Rovers shed bridesmaid tag

By Alex Mitchell

The Deniliquin Rovers shocked the netball world and rid themselves of the dreaded ‘‘bridesmaid’’ tag after knocking off Tocumwal in Saturday’s Picola and District league A-grade grand final.

The previous three seasons saw the Bloods deliver heartbreak to the Roos in the decider, but they flipped the script with one almighty turnaround to win the first A-grade title in the club’s 42-year history.

Roos coach Grant Matthews said it was an emotionally-packed game and a night of celebration for the club.

‘‘There’s so much emotion there from people who have really done the hard yards. Whether it’s past or present players, even people who are deceased, it just makes it so emotional,’’ he said.

‘‘The amount of people back in the clubrooms, a lot has gone into the foundation and basis of this club. The Rovers have gone though some hard times. Finally there’s that belief, and a bit of reward.

‘‘It’s a win for the girls on court, but the big thing to reinforce is it’s not just about them, but about 42 years of history.

‘‘It’s reward for all the hard work, for all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this club.’’

At three-quarter time, Tocumwal had well and truly laid the challenge at the feet of the Rovers, leading by three goals with 15 minutes for Deniliquin to prevent a fourth straight Bloods’ flag.

Remarkably, everything just clicked into place for a Roos side that found its best form at the right time of the season — the last quarter.

It allowed the free-flowing, high-scoring Tocumwal side just two goals for the last quarter, swinging the deficit to win by six goals, 33-27.

‘‘We spoke at three-quarter time about what we wanted to achieve, but even the first two or three minutes of the last quarter Tocumwal still took charge,’’ Matthews said.

‘‘Then just the opportunities and belief were there within the playing group. It’s also just about learning how to win. That belief crept in and it was unbelievable.

‘‘The credit goes to the players on the court — they stuck to their structures that we’ve put in place all year.

‘‘Tocumwal hasn’t really been challenged in a situation like that. For us to grind it out and stick to it, it forced them into decision-making areas they weren’t accustomed to.’’

Roos captain Carissa Thommers shot the lights out all day and did the bulk of the scoring as the side charged home, while defenders Chrissy Hurst and Emma Lewis did a lockdown job all day.

For Tocumwal, it meant its five consecutive trips to the grand final have still netted three flags, with Saturday’s defeat just its third of the season.

Coach Millie Ferguson was awarded best-on-court for a gallant performance in the midcourt and Matthews paid tribute to the Bloods’ brilliance.

‘‘You’ve got to give respect to Tocumwal, they’re the side that has been such a challenge to get over in recent years,’’ he said.

‘‘It was goal-for-goal early. Some opportunities we didn’t capitalise on in the first half.

‘‘The third quarter, the scoreline will probably show you they controlled the game a bit. Just their full-court pressure and ability to turn the ball over allowed that.’’