SOUTH AUSTRALIA 43 def VICTORIA 27
By SAM FINN
South Australia has created history after conquering Victoria by 16 goals to claim back-to- back 21/U National Netball Championships in front of a vocal home crowd.
SA has become the first team to win the title on its home court in more than two decades as they stormed to victory in a match which ebbed and flowed early, before the hosts put the foot down and showed everyone at Netball SA Stadium why it went through this year’s championships undefeated.
The first quarter began nervously for both teams with SA’s goalers struggling to convert turnovers.
Victoria’s transition from defence to attack was minimal, with fierce defensive pressure from SA a feature. When SA goalers Chelsea Lemke and Cody Lange settled into a rhythm, it proved too much for the defensive pairing of Victorian captain Chloe Watson and the in-form Emily Mannix.
SA took a slim three goal advantage into the first break and the second quarter saw defenders dominate once again, as both shooting circles struggled to hit the scoreboard.
SA’s timing was crisp right throughout the match, with Kelly Altmann finding fantastic space and her speed cutting right through Victoria’s defence.
With five minutes to go in the quarter, SA called a time out and coach Megan Carter went to her bench, introducing Georgie Virgo to goal shooter.
This move had an immediate impact with the SA feeders finding Virgo’s space well. It was Victoria who took the quarter by one off the back of some wonderful work from Mannix in goal keeper, Maggie Lind’s composure and skill in the midcourt and some improved shooting from the pairing of Maddie Morrison and Maddie Hickey.
SA’s lead was a mere two goals heading into the long break.
The third quarter is often known as the premiership quarter and SA showed the vocal crowd why it’s been the best team all week as a 15-7 quarter broke the back of a gallant Victorian side.
Virgo’s presence under the post made all the difference for SA, who released the ball with fantastic confidence.
SA’s defensive duo of Maddy Turner and Sarah Klau made life extremely difficult for the Victorians. Their pressure over the shot and relentless effort in the air and on the ground saw plenty of possession gains and opportunities for SA to extend their lead to 10 goals heading into the final term.
The last quarter was once again a dominant display for the home side, with dominant defence and skilful attacking play the highlights. The final margin ended up at 16 goals and South Australia crowned deserved back-to-back champions.
For Victoria, Lind’s composure and class was evident from the first centre pass, while Mannix produced another strong performance at goal keeper.
Virgo was the difference maker for SA, opening up the goal circle and providing a consistent option. SA’s midcourt used their speed and precise movements to open up the Victorian defence, while at the back, the combination of Klau and Turner proved too much to overcome for the Vics.
South Australia’s co-captain and Adelaide Thunderbirds player Madeleine Proud was named the tournament’s San Remo Most Valuable Player and deservedly chosen in the 21/U national squad.
South Australia shooting stats
Cody Lange 23/29 (79%)
Georgie Virgo 18/24 (75%)
Chelsea Lemke 2/7 (29%)
Victoria shooting stats
Mikaela Vaughan 20/32 (63%)
Maddie Morrison 4/11 (36%)
Maddie Hickey 3/7 (43%)