Category: M-League

Elle McDonald ready for the next step

A NEW addition to the Melbourne Vixens ranks in 2020, training partner Elle McDonald has had an explosive past year, selected for the 2019 Vic Fury squad in the Australian Netball League (ANL) and subsequently getting the call up to the Vixens for the 2020 Suncorp Super Netball season.

McDonald has not followed the typical state talent pathway, instead working her way up the ranks through the Victorian Netball League (VNL), honing her craft through the Under-19s to division one and then championship, winning a premiership with North East Blaze in 2017. 

“When I was younger I didn’t go through the state teams pathway that most of the other athletes would have but I was really lucky to still be playing in the VNL. And I thought I’d just work my way through the Under 19 Division and then was aiming for playing in that championship team and then once I was playing that championship team I was, you know, always trying to do the best I can,” McDonald said. “From there, I kept pushing myself and was lucky enough to be named in the team of the year for the last two years, I think, so I’ve just always been trying to improve myself and go one step further.”

The speedy midcourter has no issue traversing the court, able to ply her trade in both centre and wing attack, using her speed off the mark to enter the contest and be a real workhorse in attack.

“Last year I was really lucky to be asked to play in the ANL with Vic Fury, and win the Premiership with them too … I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s been challenging, of course, I’ve had my setbacks like many other people but in a way it just made me work harder and stronger and become a better player.”

But what should have been an exciting start to the year with Super Netball coming up, has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with teams having to switch out regular face-to-face training for backyard workouts and video meetings.

“Yeah, it’s been challenging, but also good I think. Obviously having to train by yourself is very different, especially being used to a team sport and really supporting each other through tough training sessions and things like that,” McDonald said. “I think we’ve been very accountable, and we knew how important it was to maintain our fitness levels during isolation so we can come back as strong as possible when we were allowed to.”

Despite the challenge of taking on her first season of elite training at home, McDonald said that the team was able to conduct virtual training sessions via Zoom.

“I think we were lucky to try and squeeze in … things like that, to really get our feet moving, doing lots of footwork and ball skills against the wall or someone at home, if you had someone to pass with you occasionally, that was really helpful and I think for me, really important to try and keep up.”

That being said, the Vixens are back regularly training now meaning the midcourter can really work on those skills with a plethora of experienced players to learn off, with the likes of Liz Watson and Kate Moloney two prominent figures in the Vixens midcourt unit.

“Just being part of that environment is quite surreal sometimes but I think having role models like that to look up to and, as you said they’re so experienced, but they’re also just so encouraging and they’re really supportive of everyone.I think just being able to train alongside them and be challenged and challenge them is totally our role as a training partner and, yeah, as I said, it’s just such a good and professional environment to be a part of. I’ve been loving every minute of being part of the Vixens.”

McDonald said she is in the team to become the best player she can be, always pushing herself regardless of the level. While she has been exposed to elite pathways in the VNL and ANL along with the impressive coaching at that level, the midcourter says that the training environment with the Vixens is “amazing”.

“I just want to, you know, learn as much as I can from the coaches and the players that we have there … I’ve never had access to the facilities and the strength and conditioning coaches and programs that are put in place before, so I’m really just trying to make the most of it and just absorb as much as I can in that training environment.”

“I think we have been chosen as training partners for a reason. I think they obviously see some potential in us and we want to, you know, be the best we can,” McDonald said. “When you are going up against one of those experienced international players [you want to] to challenge them, because the more we challenge them the better we become as well.”

With significant breaks between seasons, many players pick up other fitness regimes and exercise to do away from the netball court. But for McDonald, mixed netball was a great way to keep up that match fitness and skill over the off-season, drawn to the speed and physicality of the game.

“I played mixed my last year of high school. I sort of was introduced to it and I just thought it would be fun, would get to play with a few of my friends and then I quickly realised just how talented some of the mens and mixed netballers were and how competitive that league was,” McDonald explained. “So to me, when the VNL season stopped, being able to play in the M-League competition was a really good opportunity.”

McDonald was part of the grand final winning Parkville Panthers in the 2019 Victorian M-League Mixed Premier Division, winning the female most valuable player award for the season. She said the physicality of the mixed competition helped improve her speed and ability to attack the ball strongly.

“I think it’s definitely improved my speed, just because I found like some of the boys, you know, they’re very athletic so being able to just turn and feed things quickly. As well as that, the physicality – just really having to claim that ball and pull in strong with two hands.”

While the 2020 ANL season will not go ahead, McDonald will hope to continue improving with the Vixens and prove herself among the main group, still able to play in the VNL this year. With the addition of rolling subs and the two goal Super Shot to the Super Netball season, the midcourter said that the Vixens are one of the teams in a good position with the wealth of talent at their disposal.

“I’m sure they [the Vixens] will adapt to whatever they need to, in a really positive way and I think if you look at the shooters in that team, you know, they’re very lucky to have some accurate long-bomb shooters.”

