THE first draw of the year in the Horsham District Football Netball League A Grade competition proved to be vital for Noradjuha-Quantong.
After trailing for most of Saturday against Kalkee, the Bombers dug deep to draw level in the final quarter and hung on to salvage a draw.
It was tough going early.
The Kees jumped out to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, with Hayley Thomas scoring eight goals.
Noradjuha-Quantong was forced to fight its way back into the match, which it did thanks to Georgia Francis and goalies Sammi Avery and Olivia McDonald.
They narrowed the gap to four goals at the main break and two at three-quarter-time, setting up a tense, back-and-forth final quarter.
The Bombers tied the scores with less than two minutes remaining, and neither side was able to break the deadlock.
Kalkee coach Rachel Thomson said the players did not know how to react at the final whistle.
“It was a bit of a nothing feeling, neither a win nor a loss,” she said.
“Clair McDonald and Stevie Bibby were excellent, but we just couldn’t finish off.
“Even though we didn’t win, we’re pleased that we can mix it with another finals contender.
“Harrow-Balmoral is the clear favourite at this stage, but after them all the teams in the top five are very even.”
While four points would have been handy for Noradjuha-Quantong, two will be nearly as good.
The result moved the Bombers two points clear of Edenhope-Apsley in the race for fifth place on the ladder.
It means Edenhope-Apsley must defeat unbeaten Harrow-Balmoral and hope the Bombers lose to Rupanyup in the final round – both unlikely – to make the finals.
Noradjuha-Quantong coach Carmel Officer said it was a great match for her side in the lead-up to the finals.
“I’m thrilled with the way the girls played, and especially the way our young goalies stood up to the pressure of the Kalkee defenders,” she said.
“It was a great spectacle and it was very clean and well-contested.
“Now we look likely to make the finals, but we’ll keep taking each week as it comes and see what happens.”
Edenhope-Apsley’s 18-goal loss to Laharum put its finals chances on life support.
Laharum defenders Kayla Hawker and Ema Iredell helped restrict Saints goalie Rachel Whitehead to just 13 goals for the match.
At the other end, Caitlin Story finished with 36 goals of her own.
It sets up an intriguing contest between Laharum and Natimuk United at the weekend.
If Laharum loses and Kalkee beats Rupanyup, the Mountain Maids will drop out of the top three, but if they win they are guaranteed a double chance in the finals.
Rupanyup outclassed Taylors Lake to earn its fourth win of the season.
Goal keeper Kayla Woods had another strong game for the Panthers, and Kiewa Lovett was again the Lakers’ best player.
Kirby Knight’s 57 goals helped Natimuk United to a big win over Pimpinio, all but sealing a second place finish for the Ewes.
Ash Brookes was the Tigers’ best.
Defensive pair Kate Houlihan and Ebonie Salter dominated in Harrow-Balmoral’s comfortable win over Swifts.
Emily Patterson was named the Baggies’ best player.