Souths have retained control of second place in the Greater Open Championship after the Lions’ barebones gameday squad, which included two promoted Pride players, battled to a 49-all draw against BNC Whanau on Saturday afternoon.
The Lions were without centre commander Narelle Eathers after the Souths leader suffered an ACL injury in Newcastle’s state titles campaign last weekend. The team was also missing key defenders Tianna Cummings, and Nakita Jackson.
Trude Yen responded by moving Aneeka Marcozzi into the middle role, while Abbey Leyshon and Lucy Tonkin stepped up from Souths’ A Grade roster. The “glitch in the system” in terms of player availability will not last, however, and the Souths coach said she was “so proud” of the seven that took to the court in Round 8.
“We only had five of our usual squad because of injuries, managing playing time, and ANL commitments, so we brought Abbey and Lucy up from Pride, and they’re just great players,” Yen said of the reconfigured Lions squad on Saturday afternoon.
“BNC had a lot of fresh legs, and we just had our bare seven, so we had a real battle on our hands, and I’m so proud of the girls for getting through what we knew was going to be a tough one, and finding that difference to get a result. The one thing we didn’t want was to get a loss despite the short squad, and they achieved that.”
Whanau’s longer gameday squad-list helped them grab a lead in the third quarter. After Souths finished the first half in the ascendancy with a 25-21 lead, BNC hit back to claim a one-goal lead heading into the final period. A 15-14 last quarter effort from Souths locked the scores, and saw the points shared in the eighth round.
Now Souths are facing a new horizon off the back of the locked result. After more than seven years with Eathers guiding the ladies in red, Souths’ court-commander has been ruled out for the next 12 months with her ACL injury. It’s a staggering blow for Yen’s team, but not one that she believes will derail them completely.
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“We’ve had Narelle in the Souths setup since Lions was first founded, she’s been our driving force and momentum and we’ve just lost that to this injury,” Yen told the Chronicle. “Despite that, the girls have shown there’s so many stars ready to step up.
“There’ll be a reconfiguring period for the team, we’re working on different strategies to bring our strengths to the fore in these new lineups. I think we just needed this one “hiccup week” to balance ourselves, because we’ll have so many back next week and we can continue forward from there towards the grand final again.”
Souths stayed in their second-place position with 24 points after undefeated league leaders Forsythes bowled over West Leagues Balance 1 for the second time this season.
Forsythes, who have won all seven of their fixtures so far in 2019, fell behind by two goals in the first quarter, before surging back to take a 25-21 lead at the half time break.
The defending champions responded in kind, inching back into the lead in the third quarter of the seesawing clash.
First-placed Forsythes had the last say, however, as Sabina Gomboso and Bronte Magin combined to slot 14 goals, while the ladies in blue restricted Wests to just 12 in the influential final quarter. The loss leaves West 1 to third place, and 23 points.
Nova Thunder kept in touch with the top three as they bowled over Marvyille 35-28. The side opened level with five goals each, before Nova surged ahead to the seven-goal win.
Finally, Junction moved into fifth with a 59-44 win over West Leagues Balance 2. The promoted team kept an unchanged seven-player lineup through the 15-goal victory.
TABLE: Forsythes (27), Souths (24), West 1 (23), Nova (21), Junction (19), BNC (18), Maryville (15), West 2 (13).