Up until Saturday, an undefeated Learmonth’s closest game had been a 19-goal victory over Bungaree in A-grade Central Highlands Netball League competition.
Hepburn, sitting outside the eight by two points, knew it had a momentous task at hand in the final round of the regular season to make finals.
The first part of the equation was out of the Burras’ control. Either Ballan or Creswick had to lose their games.
Then, the Burras would have to achieve what no team has this season – defeat or draw with Learmonth.
With nothing to lose, Hepburn’s A-graders gave their all against the top side to lead throughout the game before eventually drawing at 42-all.
While Hepburn coach Gary Cooke had thought his team had pulled off a victory until the final moments of the game, a draw tasted just as sweet once the team realised Creswick had lost.
It meant Ballan, Hepburn and Creswick all finished on the same amount of points.
“I knew our percentage was good so I couldn’t believe it, everything just worked in our favour,” Cooke said.
“All we focused on was what was in our hands. We knew what we were good at and what had been working for us, so we stuck to it and it worked.
“We didn’t change our starting line up once and luckily we had the legs to run the whole game out.”
Cooke was proud of just how well his players had handled the pressure that came with a close game.
“At the end of the game, to pick who was best on court was virtually impossible,” Cooke said.
“They all did so well, every position. There were some girls at the end of the game who were exhausted because they had put everything into it.”
In other games, Bungaree ensured a home court finals showdown with Springbank after securing second position with victory over Ballan.
Beaufort finished its season on the winners’ list with a two-goal thriller on the road over Newlyn.
Buninyong secured a double chance after defeating Gordon by 20 goals.
Dunnstown had a huge victory over Daylesford, 12-80, to cement fifth spot on the ladder on percentage.
Clunes enjoyed a seven-goal win over Rokewood-Corindhap on home court. Carngham-Linton was decisive over Skipton, 47-21.
Springbank ended Creswick’s finals hopes, 35-58, while Waubra ensured Smythesdale finished the season without a win.
WEEK 1 FINALS
QUALIFYING FINAL (at Learmonth)
13/UNDER: Buninyong v Dunnstown
15/UNDER: Buninyong v Daylesford
17/UNDER: Bungaree v Buninyong
C GRADE: Hepburn v Springbank
B GRADE: Bungaree v Hepburn
A GRADE: Learmonth v Buninyong
ELIMINATION FINAL (at Waubra)
13/UNDER: Springbank v Bungaree
15/UNDER: Newlyn v Clunes
17/UNDER: Dunnstown v Creswick
C GRADE: Newlyn v Ballan
B GRADE: Waubra v Dunnstown
A GRADE: Dunnstown v Hepburn
QUALIFYING FINAL (at Buninyong)
13/UNDER: Carngham v Hepburn
15/UNDER: Learmonth v Bungaree
17/UNDER: Hepburn v Learmonth
C GRADE: Learmonth v Bungaree
B GRADE: Learmonth v Springbank
A GRADE: Bungaree v Springbank
ELIMINATION FINAL (at Dunnstown)
13/UNDER: Creswick v Beaufort
15/UNDER: Springbank v Hepburn
17/UNDER: Newlyn v Gordon
C GRADE: Gordon v Buninyong
B GRADE: Newlyn v Ballan
A GRADE: Waubra v Ballan