By David Nagel
Tooradin remains on track for its first A Grade netball premiership since 2006 after the top-of-the-table Seagulls overcame a strong challenge from Doveton to win 60-50 at Robinson Oval on Saturday.
Kelly Andrews and her side have now conquered every team in the competition except Berwick, the Seagulls round nine opponent when play resumes after this week’s bye due to the Queen’s birthday weekend.
On reflection, the Seagulls have been totally dominant this season with Saturday’s result just the second time they’ve been kept to a 10-goal margin or less. A 47-43 victory over back-to-back reigning champions Narre Warren in round four was their closest contest this year.
You just get the feeling that feathers will fly in September with the Seagulls and Magpies, and the Eagles from Beaconsfield, the big birds at this stage of the season.
About the only question that remains for Andrews is how well her side will handle the immense pressure come finals time – a pressure that the Magpies and Eagles have handled with a calm and composed nature over the years.
But there’s no reason to doubt their ability to handle it.
The Seagulls are littered with VNL-quality talent who have stood up under big-game pressure in the past.
Alex and Jess Maher, Jess Cox, Emma Iacovou and Sara Duncan have taken all before them this season while Ebony Dolan and Bec Kinna are a ruthless and relentless defensive combination. Throw in the likes of Alex Duff and Shona Wells and the Seagulls have supreme strength from one end of the court to the other.
But Narre Warren will not relinquish its crown without a fight, the Magpies making it four straight wins with a hard-fought 46-44 victory over Cranbourne at Casey Fields.
The Magpies were stung in rounds three and four, with losses to Beaconsfield and Tooradin their first taste of defeat since round 17, 2015.
They had set a standard that was almost impossible to continue, players like former league best and fairest winner Erin Clark, Leigh Taylor, Tracey Dell, Tayla Shannon, Chloe Phillips, Bec Potalej and Kara Hargrave setting the bar extremely high indeed.
The inclusion of players like Gabby Dwyer, Britt Mashado and Caitlin Stephens has given coaches Greg and Jade Heinrich with the perfect ammunition to keep on improving.
The Magpies will be extremely difficult to topple from their perch.
Both Tooradin and Narre Warren did extremely well to repel a big challenge from two of their biggest challengers on the weekend.
The bottom half of the ladder had a bit of a shake up on Saturday with Berwick continuing its improved form with a 56-51 victory over ROC at Edwin Flack Reserve.
The Wickers took real confidence from their first victory over Pakenham in round six, with this win coming hot on the heels of a strong performance against Doveton in round seven.
Coach Janine Kilmartin hasn’t been afraid to give a host of new faces some opportunities and they’re repaying her faith in kind.
Players like Morgan Thomas, Bec Langford, Itagia Amataga and Abuk Kenyang are not yet household names but are gradually building towards it.
And Hampton Park has kept its fading finals hopes alive after breaking a three-game losing streak against Pakenham at Toomuc Reserve.
The Redbacks’ 55-34 triumph sees them level with Berwick and ROC on 12 points, with the round 10 clash between the Redbacks and Wickers looking to be a real season-definer for both clubs.
The Redbacks have been held together this season by the brilliant defensive efforts of Karli Foster and Shannon Rennison but have needed to tidy up their attack on goal.
And things are looking brighter after the weekend with 55 goals their highest score of the season.
Enjoy your rest ladies and gentlemen and we’ll see you in two weeks’ time!