By Oliver Lees
Rupertswood’s top netball side is focused on finishing strong after an undefeated start to the season in the Essendon District Netball League.
Rupo is on top of the table after round 10 with seven wins and three draws.
Sharks coach Michael Saker said he is pleased with the season so far, but wants to make sure the team doesn’t become complacent.
“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, but obviously I’m pretty happy with how we’re tracking,” Saker said.
“As a coach I’m defensive-minded and really big on creating turnovers and scoring from them.
“Even on the shooting end we all put effort into our defensive efforts all over the court, and that makes it easier to force errors.
“The girls are never arrogant on court, even when we’ve won matches by 60 points they stay professional about how they go about things. They’re a great group to coach.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, rounds seven and eight of the season were classed as draws for the entire competition.
Rupo’s third draw of the season came in their first match back from lockdown, as they took on Aberfeldie’s top side, who also remained undefeated.
Rupo lined up with only six of seven players for the top of the table clash as several key players were unavailable for the match that finished deadlocked at 25 points apiece.
Sakar said he was “super proud” to avoid defeat given they were a player short and unable to train the week prior due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We had a few girls that were unavailable, our goal shooter, Amanda Cusack, our goal keeper, Madeline Stafford, and Ebony Lyons, who’s a firefighter and was on call,” Saker said.
“We didn’t play with a wing attack all day but the game was in the balance, the girls really listened to instruction. Kaila Ingham worked her arse off in the centre and we also had good supply from Holly Keating in wing defence.
“We were up by five at three quarter time but just ran out of legs. We walked away from that thinking it’s as good as a win.”
The structure of the EDNL has Rupo’s first and second tier sides playing in the same division.
The 10-team competition will wrap-up with the top four teams competing in finals, while the teams that finish between fifth and eighth position will play their own finals series.
With Rupo’s second side in sixth position after round 10, both sides could see themselves competing for a premiership.
The two Rupo teams faced each other in round three, with the top side beating the reserves 47 to 17.
Saker said the league’s unconventional make-up has its challenges, especially given that he’s the head coach for both Rupo sides.
“It’s a bit weird, I’ve never been in that position,” he said.
“Kaila Ingham is my assistant coach so she coached the top side while I coached the reserves. At half time we all got together and used it as an opportunity to give each other feedback.
“As the league grows it’d be great if we can have two divisions and that won’t need to happen, but in the meantime both teams are positioned well and hopefully we can challenge in finals.”