It was heartbreak all over again for City West Falcons in the Victorian Netball League championship division grand final.
For the second year running, the Falcons went into the season decider as hot favourites only to stumble on the big stage.
The Falcons held a second-half lead but never truly had control of the game. Boroondara Express finished stronger to win 50-44 in an upset at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Saturday night.
It was a bittersweet night for Falcons coach Marg Lind, who looked on as the 19-and-under and division 1 teams saluted for premierships, only for the main event to go so wrong.
“It’s so disappointing because we got the other two,” Lind told Star Weekly. “We lost all three last year. “We got the first two tonight and it was looking pretty good for the last, but we failed in the last quarter.”
The Falcons frittered away chances in the home stretch. With scores deadlocked 36-apiece at three-quarter time, the Falcons had the early momentum in the final term, only to squander chances in the attacking circle.
“We missed the first three shots of the last quarter and then it was over,” Lind said.
Kath Knott landed 28 from 33, while Steph Tyrell got 16 from 24, but they were overshadowed by Express goaler Emma Ryde, who hit 40 from 46.
Lind didn’t lay blame at the feet of her attackers, saying the rot set in further up the court.
The Falcons were never allowed to click into their trademark free-flowing netball, being frustrated by the close checking of the Express defenders and the regularity of whistle-blowing by the umpires.
“It was a game that was stopping all the time,” Lind said. “You couldn’t get a whole lot of flow.
“When we had flow and were allowed to play and use pace, we looked really good. It just didn’t happen often enough.”
She said her team had no answers to the slow tempo played by the Express.
“I think what Boroondara did was just be really patient until the right shooter was free.
“They didn’t do anything sensational other than be methodical in passing the ball around,” Lind said.
The turning point came early in the second half when the Falcons took a four-goal lead.
Instead of putting the foot on the accelerator, Falcons came up with some uncharacteristic errors and the Express pounced.
“The silly brain fades earlier, when we’re four or five up, gave them a sniff,” Lind lamented.