Blaze and Express close in on fourth spot

TWO potential title contenders are eyeing off fourth spot in the Victorian Netball League (VNL), with fifth placed North East Blaze and sixth placed Boroondara Express to clash tonight. Though the winner will likely not take fourth spot just yet – with the current occupant Southern Saints taking on eighth placed Hawks Netball – it will keep the winner in the hunt for finals, with just three more rounds remaining in the lead-up to the knockout post-season series.

North East Blaze have plenty of potential, especially now that the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) has finished, given the most northern side access to twin keys, Nyah Allen and Sienna Allen. In season 2022, the Blaze have won seven of their 14 games, and sit two points clear of the Express. It means that if they lose this game, the Express will leapfrog the Blaze into fifth, and depending on the margin – and the result of the Saints-Hawks game – could even snatch fourth spot. The Blaze just need to win, and for the Saints – who have seven wins and a draw – to lose in order to grab fourth heading into the final three rounds.

Admittedly the Blaze come into the game not in the greatest form, really slipping since their Round 8 smashing of Melbourne University Lightning by 19 goals to show their potential. Since then, the Blaze have lost five of their past six games, going down to Southern Saints (one goal), Geelong Cougars (17), City West Falcons (10), Casey Demons (14) and the Lightning (two), with only a 28-goal thrashing of Ariels the highlight. They will need to quickly arrest that form to get back in the top four, having looked like a certainty for finals, sitting 6-2.

With shooter Georgia Moody a consistent shooter at this level, and a defensive lineup of Kaitlyn Black and Tayissa Coppinger, the Blaze are more than capable of containing opposition shooting lineups, as they showed against the Lightning. The pair, along with Sienna Allen provide the defensive accountability, while Meg Williams feeds into Moody and Nyah Allen.

Boroondara Express drew with Peninsula Waves last week, after back-to-back wins over Southern Saints (three goals) and Hawks Netball (10) in the preceding fortnight. The last time the Express won prior to those two was also back in Round 8 when they knocked off the Waves by 13 goals. They then went on to lose three on the trot to the Falcons (18 goals), Lightning (eight) and Demons (25), giving them a bit of an up and down formline leading into Round 15.

Like Blaze, with the SSN season just about finished for the Melbourne Vixens, the Express will be able to welcome back Ruby Barkmeyer, having been called up for Vixens in the side’s preliminary final last weekend. With her in, the Express look so potent, especially teaming up with Isabelle Hodgson, while Casey Adamson and Elli Leydin are other players who are very dangerous for the Boroondara.

In other matches, the top two sides in Geelong Cougars and Melbourne University Lightning face off, with the Lightning needing to win if they are any chance of grabbing the minor premiership. While the Hawks have a must-win against the Saints, Casey Demons are in the same boat and just need to tick the box against the winless Ariels. In the other match, third placed City West Falcons take on ninth placed Peninsula Waves.


City West Falcons vs. Peninsula Waves
Boroondara Express vs. North East Blaze
Casey Demons vs. Ariels
Hawks Netball vs. Southern Saints
Geelong Cougars vs. Melbourne University Lightning

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