By Lance Jenkinson
City West Falcons have flunked the finals test in the Victorian Netball League championship division.
The Falcons were the finals favourite after a wonderful 17-1 regular season, but it all turned pear-shaped once August arrived.
Falcons coach Marg Lind was deflated for her team after the straight sets finals exit was confirmed in a heavy 65-46 preliminary final loss to Casey Demons at the State Netball and Hockey Centre on Wednesday night.
“I know the girls are disappointed,” Lind said.
“We thought we were one of the standout teams for the year and we had such a good year.
“We just had a horrible day.”
After starting the season with 15 straight wins, the tide took a turn for the worse for City West Falcons when the world championships took place.
The Falcons had three players, Tharjini Sivalingam, Soli Ropati and Tee Salanoa, involved and it caused disruption to the back end of their season.
“It’s great that we had three players at world championships and it’s amazing for our club, but it was also tough because they were unable to come back into the team and retain the form they left with and we couldn’t get the momentum back as a group,” Lind said.
“Having Soli, Tee and Jini out and having to re-jig the group and then having to re-jig them again before finals, it was just too disruptive.
“We were unable to repeat the cohesiveness that had been so good all year.”
With City West’s team cohesion already out of whack, illness and injury in the finals did not help their cause.
In the double overtime semi-final defeat to Geelong Cougars, youngster Anger Agek succumbed to illness and star mid-courter Molly Jovic suffered a foot injury.
Jovic tried to play through her injury in the loss to Casey, but pulled out of the game early because her foot was in too much pain.
Jovic’s replacement Ropati was under the weather too having suffered with gastro, so her impact was severely limited.
No matter what Lind and the coaches did to move players to plug the gaps against Casey, they just never seemed to work and only opened up more problems.
It ended up turning into a rout with Casey doing as it pleased to a broken Falcons in the second half.
“We re-jigged the line-up to try to get a bit of spark, but no matter what we did, we went a couple of goals backwards each time we made subs,” Lind said.
“That amounted to a big scoreline in the end.”
Lind concedes that Jovic should not have played, but she was full of admiration for her playmaking centre.
“She gave us as much as she could’ve given with where she was at and she’s been great all year.”
The grand final will be contested between Geelong Cougars and Casey Demons on Wednesday night. City West Falcons will feature in the under 19s grand final, against Peninsula Waves.