Koroit brushes aside reigning premiers by 30 goals

AFTER just five games, the burning question is who can beat Koroit?

Koroit goal shooter Carley Thomas leads her Eagles opponent Rachael Ryan to the ball.  Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Koroit goal shooter Carley Thomas leads her Eagles opponent Rachael Ryan to the ball. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

The team most likely, reigning premiers North Warrnambool Eagles, became Koroit’s latest victims on Saturday after the Saints were awesome in marching to a 30-goal win.

Both camps weren’t getting carried away with the 63-33 result or the size of it.

The Eagles went into the game without star midcourter Sophie Barr (unavailable) and defenders Jordyn Billings (ill) and Indi Morrison (unavailable), while the Saints were without goal attack Rachel Dobson because of illness.

Koroit dominated the first half. It led 16-6 at quarter-time and blew the gap out to 24 at half-time after scoring 20-6 in the second term.

Saints co-coach Kate Dobson was upbeat with the victory but revealed there was little chance of her unbeaten side becoming complacent.

“The memories of last year are really etched into our brains,” she said of the Saints’ grand final loss to the Eagles when they were chasing an unbeaten season record.

“We want to keep evolving and improving and we take everything, every performance, back to the drawing board. We are kind of ignoring where we are sitting.”

Dobson said no player was secure in their spot.

“I think the bonus with us is we are all competing for a spot against each other. If my form drops off I would have to put up my hand or the girls would say ‘you have to go back and get some form’,” she said.

She said the Saints made changes to their game style after reviewing the grand final loss to the Eagles.

“We are trying to change our game and it’s really exciting,” she said. “We learnt a lot from the grand final. Our game plan has been really successful for 10 years but netball has really changed. We are learning off higher leagues and the game has got quicker and more dynamic.”

The Saints have been working on quicker ball movement in transition, instead of their stop-start approach.

It was noticeable on Saturday, especially in the first half when they rebounded and rushed the ball into attack with precision. New recruit, goal attack Teagan Lang, was brilliant in instinctively passing to goal shooter Carley Thomas. The pair were a match-winning combination. 

At the other end of the court, the Eagles’ dynamic goal shooting sister act of Laura and Annie Blackburn was put under intense pressure from keeper Emily Batt and Holly Greene, returning  after a season off.

Koroit’s pressure early was suffocating, compounded by its ability to score off any turnover or rebound opportunity.

The Saints rotated their four midcourters — Dobson, Kate Foster, Carly Pulling and Jacqui Bowman — off the bench, meaning they all played three quarters.

It was only when the Eagles made some positional moves at half-time that they were able to stay with the Saints. They switched Laura Blackburn to goal attack ,Annie Blackburn went to shooter, centre Maddie Smedts moved to goal defence, youngster Jane McMeel went from wing defence to the centre and Brie Reichman came on at wing attack.

Eagles coach Sharon Kenna conceded Koroit was impressive but pointed out that last season her side was beaten by the Saints by 33 goals the first time they met.

“They are a very good team and they are very switched on,” she said. “They are desperate to play really good netball. Losing a grand final has given them a lot to play for. I thought their goalies played a great game and it just wasn’t happening for Annie and Laura.”

Kenna said losing Jordyn Billings during the week had hurt.

But she was delighted with the performances of McMeel in her second A grade game and fellow teenager Reichman, who had only been exposed to the top level for one quarter before Saturday.

“If I’m going to take positives out of it, my kids were good,” she said.

“I know when you lose you look for positives but I felt we had them.”

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