Bendigo Thunder was always going to be the side to beat in the first season of the Northern Country Women’s League and it did not disappoint in the grand final.
The team’s experience showed in comparison to the Benalla outfit it met in the decider, hosting the Saints at Weeroona Oval in Bendigo.
Taking the match 15.12 (102) to 1.3 (9), Benalla defender Kylie Relf received the best-on-ground medal for her persistent efforts despite the barrage of ball coming her way.
Darren Skelton, who co-coaches the side along with Benalla senior men’s coach Luke Morgan, said Relf was instrumental in keeping the scoreline to what it was.
‘‘Kylie was outstanding, we actually said after the game that we thought she was best on the ground, but because Thunder won by so much it was probably going to go to a Bendigo player,’’ he said.
‘‘Kylie is an outstanding athlete, she’s a wonderful netballer that has played A-grade Ovens and Murray netball so to have her in our team was a bonus and she was incredible across half-back.’’
The Bendigo Thunder competing in the NCWL serve as the reserves side to a team that topped the Northern Football League’s women’s competition this season.
The Thunder did not lose a NCWL game this year, but was stripped of points in round three after fielding an unregistered player against Kyneton.
They started the grand final in the same way they have approached each game, building an unassailable lead by half-time.
But the Saints knew it was always going to be a difficult match and emphasised playing their own style of play.
‘‘We approached it in a really positive way, our season started six weeks before round one when we first trained, so to actually get a team on the field was a great achievement,’’ Skelton said.
‘‘Bendigo Thunder are an amazing team with a lot of players that have been in the system a number of years, so they’re a lot more experienced, so we went in there knowing we really needed to focus on our game and we’re so proud of our efforts.’’
Gorgia Spinks followed up an impressive finals series with another strong game against the Thunder as did Saints team-mate Natalie Pritchard.
Pritchard scored the Saints’ sole goal of the day in the final quarter in a match where scoring was not plentiful for the visiting side.
The Saints recorded a gritty victory against Shepparton to gain a spot in the decider, with Skelton saying the side is already keen to start pre-season.