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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: 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: Men’s Premier Division wrap – Round 14

A MASSIVE Round 14 of Men’s Premier Division action closed out the 2019 home and away season, with three matches coming down to less than 10 goal margins while St Therese had a massive 56 goal win against Ariels (80-24) to finish the season on a high and jump into second on the ladder. Melbourne City Blackhawks solidified their finals berth with an eight goal win over DDNA (56-48) while Pasifika Sharks missed their opportunity to jump the Blackhawks with a seven goal loss to Southern Seahawks (40-47), with the two sides finishing just out of the four. With the top four convincing again this week, it just goes to show that the wins the sides have managed throughout the season have been consistent to ensure the four best sides made finals.

Geelong Cougars came away from Round 14  with a big confidence-boosting win over Sirens Netball, defeating Sirens by eight goals (57-49) and sending them into third on the ladder. Sirens have had a shaky end to the season, losing their last two matches of the season and lucky to get away with wins in the rounds prior. While Sirens could come into this match knowing they were safe in finals contention, a win to the Cougars would have maintained their composure as they head into the semi-finals, while Sirens will go in off the back of further inconsistency. The Cougars were ahead from the get-go, leading every change and giving Sirens little opportunity to close the margin. While Sirens kept their composure throughout and earned plenty  of ball back, Geelong were just too good stopping the ball from moving down the court and forcing turnovers all over. The Cougars combination of Cameron Allum and Brayden Pastore was dominant as ever to post, shooting 31 and 26 goals respectively and sharing the load well which is a real feature of Geelong’s game. To their credit, Sirens’ Josh Smith and Brodie Roberts were equally as impressive in the goal circle, sharing the bibs around and shooting 30 and 19 goals respectively. The midcourt battle hosted some big matchups, with Jed Christian, Jake Noonan, Luke Hunter and Tory Allen fighting it out for space through the centre third, feeding well around the circle and propelling the ball up the court from defence. Alastair Punshon and Joshua Burns were solid defensively for Geelong, creating turnovers aplenty and confusing space in the goal circle to deny easy entry for the Sirens. The likes of Andrew Burgess, Will Jamison and Andrew Lewis rotated through circle defence for the Sirens, using their combined timing and rebounding ability to create turnovers.

Vic M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division wrap – Round 11

MEN’S Premier Division Round 11 had a number of big matches, headlined by a massive match between DDNA and Sirens Netball, with Sirens only just getting over the line in the tight clash. DDNA applied exceptional pressure to the high-ranked side, seeing Sirens come away with a one goal victory (47-46). Melbourne City Blackhawks backed up their Round 4 win against Pasifika Sharks with a five goal win this time around (70-65). The Blackhawks had the upper hand from the get-go, applying phenomenal pressure across the court to create turnovers aplenty. Meanwhile, Southern Seahawks well and truly ran over Ariels for a 13 goal win (47-34).

Geelong Cougars went better than their Round 4 four-goal victory over St Therese, extending the margin this time around for an impressive 11-goal win (58-47). It was a tight battle early, and while both sides had dominant patches it often seemed as if the sides were even throughout thanks to the intense contest on every ball across the court. Neither side seemed to take much control throughout the first half, playing tug of war with possession leaving Geelong with a one-goal lead at the first break and St Therese with the leg-up at half-time. The second half loomed as a tight one before the Cougars came out and blew Saints out of the water, shooting 34 goals to 22 on their way. Brayden Pastore and Cameron Allum were impressive as ever at the post for the Cougars, sharing the load as per usual and benefiting off their teammates’ speedy and strong drive down the court. That was a real issue for St Therese, with the side unable to apply their brand of hands-over pressure to deny easy ball down the court given the speed with which Geelong used the ball. In defence for Geelong were Luke Marko Rawlings and Joshua Burns, with the pair using their typical flair to deny easy ball into Saints shooters, Josh Clavarino and Connor Lilly, while Saints attackers, Riley Richardson and Guy Keane used their typical speed and circle feeding to find their goalers despite the defensive pressure. One of the more interesting contests of the match was clear in the final quarter, seeing Geelong player-coach Gez Murphy lining up on young gun Tristan Comans, in a battle of experience and tactical knowledge versus raw talent. The pair were unrelenting to the final whistle, creating a formidable battle through the midcourt. While Geelong extended their lead in the second half, credit to St Therese for sticking in the game and contesting every ball, finding opportunities to close the margin once more.

