DEX SHIELD: Grafton High has realised a four-year dream, exacting revenge on rivals McAuley Catholic College to raise the Daily Examiner Netball Challenge Opens shield once again.
In one of the most thrilling finals in challenge history, Grafton and McAuley went goal for goal until the final whistle with the girls in blue prevailing by a single point, 27-26 after four quarters.
Both sides were bolstered by a strong defensive effort with Grafton's ability to cut off the pass at mid-court, thanks to a double digit haul of intercepts each for Zahli Webb and captain Mikayla O'Mahony, the difference maker at the end.
Each side battled against the elements with the warm temperatures and technical issues at the court forcing the players outside of their comfort zones.
In a display of the even nature of the clash, McAuley goal keeper Arielle Hackett, who was a brick wall for the maroon and navy outfit, was awarded player of the final in the losing effort.
McAuley mid-court link Sophie Osborne was named player of the series for her efforts in the round series clashes last week.
Grafton High netball co-ordinator Karen Scott said she was proud to see the Opens shield return top its "home”.
"This was a bit of revenge for the round games. The two sides were very evenly matched,” Scott said.
"All the girls at Grafton are very proud netballers and they don't like to lose. It might not have been just about getting one back on McAuley, but it was a case of we are not giving up this trophy without a fight.
"I think it's been more than three years since we claimed the shield, and we are always happy to have the shield come home.”
Scott praised the efforts of both sides in the final and admitted she had the best seat in the house for what was a thrilling clash.
"It was definitely very close out there, back and forth, up and down. We had it, then they had it, it was hard to keep up with,” Scott said.
"I thought the quality of netball that we watched today was very high and it is great to have that in this competition.
"The Opens teams always set a really high standard, and I thought the girls from McAuley and Grafton were consistent, very few penalties and there was some great moments of athletic feats on display.”
This year was the first time Grafton Netball Association organised the event and president
Cathy Walls said the association was proud to come on board.
"We are very happy with how it all went,” she said. "They were all very close finals ands it is just great to see how it is friend up against friend.
"It is our netball and we wanted to bring it back to our courts, the home of netball in Grafton.”
Walls said changes were already being looked at for 2018 including a changed format and earlier timeslot.