The Yarrawonga A Grade netball team continued their dominance of the Ovens and Murray competition with a stunning grand final victory over Lavington on Saturday.
There had only been an average of two goals difference in the last six times Yarrawonga and Lavington had faced off, so there was no doubt the final match of the 2017 season was set to be another monumental battle.
Lavington went in as favourites after going through the season undefeated but netball pundits know you can never write off the Pigeons, particularly lining up in their 11th consecutive grand final with so much experience on their side.
Based on recent clashes between the powerhouse teams, the key to winning was always going to be who started the strongest.
Yarrawonga lost the toss, giving Lavington the first centre pass, and the ball flowed into the ring a little too easily but led to a missed shot under the post and a strong rebound from Hannah Symes.
The Pigeon’s switched on and capitalised on the turnover, converting to score the first goal.
Unfortunately, the game was not going to flow that easily from there with the speed of Yarrawonga met by a physical Lavington.
The Pigeons managed to keep their heads and were accurate under the post with Bridget Cassar shooting 6 from 7 attempts in the first quarter to give Yarrawonga a two goal lead at quarter time.
The second quarter saw fresh legs with Lauren Mulquiney take the court in WA and in the 28 degree temperature Yarrawonga’s fitness prevailed.
The pace of the game was ferocious and no matter the force of the impact Yarrawonga was not stopping until they had the ball in their hands.
Laura Bourke was pivotal in the centre and, despite running shoulder to shoulder with her opponent all game, she certainly came out on top.
Her feeding into Abbey Jones and Bridget Cassar was spot on despite the physicality coming from the giant Lavington defenders.
Yarrawonga went into the main break with a solid 8 goal lead and the message from coach Cassar and mentor Tracy Gillies was for continued speed and pressure all over the court.
The third quarter saw a few changes from the bench with Gemma O’Sullivan coming into GA and the ever-versatile Mulquiney coming into WD.
Lavington showed just how much they wanted this premiership and threw everything at the Yarrawonga girls while the Pigeons struggled to adjust to the changes made.
Hanna Symes, Annalise Grinter and Kylie Leslie were not letting them in that easily and kept sending the ball back down to give the shooters more opportunity.
Lavington managed to crawl their way back into the game reducing Yarrawonga’s lead to just 4 goals at the final break.
The last quarter was building to be the nail-biter that has become commonplace when these two teams meet.
Yarrawonga bought Abbey Jones back onto the court and the speed came back into the game, with Jones and Caitlyn O’Dwyer moving the ball quickly and Lavington on the back foot again.
The Pigeons managed to blow the lead out to 6 half way through the last quarter.
A few controversial umpiring decisions saw the Panthers come back, shooting 5 unanswered goals.
A stepping call against Laura Bourke in the dying seconds of the game had Lavington in possession again, the Pigeons just one goal in front.
But a fumbled ball from Lavington that went rolling down the court was picked up by Hanna Symes and the ball went back into Yarrawonga’s attack end as the final whistle blew.
It was absolute elation for the team and the huge crowd of supporters behind them.
Back-to-back premiers, 7 premierships from 11 consecutive grand finals and yet another history-making win.
Captain Annalise Grinter said, “what an honour it is to be a part of such a remarkable club”.
“What makes it even more exciting is our under 16 girls won today also, three of those players sat on our bench today and have played with us during the year, that’s our future, that means hopefully there are many more moments like this for Yarrawonga A Grade for years to come.”
Paula Carey Medallist for Best on Court Abbey Jones said “wow it was hot, it was physical, we worked our butts off but it’s totally worth it, it’s just an amazing feeling”.
Jones, at just 19, has played in the last 5 grand finals for Yarrawonga A Grade and now walks away with her third premiership and best on court appearance.
Captain Annalise Grinter when asked about Jones said “what can I say? She is pocket rocket who just keeps on giving, at 19 years old look what she has achieved, she is a superstar.”