Sport

Fierce battle for first spot into Murray netball grand final

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September 09, 2017

Handy inclusion: Moama will welcome Emilly Atkinson back onto the court today for its semi-final clash with Tongala.Emilly Atkinson during the 2017 AFL Victoria Community Championships Murray FNL v Wimmera FNL open netball. Photo by Luke Hemer.

The biggest game of the Murray Netball League finals will be played today at Barooga Recreation Reserve.

Moama and Tongala netball clubs have been the standout teams all season and will meet in the second semi-final.

Each team has won one and lost one to the other during the season, but neither game had as much riding on them as today’s encounter.

The winner will secure a spot straight in to the grand final, a position Tongala had been in several times before.

‘‘We haven’t focused much on confidence, it’s more about sticking to our game plan and doing all the little things right,’’ Tongala coach Alicia White said.

‘‘On an individual basis, if each of us beat our opponent we have a chance.

‘‘Our biggest thing is having a good first quarter and being competitive from the start.’’

She has asked for consistency from every player for the full 15 minutes of each quarter and said players could not afford to drop their heads.

‘‘For us the game is a free hit regardless of whether we win or lose,’’ White said.

‘‘We’ll try different combinations and see what works and take as many positives out of the game as we can.’’

Moama coach Charlotte Long said the week off had been good to get everyone’s bodies fit and ready to go.

‘‘We’re more excited than nervous or confident (all the things you usually feel before a final),’’ she said.

‘‘Our defensive pressure all down the court and rebounding has been a focus (in the weeks leading up to the game).

‘‘We should be able to beat Tongala again, but anything can happen in finals and no team is unbeatable as we’ve seen.

‘‘Most of Tongala’s players have played in Murray league finals before and a lot of our girls, while they’ve played in finals for other teams, haven’t had that same experience but it shouldn’t be an issue.’’

Moama aimed to come out firing and hoped the return of Emilly Atkinson will bring a boost to the team.

‘‘She hasn’t played in a while, but she’s a massive asset to our squad and we’re lucky to have her back,’’ Long said.

‘‘We won’t be counting on her, but she offers a lot more options.

‘‘We’ve been working with a lot of different combinations in the week off and getting those right.’’

The loser of today’s match will play the winner of the first semi-final between Echuca United and Deniliquin.

The first semi-final will be played tomorrow at Numurkah Showgrounds and Eagles’ coach Elle Florance hopes to have corrected things from the previous week.

‘‘It was good to get the first week of finals out of the way,’’ she said.

‘‘But we still have a lot of things we need to work on and will be looking forward to getting to training and getting those ironed out.’’

The Eagles have a solid track record when it came to playing Deniliquin in the finals having beaten them in the 2016 preliminary final.

But the players will need to bring a higher intensity if they are to match the Rams, especially with the return of Bec White.

The goal shooter had been crucial in Saturday’s victory against Numurkah and did not play when the Eagles won by 21 goals.

‘‘We need to lift our intensity if we’re going to match it with the teams that are still in the finals,’’ Florance said.

‘‘We’re hoping to keep pushing and keep working hard and see how far we can get.’’

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