to apply scoreboard pressure.
But the Saints did settle as Paige Nitschke took control of attack and by the first change Millicent held a one-goal lead.
West again had the better of the second but this time maintained the rage as Cram created plenty of turnover ball while Hunter and McGregor continued to find good connection with Mikaela Horrigan and Tara Bryant to build the Roos’ three-goal advantage.
Finding a way to goal was proving a tough for the Saints, but they did just enough to stay in touch with Hannah and Paige Nitschke doing a mountain of work to move the ball through the tight Roos’ defence.
Defensively it was a different Saints line-up that came out after the main break.
Georgia Clarke tightened up on McGregor, Portia McRae started to win some ball and Paul also made it harder for Horrigan to find the circle’s edge.
At the other end of the court, Daisy Tunkin used her speed to good effect and Sanderson stayed closer to home and had her best shooting quarter in terms of accuracy with 10 from 12.
As the two teams headed into the final break it was West by two, setting up a tense final quarter.
This time it was the Saints who came out firing as the better of the two teams with errors creeping into the Roos frontline.
Millicent showed great patience as they looked to find Sanderson in space and the team worked their way to a five-goal lead.
But the Roos were not done with and mounted a strong challenge, again on the back of Cram’s ability to create turnovers, with McGregor and Horrigan also getting some important defensive touches in the centre third.
But in the end, time beat the Roos and the Saints remained on top and undefeated.
For West, Hunter was a good target for the first three quarters, McGregor did her usual mountain of work and Horrigan continued to feed the ball with precision.
Cram was clearly the Roos’ best, while Wilson-Smith got some critical touches and Zoe Malseed had a superb battle on the wing with Tunkin – the two young guns never far from each other’s side for the entirety of the contest.
The other epic battle was Hannah Nitschke and Bryant in the centre.
Neither gave an inch and they covered so much ground as they looked to be the main outlet options for their teammates.
For the Saints, Sanderson was still a strong target, Paige Nitschke slipped into the goal attack role seamlessly while Paul had some good moments, especially at critical times in the final quarter where she created turnovers.
Clarke had the tough task of controlling McGregor and had a strong second half as well as being a key link player, while McRae anchored the defence well and was rarely out-rebounded, as well as taking a couple of pivotal intercepts.
EAST GAMBIER V CASTERTON SANDFORD
East Gambier finally clocked up a convincing win and it coincided with them putting out their preferred starting seven for the first time this season.
The Bulldogs secured a 38-goal victory over Casterton Sandford – a team still waiting on having all personnel available.
A dominant first quarter set up the win for the reigning premiers as Sarah Lock and Amryn Bosko combined for 16 from 20 to set up a 12-goal quarter time lead.
The East shooting duo continued to combine well as they looked to establish their new combination and shared shooting duties evenly, which will challenge opposition teams defence moving forward.
The Cats struggled with supply when it came to scoring, but the combination of sisters Charlotte and Mikayla Rice showed some promise which also freed Gaby Tomkins up to her more familiar role of wing attack, rather than the shooting circle.
The other positive for the Cats was the return to court of Madalene Cleary, who played a half at the defensive end and will only be better for the run as she returns from an ACL injury.
The second quarter was the Cats best as they matched it with the Bulldogs, only going down by five goals and generating significantly more scoring opportunities for the term, with Mikayla Rice converting seven from nine to leave her mark on the game.
The Bulldogs responded strongly after the main break though, with a dominant third quarter led by perfect shooting from Amryn Bosko, who was able to capitalise on the strong defensive work of Morgan Amy and Bo Creek.
In the final quarter East continued to dominate, but again a positive for the Cats was the debut of Chloe Foster who entered the clash at goal attack and netting five from six in a composed display.
The other highlight of the game was the mid-court battle between Scarlett Jarrad – who has been her side’s best in all three rounds – and East co-coach Emily Hunter.
They ran hard, competed for everything and looked to give their side the edge.
In the end, the experience of the Bulldogs and their more settled line-up ensured they were never really troubled, while the Cats will now be focussed on hosting South Gambier this weekend.