Victorian Netball League: Geelong Cougars claim their inaugural Championship title

WITH both teams fighting for their first premiership it was the Geelong Cougars that broke their hoodoo with a 14-goal victory over the Casey Demons (69-55). In their inaugural season the Casey Demons well and truly showcased that they have the skill and intent to put on a show but simply could not match the Cougars. After heartbreak last year falling to the City West Falcons, Geelong came out with a vengeance and took complete ownership in the third quarter piling on a whopping 22 goals to nine to all but secure the win. Geelong Cougars announced themselves as fierce contenders early in the finals campaign and did not look back going from strength to strength.

It was a see-sawing affair in the first quarter with the Cougars pushing out to an early lead before the Demons fought back to go into quarter time with a two goal lead. Cougars goal shooter, Ruby Horton slotted the first goal of the game and maintained that composure and accuracy throughout the quarter only missing one shot with nine goals from 10 attempts. With both sides neck and neck a huge effort in the dying seconds of the game from Karli Foster saw Casey claim possession and stream down the court credit to her clever and athletic block on the shot. The Cougars were doing everything in defence setting up clever zones to try and force turnovers and create easy pickings to stop the easy access into the goal circle but it was not enough with Erin Bell and Emma Ryde owning the circle.

Down by two goals at quarter time the Geelong Cougars put their foot down nailing three consecutive goals to take back the lead and did not look back. They upped their defensive pressure limiting Casey’s second phase work and clogging up the attacking third while using their precision and skill to transition down the court with ease. The Cougars got out to a seven goal lead midway through the second quarter but the Demons clawed their way back into the action credit to the work of Bell out the front and accuracy of Ryde under the post. Both Kassidy Withers and Shannon Blackman did a wealth of work across the court to hit circle edge and deliver well weighted passes into the circle for Casey.

The third quarter was a complete and utter masterclass from the Cougars who simply could not be stopped. Vanessa Augustini seemed to have the ball on a string in the attacking third for Geelong finding good space and using her quick hands into the circle to allow Horton and Julia Woolley to claim prime position under the post. Horton posted 13 goals from 15 attempts while her combination with Woolley was on full display with the two carving up the circle with their strong drives and clever cuts across the circle. Up the other end, Brooke Allan turned the match on its head with her sheer determination and desperation getting hands to ball credit to her impeccable timing and athleticism. She forced turnovers and competed hard for every ball while the work of Jessica Standfield and Victoria Honner out in goal defence paid dividends with the two backing up Allan in the circle. Melissa Bragg moved into centre midway through the quarter and provided plenty of dynamic movement prompting Allie Smith to make her way onto the court in wing defence and she did not miss a beat quickly into the thick of things. With the Cougars well and truly on top the Demons rung in the changes with Demi Woodlock, Foster and Natasha Petroff all rotating through the defensive circle but essentially it was to no avail.

With a 16-goal lead the Cougars continued their merry way while Casey mounted somewhat of a comeback. Ryde found good space under the post slotting 17 goals from 18 attempts in the quarter thanks to Bell, Withers and Christie Hillberg releasing the ball with confidence and accuracy. Bridgette Furphy, Emily Post and Georgette Paatsch made their way onto the court in the final term for the Cougars providing some fresh legs and strong connections down the court while Casey made no changes. They cut the deficit down to 14 goals but the Cougars were just too strong. Ryde finished with 47 goals from 50 attempts at 94 per cent while former Australian Diamond, Bell nailed eight from 11. Meanwhile for the Cougars the load was more evenly shared with Horton slotting 38 from 44 at 87 per cent and Woolley converting 27 from 32 while Furphy’s last quarter cameo was handy with four from four.

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