Koroit and Camperdown to lock horns in Hampden open grade netball grand final

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Camperdown goal attack Emily Finch shoots for goal against Koroit when the grand finallists met earlier this season.

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Camperdown goal attack Emily Finch shoots for goal against Koroit when the grand finallists met earlier this season.

CAMPERDOWN coach Peter Finch says the Magpies will be more flexible with changes in this year’s grand final against Hampden netball powerhouse Koroit.

The second-year coach, who has led the Leura-Oval based club to the big stage in both his years in charge, said he had learned lessons from last year’s decider.

The Magpies fought an epic battle with Port Fairy in a match that went into extra time, but were overrun late, going down by five goals.

“Last year, I just sat back – we had things in control, but the last five minutes we ran out of legs,” Finch said.

“This year, I won’t hesitate in throwing things around.”

The Magpies will have fresh and proven legs on the bench to bring on late in the game if needed in the form of handy young players.

Veteran wing defence Emily Stephens, who hasn’t played since breaking a knuckle in round 12, has been training well and will be added to the Magpies’ squad.

Like its opponent Koroit, Camperdown is far from a stranger to the Hampden open grade grand final stage.

The clubs have played in 13 of the past 16 top-grade deciders, and twice faced off for the flag. The Saints prevailed in 2010 and 11, but the Magpies will be looking to shake their perpetual runners-up status in the third encounter, having lost seven grand finals over the years.

But if there’s one thing Camperdown has proven this season, it’s that it’s up to any challenge.

It had to rejig its structure in the wake of injuries to veterans Stephens and Tracey Baker, the Magpies settled with a youth-laden line-up that has taken it up to the competition.

“They’re a pretty resilient lot,” Finch said. “They never throw the game in.”

Koroit has also proven itself to be adaptable.

With goal attack Bridget Roache ruled out for the grand final, Carly Pulling has taken on the role full-time.

Coach Kasey Owen herself has had to find her feet in the unfamiliar position of wing defence, making way for tall recruit and 2017 league best and fairest Jess O’Connor.

“I’ve never played there and it’s probably not my strongest position,” Owen said. “But for the sake of the team, if it’s best to get Jess O’Connor in goal defence, I’m happy to play it.

“Wherever we all end up, if we have to play somewhere else, there’s no complaints.

“It’s worked well in the sense that everyone has been willing to play in positions they may not have been confident enough to in the past.”