The under 13s Narrandera Eagles have beaten the undefeated Leeton Whitton Crows to walk away the netball champions of the season.
The South West Juniors’ season culminated with grand final matches held in Coleambally on Saturday.
After a successful season, the Narrandera Eagles finished as Club Championship runners-up with three netball and two football teams contesting finals this year.
By grand final day, however, the Eagles’ sole premiership hopes rested with the under 13s netballers.
After finishing in fourth position at the end of the home and away rounds, the girls faced off against the Leeton Whitton Crows. Unbeaten all season, the Crows arrived in Coleambally as firm
The under 13s Eagles had the benefit of twelve players, who all contributed to the team’s achievements during 2017. This long list gave coaches Michelle Smith and Melissa Brooker lots of scope for perfecting match-ups against the Crows.
The first quarter saw the Eagles score the first goal as well as a pivotal and psychological advantage, with the Crows effectively playing catch-up for the remainder of the match.
The quarter time lead was 8-6 after accurate shooting from Katelyn Johnson and Lauren Wickes. Zoe Absolom, Lily Longobardi and Brooke Hall in the mid-court moved the ball with speed and precision. Strong and reliable defence was a highlight, with Marnie Grintell blocking and repelling many of the Crows’ advances.
The Crows changed it up in the second term with much more aggressive play, but the Eagles made great use of the circle and good vision across court repeatedly found gaps. It was a tight quarter, scoring went goal-for-goal and Eagles led 14-12 at half-time.
The girls took some minutes into the third to settle after player rotations. Some loose passes and solid Crows’ defence saw the ball more often in the opposition goal third, but Jessica Forrest used her height, reach and strength to rebound consistently and create many turnovers.
Pippa Smith forced intercepts to feed the play back into offence and strong hands saved a number of tight one-on-ones across the court. Goal-for-goal again, Eagles led 17-15 at the final change.
Lacking the intensity of the third, the last quarter still had the crowd holding its collective breath.
Great support and encouragement came from the team’s bench of Tess Reilly, Cyd Ryan, Sophie Knagge and Olivia Kschenka.
Alternating goals and incredibly tight play had the Eagles maintaining their very small buffer throughout.
Jubilant scenes followed the final whistle as the Under 13 Eagles claimed a 22-20 victory.
The presentation of premiership medals and team trophy was a very special moment for the players. Marnie Grintell was named Best on Ground for the Eagles. Celebrations continued well into the evening!
With only four points’ margin across three games of netball (Under 11s GGGM 15-Griffith 14 and Under 15s Leeton Whitton 31-Griffith 30), the grand final matches were a fitting end to a very competitive season. The Junior Eagles are now looking forward to Presentation Night on Saturday, September 9 to top off a wonderful season for the club.