NETBALL REPORT CARD: The Bulldogs are barking

Wodonga veteran Liona Edwards.

Wodonga veteran Liona Edwards.

WODONGA

30 points

6 wins, 1 loss, 3 draws

CURRENTLY: 1st 

PREDICTION: 2nd

THREE draws in their first six games had the Dogs scratching their heads and reaching for the record books. But in recent weeks they have thumped teams well down the ladder and then handed the reigning premiers an 11-goal beating. Plenty has been written about Jane Cook but last weekend saw her emerge as a tough competitor to go along with her height and skill, while Anna Avery, Liona Edwards and Bec Cameron will continue to shape their destiny.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

We are where we want to be but it doesn’t stop here. Perhaps those draws were the best thing that could have happened to us, we have now come together as a team and that probably started with big wins over Myrtleford and Albury. We still need to finetune a few things — we want to peak in September, not June. — Kylie Murphy

YARRAWONGA

30 points

7 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw

CURRENTLY: 2nd

PREDICTION: 1st

IT wasn’t exactly panic stations but there would have been a few alarm bells ringing when the Pigeons found themselves outside the top five early in the season. But match fitness of those who returned this year and the return of Hannah Symes in recent weeks has seen the perennial powerhouse fast track its season back to the top of the ladder. The Charity Round clash with the Bulldogs is likely to decide the minor premiership.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

We are still working on our combinations with an emphasis on putting four quarters together. We have a solid nine A-grade players with the two on the bench just as capable as any of the starting seven. That also gives me the flexibility from week to week of changing combinations and the starting seven to expose the opposition. Sarah Vagg coming back into the team has steadied the rest of the court and will only get better, while Bridget Cassar has been outstanding in the goal circle. — Kaitlyn Cummins

LAVINGTON

28 points

7 wins, 3 losses

CURRENTLY: 3rd

PREDICTION: 3rd

THE reigning premiers were undefeated a little over a month ago, but three losses in a row will no doubt re-focus a club with great depth and netball smarts. Their mix of height, youth and experience is lethal and they fought back against Wodonga to get within a goal at one point in the second quarter. Expect a resurgent Panthers to again be thereabouts come finals time.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

While it’s been disappointing to drop our past three matches we are not panicking. Statistically, we have got the best defence and just need to fine-tune our attacking game and take more attempts at goal. I don’t think complacency is an issue and knew defending a premiership was going to be hard. Making the top-three is still our aim. Our destiny still remains in our own hands. — Brooke Spinelli

NORTH ALBURY

28 points

6 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw

CURRENTLY: 4th

PREDICTION: 4th

THE Hoppers are the dark horse in the top-five. North fought out a draw with Wodonga in round 2 and have lost by one and two goals to last year’s grand finalists Yarrawonga and Lavington. The addition of Kimberly Opdam, Culcairn teenager Emma Schulz and the emergence of Jacqui Newton and Alana Wilson make them dynamic in the air and fast through the mid-court. They will be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the year.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

Our focus in the next eight weeks will be to win games that we lost narrowly in that first round. Ideally you want to finish 1, 2 or 3 and give yourself a couple of extra chances. We know we need to be solid in attack and continue to push the ball into the circle, but this group — and that includes all 10 girls we have used — have got stronger each week, they are happy to work hard for each other and hopefully that’s the key to our second half of the year. — Fiona Boyer

COROWA-RUTHERGLEN

26 points

6 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw

CURRENTLY: 5th

PREDICTION: 5th

THE Roos have already sewn up the surprise packet award for the year. This was the club that not so long ago couldn’t field an A-grade team. Self-belief is a key here and the win against Lavington will go a long way to locking them into finals action. Sophie Hanrahan has been one of the finds of the season but it is their collective work ethic that has driven their charge. 

