By Matt Fotia
Olinda Ferny Creek will now set their sights on becoming the best netball side of the modern era after the Bloods made it three A Grade Premierships on the bounce, and four in five years, when they held off a fast finishing Cranbourne, 31-28, in wet and windy conditions at Toomuc Reserve on Friday.
The Bloods defeated Wandin in 2015 by seven goals to start their dynasty, went down to the Dogs in 2016 by just two goals, before going back to back in the Yarra Ranges defeating Woori Yallock by 16 and Belgrave seven heading into the inaugural AFL Outer East season.
This was their masterpiece however, as they went through the entire 2019 season without a loss, infact Friday’s decider was the closest they’ve come all year to being on the losing side as they’ve swept all before them on their way to the summit. Their record of four premierships in five years brings them level with the Mount Evelyn side that dominated the Yarra Ranges competition from 2008 to 2012.
A great night celebrating our @AFL_OE Premier A Grade Flag, and completing the “3-Peat”. We join the great Mt.Evelyn teams of 2008-12 to win 3 in a row and 4 in 5 years, establishing ourselves as one of the best teams of all time. The challenge to be the greatest begins…⚪️?⚪️ pic.twitter.com/Xaq2UHTv7S
— Olinda Ferny Creek (@OFCFNC) September 27, 2019
With almost all of the preceding grades finals being played in picture perfect conditions, the A Grade Final began with heavy rain and a strong breeze across the court, with the players struggling to adapt to the conditions initially. The Eagles will have taken heart from the weather, with their strong performances in the wet this season. They’d previously knocked off Beaconsfield during their round 10 encounter in what was some of the more wild conditions seen in recent times.
Olinda Ferny Creek’s strong height advantage diminished slightly as the strong wind meant the aerial route was the road less travelled with the balls flight path a more enticing one for defenders. Still this magnificent side led by four at the first turn, 10-6.
Cranbourne’s strength lies at either end of the court with League Best and Fairest winner Tara Cecil patrolling at the defensive end, with her chaotic style seeing her throw herself around, desperate for intercepts, rebounds and anything in between that may see her side prosper.
At the other end they host flexibility with Tahlia Coates, Alanah Hardy and Shannon Johns all capable of having a big day under the ring, all interchangeable between the two attacking positions.
And whilst Olinda Ferny Creek have obvious strengths at those ends of the court, much spoken about ones at that (Peri Stewart) their real strength is their mid court, and the trio of the evergreen Krista Tomlinson, Madison Taylor and Alice Paget began to up the anti in the second and third quarters pressuring the Cranbourne mid courters into mistakes in already difficult conditions for attractive, free flowing, netball.
That being said Cranbourne remained within striking distance heading into the last quarter, trailing by just five – 24-19 – and they came out firing in the final quarter as the eyed off an incredible victory.
They threatened to pull it off too with the Bloods looking ever so slightly like they might slip up in the wet and wild conditions, but despite holding Olinda Ferny Creek to its lowest score of the season (Olinda Ferny Creek’s lowest score prior to this was 43 v Beaconsfield. That was their only sub 50 score prior to Friday’s game) of 31, the Eagles couldn’t pull off the miracle, falling three goals short.
Peri Stewart finished off her incredible year with another 24 goals, bringing her season tally to an unfathomable 878. Elly Stewart shot the other seven for Olinda Ferny Creek whilst Hardy (4), Johns (10) and Coates (14) combined for the Eagles total.
Olinda Ferny Creek Wing Defence Alice Paget was awarded the medal for Best On Court.
Olinda Ferny Creek – 10, 17, 24, 31 (Peri Stewart 24, Elly Stewart 7)
Cranbourne – 6, 11, 19, 28 (Tahlia Coates 14, Shannon Johns 10, Alanah Hardy 4)