Player Focus: VNL Grand Final

THE grand final of the 2019 Victorian Netball League brought plenty of excitement with the Geelong Cougars defeating Casey Demons for their inaugural VNL Championship title. We attended the match and took notes on one player from each side, analysing their impact on the match.

Brooke Allan (Geelong Cougars)

The goalkeeper had no easy opposition in the goal circle, but despite a significant height difference lining up on Casey’s Emma Ryde, Allan took every opportunity to make Casey pay for any wayward feeds. Her aerial ability was second to none, attacking the hands to cause turnovers and making it tough for the Demons to enter the goal circle. Allan’s composure in the contest found her with plenty of ball despite her highly experienced opposition in Ryde and Erin Bell, while her ability to read the game saw her create plenty of opportunities to reset play and send the ball back down to attack. Allan took a number of key intercepts throughout the match to turn the tides, but came out flying in the third as the Cougars extended their lead to 16 goals, crowding Casey’s attack and forcing errors with a solid defensive effort spoiling the party for the Demons. She applied plenty of hands over pressure while her never say die attitude was a real feature of her game willing herself to each and every contest throughout the match.

Shannon Blackman (Casey Demons)

The versatile midcourter has had a breakout season in 2019, capping off her effort with a dominant performance in the grand final and showcasing her ability to be that key cog through the midcourt for Casey. Despite the loss, Blackman exhibited some real game smarts with her impeccable drives to the pocket in attack. She found plenty of elevation to ensure clean hands to ball and fed well into the likes of Bell and Ryde in the circle time and time again. Blackman started in centre driving the ball downcourt before a short three minute stint in wing attack to start the second, though the side then seemed to lack the defensive pressure around the circle she had applied early credit to her read of the play and quick footwork. Blackman finally found herself in wing defence for majority of the second half and was put to good use providing a strong option transitioning back through the midcourt and using her game smarts to disrupt the strong drives of Cougars wing attack, Vanessa Augustini.

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