Sport

Top two for Blues within reach

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August 22, 2017

Abby Pettifer of Tongala during the MFNL A grade netball match between Tongala and Finley. Photo by Luke Hemer.

Chelsea Taylor of Finley and Tracey Hughes of Tongala compete for the ball during the MFNL A grade netball match between Tongala and Finley. Photo by Luke Hemer.

TONGALA Netball Club A grade has put itself firmly back in contention for a top two finish in the Murray Netball League after a high-scoring affair against Finley on Saturday.

The Blues came away with a 54-42 victory in round 17 of the Murray Netball League at Tongala Recreation Reserve.

They are now two percentage points behind second placed Numurkah on the league ladder after it went down to Deniliquin on the weekend.

Blues coach Alicia White said finishing in the top two wasn’t one of their goals at the start of the season.

‘‘We were more focused on finding consistency this year and making it into finals,’’ White said.

‘‘We’ve cemented our place in finals and can tick that off our list.

‘‘For us to finish either one or two would be an incredibly good effort, but we’re prepared for third if that happens.’’

With a second chance up for grabs, the final round has become crucial for both sides as Tongala faces Rumbalara this weekend and Numurkah takes on Echuca United.

Abby Pettifer has returned at the perfect time to give the Blues more options in their attack end for A and B grade.

She delivered a stunning game in the goal shooter role, combining well with Tracey Hughes in goal attack.

Serena Backman pulled out of the game just before it started, which meant Pettifer had to play two full games in her first week back.

Sara Pettifer was able to return to her preferred position at wing attack and was feeding brilliantly into the ring and creating plenty of options down the court.

‘‘Sara is a real leader in wing attack and meant we were quite strong in our mid-court,’’ White said.

‘‘Abby is a very accurate shooter and a clever player and will be good addition to our A or B side.’’

The Blues left behind their poor starts to score 15 goals to nine in the first quarter.

And they didn’t drop off in the second quarter, outscoring the Cats by three goals to set up a nine-goal lead at half-time, 26-17.

The Cats found some rhythm in the third quarter to record 14 goals before the final change — an improvement from last week when the third term was their worst.

They brought on fresh legs into defence with Abbey Maconachie taking the court as goal keeper.

‘‘We dropped off a bit in the third quarter, but we’re happy with the way we started,’’ White said.

‘‘It’s unusual for us as our starts often let us down.

‘‘It was great to see the girls taking initiative when things weren’t working to change it up straight away.’’

The Blues managed 12 goals of their own to still hold a handy lead going into the fourth and they finished off with their strongest quarter to score 16 goals to 11.

Once again the home side finished the game without changes despite having under 17 player Hannah Rose on the bench.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of versatility in our combinations and find some click better than others against certain teams,’’ White said.

‘‘It’s often an unknown who we’ll have each week, so it’s good to have those options.’’

Tongala’s B grade defeated the top side on Saturday to find itself sitting on top of the table with one round to go.

Both sides could enjoy a double chance as A grade comes up against bottom of the ladder Rumbalara this weekend.

‘‘It should be a big win for us there, but you never know with the way some games have played out this season,’’ White said.

‘‘Numurkah and Echuca United should be a close match, so hopefully we can move up to second and get that double chance.’’

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