Newcastle City have spent much of the season “under the radar” in the AFL Hunter Central Coast Women’s competition. After losing twice in their opening three rounds, it looked like the defending champions may be facing an uphill battle this time around.
There may not be many more games where City boast the underdog status anymore, Jon Clark admitted after the squad’s 6.9-45 to 5.4-34 comeback victory against Warners Bay at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve enjoyed the underdog status so far this year because no one has really put us up there with the teams like Maitland, Killarney Vale, or Wyong so far this year so we’ve been a bit ‘hidden’ in our achievements,” Clark said.
“I think the team can’t really rely on coming in under the radar anymore, we were quite happy being on the outer of the discussion, but we’ve won eight in a row now so I think people are beginning to take a bit of notice.”
When the City Novas squad was disbanded and amalgamated into Newcastle’s core squad, Clark knew he was facing a period of gelling with the new-look roster. It may have taken a little longer than he’d expected, but he feels the team has finally clicked.
“We had that slow start to the season because we had the two teams coming down to one, so that’s taken us a bit of time because we had a lot of experience leave and we’re training new girls up, but it looks like it’s all come together now which is important.”
City’s slow start to the season played out on a smaller stage at the No.1 Sportsground on Saturday afternoon as well, as Warners Bay raced out to a 13-point lead in the opening quarter of the meeting. Gabrielle Clarke struck first for the Bulldogs, before Rachel Evans doubled the travelling side’s lead against the champions.
The Blues were shocked after the early deficit. Co-captain Taylor Joyce was the first to spark into action, however, slotting Newcastle’s first to get the ball rolling for the home team. The two teams traded blows in a shoot-out second quarter, and City wrestled away a 30-28 lead going into the sheds at half time.
Molly Simpson’s major had put Newcastle into the lead, and her second was to seal it against the Bulldogs in the fourth. Tracy Baker struck for a second time late to move Warners Bay within nine points, but Simpson’s and Stephanine Miniter’s doubles proved the difference.
“Taylor [Joyce] really stepped it up for us in the final three quarters, and led the way as the skipper on the day so that was great to see. She started it all for us and everyone followed her lead after that,” Clark said of the captain’s performance from Joyce.
“Warners Bay came hard at us, and we had a lot of pressure piled on us. When we got that tough game it was great to see our girls step up and take on the opposition that were up for a great game.”
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City’s lift into third place was helped on by a favourable result for Terrigal Avoca over Wyong Lakes at Hylton Moore Oval on Saturday as well. The Panthers scored a four-goal-to-three win over the Magpies, with the ten-point advantage bumping the away side to fourth.
Gosford also claimed a stronger position in the standings with their 6.9-45 to 3.5-23 win over Muswellbrook on the road, with Lily Mugridge making up 18 of the side’s points tally with a hat-trick at Weeraman Field.
Also on Saturday, Killarney Vale retained their lead in the premiership with a tense 9.10-64 to 3.3-21 victory over fifth-placed Cardiff at Adelaide Street Oval. Ange Jones slotted four for the Bombers, while Kelsey Action claimed a double.
Finally, Maitland kept pace with the Bombers at the top with a 10.16-76 to nil win over Port Stephens, while Lake Macquarie drew level with Warners Bay and Singleton on a 5-6 record with a 79-1 win over The Entrance Bataeu Bay.
Wallsend-West Newcastle, Nelson Bay, and Singleton had the Round 12 byes.
STANDINGS: Killarney Vale, Maitland (90%), Newcastle City (81%), Wyong Lakes, Cardiff, Terrigal Avoca (72%), Warners Bay, Singleton, Lake Macquarie (45%), Wallsend-West Newcastle (33%), Nelson Bay (30%), Port Stephens (27%), Gosford (18%), The Entrance Bateau Bay (9%), Muswellbrook (0%).