Hunter United are fired up to prove a point by dominating Eastwood-Ryde in Thursday night’s Metro League division-one grand final.
Netball NSW rejected Hunter’s bid to join the elite Premier League competition last month on the grounds the region did not have enough playing talent.
Hunter have been in a different class to their Metro League rivals this season and routed Baulkham Hills 65-34 in their semi-final two weeks ago. Eastwood-Ryde beat Baulkham Hills by 11 points in last week’s preliminary final.
Hunter coach Traci Baber said the Premier League disappointment had motivated her players in their second year of Metro League.
“Since it’s been known we’re not going, we haven’t spoken about it. We’ve just wanted to concentrate on this year,” she said. “But it has made them more determined to win tomorrow night, and not just win.”
Hunter have beaten Eastwood-Ryde this season by nine and 15 points, but Baber said their defence matched up with her star shooter, Sabina Gomboso, better than many other teams.
“Overall, they’ve probably been our closest challenger. We’ve always put them up the top of the list as one of the stronger teams,” she said.
“They have a very experienced goal attack. And their goalkeeper is one of the taller ones in the competition Sabina has to play against, and she’s tough, too.
“Their goal attack-wing attack combination is something we’ve really worked on at training to shut that down.”
Baber was “very confident” her side would deal with the pressure of the grand final after beating Illawarra by 11 points in last year’s division-two decider.
Hunter conceded the first four points in the semi-final against Baulkham Hills but dominated from then on.
“Every team throws everything at us for 15 minutes, and we’ve explained that to them,” Baber said.
“The better teams will run with us for the first quarter, but they’ve got to run with us for 60. That’s where we find our strength is now. We can get stronger and stronger and stronger.
“They’re definitely a different team than what they were at the grand final last year.
“The major semi was a perfect example. It’s probably the worst start we’ve had in two years, but they can pull of that back now, get their confidence back quickly and continue on with the job.”
- HUNTER UNITED
- Circle defenders: Kimberly Goodearl, Mikenzie McMcManus.
- Centre court: Sophie Buckley, Ellie McVey, Laura Nolan, Karlie Robards, Kim Williams.
- Shooting circle: Sabina Gomboso, Abbie Gray, Emma Prince.