THIS is the end of Ballarat Pride as we know it.
Pride’s final Victorian Netball league assignment for the season has arrived – a Wednesday night showdown at the State Netball Hockey Centre in Parkville.
The rival is Southern Saints, a club that will play finals across all three VNL divisions.
Federation University Pride coaches have been preparing players to tactically face the Saints.
But this fixture is more than just netball games for Pride.
It is the end of an era.
Two weeks have passed since Ballarat lodged a new VNL application, up against other parties keen to join VNL ranks, and the working party behind the Ballarat submission is yet to hear feedback.
Pride’s licence was not renewed in April – right in the middle of the season – and even if Ballarat is successful, the whole state league landscape for the city must change under restructures and rebranding.
This is the last game for Pride, as it stands, in the VNL.
Pride head coach Jo Dash spearheaded a Ballarat introduction into state league in 1995 and played a key role in Pride joining the revamped VNL launch in 2009.
Dash said all her team could do was focus on the game ahead.
“What will be, will be,” Dash said.
“They are proud girls and that’s how they will go into this game, with their heads held high.
“These girls have a fantastic attitude – among the best in the competition – especially when you see what (players) they’re up against in championship division, the top club level in the state.”
Pride captain Johanna Dash arrived home from South Africa on Tuesday to ensure she could lead her team into this final battle.
Johanna Dash and fellow centre-courter Lauren Atkinson have been part of the Pride journey since they took to the bench as development players.
Goaler Cindy Daniel was a key player in Pride’s early campaign and is back on court in the club’s latter stages.
Pride will look at promoting Victorian 19/under goaler Kathryn Dicker for a taste of championship division, and Fijian international defender Jane Costello could join the line-up, depending on final fitness testing for Emma Ryan.
Coach Dash said players were sore and tired – typical at the season’s end – and the news of the licence loss had been tough.
“We’ll be going into this game to finish the year focusing on the things we’re good at, like getting the ball, playing ball-side and give-and-go,” Dash said.
“We look good when we play well. We just don’t do it for long enough.”
Pride has notched up five championship division wins in six VNL seasons, its last in round three last season against Geelong.