In absolutely stunning fashion, Stratford overpowered Wy Yung 47 to 34 to win the 2023 Football-Netball East Gippsland A Grade netball Grand Final.

The Tigers may have a nasty bite, but Stratford’s phenomenal performance on Saturday saw the Swans fly away with the premiership.

Stratford A Grade captain Sarah Bishop and Stratford playing-coach Ashlea Higgins. Photos: Zoe Askew

Wy Yung was the first to score on the Bairnsdale City Oval court with the opening centre pass, but Stratford quickly quashed their lead with a goal from the Swans’ sharp shooting goal attack, Tori Patterson.

Stratford goal defender Katy Coster turned over play with an incredible early interception, making for a stellar opening in the final game of her netball career.

Wy Yung was able to regain possession, briefly forging ahead before Patterson, whose movement in the shooting ring was exceptional from the first whistle’s blow, equalised the score.

Patterson’s movement and accuracy, paired with Stratford playing-coach Ashlea Higgins’ unparalleled vision, made the anticipated combination difficult to stop.

The threatening duo was well supported by Stratford wing attack Coco Henry, whose movement and positioning saw the Swans produce classy and clinical play in the attacking third.

Perseverance from Coster and Stratford goalkeeper Emmy Williams denied Wy Yung the chance to move in front, with the Swans displaying speed and beautiful fluidity as they transitioned from defence to attack.

Stratford goal attack Tori Patterson during the Grand Final.

An excellent rebound grab from Higgins put Stratford ahead, with Patterson’s speedy movement in the shooting ring foiling Wy Yung defenders to give the Swans an early two-point lead.

While Patterson and Higgins’ combination was difficult to stop, Wy Yung rose to the occasion, with the Tigers’ defence aggressive and difficult to penetrate, thanks to Wy Yung goal defender Rachel Murray and goalkeeper Morgan Dewar’s superb reading of feeding play.

An on-form Coster made a considerable impact in the first quarter, turning over possession with several interceptions.

Stratford doubled Wy Yung’s score midway into the first quarter with a fantastic goal by Patterson as she sailed through the air following a shove.

Wy Yung was able to close Stratford’s advantage, but the Swans headed into the second quarter leading the Tigers 11-8.

Katy Coster was a powerhouse for the Swans in defence.

Stratford continued to demonstrate their remarkable speed as teams returned from the break.

A leaping catch from Patterson in the shooting ring saw the Swans score the second quarter’s first point.

Wy Yung responded quickly, but their efforts proved unmatched by a Stratford outfit on song.

Patterson put away four consecutive goals for Stratford before Wy Yung was able to peg their second of the quarter.

Williams and Coster were brick walls in defence, thwarting an increasingly frustrated Wy Yung attack.

Physicality augmented with the Stratford Wy Yung Grand Final, proving a colourful game.

EGFNL A Grade best and fairest Emmy Williams was fantastic for Stratford in Saturday’s grand final.

Stratford demonstrated clinical feeding into the shooting ring through the likes of Henry and Stratford centre Sarah Bishop, with Patterson and Higgins continuing to display a flawless collaboration.

Bishop posed a threat in the midcourt, the Swans’ agile centre a workhorse with fantastic vision and positioning.

Williams and Coster ferociously defended Stratford’s shooting ring, the pair doing well to thwart strong Wy Yung goal shooter Stevie Alvin.

The Tigers’ efforts in foiling an exceptional Stratford performance fell short, with the Swans headed into the third quarter with a seven-goal lead.

Wy Yung were first to score when teams returned to the court, with the Tigers’ chances at scoring a second consecutive goal in the opening minutes thwarted by a valiant Coster interception.

Patterson put away Stratford’s first goal of the third quarter.

An impressive opening third-quarter performance from Williams, making several interceptions to turn over possession, saw the Stratford goalkeeper hinder an increasingly aggressive Wy Yung. Williams’ epic plyometric abilities were well and truly on full display.

Stratford extended their advantage thanks to a terrific interception from Henry, as Wy Yung’s defence sought to clear the ball from the shooting ring.

