By Romy Stephens
Spectators could have been excused if they expected to head to the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Wednesday night to witness a dominant win from the City West Falcons, but the Casey Demons thought nothing of the sort.
In what was arguably the teams’ most impressive performance this season, the Demons’ Victorian Netball League side dismantled the hot-favourite Falcons 65-46 and earned themselves a spot in this year’s grand final.
The tone of the game was set early within the Demons’ defensive end. Wing defence Christie Hillberg began her preliminary final campaign as she has throughout the finals series, applying immense pressure and reading the play to perfection.
Within the first five minutes of the game, she had taken a handful of intercepts which proved crucial in helping the Demons edge in front.
The Falcons struggled to penetrate through the Demons’ defence early in the game, but with the side coming off a disappointing loss in extra time the week before, they were determined to bring whatever heat they could.
Their defensive pressure sparked numerous errant passes from their opposition which saw them trailing by only three goals at quarter time.
During the second term, the Demons began to find their groove. Hillberg soon found herself well-supported from the likes of circle defenders Karli Foster and Demi Woodlock, who’s synergy within the goal ring sparked numerous turnovers.
With plenty of delivery into attack, it was only a matter of time before former Australian Diamond Erin Bell (22 goals) and star goal shooter Emma Ryde (42 goals) would find their rhythm.
The pair took advantage of smart service from Shannon Blackman and speedster Kassidy Withers, both shooting at 92 per cent accuracy throughout the game.
As soon as the Demons eased into the game there was no way of stopping them. They ran away with a seven-goal lead at half-time and pushed that out to 19 goals by the final siren.
The decision to swap all bench players with those on the court during the final minute topped off what was a thrilling night for the club.
It has been a remarkable season for the Demons, who have not only built a new team from scratch but also brought a huge wave of momentum with them into the finals series.
They will now take on the Geelong Cougars in what’s shaping to be a huge grand final clash on 14 August. The Cougars convincingly won both homes and away season games against the Demons this year.
But with the Falcons also defeating Casey in both their regular-season games, by more than 20 goals each time, the Demons have proved anything’s possible.