The MLeague Mixed 1 Grand Final for 2023 was bringing together two teams who last faced off in the ultimate match back in 2021 – The Western Wolves Wolfpack and Southern Valkyries.
With the Wolves looking to break away from their bridesmaid tag after 2 years of picking up silver and the Southern Valkyries were getting back to the ultimate match after missing out on finals altogether last year, both teams came out of the blocks with purpose but it was the Wolves who grabbed a 4 goal lead at the first break.
Second quarter restart and Valkyries were showing their versatility and patience to work their way around a relentless Wolves defensive end, however struggled to convert on their own centre passes with the Wolves making the most of their gains.
Changing thing up in the shooting circle, the Valkyries injected NSW Junior, Noah Stephenson in as GA to give the Wolves a mobile circle to contend with. Giving the Southern team a new dimension in attack, they showed signs of control as they began to close the goal margin.
Finding their inner warrior in the final quarter, the Valkyries pulled together for their best quarter of the match to an almost level score line for the 15min period.
Given the history between these two teams in GF battles it was set to be a great match to finish off the season but it was the Western Wolves who showed their strength across the court in the end that secured them the win for 2023.
Western Wolves 50 – 29 Southern Valkyries
Season MVP – Joe Miller (Syd Uni Varsity Griffins)
A club team vs club team match up, the Southern NC were sending two teams in to the Mixed 2 Grand Final.
In a season that saw the Knights and the Gnomes tussle for the top ranking on the ladder throughout the season, it was fitting that these two teams would come up against each other in a match that turned out to be worthy of a grand final.
The Gnomes settled early to take the lead from the first whistle and comfortably kept the Knights at bay with a 3 goal margin at the first break. Taking the second quarter 11 – 10, the Knights clawed back a goal and looked set to carry a bit of momentum into third however, the Gnomes looked hungry for the win and pulled away with a 7 goal margin over the Knights early on in the third. It was at this point it was looking likely that the Knights may have fallen on their own sword.
Making swift changes mid quarter, the Knights got their game back on track to even up the quarter score line thanks to some brilliance from their GK and Season MVP, Reuben Hansen, bring them back to just a 2 goal deficit.
Loving the chase, the Knights continued with their momentum of the 3rd quarter, heaping the pressure onto the Gnomes right across the court. Not giving up easily, the Gnomes took them goal for goal right to the dying minutes of the game where a rare mistake from the Gnomes saw the Knights capitalise on their mistake to shorten the goal margin to one goal.
3 minutes left on the clock, the Knights grabbed a goal equaliser, the first time they had held the lead the entire match. With the crowd on their feet, it was going to come down to who could maintain their control under the scoreboard pressure. Goal for goal in the dying minutes and the Knights jagging a turnover to give them a much needed 1 goal lead with the next centre pass going their way.
2 goals up within a minute and it looked like the Knights could plan their winning photo moment when another turn over won from strong defensive pressure got them safely in front by 3 to secure them the 2023 MLeague Mixed 2 Title.
Southern Knights 40 – 37 Southern Gnomes
Season MVP – Reuben Hansen (Southern Knights)
Following on from 2 upsets in the Semi Finals, minor round 4th placed Sydney Uni Pumas and 3rd placed Southern Spartans managed to bump off their 1st and 2nd placed rivals to secure their own spot in the Mixed 3 Grand Final.
The SUNC Pumas got out to a flying start from the opening whistle to grab a 4 goal lead heading into the first break and that momentum didn’t stop there! Surging ahead in the second, the Pumas went into overdrive to notch up 12 goals and put them in a comfortable lead at half time.
But it was in the 3rd that the Sydney Uni team did their damage. Stifling any hopes of a comeback, the Pumas smashed the score line out to a 24 goal lead to all but secure the winners medals for 2023.
Making wholesale changes across the court, the Spartans were able to redeem themselves in the final quarter to win that 15 minutes, 11 – 6 over the Pumas. While a massive effort from the Southern team, it wasn’t enough to take back what the Pumas had amassed over the full 60 minutes.
Sydney Uni NC Pumas 43 – 24 Southern Spartans
Season MVP – Alice Eldershaw (Inferno Red)
Proving the 2 v 3 Semi Final can really be anyone’s game, the Sydney Uni NC Cougars ripped away the grand final hopes of the Randwick NA men’s side to secure their place in the big dance opposite the very in form Inner West side.
From the first centre pass Inner West proved why they’ve been the dominant force across the 10 week competition. With both teams running a bare 7, the IW side started things off with a slightly different line up but it paid off for them taking a 6 goal lead on the whistle of the first break.
Continuing on that trend in the second, the team added another 11 goals to the score board but the Cougars weren’t giving up just yet, adding 7 goals to their own tally to claw back some of the score line deficit.
There weren’t a lot of changes that could be made, but Coach Jack Thomas looked to change up the middies while Inner West threw a switch of the end to get their tried and tested defensive line up back in play. The sides travelled along both having their best quarter in the match with IW adding 13 goals to the Cougars 9.
Throwing everything at the match, the Cougars moved middie and Season MVP James Rutherford into the goal circle and put James O’Brien back into the defensive end which helped the Cougars gain valuable point and take out the final period 8 – 7 but it was IW that had stamped their name onto the trophy for 2023.
Inner West NA 42 – 29 Sydney Uni NC Cougars
Season MVP – James Rutherford (Syd Uni NC Cougars)
MLeague Junior 14s
Across the 9 week season, IW have shown some amazing skill and court craft while the Davidson Devils have been building over the past year through the NNSW Schools Cup and across the 2023 MLeague season. Our third team, Eastwood Ryde, did a fantastic job at introducing male juniors into their association and provide an opportunity for these players in 2023.
In the grand final, Inner West and the Davidson Devils stepped up for full 15 minute quarters for the first time in the season and both threw everything out on court.
In a close race during the first quarter the two teams matched goal for goal with IW just able to get the 1 goal advantage at the break. The second quarter score line was even stevens with IW still maintaining the single point lead for the half time rest. Gaining some momentum in the 3rd the Inner West side managed to increase the margin over the Devils but it was in the final period that IW sealed the deal in the match, winning 20 – 14 at the full time buzzer.
Men’s Netball NSW would like to send a huge thank you to Inner West Netball Association, ERNA – Eastwood Ryde Netball Association and the Davidson Devil for taking the steps to build male participation within their associations, especially in this age group and giving these young male players an option to get out on court.
Season MVP – Charlie Singline (Davidson Devils)
A massive thanks to May from Clusterpix Photography for all her amazing work this year and incredible images.