Final fours set for M-League semis

FINALS action gets underway in the Victorian Men’s and Mixed Netball Association (VMMNA) tonight at Parkville, with the knockout semi-finals taking place. Just four teams remain in the race for the title, with the winners advancing through to the grand finals next Wednesday night.


A new grand finalist will take its place in next week’s decider after the third grand final rematch of last year’s edition will instead take place in the semi-finals. Reigning premiers St Therese will need to upstage Netblacks in the semi-finals rather than the grand final this year, and book its place into the big dance. In their most recent match, St Therese was too strong for Netblacks, though the latter clearly rotated players to test combinations. Earlier in the year, when both sides were missing key personnel, Netblacks took home the win.

One of the key battles all night will be star shooter Junior Levi up against Jake Hederics with the latter having an impressive vertical leap against his taller opponent. Up the other end of the court, the combination of Connor Lilly and Tom Hardwick will look to work together and avoid Jake Schuster getting too many interceptions or deflections. In midcourt, Deepak Patu clashing with Riley Richardson is of international quality, while Jarrod Cowling looms as a key player for St Therese at wing attack, having had some outstanding form, particularly in the past month.

In the other semi-final, minor premiers City Heat will look to back up their regular season form heading in as favourites against Altona Falcons. In Round 1, the Heat won in a three-goal thriller (47-44), before a more comfortable 11-goal triumph in Round 8 (55-44). If the Heat can keep the Falcons to 44 goals for a third successive time, then they will go a long way to winning.

The key for the Heat is to limit the impact of Australian shooter Brodie Roberts, with defenders Tim Marshall and Alastair Punshon set to have the job on him. However he is not the only threat, with Andrew Lewis and Josh Smith likely to roll through there. In midcourt, Zac Mabilia and Jake Noonan may cross paths, while for the Heat, Brodie McCleish and Cameron Allum shape as a dominant duo up against Jake Dambrauskas and Sam Dugan.


City Heat vs. Altona Falcons (Court 1 @ 7:00pm)
St Therese vs. Netblacks (Court 1 @ 8:20pm)


In the Premier Mixed grade, it will take a special effort to knock off the undefeated Parkville Panthers in this year’s competition, but the same could have been said 12 months ago. The Panthers enter the finals series in the same position as back then, and will take on NNE Vipers again like they did last time, but will be keen to go one better than their shock loss to Geelong in the decider. Geelong will also have a chance to go back-to-back, but before having a chance against a likely Parkville side, it needs to overcome Altona Falcons.

When the semi-finalists first clashed in Round 6, it was a bloodbath to the Panthers who ran out a massive 72-35 victor over NNE Vipers. It is the only form to go off, but the Vipers have since included Schuster in their rotation, and he will be a key player against a stacked Panthers shooting circle. The fact the Panthers not only have Roberts and Lilly, but former Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) shooter Kaylia Stanton shows the depth they have at their disposal.

In defence, Hederics could be a premiership player twice in one night if both his teams get through and then salute next week, playing alongside the likes of Bridget Aughton and Georgette Paatsch. Richardson and Cowling fill out a midcourt with Ellie Leydin another key player. Alongside Schuster in defence, Jessica Maher will likely get the job on Stanton, with Brooke Dadds and Michael Dower up the other end of the court. Maddi Wallmeyer and Bridget Ryan have become crucial link players in transition for the Vipers.

In the other match, Geelong will be fancied to take down the Falcons, but last time the teams faced off, it was Altona who snatched an upset one-goal win, running out 53-52 victors in Round 8. Like the other semi-final, there is no other matchup to go off, but if both sides are full strength, then the reigning premiers will be the favoured side.

Zanna Woods stepped up when it countered in last year’s grand final, and if out there she will team up well with the likes of Josh Byron or Allum, while McCleish is another shooting option. Sarah Szczykulski is among the most consistent defenders in the league, and alongside Gerard Murphy does not give too much wriggle room for attackers. Noonan will head up the midcourt, with Dambrauskas and Zara Walters among the others to watch in the game, and Olivia Taylor a mainstay in wing defence.

The Premier Mixed Falcons will be headed up by Patu in the centre, joining a strong midcourt group including Maddison McKiernan and Montana Holmes. The defensive pillars in Nathan Selvidge and Bess Schnioffsky – and versatility of Lewis and Smith – makes the Falcons a very dangerous side. Nyibol Akec has slotted into the wing attack role, while Dambrauskas is another rotation option when available.


Parkville Panthers vs. NNE Vipers (Court 1 @ 9:40pm)
Geelong vs. Altona Falcons (Court 2 @ 9:40pm)


In the juniors competition, all matches are being held at 7pm, with the 14 and Under fixtures taking place next to each other on Courts 6 and 7. Title favourites St Therese takes on TBC on the former, while second placed WNDA will clash with the dangerous Melbourne Up & Comers on the latter, with both matches at 7pm. In the 17 and Under semi-finals, WDNA and Peninsula Waves lock horns on Court 10 in the second and third semi-final, while St Therese will be strong favourites against Darebin on Court 11.


WDNA vs. Peninsula Waves (Court 10 @ 7:00pm)
St Therese vs. Darebin (Court 11 @ 7:00pm)


St Therese vs. TBC (Court 6 @ 7:00pm)
WDNA vs. Melbourne Up & Comers (Court 7 @ 7:00pm)

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