While Monash supporters’ interests are directed mainly towards the regular Wednesday night battles at the State Netball and Hockey Centre, the youngest team at Central are quietly going about their business in emphatic fashion.’’
The Monash Magic Under 17s share the top spot on Tuesday Night Premier League ladder after 14 rounds.
With only two losses blemishing a near-perfect record, the youngest team at Monash jumped out to a 4-0 start after five rounds (including a bye) before falling to the Jets in Round 6.
Prior to that, the Magic had been nothing short of dominant regular handing opposition sides with 40-goal pastings.
Any fears that a loss would derail a handy start to the season quickly evaporated as the girls went on to record 5 consecutive wins leading into their second and final bye in Round 12.
A narrow loss to the Yarra Jets U/17s in a top of the table clash last Tuesday night broke the winning run, yet even that was done with just six healthy players on court as a May sickness sweeps through the young squad.
Despite the losses and the health of her young squad, Magic coach Melissa Ahearn told monashuniversitycentral.com.au she still maintains the same positive outlook she shared at the beginning of season.
“The season’s going really well, but it is starting to get even more challenging as we begin to hit the home straight of the season,” Ahearn said.
“The other teams have really stepped up from the start of the season, which makes the challenge harder.
“I’m fortunate that the girls have also simultaneously stepped up and being really competitive.
“As I said, we’re only a few rounds off finals and a few girls are starting to feel the pinch because we have games coming up that we want to win simply to maintain our position.”
In a team that consistently wins, and wins well, Ahearn noted that there had been patches of complacency creeping into the squad throughout the year.
One of these occasions happened during their Round 10 match against the RREJECTS, in which the girls came from behind to steal the match in the end by four goals.
“It was one of those games where complacency did start to creep,” Ahearn said.
“To the girls’ credit, it was actually them who recognised what was going wrong during the game and really owned up to what was going on.
“In the end they pulled it off. All you can really say as a coach in those situations is: ‘it’s up to you’ and they managed to find something extra and come home with the win.”
Ahearn said that despite being in a winning position for most of the season, she wanted to shift the responsibility on to her players to “step up” and show continual improvement.
“The girls have been setting goals for themselves. It’s been my way of putting the onus on them to keep getting better,” Ahearn said.
“It gave the girls the opportunity to work out what they were good at, what they needed to work on and I guess what we wanted to achieve for the rest of the season.
“Areas such as communication are a focus for us and is something we need to knuckle down on, particularly with three really tough games coming up for us.
“Our long-term goal is the grand final and that just means that we need to sharpen our focus areas and keep winning to have that in our sights.”
There’s a touch of refusal but a much stronger aspect of incapability when Ahearn is asked to nominate players who’ve stood out for her in such a successful season.
“It’s hard to actually pinpoint someone because they’ve all stood up for me,” Ahearn said.
“The more I ask, the more they give and at the same time they’re not scared to have a go.
“There’s been times when one or two of them have had me wondering if they’re tiring during games, but then five minutes later, they go out and prove me wrong.
“There have also been a few who’ve made the step up into under 19’s and getting an opportunity there, to put forward their own case.”
With five games left in the season, Ahearn is wary of her players and the need to keep the foot on the gas, particularly after setting the goal of wanting to play off in the Grand Final.
“We’ve got games coming up that look easy because of where they sit on the ladder and going off previous results,” Ahearn said.
“The reality is that no games are easy and it’s going to be up to the girls’ preparation and their ability to keep stepping up.
“No ones easy at this level and it might just take an extra player here or there and the whole complexion changes.”
Whatever happens, you get the feeling that Ahearn and her young chargers are desperate not to let such a successful season slide before claiming the ultimate prize.
After knocking off the sixth-placed Fusion Teal 62-28 last Tuesday night, the Magic face the third-placed Jets in a pivotal encounter tomorrow night at the Waverley Netball Centre.