Victorian Netball League Semi-Finals: Casey Demons run down tired Blaze

North-East Blaze (54) defeated by Casey Demons (70)

IT was a slow start to Casey Demons’ inaugural VNL finals run, with the side having plenty of difficulty early against the defensive pressure of North-East Blaze losing the first term by a single goal. However the side came back with a phenomenal 20 goals to 14 second quarter, taking a five-goal lead into half-time with both sides well and truly right in the contest. While Blaze put a halt to the Demons’ ease of scoring in the third, Casey’s defence took the pressure right up to North-East limiting them to 26 goals in the second half. Despite a ten goal lead at the final change the Demons were relentless, finishing far better than they started and winning by an impressive 16 goals.

While Blaze were ultimately more accurate to post with Libby Nicol (43 goals from 43 attempts) and Sarah Hogan (11 from 12) combining for 99 per cent accuracy, their volume of shots was just not enough to compare to that of Casey who all but had the ball on a platter in the goal circle. Although Nicol has the capacity to hold down the fort in attack and certainly proved her worth to the side, the lack of shared load from Hogan in goal attack meant she was double-teamed for much of the match. Fighting through the pressure was Ella Bayliss, who was not afraid to ply her trade in wing attack and provided plenty of ball to Nicol and Hogan, aided by Elle McDonald who showcased her versatility rotating through centre and wing defence. Defensively, Tayissa Coppinger and Kaitlyn Black did their best against a highly effective attacking unit, especially given the height and reach of Casey’s Emma Ryde.

Kassidy Withers was valuable in wing attack for the Demons, teaming up well in the goal third and using her quick footwork to find the circle edge and feed into goal shooter, Ryde (46 goals 53 at 87 per cent) and ex-Australian Diamond Erin Bell (24 from 28 at 86 per cent). Meanwhile, Shannon Blackman and Christie Hillberg shared the roles of centre and wing defence well while Zali Mifsud applied good pressure in wing defence as an impact player, with the trio finding their form after the first and working seamlessly between the full court play and defensive aspects of both positions. The immense defensive pressure applied by the likes of Demi Woodlock and Karli Foster was the real game changer, finding plenty of the ball as they showed no signs of shying away from the contest and feeding the ball back down the court with speed.

Casey will now progress into the preliminary finals round to take on City West Falcons.

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