University of Newcastle have enjoyed an undefeated 8–0 run in their first top-flight Newcastle Netball campaign, finishing three points clear of Souths in the Championship after perennial contenders Forsythes joined the club in the 2020 preseason.
University couldn’t have asked for a better run to welcome in their new club sponsors in 2020; the rebranded championship outfit downed Kotara by 22 goals to clinch their perfect run in their first season in maroon and white.
It was the second time in as many weeks UON had stormed through the Tigers. The championship leaders had clocked up a 57–20 win over Kotara in Round 8, before repeat fixtures on the last weekend saw University up against the newcomers all over again.
Perhaps the only disappointment is that this Uni team didn’t get a crack at finals.
“This is the best version of my team yet,” Traci Baber told the Women’s Chronicle after the final round, “so it’s a shame that we don’t get to show what we can do in finals.”
University would have shaped up against West Leagues in the semi-finals. They accounted for the defending champs 60–35 the last time the two squads played in Round 3, and were tipped to play similarly in the playoffs.
“There is a bit of a disappointment that we don’t get to go up against all the other best teams from this season, but it is what it is,” Baber continued.
“We did know from round one that there would be no finals, so we’re not shocked. It’s really amazing… the best it can be in these circumstances. Do we want to play for the shield? Of course, but you’ve got to do the best with what you’ve got.”
“In a normal year, every one of the University teams would be making semifinals, so that’s a really good first year for us in the new club,” Baber said.
“They couldn’t be disappointed with this year could they! We’ve had feedback from within the University that they’re very happy and impressed with our first year. It’s something we will now look to build on, and hopefully go better again in 2021.
“This is the best netball these girls have ever played. Going into next year, with everyone coming back, we know we’ve had a year to get sorted. Next year, I think I speak for all the girls when I say we want one thing: the trophy.”
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“As far as we’re concerned, we’re the championship team in the Greater Bank series, and sometimes you don’t need the shield to know that,” the Uni coach continued.
“Obviously we’d love our names on it now though, that’s good too!”
Newcastle Netball now heads into its 2020/21 offseason, ahead of a potential return to the Greater Bank Series normal next year. The club championship will also remain, and Baber said the whole club wants to aim for that on top of their top-grade ambitions.
“I think the club championship is a brilliant idea that we definitely want to see stick around, it’s something that makes the whole season special,” she said.
“Of course we want to win it. Souths had a good year and congratulations to them, but we were in our first year and we pushed them right to the end. Next year I think we can keep going on that path, and take out as many trophies as we can.”
University of Newcastle’s year, by the numbers: Championship, first with an 8–0 record; Opens, fourth with a 4–4 record; 23s, third with a 4–4 record.