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s/Mixed Division 1 Grand Final wrap – Northern Titans and Fitzroy Phoenix prevail

PLENTY of action across two massive Division 1 matches saw Men’s Division 1’s Northern Titans go back to back and Mixed Division 1’s Fitzroy Phoenix win an elusive first premiership after coming close on multiple occasions. Both matches started close before leads extended, making for two massive grand finals to finish the 2019 season on the ultimate high.

Men’s Division 1

Northern Titans Men’s (44) defeated DDNA Teal (38)

Despite a strong first quarter effort DDNA were unable to hold on for victory, with Northern Titans proving why they were at the top of the ladder with a dominant defensive effort through the second and third and ultimately holding onto victory despite DDNA’s late fight back. It was a slow start to both sides with only one goal scored apiece at the three minute mark of the match, a testament to the defensive effort and intensity from every player on court doing their bit to create turnover ball. DDNA kept it consistent across the court for the full four quarters, with each combination working hard to ensure the ball was shared around well. Thomas Fisher and Brent Pace put in the hard yards in the goal circle sharing the load but it was the defensive effort from Titans’ grand final MVP, Ben Bruitzman rotating through goal defence and centre that really drew attention, winning valuable ball back and forcing turnovers again and again. Titans’ Andrew Baker in goal shooter found plenty of the ball, nailing 31 goals and providing a solid option in the circle while Matthew Le Gassick was a handy option on circle edge able to find targets in the goals. The feisty match was vocal with both teams putting their voices to the test, propelling their side on and directing play across the court. While DDNA ended the match with a goal on the siren it was not enough, with Titans just too strong in the second half for their second grand final victory in two seasons.

GF MVP: Ben Bruitzman (Northern Titans)

Season MVP: Ben Bruitzman (12 votes)
Runner up: Ronan Pring (11 votes)
Equal third: Trent Morrison, David Capron (10 votes)
Equal fifth: James Sutton, Cameron Hughes (9 votes)

Mixed Division 1

Fitzroy Phoenix (44) defeated Ariels Mixed (33)

A massive first quarter effort from the Ariels saw the Fitzroy Phoenix have flashbacks of their 2018 grand final choke, seeing the ladder leaders lift their game from then on and running away with an 11 goal victory in what was a fairly close affair early. Both sides had some unsteady moments speeding down the court, making uncharacteristic errors and creating turnovers with the ball moving down the court quicker than necessary in the heat of the pressure. Grand final MVP, Andrew Lewis was the key cog in goal shooter, putting up a whopping 40 goals thanks to the immense feeds from fellow goaler, Shae Gee and rotating midcourters, Kate Patterson, Colin Croft and Joss Roche who found circle edge again and again despite the best efforts of the Ariels, with James Hertan in goal keeper having the tough job of denying easy entry into Lewis. While the Ariels shared the load better to post it was to no avail, though Kurt Thompson provided a solid target to finish with 27 goals to his name. Through the midcourt, Lorna Clark worked well to drive across the court with speed and game smarts to boot, sharing the centre-court effort with Anthony Williams who was equally as valuable, while Renae Pickering was consistent through wing defence with solid hands over pressure on circle edge and Kirsty Clark gave every inch back when near the ball. While Ariels were impressive early it was ultimately the Phoenix who wanted it more, prevailing and finally getting their hands on the gold.

GF MVP: Andrew Lewis (Fitzroy Phoenix)

Season MVP: Andrew Lewis (17 votes)
Female season MVP: Kate Patterson (10 votes)
Runner up: James Sutton (16 votes)
Third: Zac Nathan (14 votes)
Equal fourth: Teah Edelmaer, Kate Patterson, John Tran (10 votes)

VIC M-League 2019: Mixed Premier Division Grand Final wrap – Parkville Panthers go back to back

THE Premier Mixed Division grand final saw plenty of intensity, action and push and shove between both Parkville Panthers and Geelong Cougars, with Parkville running out premiers for the second year running despite a strong effort from the Cougars. Two sides packed with Victorian talent, this match was one to watch regardless of the final score, and with plenty of players on their second grand final for the night the match was tight from the get-go, with fatigue sure to set in sooner rather than later after a rollercoaster Men’s Premier Division grand final directly prior

Parkville Panthers (55) defeated Geelong Cougars (39)

Though the end score suggests an uneven match, it was nothing of the sort with Parkville Panthers well and truly tested early by their counterparts. While the Panthers had the lead for majority of the match the Cougars ensured they kept on their toes, trailing by one goal throughout the first half before the Panthers managed to pull away in the third. Defensively, Geelong’s Luke Rawlings, Jake Noonan and Sarah Szczykulski could not be faulted early, causing mishaps and inaccuracy to post for the Panthers. Neither side looked after the ball early with disrupted ball flow from both teams and every player on court going hard into the contest. A feisty contest from the get-go saw Dylan Nexhip and Brayden Pastore (19 goals) go head to head for the  second time that night, with Nexhip and fellow defender Georgette Paatsch double teaming Pastore and Julia Woolley (15 goals) to deny any easy access to ball in the circle. 

