Romsey showed why it was the team to beat all season with a brilliant performance to claim the Riddell District Netball League A-grade premiership.
Seen as pre-season favourites, even before they added Australian Netball League shooter Milly Brock, the Redbacks were a force all season.
After losing just a single game in the regular season, they had poor patches in their first two finals, but also showed some brilliance to get back into those games and win.
On Sunday, they produced their most complete performance of the finals series, beating Lancefield 56-40.
Redbacks coach Lena Way knew the start to the grand final was vital, after her players started poorly in the previous two finals.
With two weeks between games, that was made a big focus and the Redbacks responded to have a 16-9 quarter-time lead.
“That was definitely our intention – to start calmly and with composure,” Way said.
“We said we had to have patience in the attack end and pass the ball around the circle to feed at the right time … we had to do all those simple things well. I think we did that.”
A key to that strategy was Chelsea Ross. Not afraid to let the goal shooter do most of the shooting, Ross forced the Tigers’ defenders to pay more attention to her.
She shot 23 goals for the match, missing just one.
“She knew she had a job to do and that was to sweep in and draw out the defender from Milly Brock,” Way said.
“Then either she was the front option or there was a one-on-one feed to Milly over the back.
“She did her job extremely well.”
With the first step of the plan achieved, the Redbacks set about maintaining their lead, extending it to 10 goals at the main break.
The Tigers hit back in the third quarter, getting on a small run to reduce the margin to six goals – but that was as close as they got.
The Redbacks stormed home with a 15-6 final quarter.
Way changed the defence plan three times during the game to keep the Tiger attackers on the edge.
It was a tactic that paid off late in the
“It was just about trying to shut down their goalers, and I think that really worked,” Way said “Sarah [Szczykulski] played off the player, took a number of intercepts and sealed the day.”
Way said she was very proud, especially considering where the club had come from in the past two years. When Way took over as coach at the start of 2016, the netball program had all but collapsed.
Way said she won’t be coaching on next season.
“What I walked into February, 2016, wasn’t great,” she said.
“Hope [Evans] had already signed with another club and we managed to get her back … it was the beginning of building the foundations back up.
“I’m thrilled with the season. We only lost one game for the year, but I think it started with a very strong pre-season.
“I said to the girls all year, the premiership is in your hands – you just have to do the simple things well and stick to the game plan.”
Mid-courter Cayley Armstrong was awarded the best on court medal. That was quite a contrast from 12 months before, when she didn’t get court time in Riddell’s premiership.
Way said Armstrong had struggled with injury throughout the season, but things had come together for her at the right time.
She said Armstrong’s consistency hitting up the middle, with her leads and drives, and her ability to work the ball into the ring were stand-out elements of Armstrong’s game.
“I said to her, what a turnaround in two years,” Way said.
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