Finals fever struck the North Gippsland Football-Netball League at the weekend.

The 2023 finals series began at Gaskin Park in Churchill, where second-placed Heyfield took on third-placed Churchill in the qualifying final.

Despite sitting a rung lower on the ladder, Churchill had the upper hand, with a little home-ground advantage and having beaten the Kangaroos on two separate occasions this year.

Known for their slow starts, the Cougars came out firing, and it stunned the opposition as Churchill took the first centre pass off the Kangaroos – and then some.

There was full-court defensive pressure from Churchill, and Heyfield crumbled underneath.

Cougar veteran Stacey Yates had her hands on every pass, with tips galore for the wing defender. The attackers had plenty of opportunities to gain possession, thanks to brilliant feeds into the ring from skipper Rachael Loechel and playing-coach Katrina Hutchinson.

By the first break, the Cougars were up 13 to eight and looked the much better side.

In came the second term, and it was much of the same. Churchill was able to capitalise on most of Heyfield’s turnovers, pushing the margin out by one to a comfortable six-goal lead.

The Heyfield side, known for their youth and exuberance, came to life in the second half.

Goal keeper Jayde Parsons took on a living embodiment of a Kangaroo as she jumped sky high on her shot defence, while centre Millie Riseley had the game of her life, contesting every ball and making it a nightmare for the Cougars to transition from defensive to attack.

Off the back of some very fast-paced Kangaroos play and some poor Cougars decision-making, Heyfield made a third-quarter comeback. Goal shooter Phoebe Escreet punished the Cougars as she made most of her shooting opportunities with some strongholds, sinking shoots from anywhere in the goal circle.

By three quarter time, the Kangaroos were only four points behind.

The Cougars had led all game and weren’t about to give it all up now. After a fire-up speech before the last term, Churchill found that winning momentum, with Destiny Mackrell finding some shooting rhythm and goal shooter Lynette (Louie) Patten serving as an impenetrable feeding point into the ring, combined for 12 goals in the final term.

From there, the Cougars ran away with the game for a nine-goal victory that sees them lock in a semi-final with Sale City tomorrow, where the winner will advance to the Grand Final

Woodside sent a woeful Rosedale home.

On Sunday, Yarram hosted a 2022 Grand Final matchup. This time, the two sides faced off in a do-or-die elimination match that ultimately became incredibly one-sided.

The Wildcats are arguably the best side in the competition, but finished fourth on the ladder thanks to a midseason lull.

Rosedale had some lows and highs but undoubtedly deserved to be there; however, the Blues’ best was nowhere to be seen on Sunday.

The Wildcats were too strong, outscoring the Blues by 11 goals in just the first quarter.

Woodside continued to build on their lead, piling on another 22 shots while keeping Rosedale to a mere seven goals by halftime.

The Blues looked like they couldn’t buy a goal, while Woodside looked like a well-oiled machine, well-versed in high-pressure netball.

The Wildcats exposed the opposition for not having veteran mid-courter Sarah Mayman.

A few jolted spectators felt as if the Blues were hard done by as Woodside’s playing coach Libby Nicol dominated the Blues’ defence, with the Blues goal keeper allegedly sent to spend two minutes in the sin-bin.

The final scores reflected a very dominant Woodside performance and a very poor Rosedale effort, as the Wildcats went away 75 to 24 victors.

Woodside will now take on Heyfield in Glengarry on Sunday for a spot in the preliminary final.