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

With eight games left we need to win at least five to finish as high as possible. We are fifth but just four points from the leaders. We need to beat the teams around us, not lose to those below us. The key will be playing out the full 60 minutes of netball — our weakness has been a lull at some point in the game that allows others to get a sniff. We proved we could do it against Lavington and hopefully it is that belief that marks the rest of our year.  — Beck O’Connell

ALBURY

18 points 

4 wins, 5 losses, 1 draw

CURRENTLY: 6th

PREDICTION: 7th

THE Tigers were flying at the start of the season, beating the Pigeons in round one. But injuries and other forced outs meant they had to go back to the drawing board. Albury has now settled on its attacking options with its fourth goal attack of the season, and the signs were positive against Yarrawonga on Saturday when they led by 1 at the main break. Expect some surprises

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

AFTER a good win against Corowa-Rutherglen in round 4 it all fell apart, through injury and other circumstances, but it feels like we are back on track. We were competitive against Yarrawonga for two thirds of the game and the feeling coming off the court was the best it has been for weeks. But the loss to Wangaratta in the previous game was telling, we are now eight points outside the five and need to not only beat the teams around us but some of those above us. — Jenny Jones

MYRTLEFORD

18 points

4 wins, 5 losses, 1 draw

CURRENTLY: 7th

PREDICTION: 6th

THE Saints are still talking finals but they will need to knock off two of the current top five and hope other results go their way. The return of Bec Piazza and working with Saige Broz is likely to see the Saints get better in the back half of the year. It just might come down to the last game of the year at the McNamara Reserve against the Hoppers.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

We are still confident and keen to sneak into the top five. A number of girls have been given their chance in A-grade this year which is a positive for the future. But we hope to settle this team and win a few more games in the second half of the year. We need to be better in certain areas but I’m confident we can do that and match it with some of the top teams. — Ruth Quirk

WANGARATTA

16 points

4 wins, 6 losses

CURRENTLY: 8th

PREDICTION: 8th

THE young Magpies need to bring the same intensity they take into the clashes with teams above them on the table when they play those around the same mark. They have already beaten North Albury, Corowa-Rutherglen and Albury. Wangaratta’s speed and natural improvement among their A-grade rookies could see them have a major say in the make-up of the top five. Expect the unexpected.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

This is first in a three-year process for the club and I think we have already exceeded all expectations. We have a young group who have really shown they can play O and M — Chaye Crimmins, Hannah Grady, Sarah Hooper and Izzy Byrne, along with Loren Gathercole, who has stepped up from B-grade. We rely on our speed in the mid-court and we will worry a few teams in the second half of the year. We want to win as many games as possible — we have nothing to lose. — Louise Byrne

WANGARATTA ROVERS

8 points

2 wins, 8 losses

CURRENTLY: 9th

PREDICTION: 9th

DESPITE winning the local derby, Rovers have been well off the pace all year, and having just three of its A-graders returning for the season has probably made this a development year. But they contain the nucleus of a team with plenty of potential, with Stacey Emms and the Van Den Heuvel sisters providing experience to an emerging talent base.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

Our focus for the A-grade is to play to our full potential and be very competitive each week. In the other grades the aim is to get back into the top-5 and give the finals a real crack. Our whole club focus this year is to build depth and strength throughout the entire squad. — Carolyn Willett

WODONGA RAIDERS

0 points

0 wins, 10 losses

CURRENTLY: Last

PREDICTION: Last

LAST year’s wooden spooners are likely to hang onto the tag for another year, but the feeling is that they are closing the gap. They will need to find four quarters of quality netball to break their duck but they showed against Myrtleford last weekend, where they won the second half 31-18, that it might not be that far away.

WHAT THE COACH SAYS

We have had to rebuild our mid-court and attacking end after some recent departures but Olivia Toth cemented her spot with a great performance against Myrtleford in the second half. Courtney Hillier is now a regular in A-grade while Alysha Drummond has settled into O and M netball in a defensive role. We realise stabilising our mid-court combinations will be a key to grabbing that much sought-after win. — Simone Eddington

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