The second quarter continued much the same while the tenacity on court hit another level as the scores remained relatively level. Geelong wing defence, Laura Giles had the upper hand in the second term over speedy Elle McDonald in wing attack, cutting off strong drives, applying great hands-over pressure and sticking like glue around circle edge. While both sides continued to fight for every ball, Panthers brought back some classy play thanks to the constant drives and second efforts from grand final MVP Brodie Roberts (32 goals) in at goal attack, aided by Riley Richardson’s ability to come off the body and take up loose ball. The game was not over, however, with Geelong continuing to play hard and Noonan rotating through where required, switching from goal defence to centre to add an extra burst of speed through the midcourt alongside Vanessa Augustini who played out a consistent four quarters with speed, strength and game smarts to boot. 

The third quarter saw Panthers switch it on, shooting 14 goals to six to pull ahead to a lead they ultimately maintained for the rest of the match. That being said, the amount of pressure piled on from Geelong defensively was palpable with the Panthers’ ball skills spot on until they reached the goal circle, faltering and wasting precious ball before winning it back through the midcourt. Uneeq Palavi and Roberts worked well in tandem despite constant pressure in the circle, before Amy Starzer took the court in goal shooter to provide some versatility in her movement. While Woolley kept up her strong movement and Pastore used his speed to find plenty of ball, the defensive pressure from Paatsch, Nexhip and wing defence, Casey Adamson saw the Cougars pair struggle to continue their early form and Pastore subbed off late in the quarter before returning for the final minute of the match. 

While the Panthers were unable to settle in the third they well and truly ran away with it in the final quarter, shooting 16 goals to nine in a dominant display. Despite efforts from Rawlings, reaction time on point for intercepts all across the court and more missed opportunities from Parkville, the Cougars were unable to fight their way back into contention and ultimately went down by 16 goals in a final quarter that definitely was not indicative of the overall match quality. 

Grand Final MVP: Brodie Roberts (Parkville Panthers)

Season MVP: Brodie Roberts (Parkville Panthers, 23 votes)
Female Season MVP: Elle McDonald (Parkville Panthers, 13 votes)
Runner up: Brayden Pastore (Geelong Cougars, 14 votes)
Third: Alastair Punshon (Valley Wolves, 13 votes)
Fourth: Elle McDonald (Parkville Panthers, 13 votes)
Fifth: Riley Richardson (Parkville Panthers, 12 votes)

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division Grand Final wrap – St Therese win in overtime

A MASSIVE season of Men’s Premier Division action came to a head on Wednesday night, with premiership favourites, Geelong Cougars challenged every step of the way by St Therese after they finished top of the ladder once more. The Saints chewed up Geelong’s back-to-back finals hopes, however, keeping ahead of the Cougars at every turn and drawing back the margin time and time again to get their first win of the season against the Cougars in the best possible scenario. The two sides were unable to be split on multiple occasions, with the contest ultimately finishing in a draw and two action-packed halves of overtime before the Saints were named well-deserved 2019 premiers.

Geelong Cougars (53) defeated by St Therese (59)

St Therese were in the finest form of their 2019 season when they took on the Cougars, getting off to a fantastic start to lead the Cougars by four goals at the first change. Their speedy start was punctuated by accuracy and volume from goalers, Corey Nexhip (35 goals at 81 per cent accuracy) and Connor Lilly (24 at 75 per cent) who piled on the attacking pressure from the get-go thanks to phenomenal feeds from wing attack Guy Keane, who was awarded Grand Final MVP for his effort. Neither side was willing to bend, giving no leeway down the court and seeing plenty of turnovers from both teams with plenty of haste running down the midcourt. While both sides wasted opportunities and made some uncharacteristic errors across the court it was St Therese that took control to convert, with a zoning defence allowing Dylan Nexhip to pick off vital turnover ball in defence. Geelong’s attack had a slow start, too hasty to feed into the circle and giving Saints plenty of opportunity to turn over the ball. Key goaler Brayden Pastore had a slow start before warming into the match, only putting three on the board in the first before finishing with a tally of 20 while Cameron Allum provided a solid target in at goal shooter (33 goals).

Geelong came back in the second quarter, evening up the ledger early and well and truly putting Saints under the pump, reducing the accuracy of St Therese’ goalers thanks to the defensive prowess of Luke Rawlings who joined the fray to apply the aerial pressure Saints took advantage of early. The Cougars showed plenty more tenacity up the court in the second, splitting the centre court to drive to the circle and breaking away from the Saints’ zoning defence. Gerard Murphy put in the hard yards brimming with experience, calling plays and creating vital opportunities for the Cougars to get back into the game and ultimately evening up the ledger less than five minutes into the quarter. Jed Christian did a good job on speedster, Riley Richardson, forcing some errant passes here and there before the Saints tidied up their act once more, drawing level to finish the first half on 24 goals apiece.

