THUMPING wins for top two sides Horsham and Ararat against fellow top five contenders have left this year’s Wimmera Netball Association A Grade season looking like a two-horse race.
The Demons were far too strong for the fifth-placed Horsham Saints on Sunday, winning by 32 goals, while the Rats also enjoyed a massive win by 43 goals over sixth-placed Stawell in the final two round nine matches.
An impeccable nine-win run to open the season sees the Demons – who have won the past two premierships – sitting a game clear of the Rats at the top of the table.
However, the Rats’ nearest rival is Warrack Eagles, who sit a further two wins in arrears.
Ararat hit the front early and never looked back in its 63-20 win against Stawell at Alexandra Oval.
The Rats opened up a 17-6 advantage at the first change and increased their lead in every quarter.
Rats coach Rebecca Skrabl said she was pleased with result.
“I was happy with the scoreline – it was a real four-quarter performance from the girls,” she said.
“We got the lead early and kept building on that.”
Skrabl, who plays in defence, was named among the Rats’ best players alongside goalie Megan Shea, who converted 49 goals.
Skrabl said her side had a number of strong contributors at both ends of the court.
“Megan was really solid in attack – she contributed a lot in the goal ring – and Olivia West set up a lot of play for the goalies,” she said.
The Rats’ defence also impressed, holding the Warriors to no more than seven goals in any quarter.
“We’ve been working on setting up our defence this year and Tiffany Boatman is coming along really well as a keeper,” Skrabl said.
For Stawell, Liza Cook scored 14 or her side’s goals, while Tahleah Haddow and Kearnie Warren put in strong performances.
Warriors coach Kelly Cosson said it was a good experience for her developing side despite the final margin.
“We’re a really young team and Ararat is very experienced,” she said.
“I thought the girls did really well, they put in a good effort – I don’t think the score really represented the game.”
Injuries have hurt the Warriors in recent weeks, opening the door for 17 and under players Warren – who played goal shooter and wing attack – and keeper Meg Walker.
“We’ve got a couple of long-term injuries, so we had to bring up two under-17s who had already played full matches,” Cosson said.
“Having said that, the girls did a fantastic job.”
Cosson said the focus was now on gelling together as a team.
“We are young and we need to get some match practise together as a team and see if we can settle the team down,” she said.
“The injuries have changed that dynamic and we really haven’t had the chance to settle yet.”
Horsham goalies Stephanie Thomson and Georgia Duncan ran riot at Coughlin Park in a 71-39 win over Horsham Saints.
Thomson, 36 goals, and Duncan, 35 goals, were named the Demons’ best players.
Experienced shooter Sharon Fedke converted 25 opportunities to be among the Saints’ best alongside defender Erin Mellington.
The Saints’ run will not get any easier with a visit to Ararat on Saturday.
Stawell could jump into the top five with a win against Nhill – which is still targeting its first triumph of the season – while Horsham will host Minyip-Murtoa.
Warrack Eagles will visit Dimboola to play for third spot on the ladder.