KDNL - Stanhope saunter straight into Grand Final with dominate display over Dookie

By Meg Saultry

Stanhope 66

Dookie United 29

A dazzling first-half performance from premiership favourite Stanhope has the Lions progressing straight through to the grand final after dominating Dookie United by 37 goals at Nagambie Recreation Reserve on Saturday.

The Kyabram District League contest looked virtually over by half-time, with the Lions pouncing early to set up a 26-goal lead ahead of the main break, though the Thunder would soon rally in the third term to make for a more competitive showing.

But ultimately there was no way out for the Thunder, with Stanhope’s attack, led by goal shooter Chicky Barr — who was judged best-on-court — again furthering its match-winning lead to earn its place in the final showdown.

Post-match, Stanhope coach Kerrie Gray said it was pleasing to see how her team came out of the gate.

“We were super happy with our first half, though we probably became a little complacent and didn’t work as hard as we’d like to in the second,” Gray said.

“But to come out after a week off and play that brand of netball in the first half was awesome.”

It was both ends of court that proved pivotal to Stanhope’s win, with its defensive group playing its part to cut off most of Dookie’s forays forward, before sending it back down to Barr to convert.

“We work really hard on both ends of our court and we're lucky we’ve got the players to do so,” Gray said.

“And our defensive end is motivated by the defensive pressure that our attacking end puts on when the ball comes out.

“Chicky is outstanding, week in and week out. She was really disappointed with her game (today); the wind made her accuracy not what she wanted.

“But it’s exciting to have a player that has such high expectations of herself.

“Abby Breen in wing attack was awesome, with her delivery and her speed over the court.

“And Sam Gill in goal keeper took some risks. She took some beautiful balls — some she didn’t pull off, but she took some early balls which really set the team up back there.”

But on the other side of the coin was Dookie United, with coach Tanya Caruana admitting her team seriously underestimated the intensity of Stanhope.

“They’ve got their set plays worked out and it took us a little while to figure those out and change,” Caruana said.

“We did try some things and it did make a difference, it was again a test and learning for us.

“Once they get access to Chicky, it’s quite hard to stop, so we need to work a lot harder.

“Our attackers need to start defending a lot harder. And we need to maintain that pressure so we can pull it up before it gets to (Chicky).”

But it wasn’t just Dookie’s defensive third that let the team down, with Caruana also conceding her attacking end was a "little bit off''.

“We need to sharpen up that. We’ve been focused on defending rather than attacking, so we need to round off on those," she said.

“The good thing is we get another crack at it next week.”

Dookie United will face off against last year's premier Nagambie in the preliminary final, with the aim of coming face to face with Stanhope again in the grand final.

But while the Thunder and Lakers trade blows, Stanhope will be working hard on the training track to prepare for whoever comes out on top.

“We’ll get some run into our legs, given we miss out,” Gray said.

“We’ve played three games in six weeks, so we need to work really hard on our fitness, and making sure we get plenty of touch of the ball.

“It was pleasing though that we came out of the blocks so strong today.

“It gives you a little bit of confidence for two weeks’ time.”