WITH a team full of bottom-age players and a bench that reads like an under 17s team sheet, many would have expected North Warrnambool Eagles to fail against Terang Mortlake on Saturday.
But the young Eagles walked away eight-goal victors over the Bloods, 38-30, and moved to fourth spot on the ladder in the process, pushing the Bloods to seventh.
The Eagles had only two players aged over 20 on the court for the clash, but acting coach Jackie Smedts said it had very little impact on the game.
She said after a slow start with the Eagles trailing the Bloods by three goals at quarter-time, she told the girls they needed to focus.
“It took them a little while to adjust and we had a fairly slow start,” Smedts said.
“But at quarter-time I said to them you need to focus. This game is winnable, we just have to work for it.
“Kids are so responsive and they went out there and gave it their all for the rest of the game.” The Eagles clawed their way back in the second quarter adding 11 goals to take a one-goal 19-18 lead heading into half-time.
The third was another closely fought quarter, with the Bloods adding six goals and the Eagles seven to end the quarter two goals in front, 26-24.
Smedts made some changes for the last quarter which she said gave the Eagles fresh legs. She took Jamie Barr from the centre and replaced her with under 17s player Sarah Bullen.
She also moved another under 17 player, Katie O’Meara into wing attack.
“I felt our attacking end was lacking a bit in the third quarter. It was a big punt but I think it paid off.
“I just had a feeling that these two could work well together and make an impact on the game, which they did, and gave us that five-goal edge we needed early in the quarter,” she said.
The Eagles added 12 goals in the last quarter to the Bloods six, handing the Eagles an eight-goal victory 38-30.
Smedts said the Eagles’ defence also shone, with Indi Morrison outstanding.
She said it was very encouraging that the Eagles could still be competitive, even though they have struggled to have the same team on the court for two consecutive weeks.
“This year has been a bit of a nightmare for us,” Smedts said. “We have really struggled to have the same team twice in a row.
“But being able to continue to win, despite the fact we are playing with junior players and a new team each week, is very encouraging.”
The Eagles take on Warrnambool on Sunday and Smedts said it would be a tough game.
“We have beaten them once before. There is a lot of self-belief in the girls and they put their bodies on the line," she said.
“If they back themselves, look out."