The Hawks have kicked off their 2023 Victorian Netball League campaign in the best possible way, with the club’s Championship team scoring a seven-goal win against Casey Demons in Round 1.
The Hawks were fast out of the gates, opening up a 14-9 lead at quarter-time against a strong and experienced Casey lineup and holding that margin through to half-time with a strong display of patient and consistent netball.
The third quarter saw the Hawks extend their lead to eight as goal keeper Lauren Hucker began to see some reward for effort against towering Casey goal shooter Emma Ryde, while at the other end goal shooter Kaylia Stanton continued to be a target, pouring in 40 goals from 50 attempts for the game.
Casey closed within three goals in the final term before the Hawks steadied late with two timely intercepts from Chloe Sinclair, running out 52-45 winners.
Hawks centre Jasmine Ferguson said the team played “roughly 50 minutes of good netball”, with their off-season focus on consistency paying dividends.
“In previous years it’s been our biggest downfall – consistency was always something we were trying to work on and for the last couple of seasons it’s been where we’ve won and lost a lot of games, so the fact that we were able to put out a really good performance and play close to 60 minutes was definitely the reason we could hold off Casey.”
“It was great to put out on court what we’ve been practising in preseason. We’ve been working a lot on our fitness, attacking and defensive connections, so it was great for everyone to get out there and have a really good team performance.”
“Abi (Inglis) and Sim (Di Filippo) got their Championship debuts, which was great for them to get a bit of a taste for what Championship level is like. They fit in seamlessly and then G (Georgia Hernan) also played her first game in Hawks colours, which was nice for her to fit in really well. She and Kaylia (goal shooter Kaylia Stanton) worked very, very smoothly together.”
“It was really nice for us to get a win over a team that has always had some really strong players, and a really tall shooter in Emma Ryde, so it was nice for Loz (goal keeper Lauren Hucker) to get some hands to some balls but also to have a lot of pressure from the girls out the front.”
After finishing in fifth position last year but several wins behind fourth, Ferguson said the Hawks were focused on taking the next step as a club and had their eyes set on a finals berth.
“I think we’re out for a bit to prove this year as a team. We want to try and push for a top four spot and show the other clubs that we’re not that team that’s always close but not quite there,” she said.
“We don’t want to finish fifth or sixth and we won’t want to lose to those top teams by a couple of goals, we want to actually prove that we can beat those teams and that we do deserve to have a finals campaign in Championship.”
The winning feeling continued in Division 1, where the Hawks won every quarter in a comprehensive 62-35 win.
Casey challenged the reigning premiers early, with the Hawks leading 15-11 at quarter-time, before a 17-10 second quarter stretched the margin to 11.
It was all the Hawks after half-time, with the defensive end of Liv Barnett, Chloe Duke, Sasha Witts and Izzy Ross holding the Demons to just 14 goals for the half, while at the other end Keeley Burgmann, Daisy Hill and Hannah Keane poured in 30 more goals to secure a 27-goal win.
A heart-stopping final quarter saw Hawks’ 19/Under side snatch a 45-45 draw against Casey in the dying seconds, after earlier trailing by more than 10 goals.
The young Hawks struggled for connection and consistency in the first half, trailing 9-14 at quarter-time before the margin quickly reached double digits early in the second quarter.
But with first-gamer Emma Storey and defensive partner Eliza Molino continuing to provide opportunities, the Hawks began to claw their way back into the contest.
The Hawks hit the front late in the third quarter, before Casey again jumped clear in the final term, leading by four goals with just over three minutes remaining. But still the Hawks found something, scoring six of the last eight goals of the game, including a game-tying basket from another debutant, Amy Scott, as time expired.