THE champagne flowed barely minutes after Koroit won its third consecutive Hampden league A grade netball premiership.
The Saints are today celebrating the first top-grade three-peat since South Warrnambool won four flags from 1987-90.
Jacqui Bowman’s side defeated Warrnambool 44-38 in a pulsating grand final at Reid Oval to cement its place in league history.
A fourth flag on the trot in 2013 would allow the modern-day powerhouse to join the Roosters as one of the greatest Hampden netball sides.
Saturday’s triumph came on the back of a fast start, which had the Saints up 25-19 at half-time.
But they had to withstand a surge as Warrnambool came from 36-29 down at the last break to be within two with four minutes to play.
The comeback, however, would not finish with reward. Koroit dropped the last four nets of the game to finish six goals up.
Victorious coach Jacqui Bowman dedicated the win to injured shooter Marissa Chapman, who had a knee reconstruction earlier this month.
Bowman, into her second season at Koroit after a decorated career with Warrnambool, said the flag was “up there with the best” of her six as a player.
“It’s the first one I’ve won playing for Koroit so yeah, it doesn’t get any less exciting,” she said. “Koroit has been so supportive and fantastic, it’s great.”
Warrnambool’s last-term fightback ensured a frantic final minutes as the game went down to the wire.
Goal shooter Danielle McLeod was the spark with four consecutive goals to cut Koroit’s lead to 40-38.
The Blues could have been within one had they capitalised on a Kasey Owen intercept, but Saint Holly Greene produced similar heroics at the other end.
Koroit moved the ball to teenage shooter Rachel Dobson, who hit the settling goal to put the Saints 41-38 up.
Dobson netted the next goal, after Emily Batt won a race for a loose ball, and Carley Thomas followed suit at the next centre.
A thrilling grand final was suddenly a five-goal game.
Dobson made it six with seconds left after Greene delivered another moment of magic in defence.
The Peta Richardson Medal went to Greene, but could have easily gone to Dobson, for her coming-of-age display, or the warrior-like Bowman.
“We got to a good lead and held that good lead,” Bowman said.
“Even when they started coming back we settled and that’s experience.
“It goes to show it means a lot in finals to have that experience.
“I know a lot of people have said the old girls shouldn’t be playing any more, well screw them. We came out on top.”
Warrnambool coach Lorraine English said the Blues should be proud they came so close to the flag from third spot. Wing defence Sarah O’Keeffe was their best for shutting down one of the Saints’ lines to goal.
Siobhan Sefton was creative at wing attack in the second half and Sarah Hearn was also valuable riding the bumps and setting up McLeod.
“It’s going to take a bit for the girls to realise they’ve done a fantastic job and had a good season,” English said.
“We ended up second. I can’t say much beyond it’s a shame to fall short.”
English leaves Warnambool on Thursday to move back to Perth.