Tight finals race ups stakes in BFNL competition

WET WEATHER: Molly Boyle of the Lakers, Sunbury Lions' Ruth Smith and Kara Hart of the Lakers compete for the ball. Pictures: Dylan Burns

WET WEATHER: Molly Boyle of the Lakers, Sunbury Lions' Ruth Smith and Kara Hart of the Lakers compete for the ball. Pictures: Dylan Burns

Lake Wendouree has fallen outside the top four in Ballarat Football Netball League A-grade competition after its third loss in three weeks. 

It comes after spending most of the season sitting in the top three, but the battle for finals spots is heating up with North Ballarat City and Bacchus Marsh pushing for top four at the right time. 

CHALLENGED: Kara Hart of the Lakers during Saturday's game.

CHALLENGED: Kara Hart of the Lakers during Saturday's game.

Undefeated Sunbury led at every break against the Lakers at Wendouree Reserve on Saturday, pushing out its lead every quarter to secure the comfortable 32-goal win.

In wet conditions, Lake Wendouree ended the game with a shooting efficiency of just 57 per cent compared to the Lions’ 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, East Point bounced back from a tough one-goal loss to Sunbury in style, putting together a strong display against Darley.

East Point coach Sarah Bourke said while a disappointing result last week, it had been encouraging to come so close to knocking off the top team and reigning champions ahead of finals.

In Saturday’s game at Eastern Oval, Bourke said injuries, including Jemma Mirabella going down in Thursday night training, and unavailability meant experimenting with combinations. 

Key goaler for East Point Emma Farrell played in goal defence with Bethany Smith, while Lauren Jew and Kate Burt combined in goals despite minimal time in the ring together.

“That has always been a strength at East Point,” Bourke said. “We just have players that will play anywhere and play the position well. Emma hasn’t trained as a defender all year, but she slotted in there nicely and her and Beth just read each other really well.”

Lauren Atkinson, who has returned after having a baby earlier in the year, and young-gun Indiannah Burke, who is growing in maturity and decision-making on the court, were stand outs.

“The passes, especially from Lauren Atkinson and Indiannah Burke going into the goal ring were just spot on,” Bourke said. “They hit the goalers every time, which was good.

“Our conversion rate has been a major focus for us all season and the first quarter was a bit touch and go, but the last three quarters our goalers were just hitting the target every time.”

In wet and slippery conditions, forcing both sides to adapt, Bourke gave credit to a competitive Devils side.

“Darley kept up with us and at the start of every quarter, they came out really firing and it took us a few minutes to really get our groove back on,” Bourke said.

“We were aware, with our percentage on the ladder, we really needed to boost that because the top four is really tight… we can’t get complacent, we have to keep fighting and pushing out leads.”