Hawks Netball’s Division 1 team has pulled off a stunning preliminary final comeback to overcome DC North East Blaze and book a spot in the Bupa Victorian Netball League grand final.
The Hawks trailed by as many as eight goals midway through the second quarter, but with a determination that has been their hallmark throughout 2018 they stormed home in the second half to win 46-40 and reach the club’s first VNL Division 1 grand final since 2012.
Geelong Cougars await in the grand final on Sunday at 12pm at the State Netball Hockey Centre.
While in the Hawks’ semi-final win against Selkirk Sovereigns it was the attacking end that shone, with 62 goals keeping the pressure on until the team’s defence was able to get on top late in the game, this time around it was a masterclass from the defensive unit that underpinned the win.
Goal keeper Clare Johnson and goal defence Chloe Sinclair shared a combined nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, holding Blaze’s potent attack end to 12 goals and keeping their team in the contest as a nervous start for the Hawks saw them struggle to connect in attack.
Late in the quarter they began to settle, with a flurry of goals in the dying minutes seeing them trail by just two at the first break.
Blaze’s defence lifted in the second quarter, with the Hawks finding difficulty in hitting the circle edge, and the two-goal lead quickly became eight midway through the term. The Hawks rallied to limit the damage, but Blaze claimed the quarter 8-12 to remain six in front – 18-24 – and put one hand on their second consecutive grand final berth.
The Hawks rung in the changes in the midcourt at half-time in a bid to change the momentum, inserting Enya Broadley at wing defence and Jasmine Ferguson at centre for her first real taste of finals action, while shifting Olivia Gigli from centre to wing attack.
The team immediately found something at both ends, with Gigli and Ferguson opening up goal shooter Daisy Hill (37 goals from 44 attempts), who had 12 goals for the quarter, while goal attack Bridgette Furphy (nine from 12) added a couple.
Johnson also got on top in defence, pulling off a string of intercepts to limit Blaze to just eight goals for the quarter, and the Hawks took full advantage to seize the momentum and level the scores 32-32 at three-quarter time.
From there the Hawks wouldn’t be headed, riding the vocal crowd support in the opening minutes of the final quarter to establish a decisive six-goal lead, which they held through to the final whistle.
Sinclair said despite being behind for the majority of the game, the Hawks never felt they were truly out of the contest.
“Although we were down, we never let our heads drop and knew if we fought as hard as we did against Sovereigns in the semi-finals, that we could come away with a win.”
“Everybody played a role in turning the game around, with incredible full court defence creating turnovers all through the game. Our attacking end did amazing job against Blaze’s defence, working overtime and being patient, while our goalers remained as undaunted as they have been all season.”
Sinclair said the win was validation that the Hawks have what it takes to go all the way, after a tough second half of the season saw the team slip from top spot on the ladder to third, losing five of its last seven games.
“We look forward to the challenge that we know Geelong will put forward. If we play our game, we’re a great chance of coming out with the win.”
“It’s been an extrordinary season and we’ve come so far. We can’t wait to get into the game and play for each other, as well as Hawthorn and all of our amazing supporters.”
VNL DIVISION 1 GRAND FINAL
Date: Sunday, September 2
Where: State Netball Hockey Centre