The North Gippsland Football-Netball League’s A Grade preliminary final became a one-sided affair very quickly.

As Woodside has steamrolled all their opposition in this finals series, this game was no different, as they defeated Sale City 63 to 45.

The match at Glengarry began as a shootout with Woodside playing-coach Elizabeth Nicol unable to miss and the Bulldogs’ Ronchi sisters in Charlotte and Liv both accurate in the ring.

It was maybe Sale City’s nerves and youth that contributed to them losing possession of the ball, and Woodside was able to capitalise quite early in the first quarter.

Wildcat Caitlin Johnson had her hands over everything with a few crucial intercepts in tips, the Wildcats were able to go 16 to 10 up at the first break.

Johnson’s dominance continued into the second quarter with a huge intercept; reading the wing attack movements and the passer’s eyes, Johnson beat her player in the pocket and grabbed that pass like it was made for her. This intercept became a huge turning point for the Wildcats, who were able to put their foot down.

Down the other end, Sale City’s Simone Turner had a huge intercept of her own, finally being able to stop the service into Nicol, but the Dogs couldn’t capitalise, summing up much of their game.

Despite the Ronchi shooters only missing one goal each at this stage, the Wildcats were just so good in the midcourt and expanded their lead 32-24 by the major break.

By the third quarter, Sale City had to change their game plan, matching their tall defender in Turner on Nicol to attempt to stop her shooting dominance.

Sale City’s inexperience soon became visible, with wayward passes and backward leads as the Wildcat’s pressure intensified.

The margin grew out to 13 goals, and a Bulldog comeback seemed to become unlikely.

Sale City’s attacking end soon grew tired of working overtime to receive the ball, and even Liv Ronchi began missing her shots.

Despite Indigo Waugh’s perseverance in wing attack, the Bulldogs couldn’t get back in the game.

Woodside’s wing attack in Tayla Buckley was huge in delivering the ball down the court, crashing through defenders and weaving her way, creating space to deliver perfectly weighted feeds into Nicol.

The Wildcats looked like a well-oiled machine, with no signs of slowing down, extending their lead to 20 goals.

By the fourth quarter, it was all over. Sale City had no answers to the efficiency and ruthlessness of Woodside’s pressure and attack. Despite closing the margin to 18, the Bulldogs went home in defeat while the Wildcats ticked off another point on their 2023 Grand Final road map.

Speaking to coach Nicol after the game, she said “This feeling is just awesome.”

“Sale City, were good in the first half, it was pretty tightly contested coming into halftime,” she said.

At halftime, the coach turned to her troops and told them to stay composed and disciplined, and that’s how they’ll continue to dominate the game.

“Sale City, they’re so young … every time you come up against them, there’s something different because they are so young and they are always learning,” Nicol said.

“What our midcourt has shown in the last couple of weeks, like Laura (Foat), Tayla (Buckley) and Georgie (Banik), they can just run; they can run for days.”

Discussing some big position changes made in the last quarter, Nicol said it was not a case of giving everyone a share of court time when she brought in Andrea Elliot to the goal shooting position.

“We’ve got nine players, and every single one of them can do that job. It was a pretty tactical change,” she said.

Before the game, the Woodside coach said the team discussed one thing each player had learned during the year, and for her, it was to trust her team.

Speaking on her own game, Nicol said, “I’ve learnt to trust the girls, to be accountable and to do their role on the court.”

Nicol was unstoppable under the post but credited her teammates for the great delivery.

“The way that they feed the ball into the goal circle, they just find the most amazing space; that’s the only reason I look so good,” she said.

“I’ve never had feeders like these guys.”

Woodside will now have the chance to go back-to-back, as they take on Churchill in the biggest game of the year – the Grand Final.