Bulldogs rebound to stage a stunning finals upset

Panmure wing attack Bridget Roache stretches to grab the ball in front of Dennington wing defence Jane Perry.  140830LP48 Pictures: LEANNE PICKETT

Panmure wing attack Bridget Roache stretches to grab the ball in front of Dennington wing defence Jane Perry. 140830LP48 Pictures: LEANNE PICKETT

PANMURE conjured a 26-goal turnaround in the space of 14 days to storm into the Warrnambool and District league A grade grand final.

The Bulldogs stunned hot favourite Dennington to win the preliminary final 45-31 at Reid Oval on Saturday, just 14 days after losing the qualifying final 42-30.

The result set up a grand final showdown with Old Collegians for a second-consecutive season. The Warriors won the 2013 decider by one goal in a thriller.

Panmure coach Megan Titmus lauded the mental toughness of her players to bounce back from the qualifying final loss.

They led from early in the match and increased their advantage at every break, shooting quarters of 11, 10, 11 and 13 goals.

Centre Josie Ellerton earned best-on-court honours while wing defence Natalie Meade and goal attack Maddy White were also influential.

White hit 25 goals from 34 attempts. Her sidekick, goal shooter Charlotte McCutcheon, netted 20 from 25 attempts.

For Dennington, Katie Burt led the scoring with 23 goals from 29 attempts. Marlie Boyd, Kelsey Perry and Lana Keane were the Dogs’ best. 

Titmus said “lots of psychology” during the week was behind the turnaround — “they always had it in them, it was a matter of them wanting it”.

Positional changes from the sides’ last meeting were also a key factor. Most notable was the decision to pair White and McCutcheon in the shooting circle.

White played goal keeper in the qualifying final but went into attack against Kolora-Noorat in the first semi-final, to good effect.

Titmus kept faith with the tactic for the preliminary final, leaving Sally O’Keefe and Jorgia Brown to counter Keane and Burt in defence.

The decision proved a masterstroke. Panmure opened a crucial 21-16 lead by half-time, forcing Dennington to ring in the changes.

League best-and-fairest Boyd went to goal attack, Keane shifted to goal keeper and Sara Morrison moved into the centre.

But the shake-up didn’t have the same impact as the previous week, when the Dogs almost snatched a come-from-behind win against Old Collegians.

By contrast, the Bulldogs won the third term 11-7 and shot clear in the last 13-8. Jubilant celebrations greeted the final whistle.

“I have my theories with how I structure my team. Playing Maddy in defence went against my theories. I suppose we went back to my gut feeling,” Titmus said.

“Netball is a game where you’ve got to get it in the hoop. If you haven’t got an attacking end that will finish it off, you’re stuffed.”

Titmus also played up the work of O’Keefe and Brown to hold firm in defence, despite conceding height to the Dogs’ shooters.

“It’s all about belief, isn’t it? I had a lot of psychology to work on this week. They just really stepped up and believed in themselves,” she said.

“The height difference was there but if you can believe in what you’re going to do, it’s amazing what can happen.”

Titmus said Panmure would enter the grand final confident it could upstage unbeaten Old Collegians.

The Bulldogs got within five goals of the Warriors in round 17 but have built belief and adjusted to life without injured goal keeper Emma Roache since.

“I suppose we’re growing in confidence within ourselves, which is the most important key,” Titmus said.

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