Netball | And then there were 5...

Albury Tigers' Liv Aughton.

Albury Tigers' Liv Aughton.



THE Tigers are likely to finish the year just half a win from playing finals. Injuries early in the season saw experimentation with a number of combinations that finally settled in the second half of the year. Albury will take little solace from what was a solid back half of the year where they lost by just a goal to finals bound Wodonga and North Albury. No doubt there will be even less comfort in the knowledge they were able to beat fifth-placed Corowa-Rutherglen in both home and away matches. But their greatest regret will be the shock loss to Wangaratta in round 9 that will have almost certainly cost them a spot in the play-offs. Outstanding finish to the season for their defenders Liv Aughton, pictured right, and Brigetta Hart.



THE Saints added Rebecca Piazza to their ranks mid-season but never really threatened the upper echelon of the competition. Their draw with Albury and a high scoring shootout with Wodonga, where they trailed by just two goals going into the final quarter, were their best efforts. Coach Ruth Quirk said consistency suffered as they rotated players through A and B grade in what she describes as a transition year. “We were competitive against some of the better sides and we are headed in the right direction. It’s the youngest squad we have had in several years and being able to get a year of A grade netball into young defenders Georgia Zamperoni and Celestine Ellen will benefit the club.”



INCONSISTENCY was the curse that plagued a young Magpies team throughout the year. A summer in Shepparton’s regional state league saw Wangaratta beat the Roos, Hoppers and Tigers in the first round, while only losing to Yarrawonga by four goals. But two losses to Myrtleford and one to Rovers were games they would have expected to win. Coach Louise Byrne said only three of her squad had played A grade netball before this season. “We had a group of teenagers who really lifted this year,” she said. “Chaye Crimmins, pictured above right, and Sarah Hooper, both 17, and Xanthea Dewez, 19, were outstanding all year while Lauren Gathercole came out of B grade following a knee reconstruction the year before that. We put in place new structures on and off court this year and we have seen the benefits internally and expect that will flow to our results next year.”



THE Rovers had only three of its A grade team that played in the first week of finals last year back in the team at the start of 2014. Despite the presence of former Toni Wilson medallist Stacey Emms and the return of last year’s best in the Ovens and Murray, Alanna Sutton, near the end of the season, the Rovers were never really competitive against the top five. They will have taken some pride out of a win apiece in the Wangaratta derby. Coach Carolyn Willet admitted this was a rebuilding year for the proud netball club but had hoped to have some of their lower grade teams play in the finals. But Rovers will be without a team in September action across all four grades of netball. Goalkeeper Sarah Van Den Heuvel, centre Kristy Newton and wing attack Sam Kreltszheim have been among their best all year.



RAIDERS may have had a winless year but the signs are positive, says coach Simone Eddington. The wooden spooners were competitive against North Albury and Lavington in the second half of the season and after a mid-season clear-out of some key position players. But the emergence of 15-year-olds Julia Clarke and Courtney Hillier, who played centre for most of the year, has earmarked the Raiders as a team of the future. “Those games against the Hoppers and Panthers showed that when we get it together we can be competitive against the best,” Eddington said. “Clarke and Hillier were good all year, Rachel Johnson’s return from a shoulder injury was great too. We have sides playing lower grade finals and we think that is the basis and foundations for future success.”