With calls for overtime already being tossed up thanks to the closeness of the match, the third quarter saw both sides continue on their merry way creating an intense contest with plenty of players stepping up. Saints’ Matthew Longhurst was key shutting down easy access through the goal third in at goal defence alongside Dylan Nexhip, seeing the side steal back the contest once more to finish the quarter with the same quarter-time deficit for the sides heading into the final quarter. An injection of youth seemed to be exactly what the Saints needed in the third with Tristan Comans entering the fray, and while neither side could be separated for long it was a goaling showdown with accuracy to post from both teams. Geelong continued to put in the hard yards, rotating players through defence and showcasing both their versatility and individual ability to impact the contest regardless of the combinations. 

With a four goal margin heading into the final term, the last quarter saw St Therese come in ahead with the pace quickening and passes flying down the court. While the Saints were impressive delaying Geelong’s movement down the court, It was a battle of goal keepers with Rawlings and Dylan Nexhip rebounding well and creating opportunities plenty while Geelong’s Alastair Punshon and Jake Dambrauskas switched on to propel the ball up the court. Inaccuracy caused issues for both sides but with the frenetic nature of the game goals were scored back quickly and efficiently, with the two sides going goal for goal to finish. 

Sitting at 47 goals apiece come full time, on came the overtime with two seven-minute halves to decide the 2019 Men’s Premier Division victors. St Therese doubled Geelong in overtime, shooting 12 goals to six to finish off the match on a high with Keane and both Nexhips pulling out all the shots to ensure the Cougars did not go back-to-back. While both sides pulled off some impressive manoeuvres in the extra time it was Saints to played through it better, finding the form to finish well and come away with the elusive grand final victory, 59-53.


Grand Final MVP: Guy Keane (St Therese)

Season MVP: Brodie Roberts (Sirens Netball, 18 votes)
Runner up: Alastair Punshon (Geelong Cougars, 17 votes)
Third: Matt Doyle (Melbourne City Blackhawks, 15 votes)
Fourth: Riley Richardson (St Therese, 13 votes)
Fifth: Joshua Burns (Geelong Cougars, 12 votes)

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s Premier/Div 1 League preview – Grand Final

THE M-League Men’s grand finals are set to be close battles, with both matches sure to see plenty of intensity thanks to the closeness of their respective divisions. In Div 1 both Northern Titans and DDNA Teal have one win apiece against the other for the season, making for a very interesting contest where ultimately either side could come out on top. For Premier Division Geelong Cougars came out on top both times around against St Therese albeit in close scorelines.

Vic M-League 2019
Men’s Premier Division – Grand Final

Geelong Cougars v. St Therese 

Geelong Cougars will look to go back-to-back premiers with a win this week, making it a must-watch battle against St Therese. The Saints will look to back up a dominant effort when they take on Cougars in the grand final after an impressive performance against Sirens last week. Though Geelong will ultimately come into this match as favourites thanks to their winning record against the Saints this season, they will need to put on a far better performance than their own semi-final against the Melbourne City Blackhawks last week to get over the line against a hungry Saints outfit which is sure to push until the very end. Matthew Longhurst, Chris Cameron and Dylan Nexhip worked tirelessly through defence for St Therese and have been consistent all season, applying plenty of pressure not only on the ball but also forcing plenty of turnovers so will look to form a similar blockade against Geelong. Geelong’s front line is similarly star-studded with Brayden Pastore and Cameron Allum impressive to post, able to share the load, shoot from range and drag defenders away from the ball, while Jed Christian, Jake Noonan and Matthew Blomeley have plenty of experience to find circle edge and feed into the goalers, rotating through the midcourt. Through the midcourt for Saints are the likes of speedster Riley Richardson and experienced Guy Keane who are outstanding at finding holes through the centre third to push the ball down to attack. Corey Nexhip and Connor Lilly head up the goal circle with versatility, aerial ability and speed to boot, able to create an exciting and dominant attack line. Both teams have plenty of depth and young talent in the respective sides despite sticking to a regular best-seven on court, meaning while it is unlikely many swaps are made on the night there could be some high-impact changes throughout the match to add a burst through the midcourt. Geelong’s Gez Murphy and Saints’ Tristan Comans are two players who can come on when required and create a spark on court, despite being polar opposites when it comes to experience. 

Vic M-League 2019
Men’s Div 1 – Grand Final

Northern Titans Men’s v. DDNA Teal

Northern Titans will similarly look to back up a 2018 premiership this week when they take on DDNA Teal, though with both sides managing a win against the other this season it will be an interesting contest and a lot less of a predictable match. With both matches played next to each other, on courts one and two at the State Netball and Hockey Centre, the grand finals are sure to bring plenty of interest. DDNA Teal are strong finishers as proved by their one-goal victory last week to make it to the grand final so will look to put up another close performance if they are chasing.

