Hamilton Kangaroos hop from winless debut season to third spot on HFNL ladder

THE beauty of no expectations is it’s easier to impress.

South Warrnambool wing attack Ruby Wilson (left) defends Hamilton Kangaroos wing defence Alexandra Feely as the visitors move the ball through the midcourt with a pass from goal defence Amanda Huf.

South Warrnambool wing attack Ruby Wilson (left) defends Hamilton Kangaroos wing defence Alexandra Feely as the visitors move the ball through the midcourt with a pass from goal defence Amanda Huf.

But not even Hamilton Kangaroos coach Sara Byrne dreamt her side would be sitting third on the ladder just a game behind competition pacesetter Koroit after six games.

The Kangaroos are now a game clear of fourth a third of the way through the regular season after improving their record to five wins and a loss following their one-goal victory over South Warrnambool on Saturday.

“I never expected to be sitting this high,” Byrne said after the 44-43 win at the Friendly Societies’ Park.

“I’m really pleased.

“This puts us in a good position.

“I had in my mind what I would have liked (to achieve) but I didn’t know we could be top three.”

After a winless debut Hampden league season, Byrne was cautious to avoid expectations on her new-look side in the lead up to the season. Now they are inevitable from within the club and outside.

Byrne was pleased with her side’s performance against another of the competition’s big improvers this season. But after starting the last quarter with a six-goal buffer, she said her side had plenty to work on to avoid final-term scares.

“We didn’t keep the intensity up,” she said.

“We could have been overrun in three of our wins, against Portland, Terang Mortlake and now South Warrnambool. But the good thing is when they are really challenged they can still fight it out.”

After an even first quarter, South Warrnambool led by two at half-time. But Byrne switched her line-up around. She brought teenager Aly Smead off the bench and into centre and shifted centre Rebecca Vankalken to wing attack.

“We grew tired and we threw away some (possessions) with silly decisions. Our movement just stopped,” she said.

But it was different after the changes.

“It just changed the whole attacking end and it opened the game up. Our third quarter was definitely the best.”

She said her defenders Amanda Huf (goal defence) and Rhiane Lewis (goal keeper) were decisive with touches on many passes to the dangerous South goal shooting combination of Nell Mitchell and coach Leah Kermeen.

Kermeen said Vankalken’s move to wing attack was the game-breaker.

She said the Roosters had been slow to adapt to the changes and then in the final term made their own, switching defenders Bridget Smith from goal defence to goal keeper and Gen O’Connor from goal keeper to goal defence. Along with wing defence Hannah Oates, they provided plenty of drive.

“They previously had been taking a lot of passes to get their goals but (that changed) and the wing attack had very good drives into the top of the ring,” she said.

Kermeen said her young side lost focus for seven minutes in the third quarter and its lead went from three goals to a six-goal deficit.

“To our girls’ credit, we fought back,” she said.

The Roosters tried to bridge the gap in the final term but they couldn’t get ahead. “It’s disappointing to lose but I’m very happy with our ability to not let it blow out and to fight back and get it back says a lot about their character and focus.”

Kermeen said the Roosters had been keen to get the win and cement a spot in the top three. But they remain fourth, a game behind the Kangaroos.

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