O'Keefe backs her teammates

Panmure defender Sally O’Keefe has a ball with her 13-month-old son Hendrex before confronting the serious sporting challenge of winning a preliminary final with her Bulldogs teammates.

Panmure defender Sally O’Keefe has a ball with her 13-month-old son Hendrex before confronting the serious sporting challenge of winning a preliminary final with her Bulldogs teammates.

SALLY O’Keefe didn’t feel like her regular self when she returned to the court in late March.

The Panmure goal defence missed the Bulldogs’ 2013 campaign due to pregnancy and was slightly out of sorts in her first few matches back.

But five months of holding firm in the Panmure defence has O’Keefe, 25, primed for today’s Warrnambool and District league preliminary final.

The Bulldogs meet Dennington at Reid Oval, with the winner to play reigning premier Old Collegians in the grand final next weekend.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better since the year has gone on. I’ve gotten fitter and a bit more co-ordination back,” O’Keefe said.

“At the start I just felt like my brain was up one end of the court and my body was down the other end.”

O’Keefe’s voice rises at the prospect of playing in the grand final.

She won premierships with Koroit in 2010 and 2011 and relishes the experience of playing on the biggest stage of the season.

But to get there, the Bulldogs must reverse a 42-30 defeat to the Dogs in the qualifying final a fortnight ago.

“I believe in the girls, it’s a great team,” O’Keefe said.

“I was talking to (husband) Simon last night about netball and he said how close we are. We seem to do a lot together as a team.

“He was surprised how close we are as friends, not just netballers, which I think helps.

“When you’ve got the respect of your teammates, you play for them, not just you.”

O’Keefe was unsure who her defensive sidekick would be today, with regular goal keeper Emma Roache still nursing a serious knee injury. Panmure used Maddy White at goal keeper in the qualifying final a fortnight ago but shifted her into attack for the first semi-final last weekend.

Jorgia Brown, O’Keefe’s sister, filled the void, with the move sparking the Bulldogs to a 35-26 win against Kolora-Noorat.

“It was always Emma and I in the goal ring, now we’ve had to try and find someone else to play with me. That’s been hard,” O’Keefe said.

“We’ve been trying to figure out the best combination, whether it’s with Jorgia my sister or Maddy.

“(Jorgia) takes it on the chin. She does well wherever she’s thrown. She’s one of those players who can go anywhere, which is handy for us.”

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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