Port Lincoln impresses at championships

Port Lincoln Netball Association division one teams for under 13, under 15, under 17 and seniors travelled to Adelaide to compete in the 79th Priceline Pharmacy Country Championships last weekend.

Port Lincoln's Marni Clarke and Georgia Cash were flag bearers in the opening ceremony before the carnival was opened by Netball SA chief executive officer Bronwyn Klei and Colton MP and 13-time Olympic gold medallist Matt Cowdrey.

After day one all teams were sorted into divisions and pools to compete in day two of the competition.

It was a very successful day one, as the A grade coach Ashleigh Franklin steered the seniors to second place in their pool to qualify for A grade, while the under 17s and under 15s qualified for division one.

The under 15s were undefeated on day one with all 10 players shining under the coaching of Leah Crettenden. The under 13s came fourth in their pool to qualify for division two.

Day two was as expected, very tough with high skilled netball played all day. The second day brought some trying times with the rain setting in and making the courts slippery.

Nerilie McRostie's under 17 team and the A grade finished second in their pools with a percentage separating second through fourth. The under 15 team also finished second to move through to finals.

The under 13 team coached by Justine Stokes came first in their pool on day two proving they had a very tough pool day one and were narrowly off the division one competition.

Day three of the competition was finals day and there were a lot less clubs and even some associations no longer competing.

It was a great testament to the players and coaches' efforts to see all the teams through to semi-finals, as were many of the other Eyre Peninsula netball associations.

The under 13s made the grand final after having to play in over time in the preliminary final against Yorke Peninsula 22-18.

After the extra court time and a few court changes the players arrived to the grand final court with only two minutes before the start of play.

To the testament of the players they embraced this and thrived off the large crowd that was gathered.

The team played with great vigour and intensity but went down by one goal to Barossa Light and Gawler 18-17 to make them the under 13 division two runners-up in what was an amazing feat as only one player from the team had ever competed in a Country Championships.

The 15s came up against another very competitive Barossa Light and Gawler team that outplayed them on the day and were unable to regain control of the game, after a shaky start coupled with the oppositions high accuracy shooting put them out of the competition 32-16.

The under 17 team won their first game of the day to Mid South East 31-19 to put them into the preliminary final. All players played with such determination but Port Augusta were able to convert opportunities a little better during this game 31-21.

The A grade competition was very strong but Port Lincoln were able to defeat Mid South East 30-21 to set them up against Western Border for the grand final.

Port Lincoln lost to Western Border by 18 goals the previous day but knew they had more up their sleeves. Ash Franklin had the hard choice of player selection for her grand final with too many skilled combinations to pick from her team of 10.

The grand final was a goal-for-goal tussle with it being 11 all at half time. The defensive pressure was immense with interceptions being converted from both teams.

Western Border got an interception early in the last half putting them up by two goals apiece. The goal-for-goal nature of this silky and fast game was enjoyed by all that had gathered to watch the last half play out.

Port Lincoln fought hard but were unable to claw back the gap despite intense work rates from both teams. You would not have known they had already played five full games in the last two days. Western Border were victors 26-23 making Port Lincoln the 2019 A grade runners-up.

It was an amazing effort to make it through to the grand final and a great reward to recognise the quality of Port Lincoln players.

The top 10 players of the senior competition were named at the closing ceremony with Port Lincoln's Karli Sargent and Cassie Norton selected in the team that is invited to play on further.

A new championship senior permit allowed Port Lincoln to have Great Flinders player Cassie Norton swap the maroon for the navy blue on the weekend.

It is a massive recognition of the two players who competed with such skill and sportsmanship to be recognised as leaders of the game.

Congratulations to all players, parents, supporters, officials and organisers of the event, 2019 was a great success for Port Lincoln.

Senior player Morgan McDonald summed up the weekend when she said it was great to watch the talent on display and the talent coming through.

"An amazing display of netball and to see such a calibre of umpires, a great outcome and everyone should be so proud...honoured to play with such a talented bunch," she said.

"Hold your heads high and keep dreaming big everyone, no goal is out of reach."