VIC M-League 2019: Mixed Premier/Div 1 League preview – Grand Final

BOTH mixed M-League grand finals are set to be big ones with two undefeated sides heading into the final match for the season as favourites in their respective divisions. Geelong Cougars come in as the underdogs but had an unprecedented week off last week so are sure to take it to Parkville Panthers while Ariels Mixed managed a close win last week but do not have a great record against Fitzroy Phoenix this season. With both matches played side by side on courts one and two, the mixed grand finals are sure to impress.

Vic M-League 2019
Mixed Premier Division – Grand Final

Parkville Panthers v. Geelong Cougars

Parkville Panthers have a real opportunity to go back-to-back this week as they enter their second grand final in as many seasons. Panthers finished at the top of the ladder and will have plenty of confidence on their side thanks to two wins over Geelong this season. Geelong come into this match after a week off and with some great coaching minds among the side this could be a massive boost, given the side had a good chance to watch their opposition in action last week and not only pick up on moves but formulate some plays to use against the Panthers. It will be a real battle of shooting lineups with both teams boasting plenty of accuracy and speed down to circle edge, with the likes of Geelong’s Brayden Pastore and Julia Woolley able to create an even share of shots thanks to the feeding skills of Vanessa Augustini, Jake Noonan and Allie Smith, all of whom can rotate through the midcourt where required. While Geelong flourish with consistency to post, Panthers have the ability to switch it up in the circle with Uneeq Palavi, Brodie Roberts, Corey Nexhip and Amy Starzer all able to impact the contest. Key defenders, Sarah Szczykulski and Luke Rawlings have created a formidable defence-line this season but with Rawlings having been out of the side in recent weeks it will be interesting to see whether he makes a return or Jake Dambrauskas takes the court. For Panthers, Dylan Nexhip had his timing down to a ‘T’ last week, playing out the match in goal keeper alongside Georgette Paatsch, with the pair combining well to create an impeccable defensive wall. Through the midcourt it will be an interesting tussle with Panthers’ Riley Richardson, Elle McDonald and Casey Adamson against Geelong’s impressive speed and feeds down the court. While Panthers won both battles this season, the Cougars came agonisingly close in their first match back in Round 2, going down by only four goals and proving that they have the ability to come out on top if they can deny precious ball down the court.

Vic M-League 2019
Mixed Div 1 – Grand Final

Fitzroy Phoenix v. Ariels Mixed

Fitzroy Phoenix are sure to come into this match with plenty of confidence, dominating all season and ultimately beating Ariels by solid margins both times they met this season, beating them by 32 goals in Round 1 and 15 in Round 10. Ariels will look to go one better again this time and at least reduce the margin once more. Phoenix had a great undefeated season in 2018 but fell at the final hurdle so will be keen to erase last season’s memories and put one final win on the board to end the season on the ultimate high.

Vic M-League 2019: Mixed Premier/Div 1 League wrap – Semi-finals

WITH a blowout in both leagues, the Mixed Premier and Division 1 semi-finals provided plenty of excitement and put some real talent on show. Parkville Panthers had a massive win over Valley Wolves, not skipping a beat after a bye last round, while Pasifika Sharks were dealt a blow when a late forfeit was required, gifting Geelong Cougars an automatic grand final entry. In Division 1, undefeated Fitzroy Phoenix continued their winning streak against Melbourne Bucks while Ariels Mixed prevailed in a tight encounter over St Kilda Bullets.

Mixed Premier Division

Thanks to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Pasifika Sharks’ untimely forfeit, the Geelong Cougars have prime position heading into the grand final next week. Parkville Panthers well and truly proved their top spot finish with a massive victory heading into the grand final.

Parkville Panthers (71) defeated Valley Wolves (35)

A first quarter goal blitz from the Panthers set up an impressive win from the beginning, shooting 19 goals to eight in the first quarter and denying opportunities at the post for the Wolves in the second. While the Wolves tightened up their defence after the first quarter the Panthers were just too good, poking holes across the court again and again and relegating the Wolves to only 35 goals for the match, more than doubling their final score. Injury to Wolves’ Nat Billings early in the game spelled trouble, with the versatile attacker only making it partway through the first before leaving the court and creating little chance for positional changes. The likes of James Story (10 goals), Alastair Punshon (17) and Monique Nagle (eight) worked well in attack with Hannah Kuhar and Nagle feeding well, while Jason Heard also played a key role through the midcourt bringing the ball down, having a big third quarter to feed the ball down to Punshon in attack. The Panthers were very tactical with their positions for the match, with majority of the team only playing a half game to ensure the strong defensive duo of Dylan Nexhip and Georgette Paatsch played out a full match in defence. Wolves’ Punshon, Joshua Burns and Erin Jay put in a solid effort defensively but to no avail against the rotating shooting prowess of goal attacks, Brodie Roberts (25 goals) and Corey Nexhip (16), with Uneeq Palavi (21) and Amy Starzer (nine) rotating through goal shooter.

