Central Coast claim the 2018 premiership after their five-goal win over ERNA. Source: Clusterpix Photography

Central Coast have completed their stellar year in the NSW Premier League, taking control early to score a 60-55 victory over ERNA to confirm premiership glory.

Among the star players representing the Heart squad were four stand-out Hunter netballers – Maddie Taylor, Sophie Buckley, Natalia Bridges and Tarsha Hawley – all of whom were key to the club’s 2018 triumph.

It was an early assault from Heart that eventually confirmed their win, with the opening quarter falling their way 18-11.

From there, the Hawks were able to stabilise, claiming two 15-14 quarter wins in a row, but the initial seven-goal lead proved difficult for ERNA to brush aside.

Heart closed out the title fight in style, with a 14-14 split in the final quarter seeing them keep their five-goal lead, and giving them the advantage at the final whistle.

The victory puts Central Coast in the history books as just the third ever champions in the new state premier league, after Sutherland won in 2016 and Manly Warringah came out on top last year.

For coach Amber Cross, it’s a culmination of an “amazing” season overall for the club, especially considering the team set out to “make the semi-finals” at the beginning of their campaign.

“It’s just amazing, it’s proof that all these girls are massive talents in the premier league, and hopefully the win puts them on the map now,” she said. “There’s so many amazing players in our squad, and it was a massive group effort to achieve what we’ve done.”

“We didn’t really expect it at the start of the year, but once we started getting into touching distance we knew we could do it, and we just wanted to show that, while we were the underdogs, we could achieve as highly as possible.

“When Central Coast entered the league three years ago we set out a five-year plan to achieve the title, and to close that out in just three is really quite special.”

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Cross admitted there were a few dicey moments towards the end of the big dance, as Eastwood Ryde clawed their way to within a handful of goals, but Heart’s dominant first quarter was the key to victory in the end.

“We had a really strong start, we’ve seen Eastwood have had really, really good closing quarters and that’s where they’ve caught a lot of teams, so we knew we had to be ready for that and the girls prepared well,” Cross said.

“That said, it wasn’t until the last minute or so when we stretched the lead back out that I knew we were going to win, Eastwood came so close to levelling the score after all our early work.”

Now Cross and the Central Coast are champions, with a short off-season appearing on the horizon for them. Cross confirmed most of the back-room staff would be retained by the organisation, where possible, and that trials for the playing roster would begin in October.

“It’s a short off-season, but I think the girls are looking forward to the break,” she said. “The backroom staff don’t get too much of a rest, but we’re back with the players in October, ready to do it all over again in 2019.”

Quarter-by-Quarter Scores

  • HEART – Q1: 18 – Q2: 32 (14) – Q3: 46 (14) – Q4: 60 (14)
  • HAWKS – Q1: 11 – Q2: 26 (15) – Q3: 41 (15) – Q4: 55 (14)

Starting Teams

HEART: Maddie Taylor (GS), Amorette Wild (GA), WA Kristen Kessler (WA), Sophie Buckley (C), Alicia Walsh (WD), Natalia Bridges (GD), Lauren Moore (GK).

HAWKS: Alison Miller (GS), Kiera Austin (GA), Georgia Marshall (WA), Taylah Davies (C), Sophie Halpin (WD), Nicole Styles (GD), Jessica Grant (GK).