A BOND forged in disappointment turned into steely resolve as the Lavington Panthers dismissed the demons of 12 months ago and took their first A-grade netball title in 15 years yesterday.
The team that went out in straight sets last year wasn’t going to release its grip on redemption.
Ahead by four at three-quarter-time, Lavington goaled first at the start of the final 15 minutes, the five-goal buffer cushioning the Yarrawonga charge.
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The champions of the last four years, grand finalists for the past decade, kept coming but each time they got within three the Panthers rallied again.
Lavington Panthers cocoach Aleisha Pendergast said the monkey was off their back.
“We did enough last year and didn’t go on with it in the finals so to come away with the win today is incredible,” she said.
“The girls have worked really hard to get here and Yarrawonga are a tough side, so to beat them means a hell of a lot to all of us.
“The past 12 months has been a bit of a learning curve for us, last year we didn’t handle the pressure as well as we should have and this year it was a testament to the girls, something we focused on.
“On big stages like this, it’s the teams that can stand up to the pressure the best and do the basics for the 60 minutes.
“Our defenders Kate Yensch and Sarah Meredith were sensational but we had nine players out there today and they all contributed to the win.”
Unlike the home and away season, it was Yarrawonga that started the better to be ahead 10-7 at quarter-time and lead by a goal at the main break.
Yarrawonga coach Bridget Cassar said they just didn’t go on with the job.
“We got off to a good start but when it comes to finals it is the teams that can sustain it for 60 minutes and we just didn’t do that today,” she said.
“We missed some shots that we shouldn’t and threw some balls away and against Lavington you can’t give them chances like that, they just go to the other end of the court and score.
“But we never gave up — our defence was really great and they kept fighting to give us the chances we needed.
“Had we been able to score from that it might have been different story but the better side won on the day.”
Pigeons captain Laura Bourke was taking the positives out of the day and looking ahead 12 months.
“We had a tough season so to get where we did today was a huge effort for all of the girls,” she said.
“Obviously it is disappointing not to finish on top but we will be better for that.”
Her opposing captain Sarah Senini said she was not worried about the score when the Panthers trailed at half-time.
“Today was a bit different to the games earlier in the year in that they were up at quarter-time by three and we just had to make sure that we took it quarter by quarter, look no further than the next 15 minutes,” she said.
“We knew if we kept working we could peg it back.
“This is a massive effort from this team and a feeling that is impossible to describe.
“It is a very different feeling to last year and I can guarantee that I’ll be celebrating for a couple of days.”