Mixed Division 1

Two polar opposite matches ensued for the two spots in the grand final next week, with one blowout result and one close encounter shaping the Division 1 semi-finals. Fitzroy Phoenix have another shot at the gold this year after falling short at the final hurdle last season while Ariels Mixed prevailed over St Kilda Bullets.

Fitzroy Phoenix (72) defeated Melbourne Bucks Mixed (36)

Undefeated Fitzroy Phoenix continued their solid streak for the year with a massive win over Melbourne Bucks, doubling the Bucks’ score to win by a whopping 36 goals. The Phoenix lifted their game since the last time they took the court in opposition, running out victors in the intense contest. To the Bucks’ credit they kept the Phoenix to 10 goals in the final term, shooting 12 for their highest quarter score for the match. Though not a massive victory in terms of the final score, given the 24 goal to eight first quarter the Bucks should be happy with their effort to finish off the messy game on a high. The Phoenix will want to lift their game heading into the grand final next week to ensure they do not fade out in a similar manner. Lewis Andrews was phenomenal for the Phoenix, shooting a whopping 51 goals even and sitting out the final quarter, leading his side to a solid victory.

Ariels Mixed (53) defeated St Kilda Bullets (46)

In comparison to the former match, the battle of second versus third was a lot closer with neither Ariels Mixed nor St Kilda Bullets managing to wrestle the lead away, evenly matched and creating an exciting contest to finish the night. It was a see-sawing battle throughout with both sides unable to find purchase or momentum to really take control of the match. While a 16 goal to 12 third quarter saw the Bullets come out with some solid form to look like they could run it home and evening up the ledger to sit even on 38 goals apiece at three quarter time, a final quarter 15 goal haul to eight saw the Ariels steal away the victory and head towards another massive match next week. An equal contest throughout, both sides generated plenty of excitement to create a real interesting battle.

Vic M-League 2019: Men’s Premier/Div 1 League wrap – Semi-finals

THE semi-finals of both Men’s Premier Division and Division 1 featured some massive clashes, seeing closer results than expected in some matches while one went down to the wire. In the Premier division Melbourne City Blackhawks went toe to toe with Geelong Cougars to come close to victory, putting on a strong performance against the reigning premiers but falling short missing key midcourter, Matt Doyle to injury earlier in the day. St Therese ran over a depleted Sirens in a tough physical contest, seeing plenty of fight and determination from both sides. Division 1 saw DDNA Teal prevail over DDNA Red for bragging rights and a grand final berth, while Northern Titans never looked like dropping their lead over Melbourne Bucks.

Men’s Premier Division 

Both matches started with turnovers at the first centre pass making for an interesting battle from the get-go. The feisty matches saw similarly even first quarters before the margins extended, though both losing sides did put in a massive effort in the final term to close the margin but were ultimately unable to steal victory.

Geelong Cougars (62) defeated Melbourne City Blackhawks (54)

The Blackhawks got off to an impressive start against the Cougars, leading early and using the ball well to get around Geelong’s defences before going down by eight goals. Geelong were missing key defender in Luke Rawlings which the Blackhawks saw fit to expose from the get-go, with David Chisholm (49 goals) able to hold ground on Alastair Punshon early to receive lobs into the circle, gaining valuable ground and confidence to shoot from all around the goal circle. While Geelong missed their usual cleanliness down the court and despite the Blackhawks’ strong start, the Cougars were quick to get back into the game, turning the tides and trailing by only one goal at half time. From then on the Cougars did not relinquish control, forcing errors from the Blackhawks and maintaining a solid lead to finish the match well. The Blackhawks did their homework well, creating a pressing defensive unit with Tim Marshall and Simon Cartwright creating plenty of turnover ball and denying Cameron Allum and Brayden Pastore easy ball. Blackhawks’ Joel Gosbell impressed in wing attack winning back valuable ball and creating opportunities in Doyle’s absence, getting out well at the centre pass and finding good position on circle edge to not only feed into the circle but regain possession when required. For Geelong, Jed Christian put in a solid effort through the midcourt working well through defence with Jake Dambrauskas and Jake Noonan providing plenty of run and speed transitioning back to attack.

St Therese (53) defeated Sirens Netball (38)

Despite a strong start the Sirens were overrun by St Therese, going down by 15 goals in a frustrating end to their season. It was a physical battle from the starting whistle with both sides relentless in their pursuit for possession, while an injury to Sirens centre, Luke Hunter saw the side rotate positions thoroughly to patch up the midcourt. Stalwart goaler Brodie Roberts showcased his versatility, playing goals for the first half and putting up seven, aiding Josh Smith at the post, before rotating through to centre for the second half to direct play through the midcourt and doing battle with Mixed Premier Division teammate Riley Richardson. The pair were evenly matched, creating an exciting contest with plenty of fight from both sides. Andrew Lewis rotated into goals from defence to put up an impressive performance in the second half, sharing the load with Smith but with the likes of Dylan Nexhip showcasing the best of his defensive prowess the Saints were able to steer the ship to the grand final. Matthew Longhurst was also solid through defence moving the ball through the midcourt while Richardson and Guy Keane were dominant as ever on circle edge feeding to Corey Nexhip and Connor Lilly. With nothing going the Sirens’ way the Saints were able to work through the intensity well with their defensive pressure just too good in the end.

