PORT Fairy confirmed its credentials as a genuine Hampden league contender this season with the club’s first A grade netball piece of silverware in 26 years.
The Seagulls lifted the pre-season netball cup after an undefeated run through seven matches, including the grand final against North Warrnambool Eagles at Port Fairy’s Gardens Oval on Saturday.
Their 14-8 triumph in the final came after a three-goal win against close-town rival and competition powerhouse Koroit in the semi-finals.
The grand final victory that netted the club $1000 brought some long sought after joy to the club’s netballers, which had never tasted A grade success before Saturday.
Check out our gallery of the weekend's HFNL pre-season action.
It was new coach Emma O’Keeffe’s first time in charge of the side she will lead during the season, even though much of the team has played together in the Western Regional State League competition.
“It’s fantastic,” O’Keeffe said.
“It’s such a good bunch of friendly girls, we all have a laugh. They’re so much fun and they’re a pleasure to coach.”
O’Keeffe said a mix of youth and experience was important as she tried a range of combinations across the day, with a stunning success rate.
She said her side was almost at full strength and conceded her players couldn’t get carried with the victory because most sides were under-resourced and perennial contender Camperdown did not enter the competition.
But the victory was significant.
O’Keeffe said it was important for the Seagulls to start a winning culture, regardless of the event, after they won just one match in 2012.
She said recording a victory over Koroit, especially after being level at half-time, before backing it up in the grand final, would give her younger players a massive confidence boost heading into the premiership season.
“The young ones stood up,” O’Keeffe said. “They played really well.”
Sisters Rebekah Moroney (wing defence) and Sarah Moroney (goal keeper), goal shooter Emily Forrest and mid-courters Chelsea Swarbrick and Maddie Dalton were significant contributors to the undefeated streak.
The Seagulls moved the ball impressively in wet and windy conditions in the final with Forrest and goal attack Mandy Knee finishing off the work kickstarted by the Moroneys and O’Keeffe in defence.
Nicole Dwyer in the centre and Sarah McCorkell at wing attack were damaging against a younger Eagles line-up.
The Seagulls opened an 8-4 lead at half-time before extending it to 14-8 at game’s end.
Eagles coach Sharon Kenna was delighted her inexperienced squad had qualified for the final. She said the Eagles had battled a shortage of players at training because of state league netball, basketball and deb ball practice commitments.
The Eagles side that faced the Seagulls contained just four of her first-choice A grade side.
“We had a lot of 17s, A1 and A2s just to make up a team.
“We only had seven out at training so to come here and make the final is a bonus for us.
“It’s great to see Port Fairy up there. Their defence line is really strong with the Moroneys and Emma.
“They will be a good side.”