CAMPERDOWN is set to line up in a third straight Hampden league open netball grand final tomorrow when they take on Koroit at the Reid Oval.
Season 2017 has been a challenge for the injury-riddled Magpies.
They lost experienced midcourter Tracey Baker in round five with a Lisfranc fracture, and have been without Emily Stephens since round 12 when she ruptured the collateral ligament and volar plate in her finger.
They were forced to blood new talent in order to find a combination which could sustain the pressure of finals netball.
And after last weekend’s preliminary final, it appears they may have discovered a good mix.
This year’s squad is a blend of both youth and experience, as well as new and familiar faces.
Shooting duo Emily and Jaymie Finch are the only two Magpies to play in both the 2015 and 2016 premiership deciders.
The defensive combination of Emma Wright and Brooke Richardson have each played in one of the last two, but neither together.
Wright is a 250-game player at the Hampden league’s top level and has performed some big shutdown roles for the Magpies in crucial matches.
Richardson arrived at the club in 2015 via Wickliffe Lake Bolac in the Mininera league, before sitting out last season following the birth of her daughter, Willow.
Camperdown coach Peter Finch faces a tough decision on who will start in the midcourt, after last weekend’s preliminary final threw up a wide range of scenarios.
Finch was not willing to divulge exactly how his starting seven would line up against the Saints.
“It’s obviously good knowing that we can call on the bench at any time to come on and make an impact,” he said.
“Our team goes that deep.”
Wing attack Leah Sinnott has made the position her own since playing her first match of the season in round seven.
Last week Sinnott was struck down with flu-like symptoms against the Eagles and could only manage a half before moving to the bench.
Ashlea Spokes entered the game with immediate impact, in what was her first minutes of an open grade game since round 12.
Spokes had been sidelined with injury during the back third of the season before returning to play in division one.
Her game not only provided speed and flare, she also has a great understanding of the Magpies’ shooting duo.
Spokes’ read on feeding both of the Finch sisters was a standout aspect, along with her ability to give the ball on the first look.
Caitlin Hall played three quarters at centre before moving to wing defence, where her pressure led to a number of turnovers.
Olivia Hickey has also featured in regular minutes at wing defence.
Finch said he believes an established line-up has been beneficial to his side in recent times.
“Our rotations really depend on the situation,” he said.
“If we’re rolling along nicely then we don’t like to change too much.
“Having a settled combination has really helped us in the last half of the season.”
The Magpies also have a number of junior players at their disposal in the 12-player squad.
Olivia Henzen has started all three finals matches at wing defence and Chelsea Baker entered the game at centre to provide a spark in the preliminary final.
Another aspect which has to be taken into consideration is the Hampden league’s six-quarter restriction on all players for finals.
This means for Henzen and Baker, who will also contest the 17 and under match earlier in the day, they will more than likely only be eligible for half a game.
Although Finch is preferential to a settled line-up, the Magpies may well have changes forced upon them should they choose to go with youth.
Their opponent Koroit have been almost flawless this season.
The Saints’ only loss came in round 18 against North Warrnambool, on a day where they were missing speedy goal attack Carly Pulling.
Pulling is predominently used in a feeding role for shooter Nell Mitchell under the post.
Mitchell was last Sunday named as goal shooter in the Hampden league Team of the Year.
She has been damaging against Camperdown this season, netting 42 of her side’s 48 goals in the Saints’ six-goal victory back in round one, before scoring 36 goals in Koroit’s round 10 triumph.
Finch acknowledged that Mitchell is clearly a point of focus for his side.
“She got on top of us the last time we played,” he said.
“We know it’s not up to one player to stop her, we need to be doing the right things the whole way down the court before the ball gets to her.”
Camperdown has won just one of its eight quarters against the Saints in 2017.
In round 10 they led by six goals at quarter time, before the Saints levelled by the main break and ran away with the contest in the second half.
The Magpies know a fast start is crucial to their chances, but Finch said nothing short of a four quarter performance will be enough.
“Concentration over the whole match is paramount,” he said.
“As we showed last week, it only takes five minutes to really swing a game.
“We need to apply that pressure for four quarters.”
But Finch knows his girls are up for the challenge.
“We’ve worked all season for another shot at this,” he said.
“Koroit will take some beating that’s for certain.
“They are strong from one end of the court to the other.”
Finch believes the Magpies will need to use speed to their advantage.
“Koroit have height in both circles and a real physical presence over the game,” he said.
“We will need to use our speed, our zippiness, to get on top.”
The coach believes his team is more than capable of derailing the Saints.
“We’ve had pressure games week in, week out, and I think that’s held us in really good stead,” he said.
“Hopefully the girls can play with confidence and have confidence in their team-mates.”
The Magpies have appeared in seven top-grade grand finals without success, and this will be their fifth since 2010.
Two of those defeats have come at the hands of Koroit.
This Saturday’s premiership decider is scheduled for a 1.45pm start.