Men’s Division One

With plenty of excitement coming into the semi-finals Division 1’s matches saw plenty of intensity with no side willing to slow their effort and relinquish an opportunity for finals glory. With pressure and stoppages abundant in both matches, it created a big contest between the top four sides of the season.

Northern Titans Men’s (48) defeated Melbourne Bucks Men’s (37)

The battle between Northern Titans and Melbourne Bucks was an interesting one, with the Bucks using the ball well but ultimately unable to score off their opportunities. Despite a strong final quarter effort the Bucks could not take control of the match, seeing the Titans run away with an 11 goal victory from a consistent four quarter effort. It was a relatively even first quarter, with the Bucks having plenty of opportunities to put goals on the board but missing valuable goal attempts, putting up more shots than their opposition but unable to convert thanks to the strong defensive pressure and rebounding effort of the Titans’ defensive unit. The consistency and positional rotation of the Titans was key, with high accuracy helping their way to victory and the rotation of positions creating a difficult time for the Bucks to anticipate their movements.

DDNA Teal (43) defeated DDNA Red (42)

DDNA Teal got off to a slow start before coming back into the match, trailing at half time before putting on a defensive show in the third to take a one-goal lead into the final term. DDNA Red were unwilling to let the match go however, scoring evenly with Teal in the final term to bring the match well and truly down to the wire. The DDNA battle was tough from the get-go, with both sides looking for bragging rights and unlikely to release the pressure. Both sides had plenty of aerial ability with every player flying for the ball, turning over precious loose ball and creating opportunities for goals off the back of constant deflections. With both sides showcasing their two-way running through the midcourt it was a real battle for control in attack, with both teams sharing the shooting load to make for an even contest. 

VIC M-League 2019 – Men’s Premier/Div 1 League preview: Semi-finals

WITH finals coming up in full force, four men’s matches across the two divisions will play over two time-slots. With both divisions relatively close and no side left undefeated this season, every match could see plenty of opportunity for an upset. 

VIC M-League 2019
Men’s Premier Division – Semi-finals

Geelong Cougars (1) v. Melbourne City Blackhawks (4)

The Blackhawks are in for a massive match when they take on the top-ranked Cougars, having come off second best both times they took the court this season. While they came out much better in their second performance, only going down by 11 goals, the side will really need to tighten up to ensure they maintain possession of the ball down the court with stalwart options in the circle down each end. Both sides have won three of the four last matches with losses coming in the same round, proving some interesting parallels between the two sides. With star power across the court for both sides and plenty of flair in both attack and defence, expect an exciting match-up on Court 1. The likes of Brayden Pastore and Cameron Allum pair well in the circle with Gerard Murphy and Jed Christian able to have plenty of impact outside the circle while the versatility of Jake Noonan and Alastair Punshon can have a great impact on how the Cougars play their game. For the Blackhawks, Matthew Doyle is equally impactful going to post with Lachlan Deane while David Chisholm is a massive threat in goal shooter if he takes the court. Equally as important is the defensive unit of the Blackhawks with Simon Cartwright, Tim Marshall and Anthony Maniapoto just a few defensive options able to rotate through for a flexible and versatile defensive end.

St Therese (2) v. Sirens Netball (3)

Sirens will look to go one better than the last time they played the Saints only two weeks back after successfully beating both St Therese and Geelong Cougars in consecutive rounds earlier this season. The Sirens have had some low form in recent weeks, with their last really impressive performance back in Round 10, so will look to prove their finals berth this week to make the grand final. St Therese have had some similar form, dipping in the middle of the season before settling back in and putting up some impressive performances towards the latter part of the season. The winning combination of experience and youth down in defence has worked well for the Saints, with Dylan Nexhip and Tristan Comans working well together to dominate the defensive circle and make it difficult to receive the ball. The Saints midcourt and attack has similarly impactful players with Riley Richardson and Guy Keane able to speed the ball down the court with precision and timing with Corey Nexhip and Josh Clavarino. For Sirens, goalers Brodie Roberts and Josh Smith need to be at their best with a few quiet performances in the bank recently. Equally as important is the form of Andrew Burgess and Will Jamison in defence.

VIC M-League 2019
Men’s Division One – Semi-finals

Northern Titans Men’s (1) v. Melbourne Bucks Men’s (4)

The last time these two sides took the court was Round 11 with Titans prevailing by 12 goals though the time prior saw Bucks get far closer, meaning the side does have the ability to run over the Titans if they put up a good start and can hold on throughout against a side chock full of confidence. That being said, Titans will need to watch out for the Bucks, only finishing two wins above the side. The Bucks are coming into this match off the back of a win last week while the Titans finished the season on a low point with a loss to finish.

