WARRNAMBOOL will ride a wave of confidence into Saturday’s grand final showdown after producing the upset of the season to eliminate minor premier Camperdown.
Warrnambool, which had suffered 33 and 22-goal defeats to Camperdown in the home-and-away season, scored a stunning 55-51 win in overtime at Reid Oval on Saturday in a tense preliminary final.
It sparked celebrations from Warrnambool and left Camperdown shattered after a straight-sets exit.
“One more to go,” Blues coach Lorraine English told her jubilant players.
Those words also ensured a lid was put on the celebrations, with the weary Blues cooling down with a stint at the beach ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the premier of the past two years, Koroit.
Camperdown made a quick start in the opening term of Saturday’s preliminary final as it looked to rectify a slow beginning seven days earlier.
English said her side was “seven or eight goals down” seven minutes into the match.
The Blues trailed by four at quarter-time and levelled the ledger at the main break. Camperdown eased away to a six-goal buffer at three-quarter-time and in a tense final term held a three-goal lead with three minutes remaining.
Warrnambool drew level thanks to some clutch shooting from Danielle McLeod before Camperdown grabbed the lead and with the buzzer imminent, Warrnambool drew level again. McLeod had the ball in her hands and was preparing to shoot but opted to pass as time ran out, forcing the game into overtime — the second consecutive extra time match for Camperdown.
Having come so close to producing the upset, English urged her players to forget about what had happened.
“Let’s just focus,” she instructed her players.
“You’ve taken them to overtime. We know they have been beaten in overtime before.”
The settled approach saw the Blues open a decisive four-goal lead early in extra time, which consisted of two seven-minute periods.
“The last time we played them we lost by 33 goals,” English said.
“To come out and win was a big call. To do what they did was amazing. We have been building all year.”
English said co-captain Kasey Owen, in her 100th match, was a matchwinner as goal keeper, taking an aggressive approach to create many turnovers, including one that helped the Blues draw level in the second last play of regular time.
Her defensive work, backed up by centre Siobhan Sefton and McLeod’s shooting, was crucial in a team effort, English said.
Camperdown coach Rachel Rodger said the Magpies had their chances, leading by as many as six in the final quarter. She said Warrnambool’s relentless defensive pressure had been pivotal.
“Going into overtime they had the momentum. The previous week we had the momentum going in and couldn’t cap it off,” she said.
“They had the momentum and we were tired at the end. It kind of fell apart a bit. It is something we will lament as a lost opportunity.
“It’s been a great season: minor premiers. But to finish minor premier again and not finish it off is bitterly disappointing.
“The girls have put in so much hard work and really deserved to at least have a chance at a premiership. For that not to happen, as coach I’m pretty shattered.”
Rodger said she and her teammates believed Warrnambool could go all the way if it maintained the same pressure in the grand final against Koroit.
“We were really impressed with the way they played.”