Hawks Netball has broken through for a premiership in its first year in Hawks colours, after the club’s Division 1 team hung on to win by a goal in a grand final thriller against Geelong Cougars.
Leading for almost the entire game, the Hawks withstood a withering final-quarter comeback by the defending champions, who tied the scores halfway through the quarter and looked like running away with the game, before the Hawks steadied and held them off in the dying minutes to win 46-45.
Having reached a Division 1 grand final for the first time since 2012, the Hawks again faced a major challenge against the minor premiers, after finishing the regular season in third position.
En route to the final the Hawks had overcome Selkirk Sovereigns in a knockout semi-final before coming from eight goals down to defeat second-placed DC North East Blaze in the preliminary final. They’d also faced Cougars in the last round of the season but were outclassed 47-53.
It was a different story in the season decider, however, with the Hawks working through some early jitters to match Geelong in the early part of the first quarter, before a quick burst in the closing minutes saw them establish a 13-8 lead.
Another dominant period in the second quarter saw the margin stretch towards double digits, with Hawks defenders Clare Johnson and Chloe Sinclair keeping Geelong’s shooters to just 22 attempts in the first half.
At the other end Hawks goal shooter Daisy Hill was again in fine touch, knocking down shots from long range in combination with Bridgette Furphy as the lead threatened to blow out, but Cougars did enough to stay in touch 25-17 at the long break.
It was goal for goal for much of the third quarter as the game opened up, with both teams scoring freely and Geelong narrowing the deficit to seven goals at three-quarter time, despite a stunning intercept late in the quarter from Hawks wing defence Enya Broadley.
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Things looked poised for a comfortable Hawks victory in the opening minutes of the final quarter as the teams traded goals, but Geelong refused to lie down, and when the Hawks missed a couple of shots and coughed up some nervous turnovers the lead had quickly evaporated to zero.
They eventually managed to stem the tide with around five minutes remaining, scratching out a couple of goals to put themselves back in front by three, but again Geelong came hard, closing the gap to one goal inside the last minute and with a centre pass to come.
The Hawks’ defence finally paid off, with an attacking contact call in the Geelong goal circle putting the ball back in the Hawks’ hands, and they rode out the final 25 seconds to record the most memorable of victories.
It is the club’s first Division 1 premiership since 2012, and its first since rebranding as Hawks Netball this year, after previously being known as Monash University Storm.
Coach AJ Ballantyne said the club was incredibly proud of what the players had been able to achieve.
“None of the girls had played more than a couple of minutes in a grand final at this level before, so for them to come out and play the way they did, not only today but in the previous two finals as well, is just exceptional,” he said.
“Most of the group have only been together for two seasons, but they have this amazing bond and an ability to lift each other and get it done in those big moments.”
“In the semi-final it was the attack end that held strong, in the prelim it was the defence end that kept us in it, and today it was every single one of them that contributed to a pretty unbelievable result. I couldn’t be prouder of each and every one of them.”
To cap off a big day for the club, wing attack Kate Fletcher was named grand final MVP, while Johnson, Furphy and midcourter Olivia Gigli were selected in the league’s Division 1 team of the year.
Star Championship division goal shooter Kim Commane was also recognised, taking out the league MVP award.