Lions ready for Thunder in KDL netball grand final

By Aydin Payne

The long road to redemption is almost over for Kyabram District League A-grade outfit Stanhope when it takes on Dookie United this weekend in the grand final.

The two best sides in the competition will take to Mooroopna Recreation Reserve on Saturday to be crowned the best of the season, a title Stanhope missed out on last year.

Following last year's loss to Nagambie in the premiership decider, Stanhope has been motoring along unbeaten from its 17 games this season.

Week after week, the Lions edged out their opposition and earned the title of favourites, due to how dominant their season has been.

One would think the way they have been playing has been spurred on from last year's disappointing loss, except for Stanhope coach Kerrie Gray.

“We haven't focused on last year at all, I think it's unhealthy, you need to let it go," Gray said.

“Nagambie were the far better side that day and now it's all about this season.

“Everyone is excited and keen to get out there this weekend.”

Although Gray said her side would not use last year's loss as motivation for the clash against Dookie, she did believe the experience of a grand final will help.

“We have got some players with that finals exposure which helps," she said.

“They're hungry and hopefully they get some success on Saturday.”

Reigning Warren medallist (league best-and-fairest) Chicky Barr gets a chance to add a premiership medal to her CV at Stanhope.

The talented attacking end player has caused headaches this season for opposition defence and has formed a great combination with goaler Emma Cox.

“Emma and Chicky have been outstanding this season, they have become a great duo," Gray said.

“But we have plenty of players that are quiet achievers, it takes a full squad to win a game.”

With the talents of Stanhope's squad well documented, Dookie United mentor Tanya Caruana understands the giant task ahead of her side.

The Thunder — playing in their first A-grade grand final since joining the league — have yet to come within less than 30 goals of Stanhope this season.

“We have nothing to lose really," Caruana said.

“We need to be fearless and put everything out on the court.

“We can't come off with no stone unturned, anyone can be beaten and it's the best team that wins on the day.

“And everyone is excited, I think what nerves we did have, we used last week in the preliminary final.”

It was a big win for the Thunder over the reigning premiers last weekend, clinching their third win against the Lakers this season.

Belinda Rankin was judged best-on-court and has another big job ahead of her.

But it was the switch from midcourter Sophie Harmer into attack that proved the winning move.

And don't think Caruana won't have any more tricks up her sleeve for the Lions.

“We have a few ideas and plans we might use for this weekend," she said.

“But it comes down to execution of the one percenters and getting the basics right.

“Because last time we played them we threw the ball away far too many times.”

Key potential match-ups:

Belinda Rankin v Abby Breen in the midcourt

Dookie's Belinda Rankin has been a strong performer this season for the Thunder and gets the wheels in motion from the get-go.

She was best-on-court in her side's preliminary final win and Rankin's coach Tanya Caruana said, "she was unstoppable and pivotal to us getting the ball down to the attackers".

Meanwhile, Breen is a member of the rampant Stanhope midcourt that features, Molly Breen, Suzie Cockroft and Emma Hill.

Samantha Gill v Sophie Harmer

Stanhope defender Sam Gill will need to be on her game when versatile player Sophie Harmer scurries around the ring on Saturday.

Harmer was influential in getting her side over the line last weekend when she went down into attack.