A TIGHT, disciplined Springbank unit outclassed Hepburn by 11 goals in the Central Highlands Netball League A grade grand final at Eureka Stadium on Saturday.
The Tigers proved too strong all over the court, led by goal attack Erin Firns who won the most valuable player award.
Hepburn’s hopes of back-to-back premierships were dented early when star shooter Jane Lienhop, who suffered a knee injury in the dying moments of the preliminary final win over Dunnstown and wasn’t expected to take the court, fell heavily five minutes into the first quarter.
She limped off to the cheers of Burras supporters but Hepburn was rattled and took a lot longer to settle than Springbank, scoring only one goal for the quarter to trail by eight at the first break.
Hepburn started passing the ball more effectively in the second quarter but found it almost impossible to get through Springbank’s tight defence line of Emma Simpson, Emma Sommerville and 16-year-old rising star Kelly Conroy in wing defence.
By half-time Springbank had stretched its lead to 11 goals and never looked like giving up its momentum.
Hepburn kept coming, with coach Gary Cooke swinging the changes under the ring each quarter, but Springbank’s shooters Firns and Leane Birkett were on song, despite the tough, physical defence of Ebony Place in goal keeper.
Springbank led 27 to 14 at three quarter-time, but the reigning premiers were determined to go down fighting and outscored the Tigers by two goals in the final quarter to reduce the margin to 11 goals at the final siren, with the final score 38-27.
After the game, an emotional Tigers coach Andrea Griffin said it had been a hard-fought win.
“We just kept our heads and played very well,” Griffin said.
“I just put the bibs on them and say ‘go and do what you do’.”
Griffin said her side had peaked at just the right time but she felt for Hepburn losing Leinhop so early in the game.
She also said any of the top five teams were capable of winning the premiership.
“Each week we were playing fairly good sides and there were good, hard physical duels in most of the games.”