This year’s Goulburn Valley League season was a story of the best of the season being defeated by the best on the day.
Shepparton entered the grand final with all the hopes of its first A-grade premiership as no team had knocked it off until that point.
But Echuca knew it was only going to beat the Bears once and it ensured that game was in Sunday’s grand final.
For two key members of the News’Team of the Year that performance on Sunday alone lifted their standing in the selected team.
First is Gina Pearson who has received the nod as Coach of the Year.
Had the Murray Bombers not saluted in the grand final, Shepparton coach Tracey Brereton would have been a surety for the position because, after all, what a stellar year the Bears had.
Not only did they beat every side, but did so convincingly, although always with a sense of mortality which is to be commended.
Shepparton never took a game for granted or assumed the premiership cup would be its to hold up despite performances in the previous 20 matches.
In the end the Bears could not hold on for one more week and the Murray Bombers performed at the highest level for one hour which now has their team etched into the record books of the GVL.
As a result Pearson’s acknowledgement for her coaching prowess starts with her making little changes to push her side over the line.
Claudia Mawson in centre brought what the side needed in attack and meant the star teenager could get on court despite Olivia Bannon playing spectacularly in the goal attack position where Mawson has also featured throughout the season.
Anyone who says a wing defence is the last person picked in the team should watch Erin Hill’s performance in the position across the season and particularly on Sunday.
As reigning Echuca best-and-fairest, Hill dropped back to the position after astounding work in centre across her career.
Her job on Shepparton star Jacinta Todd in the grand final helped limit supply to Kim Commane which every team was working towards.
Keeping Todd and either Kate Durling or Laura Ryan in centre away from the the circle, piled pressure on the Bears to work the ball around for a lot longer than normal and make mistakes.
Zara Pearson and Tamara Nicholls made up the circle defence and having risen from B-grade last year to an A-grade premiership is another reason Pearson should be commended.
But Commane was a certainty to fill the goal shooter position being the most difficult player in the league to stop.
She finished second in the Wellman Family Medal, despite playing in just two thirds of the season.
With a Victorian Netball League best-and-fairest and a Melbourne Vixens cap to her name it is no wonder she has slotted straight into the side.
Commane will be joined by Jessie Barnes-Hill in the circle with the Shepparton United goal attack returning to the position for the second year in a row.
Barnes-Hill is the person you want at any club.
She is athletic in goal attack with a defensive mindset and looks just as natural when down the opposite end of the court.
Her passion for the side and encouragement not only for the A-grade team, but also at junior level makes her an ideal fit for captain.
It would be ideal to have six players to slot into the forward line, but unlike football only two can start, with Echuca’s Sheridan Townrow having to begin on the bench.
Shepparton Swan Sophie Atkinson and Tatura’s Brylee Schache also could have filled those spots having been influential for their sides.
Despite the grand final loss, Todd has had another brilliant year and there is no-one you would rather passing into Commane than the player with the best use of the ball in the competition.
Taking centre stage is Mooroopna’s Mia Fallon, one of two Cats players in the side with Maddie Wong also earning selection as the defender keeps rising to a new level each season.
Fallon and Wong helped their side to its first finals appearance since 1986 and stood up in the elimination final, despite exiting to Shepparton United.
Seymour’s Meg Grbac and Tatura’s Emma Ryan will hold down the fort in defence, polling 51 votes between them in the Wellman Medal.
Ryan was crowned the Wellman medallist with 33 votes and her consistency throughout the season led to her racking up eight best-on-court performances, three two votes and three one votes.
She revelled being back in defence after playing in shooter last year and her reading of the play through the midcourt while combining with Fallon and Hill would make a formidable defence.
The Lions were simply a better side with Grbac in it and she was missed while spending time overseas.
Her sensational role in goal keeper meant Elle McDonald could move into the midcourt and exert her influence across the court.
Shepparton Swans coach Jana Bruinier is also included in the team for her experience, leadership and a composed head to slot into centre when needed.