LINDA Clifford wasn’t sure what to think when shooting sidekick Penny Smith rose into the Kolora-Noorat A grade netball side last season.
Teenager Smith undoubtedly had talent, no one could deny that. But her ascension forced Clifford to play at goal attack, rather than at goal shooter.
The pair, almost a decade apart in age, took a while to get used to each other. Kolora-Noorat finished ninth with a 6-12 record.
Their understanding 12 months on has been central to the Power’s rise into tomorrow’s first semi-final against Panmure at Merrivale Recreation Reserve. As it happened, Smith missed the elimination final triumph win Merrivale last weekend due to clay target shooting commitments in Azerbaijan.
But she will return to the circle tomorrow, giving the Power a full-strength side as it eyes a second victory against the Bulldogs in three weeks.
“We played last year together, this is our second year in goals. We’ve worked each other now out, we’re starting to play some good netball,” Clifford said.
“I have always been a goal shooter, my role has changed to goal attack so it took me a little bit to adjust.
“Once I worked that out, I started playing a different role. I’m actually loving it. I started in goal shooter last weekend and I was a little bit lost trying to go back. I like bringing the ball down the court.”
Clifford, 28, played juniors at Cobden but has been at Kolora-Noorat since 2006, save for two seasons with Winchelsea when she lived in Melbourne.
She felt she had enjoyed a solid season in her new role as the Power surged up the ladder.
“It’s been a different year for me trying to coach A reserve and play A grade. It’s been a challenging year but I think I’ve had an all right season. I think I’ve learnt to handle pressure a lot better this year, being one of the older heads in the team. I have to keep my cool and support them a bit more.”
The come-from-behind elimination final triumph against the Tigers marked the latest high point of a memorable season for Kolora-Noorat.
Coach Glenice Justin pinpointed the tough run into finals — the Power was in a three-way battle for fifth spot — as having a role in the upset win.
“Coming into last week, even though it was a larger crowd it was ‘here we go again’. We were in this position last week and the week before,” Justin said.
She expects Panmure to show a steely resolve tomorrow and predicted a more intense game than when the sides met in round 18.
“Maybe we caught them napping a bit last time. I thought we had a lot more to play for than they did. Come Sunday it’ll be a completely different game,” she said.
Panmure coach Megan Titmus also believed the round 18 match would have little bearing on tomorrow.
“To me, you play every game as a grand final but there is that bit more incentive now it’s cut-throat. Maybe my girls will respond to that,” she said.
Titmus sensed her players had taken ownership of their fate in response to their qualifying final defeat.
“You can’t help fumbles, you can’t help steps, you can’t help contact that’s been pulled out that you weren’t counting on.
“All those things are sometimes not controllable. I think we controlled the controllables.”