M-League Premier Men’s grade set for Grand Final rematch

A GRAND final rematch of the 2021/22 M-League Premier Men’s decider will take place tonight, with St Therese locking horns with Netblacks on Court 1 from 9:40pm. The match headlines a huge Round 5 of action all at the latest timeslot, while in the Premier Mixed grade, two newcomers face off when LTU tackles the undefeated Altona Falcons.


Round 5: (All at 9:40pm)

Netblacks vs. St Therese – Court 1
City Heat vs. Boroondara Thunder – Court 2
Darebin Dragons vs. Altona Falcons – Court 4
Bye: Ariels

A mid-table logjam and battle for fourth will take place between Netblacks and St Therese in a match of the round clash. Not many would have predicted that last year’s grand finalists would be sitting fourth and fifth with one win from three games each at this stage of the season, but with international representation happening, the star-studded teams have missed some quality players already in the 2022/23 season.

Reigning premiers St Therese took care of Darebin Dragons in the opening round, then fell to Altona Falcons in Round 2 by 13 goals. After three weeks between matches – with two byes – St Therese returned to the court in Round 4, only to fall short to City Heat by five goals. Though the 42-37 loss would have stung, the title contender was still without a number of quality players.

The Netblacks had an extra week of preseason leading into 2022/23 with a bye in Round 1, but then missing a host of first-choice players, suffered a 13-goal defeat to the Ariels in Round 2. Though the gained some troops back for Round 3, like St Therese, Netblacks fell to a red-hot City Heat. Finally back at full strength, the Netblacks took care of the struggling Darebin Dragons by 15 goals last week.

The key for Netblacks is in limiting the turnovers up the court and getting the high feeds into star shooter Junior Levi. The return of Deepak Patu to settle down the midcourt was critical for the Netblacks, with the international talent not just providing a high level of skill, but also natural leadership for both ends of the court. Jake Schuster also looked good in his natural position of goal defence against the Dragons with repeated intercepts, and will be looking to break up the St Therese attack tonight.

If Riley Richardson plays, it sets up an international level head-to-head in the centre bib up against Patu. It frees up Jayden Cowling at wing attack, and with the pairing of Connor Lilly and Tom Hardwick in the shooting circle, St Therese an do a lot of damage. The defensive pairing of Ronan Pring and Jake Hederics will be well equipped to take on Levi and a mixture of Brandon D’Monte and Kai Suzuki-McGauran, knowing what they need to do to limit the dominance Levi can have on a match.

In the other matches, the undefeated City Heat takes on Boroondara Thunder, a side searching for its second win, while the winless Darebin Dragons have a tough time trying to contain the second placed Altona Falcons. All matches take place at 9:40pm.


Round 5: (At 8:20pm)

LTU vs. Altona Falcons – Court 1
NNE Vipers vs. Ariels – Court 2
Eastside Sonics vs. Melbourne Quakes – Court 4
Geelong vs. Valley Wolves – Court 5
Bye: Parkville Panthers

A third against fourth place battle highlights an entertaining Round 5 of action in the Premier Mixed grade. Altona Falcons take on LTU in a clash of two newcomers to the top flight division this season, though with plenty of established players taking on a fresh name. The winner of the match will gain breathing space in third, with top of the table Parkville Panthers having a bye tonight.

Altona Falcons have certainly experienced the tight ones, overcoming Melbourne Quakes by a goal in Round 1, then going down to Valley Wolves by five goals in Round 2. Following a Round 3 bye, the Falcons returned to the court last week to have a well-fought seven-goal victory over NNE Vipers to sit at two wins from three games thus far.

Like the Netblacks in the Premier Men’s grade, LTU had a bye first up in Round 2, then took it right up to title contender Geelong in Round 2. Though LTU ultimately lost by 10 goals, it was a high-scoring 79-69 bonanza. Since then, LTU has defeated NNE Vipers by eight goals (59-51) in Round 3, and Eastside Sonics by 11 (69-58) in Round 4. Only Geelong has averaged more goals than LTU’s 65 per game thus far in season 2022/23.

Though on limited minutes last week, Deepak Patu is another key inclusion for the Falcons, providing a similar service to his Netblacks side. In a team boasting Collingwood Netball Australian Netball League (ANL) experienced players such as Montana Holmes and Uneeq Palavi in the front third of the court, the Falcons can certainly have a potent attack. Nathan Selvidge has been in great form in defence, while Andrew Lewis has showcased his versatility at both ends.

LTU’s most damaging player is in the shooting circle, with the towering Liam Killey hard to contain regardless of skill. Given the extra height he has over his opponents, he can shoulder the high goal-scoring load and put up a massive tally. He is well supported by Emily Priddle and Jessica Black who have rotated through goal attack, while Elias Kafritsas will have a huge job in the midcourt.

In Junior M-League, Peninsula Waves have the tough task of trying to take down contender WDNA in the 17 and Under division out on Court 10. That match begins at 7pm, coinciding with the other big clash between St Therese and Darebin who play on Court 11 at the same time. In Round 5 of the 14 and Under grade, St Therese face Melbourne Up & Comers on Court 2, while WDNA and TBC lock horns on the show court, Court 1.

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