Vic M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division wrap – Round 7

WITH the midway point of the 2019 Men’s Premier Division season upon us, plenty of big matches played out on Wednesday evening with big results changing up the dynamic. The ladder leaders were dealt their first loss of the season with close matches aplenty while one big blowout bumped up the percentage of one of the top four.

Round 7 saw some big results, with St Therese recording the biggest margin of the round over Ariels, defeating the bottom side by 31 goals (62-31). Meanwhile, Melbourne City Blackhawks defeated DDNA 65-61, sitting comfortable in fourth with the victory while Pasifika Sharks were dealt a savage blow by Southern Seahawks, going down by one goal (61-62) amid plenty of controversy down to the final whistle thanks to feisty and physical contests across the court.

Sirens Netball impressed with a massive victory over the ladder-leading Geelong Cougars to take their winning streak to six matches and cut Geelong’s stellar record off, defeating the Cougars by three goals (48-45). It was a fantastic third quarter effort from the Sirens that took them from five goals down to two goals ahead by the main change, effectively turning the tide and putting the Cougars in a losing position they are not used to. While Geelong recovered from their unexpected fade-out relatively well in the final quarter, Sirens had all the momentum and well and truly earned their victory. It was the exceptional shared effort of Sirens’ Brodie Roberts and Josh Smith in goals, with the duo combining for 24 goals apiece and able to have an effect from all areas of the circle. It was a similar story in attack for Geelong, though the side experimented more in the circle with stalwart goal attack Brayden Pastore key to their attacking movement, finding plenty of space and goaling true while also acting as a feeder at times with Jed Christian and Cameron Allum. Sirens’ Will Jamison was a lock in goal defence, doing everything possible to shut down Geelong’s frontline and succeeding on plenty of occasions, rocketing the ball back up the court into attack, while Geelong’s Alastair Punshon utilised his vertical leap to intercept loose ball coming down court.

VIC M-League 2019: Men’s Premier Division wrap – Round 6

THERE were more close matches than not in Round 6 of Men’s Premier Division, with two games down to the wire with two goal margins finishing matches on a high note. The other two matches saw sides extend their lead early before a fight back from their opposition but to no avail, finishing with seven and 11 goal margins respectively.

Sirens Netball pulled off a fantastic come-from-behind performance against St Therese, running out two goal victors (51-49) over the Saints to continue on their merry way in second on the ladder. Meanwhile, Southern Seahawks jumped DDNA into sixth on the ladder with a seven-goal win and their second for the season, while Melbourne City Blackhawks landed back in the top four with an eleven-goal victory over winless Ariels.

Pasifika Sharks came close to dealing Geelong Cougars their first loss of the season, only going down by two goals and keeping the undermanned Cougars under the pump. Despite missing stalwart player-coach Gerard Murphy and key goaler Luke Marko-Rawlings the Cougars got off to a fantastic start with a 17 goals to 10 first quarter, before a phenomenal fight back from the Sharks saw the underdogs shoot 20 goals in the second to be down by only two goals half-time thanks to a bag of 19 from goal shooter Junior Levi, who went on to finish with 60 goals to his name. The Sharks were unafraid to make changes, giving players a run across the court in hope to trip up their opposition. This saw the scoreline see-saw in the second half with both sides finding bursts of energy to take control but ultimately seeing phenomenal defence and attacking movement. The attacking prowess of Sharks’ Cameron Powell was vital with feeds into Levi needing to be pinpoint accurate to get over and around the aerial ability of Geelong’s Alastair Punshon and Joshua Burns, while the other end saw Brayden Pastore showcase his silky footwork and speed teaming well with Cameron Allum in goal shooter, with the pair sharing the load to shoot 34 and 32 goals respectively.