Hawks Netball’s 19/Under team will face off in the Victorian Netball League finals for the first time in nine years, after securing their tenth win of the season on Wednesday night.
The 63-56 victory against Ariels puts the fourth-placed Hawks three games clear of fifth position with two games remaining, assuring them of a semi-final berth.
It is the first time since the club’s last 19/Under premiership in 2014 that the young Hawks have reached the post-season, after a number of close misses, including the 2021 season which was cancelled while the Hawks sat firmly within the top two.
Hawks 19/Under coach Sophie O’Shea said the team’s achievements in 2023 were testament to the players’ hard work and commitment to growing as a group.
“It’s really exciting for this wonderful group of athletes to have cemented their spot in the top four and the 19/Under finals series. It’s even more exciting for us as coaches to have witnessed the individual and team development over the course of the season and for the team to be finding their form as we’ll now be approaching finals,” she said.
“The players have been working hard as a unit since pre-season, but aren’t under any disillusion that the hardest work is yet to come, with a couple of tough games that we want to win before finals.”
O’Shea said the team had hung tough after a challenging start to the season that included draw and three losses from their first four games. With 10 wins from the next 12 games, the improvement both on and off the court had been impressive, she said.
“Before the season started, we spoke about wanting to be the most connected team out on court and it’s been really lovely to see how well the athletes have come together as a group. Our connections across combinations on court have been a big focus of the second half of the season, and I think that’s really helped build confidence for both the playing and coaching groups in the depth and capability of the team, no matter who we’ve got on court.”
The Hawks were challenged every step of the way by Ariels, trailing by four goals at half-time before grabbing a one-goal lead at three-quarter time and surging clear with a 16-10 final quarter.
In other results, the Hawks went three from three in Round 16, with both the Championship and Division 1 teams recording important wins.
In the Championship division, the Hawks jumped to fifth position and only a tiny percentage outside the top four, after a strong 16-goal win.
And in Division 1 a big second quarter set up a 17-goal win that puts the Hawks two games clear of third position with two rounds remaining.
The Hawks next face Geelong Cougars on Wednesday, July 12 at the State Netball Centre.