Gisborne’s netball glory

Gisborne's A-grade Premiers celebrate victory.

An almost unbelievable fightback late in the last quarter gave Gisborne the A-grade netball premiership against Bendigo League powerhouse Sandhurst.

The 40-39 victory on Saturday highlighted one of the greatest grand final days in the Gisborne club’s proud history.

In fact the Bulldogs came away from the Queen Elizabeth Oval with three premierships to celebrate.

Firstly the 17&Under netballers came from behind and toppled Sandhurst 50-49 via a Bella Connors goal with 10 seconds remaining on the clock.

Then Gisborne Under 18s, coached by Rob Kerr, won the football premiership by four points against Golden Square, defending their 2022 title.

As the day progressed the Gisborne B-grade and A-Reserve netball sides had their colours lowered by Sandhurst, setting the stage for what turned out to be one of the finest A-grade grand finals ever played in the Bendigo League.

From Gisborne FNC club president John Wood down, it was an unforgettable day for all associated with or supporting the Bulldogs.

Gisborne head coach Tarryn Rymer said the A-grade players had worked very hard and knew only their absolute best would be necessary to try and combat a Sandhurst combination that had won the past four premierships, and had been undefeated all season.

Tiana Newman was the only player on the court who had been in Gisborne’s lone A-grade premiership side.

The margin in the semi-final was six goals in Sandhurst’s favour, sufficient to instil confidence in many of Gisborne’s loyal supporters who made the trip north on Saturday.

The highly credentialed co-captain Claudia Mawson scored the first goal, and with unflappable 18-year-old goal shooter Torie Skrijel formed a formidable combination.

At the other end of the court Gisborne goalkeeper Zoe Davies applied plenty of pressure prior to her departure to play professional netball in the United Kingdom.

At quarter-time it was 11-11, and the Bulldogs led by two goals at half-time.

Could the underdogs cause an upset? Spectator interest and cheering increased and Sandhurst seemingly found top form for a period.

The Dragons hit the front, led at the last change and edged ahead to lead by four goals early in the last quarter.

Rymer knew her side would fight to the death, and a couple of turnovers went in Gisborne’s favour, with the deficit reduced as the clock ticked down.

Remarkably, Gisborne scored the last five goals, then retained the ball for nearly 30 seconds until the siren sounded, triggering mass jubilation among players and supporters.

The premiership medal presentations were applauded, and coach Rymer and co-captains Mawson – best on court – and Kirby Elliot accepted the premiership cup amid scenes of wild jubilation.

Rymer paid tribute to Sandhurst’s remarkable record, and praised the Gisborne netballers across the board for their tremendous efforts this season.

The Gisborne premiership side comprised Claudia Mawson, Torie Skrijel, Tiara Newman, Olivia Rodda, Kiralee Collings, Eloise Rodda, Kirby Elliot, Charlee Kemp, Zoe Davies, Rylee Connell, Tazma Morris and Emerson Lakey.

Gisborne Under 17s netball premiers.
Gisborne’s A-reserve netballers.
Gisborne’s B-grade netballers.