Netball: Ballan stays in touch with top eight

FOCUSED: Rhiana Collins from Dunnstown Towners passes the ball during a Central Highlands Netball League clash with the Skipton Emus. Picture: Dylan Burns

FOCUSED: Rhiana Collins from Dunnstown Towners passes the ball during a Central Highlands Netball League clash with the Skipton Emus. Picture: Dylan Burns

Ballan came away as five-point victors in a close encounter with Creswick in A grade Central Highlands Netball League competition on Saturday.

Sitting just outside the top eight, Ballan has strung together three hard-fought wins to stay in touch with the top half of the league.

Only four points separate sixth to ninth positions.

Ballan coach Kim Dawson said the game against Creswick had been a lot closer than anticipated, with the home team producing a solid defensive effort to push Ballan to the final siren. 

“It was a great game,” Dawson said.

“We were hoping for a few more goals on the board but they really did shut us down on a couple of occasions.”

Ballan’s goal shooter Jayme Nielsen came off the court with an injury, with Richelle Morgan stepping up from C grade to fill the void. 

“She made an amazing effort and was quite solid in goals,” Dawson said. 

Defender Jane Cairns was also missing from the line up, meaning Ballan had to not only rejig its goal circle, but also its defensive line.

“It was a combination that hadn’t played at all, so Samantha Plester stepped into the goalkeeper position with Jess Snaith and Megan Mullane in wing defence,” Dawson said.

“They brought the ball down the court really well, there were some great transitions on a number of occasions.”

Rebecca Conroy in wing attack and center Narelle Perkins were both solid, and were helped by a team that has started to gel.

“This is a brand new side – we lost all of the A grade this year and most of the B grade so we have had to start from scratch,” Dawson said.

To snag a top eight position, Dawson said the team could not afford to drop a game and needed to stay focused and strong across all areas of the court. 

Meanwhile, the seventh-placed Clunes also scraped together a five-point win on home court over Gordon.

Clunes coach Claire Blackstock described the performance as flat, but said the players managed to hold on to achieve the four points. 

“We have three senior players out at the moment due to injury, so we’re a little bit depleted and it has been a bit disruptive to the senior side,” Blackstock said.

“But it has been an opportunity for some of my B grade girls and some of the under-17s to step up at times and it’s also an opportunity to move players around and have a look at different combinations.” 

Blackstock said some of the key focuses for the team going forward were keeping the outlook among the playing group positive, capitalising on the opportunities that come out of injuries and making the most of the chance to experiment with a different line up.