The perfect end to a perfect season

Champions: Yinnar A Grade won the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League Grand Final.





IN the most impressive of feats, Yinnar went undefeated in season 2023 to walk away premiers and champions last Saturday.

Grand Finals are something else, watching the best of the best fight it out for the ultimate glory, making for a remarkable sight, and so it was the case in the Mid Gippsland Football-Netball League A Grade netball Grand Final.

Yinnar and Toora have amazed game day goers all year, deserving their place in the big dance. But in this game we love there can only be one team named premier.

The mighty Yinnar Magpies held off the gallant charge of their Toora counterparts (also called the Magpies) to claim the A Grade premiership cup.

Yinnar held onto a lead for much of the game despite a tireless contest provided by the 2022 premier, but the original Magpies of Mid Gippsland won 46 to 41.

It was an impressive day for the club as Yinnar had set he winning tone having won the thirds football Grand Final, and then D Grade and B Grade netball.

The A Grade premiership returned the Mid Gippsland powerhouse to the top, in what was their first flag since 2019.

A sea of black and white engulfed the outskirts of Morwell East’s Ronald Reserve courts in support of their A Graders.

Toora had its fair share or support, with many club loyalists eager to cheer on back-to-back A Grade premierships.

Yinnar was out for vengeance, having fell two points short of the Grand Final last season at the hands of Toora, the Yinnar team had unfinished business to settle.

While the reigning premier was the hunted this season – Yinnar’s women were set on a mission, and that was to win last Saturday.

That first centre pass whistle pierced the air as teams began to apply pressure.

Toora scored the first goal with Brylee Angwin and Alana Manders showcasing their excellent ring work in the first play, but that didn’t last long as Yinnar managed to shoot the next five goals in a row.

Yinnar’s full court press and pressure acts made for turnover central, with coach Skye McDonald and captain Georgia Hutchinson leading the charge.

From there it was goal-for-goal until Toora made a three goal surge with goal defence and coach Kelsey Angwin impacted the game and prevented Yinnar’s attack.

The Toora team were able to sink seven of their own in the last five minutes of the quarter to bring the margin down to one point. Yinnar 11 while Toora scored 10.

McDonald’s voice echoed around the court as she revved up her side to come into the second term firing.

That they did.

Hutchinson began with the ball in centre and converted with ease as she moved and fed passes perfectly into the ring.

Yinnar’s pressure was relentless, managing to turn the ball over again and again and again, extending their lead out to 24 to 19. Toora was never far behind.

The halftime break would have been a welcomed rest for many as the sun and warmer weather made conditions much harder. The wind had also picked up by halftime with a potential for shooting inaccuracy.

The third term began goal-for-goal with Yinnar’s goal shooter Elly Stewart swishing everything she received from Hutchinson’s silver service.

The crowd were impressed by the Yinnar coaches’ work rate as McDonald pushed up the court to defend all the way to transverse and then fall straight back to convert on the turnovers she helped make.

Yinnar’s defenders in Jamie Chila, Jess Le Page and Gabrielle Maynard were absolutely outstanding in shutting down much of Toora’s attacking drive. Toora began to get frustrated as the goal attack Angwin was cautioned for persistent contact.

With Yinnar’s Hutchinson’s added pressure, Yinnar were again able to turn the ball over and extend their lead to six at three quarter time.

One more quarter was left between Yinnar and a premiership.

It was only 15 more minutes of blood, sweat and tears. Keeping composed, patient and persistent would be all it would take for the Yinnar team.

Toora were chasing tail all game, though not far off the ball, they had less possession and were a little less clean with their opportunities, but come the fourth quarter, the reigning premier decided to turn the tables around.

Through the charge of the defence, Toora’s goal defence Angwin sister and goal keeper Hannah Weston, Toora came back.

As Toora begin to convert on Yinnar’s missed opportunities, shadows of the 2022 Grand Final began to appear – when the Toora side snatched the win from Mirboo North in the very last second.

Scores were 37 Yinnar to 33 Toora. A crucial turnover for the Toora side saw the ball spill out of Chila’s hands. The Toora team took no time to get the ball into Angwin, who shoot cleanly to make the score 37 to 34.

Toora had the next centre pass and converted easily with a court flow that even the Vixens would have been impressed by. The game was now a two-point margin.

The Toora crowd began emerging from everywhere, cheering on the black, white and teal with every breath they had, but Yinnar was unwavering.

Scoring one of their own, Yinnar silenced the crowd for a brief moment, before a missed shot where Toora converted another turnover after the Angwin goal defence took a strong rebound. Scores were 38 to 36.

Yinnar were not the type of team to roll over and quit in the face of adversity, they gathered themselves, they regrouped and they began making magic plays of their own.

Hutchinson’s down-the-court vision was elite, managing to feed into Stewart from deep.

Fans sat stunned at the brilliance of the Yinnar well-oiled machine as they capitalised on the next play, with McDonald sinking a huge long-range shot to make the score 40 to 37.

Down the other end, the Angwin goal attack said ‘anything you can do I can do better’ and shot a long bomb for herself to close the margin back to two.

With less than half a quarter to go, Yinnar’s wing defender Chila was sent off for medical treatment due to the umpire seeing visible blood, but Yinnar opted to keep the position void until her return.

Toora took full advantage of Yinnar being one player down, yet in a bizarre turn of events, the umpire called ‘no goal’, and Yinnar had a base line throw in with Chila back in play.

The reigning premier side still pressed, with Toora’s centre Nat Griffin getting the turnover, but Hutchinson gave her a taste of her own medicine, immediately putting her body on the line for a game winning tip.

Though the Yinnar shooters struggled with the fourth quarter wind, they still extended their lead out to 43 to 39, making for frantic scenes in the final few minutes.

In the fleeting moments of the game, Yinnar played composed and made the clock tick down, going goal-for-goal with Toora who faced with the grim realisation that it was all over.

At the final siren, scenes of pure elation were written on the Yinnar faces.

Coach McDonald instantly began to feel the moment, as tears of joy were met with warm embraces from family, friends and fans.

Yinnar captain Hutchinson was awarded best-on-court for a four quarter performance, demonstrating the most amazing defensive pressure and silky attacking skills.

The Yinnar faithful came from far and wide and flocked to congratulate the team on their feat.

One by one the women received their medals, honouring their contribution to their team’s premiership.

Toora’s efforts were valiant, but on Saturday, the Yinnar team were just destined to add another cup to the cabinet.

After successfully wining four flags, someone better check up on the township of Yinnar this week and find out if they’re still celebrating.

Dynamic duo: Yinnar coach Skye McDonald and captain Georgia Hutchinson celebrate together. Photographs: Zaida Glibanovic, unless stated

Go mum: Skye McDonald embracing her daughter after the Grand Final win.

Flagpies: Yinnar’s black and white army was out in full force last Saturday.

Young gun: Yinnar’s zippy wing defence Jamie Chila brining the ball down the court.

Magpie family: Yinnar gather for a group photo in the clubrooms to commemorate winning the A Grade, B Grade, D Grade and Thirds football premiership in Mid Gippsland. Photograph contributed