VIDEO: Highlights and Marg Lind after the big match. See bottom.
City West Falcons had soared into rarefied air in the Victorian Netball League this season but it all means nothing now.
An undefeated regular season and direct passage to the grand final just made the fall harder to accept when the Falcons were rocked 48-42 by Southern Saints in the season decider at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Wednesday night.
Falcons coach Marg Lind and her players were left stunned after their quest for perfection this year and a premiership three-peat was scuppered in an hour of netball.
“It does diminish the season a little bit because they have been the stand-out team all year,” Lind said post-game.
“To lose the last one, which is always the most important, is pretty devastating.”
The Falcons undoubtedly left their worst performance of the season to last.
Their inability to force turnovers on defence was costly with the Saints attackers doing as they pleased for most of the night.
The Falcons’ staple – scoring and lots of it – was sadly absent.
Their average goals per game heading into the grand final was 58, but they fell well short of that mark at the big dance.
The Saints’ defensive tactics were brutal with a number of indiscretions not whistled.
Their defensive unit played their roles to perfection, getting into the heads of the Falcons attackers and forcing them to retaliate.
Lind was none-too-pleased with the protection offered to her players by the umpires.
“We had four offensive penalties against us in that second quarter which were extremely costly and that got them their break,” she said.
“We’ve been allowed to compete a little bit more this year and tonight we weren’t allowed to compete.
“That was very disappointing to me.”
The Falcons had three teams – 19-and-under, division 1 and championship – reach grand finals and all three lost.
The players seemed shell-shocked by the horror end to an otherwise brilliant season.
“Their faces said it all,” Lind said.
“To lose all three grand finals [on one night] is pretty devastating as a group.
“To go this far and to be a stand-out team, which they were, they’d be really disappointed.
“It’s a credit to Saints, they did what they needed to do, they put it all out on the line, were aggressive early and got away with it and they were solid in the goal ring.”
Is it the end of an era for the champions of 2012-13?
Only time will tell but Lind does not expect the same team to be together next season.
Retirements loom and there’s always the prospect of further recruiting from the Melbourne Vixens.
“We’ve probably got a few older players in doubt,” Lind said.
“We gave up another couple of players to the Vixens and they might pick off a couple more.
“We could be rebuilding next year – it could be quite a lean year for us at champ [championship level].”
2014 VNL GRAND FINALS
Southern Saints 48 d City West Falcons 42
MVP: Leah Percy (Southern Saints)
Southern Saints 42 d City West Falcons 39
MVP: Tarryn Munroe (Southern Saints)
Monash University Storm 41 d City West Falcons 39
MVP: Monique Tarrant (Monash Storm)