Tongala finds it tough going with makeshift side

July 17, 2017

TONGALA A grade scraped through with the bare minimum of players for a nine-goal victory over Nathalia on Saturday.

The Blues travelled to Nathalia for the Murray Netball League clash well and truly undermanned across their senior grades.

They entered both A and B grade with six players, drawing on their junior grades to fill the final positions.

Nevertheless, it was a game A grade was expected to win, sitting six places above its opposition on the ladder in second and eighth.

Coach Alicia White said they were in control from the start but it took a quarter to settle into their different combinations.

Hollie Reid stepped up from under 15s into wing attack and had to adapt to the playing style of Sara Pettifer and Tracey Hughes in goals.

‘‘The scoreline made it look like the game was a lot closer than it felt,’’ White said.

‘‘Hollie did well for her first A grade game and didn’t look out of place at all.

‘‘It was never going to be a game we won by 25 goals, but Nathalia was the perfect opportunity for us to bleed some of our juniors through the senior grades.

‘‘In the end we were happy to take the four points.’’

Lily Waasdorp was also brought up from under 13s to play in C grade and Serena Backman filled in for B grade as her versatility meant she could move from the attack end into defence.

In A grade, scores were level at the first break at 10 a-piece, however it didn’t take long before the game opened up in favour of the away side.

A 15 to nine goal second quarter meant the Blues lead by six at half-time.

‘‘I think both teams were a bit rusty from the week off which meant the scoreline wasn’t very big,’’ White said.

‘‘It took a while for us to warm up but after that we just kept increasing the margin at every break, which was a goal of ours going into the game.’’

The combination of Pettifer and Hughes worked well against the Purps defence, even with Lisa Barnes back to bolster the side.

Nathalia’s Reni Hicks came off from centre in the second quarter which took away a lot of drive down the court. Tongala pushed out the scores in the third quarter to lead 36-28 at the final break.

They continued to outscore the Purps in the fourth quarter by one goal to consolidate their performance, 48-41.

‘‘It was good to play out the game with just our set seven,’’ White said.

‘‘It meant we could really test out our mental and fitness levels after a bye and ensure we can still run out games.

‘‘It’ll be good for us going into the game against Moama this week, but we’re prepared to change it up if needed.’’

White said consistency would be their biggest focus leading into the benchmark encounter.

‘‘Our defensive pressure has been really good this season and that’s where a game is won in our eyes,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re looking forward to the challenge of Moama — no-one has really looked close to beating them.

‘‘It’s a good game to see where we need to improve and it’ll all come down to the combinations we put on the court.’’

Tongala’s hold on second place could be threatened this week with Numurkah equal on points in third.

But White said its main focus was on managing players to ensure it had the strongest side come finals.

‘‘Whether we finish second or third won’t really matter in the end if we don’t have our strongest team for finals,’’ White said.

‘‘We’d rather get our players right and not rush them back from injury if it could mean losing them for the year.’’

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