Magpies utility Tahnysha Salanoa has played in both attack and defence for Wallan A Grade this season.

By Colin MacGillivray

WITH the Riddell District Football Netball League season still in a COVID lockdown-induced hiatus, the league’s top A Grade netball sides have used the time off to refocus on the finals race.

Wallan is still in finals contention after a hot start to the year, but the Magpies have recorded three losses from their past four games.

Coach Chris Cameron said his team was using the break to recalibrate and push for a top-four finish.

“We had a really good first six or seven rounds until we came up against Diggers Rest. Our game against Diggers was really good and there were only three goals in it,” he said.

“When we came up against Riddell the following weekend, we had a real disconnection with our attack.

“We played Woodend-Hesket and it was near-freezing conditions out there, which I think was a bit of a shock to the system after the snap lockdown.

“We’ve done quite a bit of work over the past couple of weeks figuring out what’s been happening and where the breakdown has been on court, and what we need to do.”

Cameron said the loss of defender Georgia Bowkett with a season-ending injury against Riddell had further hampered the Magpies.

“I think losing Georgia was massive for us because she’s such a strong defender and a [Victorian Netball League] championship player,” he said.

“We definitely had to think about what to do. We’ve still got [Isabella Hines], we’ve got Erin [Jay] who stepped up in the last game against Lancefield, and we’ve also brought in a new player [Jorgia Leonard], who has in the past played for Diggers Rest.”

The Magpies have also experimented with goal attack Tahnysha Salanoa in a defensive role, with encouraging results.

“Because she’s such a strong player, I was blown away with what she was able to do with Erin,” Cameron said.

“Knowing some of those games we’ve got coming up against the Macedons and the Riddells, I think having that option with ‘T’ down there is going to change how our defensive backline works.

“I’m interested to see how that combination and that defensive unit grows for the remainder of the season. I know they can do some definite damage.”

Cameron said despite sitting in fifth place, one win adrift of Woodend-Hesket, his side believed it could contend for a flag at season’s end.

But he said getting there would be difficult.

“Finals is not out of the picture for us, and we know we can beat every team. It’s just a matter of week by week, game by game, assessing what we need to do,” he said.

“The girls are now all on the same page and they know what they want to do for the rest of the season.

“It’s not about getting to the finals, you’ve got to do the work each week to figure out what’s going to happen next.

“That top four or five currently is going to be tight between all of us, so it’s going to be difficult for everybody.

“Riddell are on top at the moment so they have a real target on their back of being contenders, but they also know that the other top four teams can definitely take it to them. It means finals is anyone’s game, and it’s just a matter of getting there.”