A tough first half proved too much for Hawks Netball’s Championship team to overcome against the top-of-the-table Geelong Cougars, going down 21 goals in Round 11 of the Victorian Netball League.
The Hawks matched the experienced Cougars goal for goal in the third quarter and lost the final quarter by just four, but the damage was done early with a 9-18 scoreline at quarter-time and a 6-13 second term.
The result leaves Hawks two-and-a-half games outside the top four with seven rounds remaining, and facing a must-win clash against Melbourne University Lightning on Wednesday evening.
The Hawks lost by two goals in a thriller when the teams last met in Round 2, one of four games the Hawks have fallen short by two goals or less across the first 11 rounds.
Hawks Netball’s Division 1 team has scored a crucial three-goal win against Geelong Cougars to move a game clear in second position on the VNL ladder.
Locked on seven wins with both Cougars and City West Falcons heading into Round 11, the Hawks held off multiple Geelong surges throughout an absorbing contest, going on to win 51-48.
The ghosts of Round 1 – when the Hawks led for most of the game before a late run saw Geelong snatch a one-goal win – reared their heads throughout the clash, with the Hawks opening an early six-goal advantage and leading at every change, only to see Geelong hit the front early in the final term.
But this time the Hawks had the answers, with a string of timely turnovers from goal defence Sally Deller, wing defence Sasha Witts and goal keeper Chloe Duke helping to reestablish a winning lead.
At the other end, goal shooter Dom Taylor was again red hot, netting a near-perfect 39 goals from 41 attempts, while goal attack Hannah Keane was equally deadly with 12 from 15.
Hawks midcourter Ash Newham said it was an important win after a disappointing showing against fellow top four side City West Falcons in the previous round.
“I think coming into this week we really wanted to make sure we had the right mindset and intensity leading up to the game to able to step onto the court and really be ready to play and be ready to take on the physicality out there on court,” Newham said.
“I think the keys to us winning against Geelong were being able to move the ball with speed but control down in the attacking end and we were really able to build the defensive pressure throughout the whole game, which allowed our defenders to take some awesome intercepts when we really needed it.”
Newham, who returned to VNL in 2022 after a couple of years away from netball, said she was loving being back on court.
“It’s been awesome to be back out on a VNL court and I have loved being able to do it at Hawks. I am really enjoying my netball again and am looking forward to playing the rest of the season with the girls.”
The Victorian Netball League 19/U finals equation is no closer to being solved after 11 rounds, with Hawks Netball securing an important win against Geelong Cougars to remain in a four-way battle for second to fourth spots on the ladder.
The fifth-placed Hawks defeated Cougars 51-43 in a hard-fought contest on Geelong’s home court, only pulling away late in the final quarter after little more than a couple of goals separated the sides for most of the game.
Southern Saints, City West Falcons and Peninsula Waves are locked on eight wins with seven rounds remaining in the season, with the Hawks half a game behind, courtesy of a drawn game earlier in the year.
The game was poles apart from the dominant 71-34 win the Hawks delivered when the sides last met in Round 1, with Geelong skipping to an early lead and Hawks forced to make changes as Cougars shooter Tully Bethune started strongly, with Eliza Molino switched from goal shooter to goal keeper to quell her influence.
Both sides struggled to capitalise on their opportunities, with tight defence at both ends seeing the errors mount up. The Hawks led 13-12 at quarter-time, extending their lead to two goals at the long break and three-quarter time, before a 15-9 final quarter sealed the win.
Hawks defender Olivia Barnett said while poor decision-making at times had hurt the Hawks, they stuck at their task to emerge with a win.
“We never gave up and kept fighting for the ball, which is what kept us in the game. We had awesome defensive pressure down the court that allowed us to get some amazing turnovers from both the attackers and defenders,” Barnett said.
“I would say that our spirit of never giving up and our drive to keep trying was a major factor in the win. We kept our heads up and kept fighting to the end.”
Barnett, who made her VNL debut in 2022 after rupturing her Achilles on the eve of the 2021 season, said she was growing in confidence with each game.
“Coming back from my injury, my Achilles is better than ever. I feel that each week I am playing better netball,” she said.
“I have definitely come a long way since Round 1, with my footwork, defensive work and reading of the ball and I hope I can continue for the rest of the season.”
The Hawks take on Melbourne University Lightning in Round 12 on Wednesday, June 8, headlined by the 19/U Hawks taking on the ladder leading Lightning in the opening game of the evening.
HAWKS NETBALL vs MELBOURNE UNI LIGHTNING
State Netball Centre – Court 7
7pm – 19/Under
8.20pm – Championship
9.40pm – Division 1