Tears are always involved in Grand Finals: Happy tears, sad tears, frustrated tears, god forbid injury-related tears. But, no matter the kind of tear, you just know they are never in short supply when it comes to a Grand Final, and the East Gippsland Football-Netball League A Grade netball decider was no exception.

Boisdale-Briagolong playing coach Sarah Gardiner
A teary-eyed Sarah Gardiner as the final siren sounds victory for the Bombers. Photos: Zoe Askew

Finishing fifth on the EGFNL ladder last year before everybody’s dear old friend COVID prompted an abrupt end to the 2021 season with no finals, Boisdale-Briagolong entered the 2022 season all the more determined to take their place as finalist competitors.

Take their place, they did.

With Sarah Gardiner as A Grade playing coach, team veterans Elly Weatherley, Emerson Connolly and Rachel Weatherley, who took on an assistant coaching position following an injury earlier in the year, alongside newcomers Mollie Huts, Emily Porter, Linley Bertacchini and Under 17s player Ashlee McDonough, the Bombers fast-tracked their way to the Grand Final after defeating Wy Yung in the first round of finals.

Boisdale-Briagolong goalkeeper and goal defence
Elly Weatherley and Emerson Connolly embrace as the final siren signals triumph for the Bombers.

This year’s team was the first A Grade netball side to make an East Gippsland FNL Grand Final in Boisdale-Briagolong FNC’s history, and a chance at a premiership for the first time in 21 years.

Fast forward two weeks to Saturday just gone, the Bombers would meet the Tigers once again, this time fighting for the premiership cup.

In the lead-up to the main event, Boisdale-Briagolong was yet to lose a netball game on Grand Final day, having emerged victorious in the Under 15s, Under 17s and D Grade, and as the clock ticked closer and closer to 2.15pm, the pressure built.

Would the A Grade girls be triumphant? Could the Bombers possibly wipe the board?

Alas, it was time. In 60 short minutes, all questions would be answered.

The sun shone above the court at Bairnsale City Oval at the start of the game, before retreating behind thickened clouds in its repetitive fashion.

There was almost complete silence among the crowd as spectators fixated their attention following the siren’s sound, broken only by the game’s first goal.

Boisdale-Briagolong cheer squad
The Bombers cheer squad supporting the A Grade girls in the Grand Final.

As Wy Yung took their place on the scoreboard, deafening cheers rang across the court, reverberating off the fading white concrete walls of nearby buildings.

Twenty-eight, 29, 30 seconds later, Boisdale-Briagolong’s goal attack Sarah Gardiner retaliated, matching the Tigers one-for-one.

This charade continued. For every goal Wy Yung scored, Boisdale-Briagolong retaliated faster than you could say netball and vice versa.

Boisdale-Briagolong playing coach Sarah Gardiner
Boisdale-Briagolong playing coach Sarah Gardiner took the Bombers all the way to the EGFNL 2022 premiership.        Photos: Zoe Askew

As Gardiner showcased her impressive accuracy in the Bomber’s shooting circle, only missing one across the entire first quarter, it was a battle of the centres in mid-court. Two of the best players on court, Boisdale-Briagolong’s Linley Bertacchini and Wy Yung’s Erica Lynch, fought diligently as they attempted to turn play over.

As the first quarter neared its end, the Bombers pulled away, as Gardiner and goal shooter Mollie Huts sunk consecutive goals despite tenacious defence from Wy Yung goalkeeper Stevie Alvin and goal defence Rachel Murray.

The Bombers led 13 to 9 over the Tigers at the end of the first quarter.

Boisdale-Briagolong wing attack
Ash McDonough feeds the ball into the shooting ring in her second Grand Final of the day.

Boisdale-Briagolong continued to find their connections efficiently in the attacking third, scoring consecutively in the opening minutes of the second quarter.

The Tigers clawed back some ascendancy, revitalising their attack, scoring the following three goals.

Cue Bertacchini.

The Boisdale-Briagolong centre made an incredible intercept mid-court, passing to wing attack Ashlee McDonough, who fed the ball to Huts in the shooting circle, stopping the Tigers’ goal streak in its tracks.

Boisdale-Briagolong goal shooter
The last contact with the ball before Mollie Huts shoots a goal for the Bombers. Photos: Zoe Askew

As teams returned to the court for the third quarter, the Tigers exercised the dominance that saw them finish the regular season on top of the ladder.

By the end of the quarter, Wy Yung had closed the gap, the Bombers leading by just two points.

Just 15 minutes left, only one team would walk off the court at Bairnsdale as EGFNL 2022 A Grade premier.

The Bombers returned to the court with burning determination, and Bertacchini cemented her standing as EGFNL’s 2022 best on court, lifting even further with unwavering tenacity, intensity, accuracy and speed.

Boisdale-Briagolong centre Linley Bertacchini
Boisdale-Briagolong’s centre Linley Bertacchini, was voted best on court in the Grand Final.

Boisdale-Briagolong broke to a five-goal lead.

The Bombers showcased superb form, persistent in their infiltration of the Tigers’ defensive third, but in a split second, in a heart-stopping, stomach-plunging moment, the fate of Boisdale-Briagalong hung by a thread.

Bertacchini was down.

Boisdale-Briagolong’s centre clutched her ankle; a trepidatious quietude blanketed the court.

Bertacchini was up.

Sweet relief for the Bombers, but for the Tigers, not so much.

The prospect of Boisdale-Briagolong’s strongest player out of the picture would have undoubtedly been a welcomed possibility for Wy Yung.

Bertacchini dug deep, clearly in pain, biting her lip as she took her first few steps. Nevertheless, she carried on.

Boisdale-Briagolong goal keeper Elly Weatherley
Elly Weatherley clears the ball from the shooting ring in the EGFNL Grand Final on Saturday. Photos: Zoe Askew

The Bombers were relentless as the last five minutes ticked by, second by second, minute by minute.

A beautiful fluidity formed as Emerson Connelly and Elly Weatherly cleared the ball from the shooting ring to Emily Porter.

Porter and McDonough found Bertacchini and Gardiner, whose match-up on court was nothing less than tantalising. Bertacchini and Gardiner’s collaboration, in conjunction with their speed and accuracy, opened feeding opportunities into the shooting ring time and time again.

Boisdale-Briagolong wing defence Emily Porter
Boisdale-Briagolong wing defence Emily Porter reaches for the ball contested by Wy Yung wing attack Tayla Alvin during the Grand Final.

Between Boisdale-Briagolong’s unmatched camaraderie, relentless determination, accuracy in the shooting ring and talent in mid-court, the Tigers’ attempts to dethrone the Bombers were ineffective.

Elly Weatherley is embraced after the game.

As the final siren sounded, the scoreboard read 44 to 37, and Boisdale-Briagolong FNC’s A Grade netball team was crowned East Gippsland FNL premiers for season 2022.

Tears followed cheers.

There was barely a dry eye in sight.

Outpouring of emotion, Boisdale-Briagolong’s Ash McDonough, the youngest player in the team, after the final siren.