THEY may not be the Hume City Falcons any more but City West Falcons are still the top team in Victorian netball.
Two scoring blitzes in the first and final quarters delivered the Falcons the Victorian Netball League championship by five goals on Saturday night.
VU Western Lightning threatened to take the title by pegging back a big early deficit to level the game at three-quarter time but City West responded to win a third title in four years with the 42-37 victory.
Click on the image below for our huge gallery of the grand final.
Click on the image below for our gallery of City West Falcons' U19 grand final.
Mid-courter Christie Barnes won the best on court award but it was the Falcons’ sharp-shooters Kathleen Knott and Maggie Lind who held their nerve in the willing early stages and desperate final quarter.
Knott was near unstoppable from the first whistle as her presence close to the ring gave the Falcons a stable target to aim for.
The margin got as high as seven goals before Lightning defenders Fiona Themann and Brooke Thompson started to generate turn-overs in the back-court.
The Lightning were finishing quarters stronger and finally drew level with the Falcons at the end of the third quarter as goalers Megan Fitzpatrick and Melissa McCauley capitalised.
But another withering burst at the start of the final quarter all but ended the contest, with City West scoring four unanswered goals in two minutes and 21 seconds.
VU pegged the deficit back to four but a clever in-bound pass from Maggie Lind to herself allowed an easy shot under the ring to spark another Falcons run, making the score 38-31.
Lind would again settle any Falcon nerves with 2.28 remaining as her long-range goal found the net to make the score 42-36 before a scrappy and desperate final exchange with just one more goal added to the score.
City West won back-to-back titles under its former name Hume City in 2009-10 before relocating to Altona and becoming City West.
Coach Marg Lind has overseen the Falcons’ domination of the state’s top netball competition.
OFF THE COURT
Marg Lind - City West Falcons coach
‘‘We had a very measured discussion with the experienced players about where they thought we should go in the last (quarter).
‘‘Over time this season we’ve had a few struggles in terms of combinations and we’ve learnt our lesson and that showed tonight.
‘‘The last combination was what did it.
‘‘I spoke to her [Maggie Lind] about running some set patterns that we run, which got her on the shot.
‘‘They hadn’t been doing that, they’d been trying to isolate Kath (Knott) and focus on Kath too much. Getting Maggie on the shot, it opened up the game.
‘‘This year we went back to the drawing board after throwing in the young ones last year and looked at what we needed.
‘‘Kath Knott was obviously the perfect addition because that’s what we were lacking.
‘‘This is a good one because it shows that we’ve made the transition with the younger players. We’ve been able to throw them in, in the heat and in the end they’ve come through.
‘‘It took them a while, but they got there.’’
Matt Hills - VU Western Lightning coach
‘‘The first five minutes of the final quarter was where the game was won and lost...we made a couple of basic errors and they were able to hold their lead.
‘‘We went into three quarter time with all the momentum and gave ourselves a chance to win.
‘‘I never doubt this group, we’ve done it all year and we’ve got one of the best defensive groups. ‘‘(City West) started well but we didn’t convert well. Sophie Barr my young goaler was zero-from-four and at one stage Mel was one from five, we were one from nine and you don’t win games with that.
‘‘We made a goaler change (Megan Fitzpatrick) that challenged them.
‘‘We’ve come from second last winning three and a half games to a grand final, and had a chance to win it. This grand final was heart-breaking to lose but in the bigger picture in was a bonus.’’
Christie Barnes - grand final MVP, City West
‘‘I just entered really wanting that win and hoping to play a part and as Marg said, not to be a spectator, get in there.
‘‘The MVP has just blown me away.’’
‘‘The coaching panel is on the same page and they knew what we could do and it was a matter of putting everything we’ve done all year into that last quarter and not deviating from that with panic.
‘‘All year we’ve worked on structure and just committing to the way we play.
‘‘We just had to get out there in the last quarter and run through structure and that allowed us to have two goaling options and we became more of a threat.’’
Brooke Thompson - VU Western Lightning captain
‘‘The first five minutes of the game tends to be our worst and it was again.
‘‘Me and Fi (Themann) have been working together for a couple of years and we really are an awesome defence end ... I back her to go for it, she backs me, it’s a two-way street for us both back there.
‘‘I’ve played with or against Knott for about six or seven years now...her strength is her hold in that circle and we knew she would play that way.
‘‘We knew Maggie was going to try and take me out of the game by taking me wide and outside of the circle, we knew what they were going to do and they pulled it off, and clearly they deserve to win it.’’
‘‘I couldn’t be prouder to be part of VU and look into the future and where we’re going...this finals series is the first of many to come.’’
* In the under 19s, City West Falcons which were undefeated all season and came up against Boroondara Genesis in the grand final.
Despite Genesis getting within five goals in the final quarter, the Falcons ran out 52-41 winners to cap a superb season.
- with Lance Jenkinson