THE Gippsland League’s open netball team has been crowned state champion, with victory at the Netball Victoria Regional State League Champions Challenge at Hisense Arena on Sunday.
The Eastern Regional State League champion defeated Central Highlands RSL winner Ballarat Football Netball League 57-33 in a high-quality game that served as a curtain raiser to the clash between Melbourne Vixens and Southern Steel.
Gippsland League coach Kate French praised her team’s effort and commitment throughout the competition.
“It’s hard to find girls to play in the off-season and we were able to recruit a very stable and talented group of girls that were committed to represent the league,” French said.
“All the hard work and training sessions have paid off and it was a fantastic team effort displayed by the girls on the day to beat a very talented Ballarat outfit.”
The game went goal-for-goal in the early stages, but by half-time Gippsland had stretched its lead to 10 goals and never looked back.
Gippsland League goal attack Courtney Blair (Wonthaggi) received the best-on-court award.
The league’s 17-and-under team was not so lucky, going down by a single goal to Albury Netball Association in the grand final at the State Netball and Hockey Centre.
Gippsland started strongly, with an eight-goal win over Hampden Football Netball League, but fell to Albury in the next game by a single goal.
The girls redeemed themselves in the next game, with a seven-goal win over Wimmera Netball Association to reach the grand final against the undefeated Albury team.
In a nail-biting grand final, it was goal-for-goal for much of the game, but the Gippsland girls were denied a fairy-tale victory by the narrowest of margins.
Gippsland League operations manager Matt Ogilvie thanked everyone involved for their efforts throughout the competition.
“Hats off to all the coaches, scorers, primary carers, support staff, parents and other volunteers that have helped the Gippsland teams over the past two months,” Ogilvie said.
“These teams wouldn’t be able to compete without the support of the people around them and it is a credit to everyone involved in giving up their time to help our teams.”
The league now turns its focus to interleague games against Yarra Valley Mountain District Football Netball League at Drouin Recreation Reserve in May and the Association Championships at Leongatha in June.