DDNA Teal (3) v. DDNA Red (3)

It’s the battle of Doncaster when DDNA Teal and DDNA Red face off for a spot in the grand final, with both sides sitting on the same number of wins though Teal’s percentage outweigh’s their opponent by a solid margin. The sides played each other twice this season with both sides picking up a win apiece while Red ultimately stole a victory in the second encounter back in Round 11, making this matchup an interesting one. Interestingly, both sides have defeated sides from the other match, meaning no matter which teams win today there will be a massive match coming up in the grand final round.

VIC M-League 2019 –  Mixed Premier/Div 1 League preview: Semi-finals

The M-League mixed semi-finals are set to be a cracker, with eight teams across two divisions going head to head for a spot in the elusive grand final. With four 2018 grand finalists among their ranks and two reigning premiers in Parkville Panthers (Premier Division) and Melbourne Bucks Mixed (Division One), the four mixed matches across the two time slots are set to be massive clashes.

VIC M-League 2019
Mixed Premier Division – Semi-finals

Parkville Panthers (1) v. Valley Wolves (4)

Valley Wolves have their work cut out for them this week, taking on the undefeated Parkville Panthers. The two sides did battle twice this season with the Panthers running out supreme on both occasions, with impressive margins and scorelines to boot. Something that may work in both sides’ favour for different reasons is the Panthers’ Round 14 bye, with both sides able to take something out of that –  the Wolves could use this to their advantage with consistency across matches coming into the final, while the Panthers had the week off to regroup prior to the final. The Panthers goaling combination of Uneeq Palavi and Brodie Roberts has been impressive this season with the feeds of Elle McDonald and Riley Richardson providing ease of access to the goal circle and creating plenty of opportunities for their shooters while Joel Gosbell has also provided a solid option around the goal circle when required. Dylan Nexhip has been key defensively and will be once again this week when he takes on Wolves’ James Story, who has held onto the goal shooter bib for majority of the season thanks to his height and ability to work in tandem with Nat Billings and Monique Nagle in attack. Alastair Punshon is a massive threat in the Wolves side with an ability to rotate through just about any position on the court, able to have an impact anywhere he is required and making it difficult to pinpoint where he will play on any given day. Erin Jay is a stalwart option in defence, with her speed and timing key for the Wolves.

Geelong Cougars (2) v. Pasifika Sharks (3)

Expect a massive contest with two highly talented teams going head to head for the second spot in the grand final. While Geelong reigned supreme in both of their prior matches, the Sharks put up only one solid performance against the Cougars and that was back in Round 1. The Sharks had a difficult patch through the middle of the season with their second game against the Cougars laying smack bang in the middle in Round 10. The Sharks cannot be underestimated however, with key players swapping out of their typical positions last time they met the Cougars, namely Junior Levi who played out majority of the match in defence meaning the Cougars had little chance to practice how they would defend Levi at the post. The Cougars have plenty of talent stationed across the court, with key attacking duo, Brayden Pastore and Julia Woolley creating a force to be reckoned with on a consistent basis. Gerard Murphy, Luke Rawlings and Sarah Szczykulski are other key players down the court, all who play their role week in and week out and create plenty of turnover ball while they are at it. The Sharks have plenty of exciting players themselves however have not played in the past two rounds with a successive bye and forfeit to finish the season, meaning there may be a lack of consistency heading into this match against a side that has the ability to score well and score quickly. 

VIC M-League 2019
Mixed Division One – Semi-finals

Fitzroy Phoenix (1) v. Melbourne Bucks Mixed (4)

Another side that went undefeated throughout the home and away season, was the Fitzroy Phoenix and will look to continue their winning streak when they take on Melbourne Bucks who were lucky to make finals after dropping their last two matches of the season. The two sides went head to head back in Round 9 where the Phoenix came out on top by 25 goals meaning they have a real chance of going two from two unless the Bucks come out with a performance to remember. The Phoenix had another massive confidence-boosting win last week to finish the season on a high so will look to continue their fine form. The two sides played off in the 2018 Grand Final with Melbourne Bucks getting the chocolates making this a real interesting matchup given the Phoenix’ form this season.

Ariels Mixed (2) v. St Kilda Bullets (3)

Ariels Mixed had a slow start to the season but finished relatively well, only losing four games with their most recent loss against table-toppers, Fitzroy Phoenix back in October. St Kilda Bullets will be feeling confident coming into this matchup, after only going down by one goal in their last match against the Ariels back in Round 6. The Bullets only lost one more match than the Ariels and have won their past two matches so know that this match is achievable if they have a solid start. Both sides have a plethora of key players that can take it up to the competition and will be wanting to edge one step closer to the next phase of finals.