CITY West Falcons have regained power in the Victorian Netball League championship division.
The Marg Lind-coached super team made it three titles in four years since the competition’s inauguration in 2009.
The Falcons were breathing a sigh of relief after edging out never-give-in neighbours VU-Western Lightning 42-37 in the all-western suburbs grand final at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Saturday night.
Click on the image below for our huge gallery of the grand final.
In a storyline reminiscent of the ‘09 triumph over Boroondara Genesis, the Falcons went into the fourth quarter with scores dead-locked, before swooping on the spoils with a scintillating finish.
Lind told the Weekly that her coaching staff picked the brains of the seasoned players at the end-of-third-period huddle, giving them a say in the shape and direction of the team heading into the crucial final 15 minutes.
‘‘We’ve got a bit of experience and we tapped into it,’’ she said.
‘‘Interacting with players and empowering them to give us an idea into how they feel out there was important.’’
The general consensus was the Falcons were too conscious of Kathleen Knott in the first three quarters.
The tall, athletic and hard working goal shooter was a near unstoppable force with a bucket-full of goals in the first half, but there was a feeling in the camp that the attacking structure had become one-dimensional.
The Falcons had a decision to make about out-of-sorts goal attack Maggie Lind, who had little impact on the first 45 minutes and was one of the main reasons the Falcons attacked through Knott.
They had to either persist with the young rising star and hope she would re-capture the form that made her tandem with Knott one of the most feared throughout the season, or give someone else a go.
The decision was made to keep Lind in the game, a non-move that would have a massive bearing on the outcome with the youngster produced a stunning last quarter.
‘‘I thought [Lightning goal defence] Brooke Thompson really did her over in the first three quarters and I was borderline thinking ‘should I take her off?’’’ Marg Lind said.
‘‘They’d been trying to isolate Kath and focus on Kath too much and getting Maggie on the shot opened up the game.
‘‘I think she shot five-from five straight up and took some pressure off Kath.’’
The Falcons started the game like they ended it, taking a 13-9 lead into the first break.
Knott, who had never won a top tier VNL premiership, seemed intent on adding one to her CV.
The goal shooter missed the first goal of the game before her long arm span, tireless work rate and sharpshooting began to get on the nerves of Lightning goal keeper Fiona Themann.
The longer the game went on, however, the weaker the Falcons authority became.
Their lead was cut to just two at half-time and parity was restored after three.
Suddenly, it was Lightning’s attacking combination of Melissa McCauley and Megan Fitzpatrick that appeared the most threatening.
But, the game undoubtedly hinged on the Thompson-Lind duel.
Thompson — a director of traffic with ball in hand and tower of strength in defence — was pivotal in getting the Lightning back on level terms in quarters two and three.
But Lind’s sudden burst of irresistible netball in the fourth proved the turning point in the game, according to Lightning coach Matt Hills.
‘‘I give credit to Maggie Lind, who played goal attack and was beaten for three quarters by Brooke Thompson, but her last quarter was key to their performance,’’ he said.
‘‘Opportunity, that situation, she shot probably more goals in that last situation than she did in the two quarters before that.’’
The Lightning enjoyed a fairytale year — if not the storybook ending.
They came from second-last with three-and-a-half wins a year ago to face off in the big one with a club in the midst of a dynasty.
‘‘We’re two years into a five-year plan,’’ Hills said.
‘‘This grand final was heart-breaking to lose but in the bigger picture in was a bonus.’’
Lind says a new training regime, an injection of youth and the arrival of prolific goal shooter Knott were factors the Falcons return to the top after a season of rebuilding.
‘‘This is a good one because it shows that we’ve made the transition with the younger players,’’ she said.
‘‘We’ve been able to throw them in, in the heat and in the end they’ve come through.’’
Falcons co-captain Christie Barnes was the grand final MVP for the second time in three seasons.
In between, Barnes was getting her netball career back on track after a serious knee injury needed a full reconstruction.
‘‘I was completely out last year,’’ she said.
‘‘It killed me sitting on the sidelines.
‘‘I was just so rapt to be back out there.
‘‘It took me a while to get going but our whole team just built and tonight was a fairytale.’’
— With Teo Pellizzeri