By Matt Fotia
AFL Outer East Netball Development Manager Greg Heinrich has accredited the leagues Under 15 State Championships victory to the depth within the squad, as the league took out its first ever junior title, defeating Parkville 17-12 in the final.
The Outer East snuck into the knockout rounds via a fourth placed finish in their pool, winning just two round robin games against Ballarat (13-8) and Gippsland (17-11).
Heinrich said that because only two sides from each pool would miss the knockout stages there was plenty of opportunity to use the squads depth in preparation for the finals series.
“We were smart in the early rounds, we didn’t have the same starting seven for any group game, making sure that all the girls weren’t out of gas by the finals – we were able to do this because of our incredible depth.”
At the conclusion of the round robin fixtures the Outer East were pitted against tournament favourites and first placed side in the opposing pool, the Goulburn Valley.
Goulburn Valley went undefeated through the round robin stages with a percentage of over 200 and had strength across the court.
Heinrich says that the 14-11 semi final victory was built off the back of some good ball control late in the game, with the three goal margin coming about because of Goulburn Valley’s inability to maintain possession in the latter stages.
“It was a real battle of possession with both sides turning the ball over on numerous occasions before our girls settled with the score at 11 all,”
“We converted from a turnover, then converted our centre pass and created another turnover to go three goals ahead and finish the game off.”
The girls then won through to the decider with a 20-17 victory over Hampden, with the efficiency of the Outer East goalers the real difference as they shaped up to take on a physical Parkville in the final.
“The finals, especially in this shorter tournament format where halves are just nine minutes long, come down to whichever team can be more efficient in the goal circle.”
Heinrich wasn’t confident of glory until the dying minutes of the final, with the girls saving their best netball until last.
“We knew they would be physical and I never felt comfortable until the last couple of minutes when we played some really nice tempo netball.”
Heinrich had nothing but praise for coach Stephanie Puopolo.
“Steph has been amazing,”
“The girls just have this immediate respect and admiration for everything she’s done on the netball court which really helps when you’re trying to implement a game style in such a short space of time,”
“She was a calming influence on the sideline, which contrasted with some other coaches on the day, and is a really good communicator.”
ROC’s Mikayla Phillips was awarded Best on Court in the final.
Meanwhile the AFL Outer East Open side only managed to collect one victory across the day, but lost by less than three goals on five occasions, and lost by more than five just once, to eventual champions Goulburn Valley.
The squad, coached by Kaitlyn Black and Guy Keane, was picked as an Under 23 side which Heinrich believes really showed in the crucial moments.
“The girls faced up against some really mature netballers and our youth showed, when it mattered most the oppositions maturity really came to the fore,”
“We probably had more talent, but experience wins clutch matches – all the girls will be better for it.”