Patterson was awarded best on court in the EGFNL A Grade netball Grand Final.

As the third quarter approached its halfway point, Wy Yung cut Stratford’s advantage to five goals, 28-23.

The Tigers’ inception of Caitlin Wright replacing Dewar as Wy Yung’s goalkeeper slowed Stratford’s attack, but only momentarily in the third.

Higgins and Patterson quickly identified and exploited Wy Yung’s defensive faults.

With Patterson unstoppable in the shooting ring and a surge of pure excellence from Higgins in the dying embers of the third quarter, the Swans extended their advantage to nine points as teams retired for the final quarter break.

A cool breeze may have chilled onlookers, but things on court only continued to heat up.

Stratford was first to score in the final quarter, with a second consecutive goal giving the Swans an 11-point lead in the opening minute.

The Tigers upped their game, reeling in a formidable Stratford and closing their advantage back down to nine.

Stratford’s expeditious wing defender Holly Webb turned over possession with an incredible mid-court interception, quickly finding Henry, who found Bishop, who found Patterson in the shooting ring.

Patterson’s class performance was unwavering, with the Stratford goal attack formidable in the shooting ring; her shooting was none other than phenomenal.

Henry and Bishop continued to threaten in the midcourt with exceptional movement and vision.

Stratford took their chance to blow the lead out midway through the fourth, leading Wy Yung 41-28.

Stratford’s pocket rocket wing defender Holly Webb.

Higgins and Patterson were like cheese and wine, chocolate and strawberries, peanut butter and jam. The pair moved around each other with a captivating fluidity, with their combination play in the final quarter of such high quality it warranted explicit remarks of disbelief from onlookers.

Four consecutive goals from Patterson extended the Swans’ lead over the Tigers 45-29.

In the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, Wy Yung exhibited rapid movement from the defensive third into the offensive third. Still, their burst of strong play was too little too late, with their late consecutive goals solely a consolation.

While Stratford’s sensational performance earned the Swans a well-deserved A Grade premiership, Wy Yung returned home empty-handed for a second consecutive year.

If winning a Grand Final on your birthday wasn’t already the best present one could ask for, Stratford goal attack Tori Patterson was named Grand Final best-on-court.

Surely, that has to be one of Patterson’s greatest birthdays yet.

Stratford A Grade playing-coach Ashlea Higgins embraces Tori Wilson as the final whistle sounds.

For playing-coach Ashlea Higgins, Stratford’s focus ahead of the Grand Final clash was to make things easy for themselves, come forward for the ball and not stop their leads.

“We actually executed this really well,” Higgins said.

“I think it helped playing the whole finals series through as it gave us time to settle in and gel even better considering we had an injury so late in the season.

“I didn’t have much time to feel before the game as I was coaching B Grade, so I didn’t get a chance to feel what the vibes were before the game for the girls. But it was hard coming off a loss to go straight into A Grade, so obviously, I really wanted to win that one.

“The team just came out and wanted the ball. We were hungry for it, and it showed on the scoreboard. We have a lot of players that played a lot of premierships, and I think this helped us as we had maturity on the court.

“All our plans just fell into place, and it was really nice to watch! We also played the best game we have all finals series, and what a great time for us to peak.”

Stratford Football Netball Club’s littlest supporters.

Higgins commended her team’s efforts, emphasising the valuable impact of each player in securing the premiership victory.

“I actually think our whole team was stand-out performers,” Higgins said.

“Our defence killed it. Katy and Emmy were phenomenal, and our midcourt did their job. They didn’t stuff around, and they protected that ball and coming into our shooting end, we just finished off all their handwork.

“Tori again shot at 93 per cent, which is hard to beat.”

Higgins described winning the premiership as a surreal feeling, one she’ll never forget.

“I’m just super proud of the girls for getting over the line, and with a big margin like that is just awesome,” she said.

“Whilst my B Graders didn’t get over the line, I’m still super proud of them for making it to the Grand Final. Massive amazing achievements from both teams, and I’m so ecstatic to be able to say that I coached two teams to a Grand Final.”