Top teams show their might

MILLICENT V CASTERTON SANDFORD

After looking a little rusty and lacklustre in round six, there was a fair chance Millicent was going to come out all guns blazing against Casterton Sandford on Saturday’s round 6 Bendigo Bank Western Border Netball Association clash. 

While the Cats toughed it out in the opening quarter, as the match wore on, the Saints asserted their dominance. 

Both sides made forced and unforced changes throughout the contest as they looked for the best combination but in the end after the first quarter, where Casterton Sandford stayed in touch and trailed by only six goals, Millicent was able to score at will. 

Casterton Sandford welcomed back Caeleigh  Humphries, which strengthened the defen- sive end of the court that is still missing Meg  Fennell, and the young defender was her side’s best as she looked to contest every ball, playing firstly at goal keeper and then moving out to the more familiar role of goal defence. 

The Cats’ back three also included two more rising stars – Claire Foster on the defensive wing and Ebany Jarrad in the circle – and while it has been a baptism of fire, the trio have shown glimpses of what the future could look like for the Cats. 

It was always going to be a tough ask when you are looking to make life hard for the classy, slick Millicent frontline which includes Lucy Denton, Demi Verbena, Paige Nitschke and Lisa Duldig – all multiple A Grade premiership players. 

That quartet use speed of ball to keep defen- sive units off balance and the weekend was no  exception as Nitschke hit the circle hard and fed with accuracy, while the strong drives of Duldig and the well timed moves of Denton and Verbena meant the Saints had plenty of scoring opportunities. 

And Denton made them count netting 17 from 19 in the second quarter and 15 from 18 in the third before moving out to wing attack. 

She was Millicent’s best as  she continues to cover for the injured Tabatha Sanderson, while Nitschke’s feeding was outstanding. 

For the Cats, Paige Murrell continues to be the focal point of the  shooting circle, while Scarlet Jarrad con- tinues to impress with her work rate  and leadership. 

NORTH GAMBIER V EAST GAMBIER

East Gambier remains undefeated but the challengers are starting to bridge the gap with North Gambier managing to do what no other team has really  done this season – stop the Bulldogs from get- ting off to a flier. 

The Bulldogs led by two at the first break and three at the main break and it was game on for the first time this season. 

The sign of a good side, is a team that can absorb the pressure, rise to the challenge and find another gear and that’s what the Bulldogs did. 

After a quiet first half by her lofty standards, Tenille Gray found more ball and finished with her usual accuracy and her eight from nine in the third quarter and nine straight in the last that saw the Bulldogs continue to widen the gap to end up with a 12 goal victory. 

Gray was well supplied by Tarsh McCallum, who resumed her long running rivalry with Mel Renko, and while McCallum certainly had to work for every possession, she used her speed and ability to work in small spaces to secure plenty of possession and then she delivered with her usual safe hands to Gray and Amryn Bosko, who continues to impress. 

Arguably the other key battle was East defender Bo Creek taking on Tigers spearhead Caroline Davey. 

North’s scoring machine was still the primary  focus of the Tigers’ goal circle and she was argu- ably the most influential player for the yellow  and black on court but Creek’s efforts were cru- cial and it could be argued both defensive units  were on top given the low scoring contest which finished with East securing a 48-36 victory. 

Brianna Walters was the key player linking with Davey, as was Ellen Brown who uses her speed and front cuts to open up opportunities for her experience shooting team mate. 

Walters was also not just important at the offensive end of the court for North but also worked hard defensively to not allow Emily Hunter to dominate the contest. 

Both sides would have taken something out of the contest – North knowing they can match it with the best, given the huge improvement in performance from their round two loss, which was a one sided contest, while East would be pleased to know when challenged they can find a way to win, even when the match is not on their terms. 

WEST GAMBIER V SOUTH GAMBIER

Billed as match of the round, based on the round two contest that saw West sneak the victory by 10 goals, and also given South’s impressive performance against Millicent last round, the West versus South contest did not deliver. 

The Roos were in no mood for another tight contest with the Demons and while the first quarter was high scoring and entertaining, it did see West fight off a few strong challenges from the Demons to end up with a seven goal advantage. 

From that point on it was basically one way traffic with few highlights for the Demons. 

The first quarter gave a glimpse into how the match was going to pan out with State squad goal shooter Sarah Ritter netting 14 from 15 and the teenage goaler continued through the match as a strong target and an accurate finisher. 

It was not the South defenders were not trying to pressure the West goal shooter but the ball just kept arriving to the attacking third at speed and with very little down court pressure, making the end scoreline almost inevitable. 

Adding to South’s woes was the fact, West playing coach Lisa McGregor probably had her most productive shooting game for the season, after allowing Ritter to be the star of the show for much of 2021. 

McGregor is always a key in transition and does a mountain of work outside the circle. 

She did that again at the weekend but also showcased her trademark well timed front cuts and baseline drives and she netted a season high 31 goals for the game. 

Carlee Ransom and Tara Bryant dominated  the mid court and they continued to hit the cir- cle’s edge and deliver the ball safely into space,  while Nikeisha Facey, Amy Cram and Jade  Ritter recovered from a somewhat shaky open- ing quarter where they gave up 13 goals to the  Demons to only give up 24 for the remained of the match, including a miserly five in the final quarter. 

Jade Ritter, Cram and Facey all created their share of turnover ball and while tall South  shooter Grace Edwards challenged the defen- sive line and won some important ball and  Lara Munro also had her moments to show why she has been earmarked as a player of the future, in the end, it was a game to forget for South and a dominant performance from a team that fully intends on being a contender in 2021.

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