Hawks Netball’s return to the court for the first time in more than 20 months went off with a bang, with the club securing two wins from three games against Southern Saints in Round 1 of the Victorian Netball League.
More than 600 days after the Hawks last took the court, the club’s Championship team played out a thriller, winning 46-45 courtesy of a goal in the dying seconds.
Leading for most of the match but by no more than a few goals, the young Hawks lineup, which featured five of 11 players stepping up to Championship level for the first time, weathered a final-quarter comeback from Saints to secure their first win since Round 16, 2019, after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the 2020 season.
Championship debutant Jasmine Ferguson was scintillating in the win, playing with poise in attack and racking up a string of intercepts, including the turnover that setup goal attack Nat Billings’ (24 goals from 29 attempts) match-winning goal.
Ferguson collected the three votes from the umpires, while Hawks first-gamer Ally Salter was also pivotal against her old side.
A gritty come-from-behind win for the Hawks’ 19/Under team set the tone for the night at the newly-opened Oakleigh Recreation Centre.
Down 21-28 at half-time, the Hawks refused to lie down, dragging the margin back to a single goal (36-37) at the final change before running away to take a 51-47 win.
The strength of the Hawks’ newly-introduced ‘Next Generation’ program for developing up-and-coming athletes was on full display, with two Next Gen players called on to make their VNL debuts and both playing critical roles in the result.
Kaila Swindell was introduced at wing defence in the second half and racked up a stunning array of intercepts to help turn the tide in the Hawks’ favour, while 15-year-old Eliza Molino looked right at home under the post when handed the goal shooter bib for the final quarter, netting 11 goals from 13 attempts.
Versatile playmaker Keeley Burgmann also shone in her VNL debut, starting at wing attack before shifting into the goal circle and finishing with 18 from 22, combining with centre Abi Inglis and wing attack Simona Di Filippo in the final quarter to guide the Hawks home.
A strong start wasn’t enough for the Hawks’ Division 1 team, with Saints producing a big second half to run away with a 55-42 win.
Leading by as many as six goals during the second quarter and with the game seemingly in control, the Hawks were left to rue a shaky patch late in the quarter that allowed Saints back in, cutting the lead to 26-23 at half-time.
It was all Saints from there, with a 16-7 third quarter seeing them take a six-goal lead, before pulling further clear in the final quarter to win comfortably by 13.