Gippsland clean sweep

GIPPSLAND League has walked away with all three premierships under its belt, completing the first year of the Eastern Zone Premier Netball Competition.

Bringing together the region’s most promising players to participate in an elite, high-quality representative competition, the EZPNC replaced the Regional Victorian Netball League this year.

Under 15, under 17 and open teams represented their leagues and associations in their respective grand finals in front of a packed stadium on Friday in Churchill.

In the open division, Gippsland League Red was overwhelmed by Gippsland League Blue, 69-25.

Aiming to better its previous 55-31 victory over Red, Blue was bolstered by the late addition of Traralgon Football-Netball Club’s Stacey O’Brien, who had been absent for most of the season.

After a competitive first half, a much younger Red side quickly succumbed to Blue’s experience, faster pace and ability to open up the court.

Blue’s relentless accuracy in goals left little for Red’s defenders to rebound, whereas strong defensive pressure in Red’s goal circle lead to plenty of turnovers in Blue’s favour.

Both teams began to tire, and the agility and speed of the first half turned to physicality as Blue set about stamping out any chance of a Red comeback.

Warragul’s Renee Cook, aided by best-on-court goal keeper Shannon Freeman, played a powerful game in goal defence for Blue, fiercely rebounding the majority of Red’s missed shots and working the ring with intensity, for which she was awarded the open division’s most valuable player.

Gippsland League 2017 Hutchison medallist, Drouin’s Stacie Gardiner, coached and played an unstoppable goal attack for Blue, receiving runner up most valuable player and the open division’s Hot Shot Award for most goals shot during the competition, on 108 goals.

Red goal keeper, Maffra’s Sarah Luke was awarded second runner-up for most valuable player in open division.

In the under 17s, Gippsland League broke away to defeat East Gippsland Football-Netball League 50-32.

Gippsland took charge early, and steadily lead throughout the game with considered passes and precision timing for leads.

Selected to captain Gippsland, Maffra’s Emma Allman was awarded best-on-court and was given the most valuable player for the under 17 division. In centre, her speed through the midcourt kept the ball at Gippsland’s pace, enabling her to effortlessly poke holes in the opposition’s defence to begin her next lead, and her sticky hands around the ring proved an asset for the goalers.

Sale’s Alex Stephenson also put in a noteworthy performance in goal keeper, rebounding well and using long arms to pluck intercepts from around the ring.

Isla Pearson shot steadily for East Gippsland, gaining the under 17s Hot Shot Award with a goal tally of 177.

In the under 15s, Gippsland League again put on a powerhouse performance to defeat Sale Netball Association, 52-38.

Gippsland managed to set the pace of the game early on, and reaped the rewards with a steady stream of accurate goaling.

After dominating performances in midcourt throughout the competition, Moe’s Madelaine Galea, representing Gippsland, was awarded the most valuable player in the under 15s division.

Gippsland’s Cleo Fox was awarded best on court, and was runner-up most valuable player.

Sale NA’s Charlotte Ronchi snagged the under 15s Hot Shot Award on 154 goals for the competition.