By David Nagel
MPNFL clubs looking for an answer to the netball dominance of Edithvale-Aspendale can blame two things for their envy – a nagging mother and an advertisement in a local newspaper.
Those very simple triggers – back in 2009 – have paved the way for a remarkable run of success that continued on division one grand final day at Rosebud on Saturday, September 14.
Edi-Asp rubber-stamped a decade of dominance with a clean sweep of all four senior premierships to take their grand total to 24 victories in 10 years…but the story doesn’t end there.
The Eagles’ A Grade triumph over Rosebud secured their sixth-consecutive title – and their eighth in nine years – while victories over Frankston YCW (B and C Grade) and Mt Eliza (D Grade) capped off the greatest day in the clubs’ history.
The Eagles had previously taken home three cups on the same day (2014, ’15, ’16 and ’18) but never before had they secured the fabulous four.
A proud club president Helen Hollis reflected back on how this magnificent journey began.
“It was actually my mother Nell who pushed things along back in 2009 – she said now’s the time to get a club up and running and it’s all sort of stemmed from there,” Hollis said.
“She loved her footy and netball and could see a real opportunity to build a community club from scratch and to make a real difference to young girls around the area.
“We advertised in the local paper and had a ‘Come and Try Day’ in November 2009 and players like Caris MacInnes and Holly Bailey were there on day one and are still at the club today.
“We joined the Nepean league in 2010, replacing Somerville, and only had A and B Grade in our first year. We won B grade, then joined the Peninsula League in 2011 where we had two A Grade and one B Grade team.
“The two A Grade teams played off in the grand final and there were some mixed emotions with some girls winning a premiership and the others losing a grand final. We promised ourselves we would never go through that experience again and we’ve stuck to our word on that one.”
The Eagles have since gone about the task of inflicting pain on opposition clubs – not their own – with a remarkable era of success that has been built on hard work, good planning and some great leadership.
“We’ve had great Head Coaches since day one who have set the bar high in regard to getting the best out of all players,” she said.
“The club was very fortunate to have a local girl in Shelley Ramirez, who was coaching at Southern Saints, help us recruit our first coaches – Mel Gillan (A Grade) and Dee Carmona and Pam Macaulay (B Grade) – and that got us off on the right foot. We’ve had terrific coaches all the way through to Claire Houben, who had some great success, and Leah Percy who took over this year.
“Leah had huge shoes to fill but has been fantastic this year and a real inspiration to everyone at the club. She had a child in December and then played Touch Rugby for Australia in March – which is pretty remarkable when you think about it.”
Hollis refused to take personal praise for her impact on the club, instead preferring to spread the love in that regard.
“I may have been around since the start, and I do love this club, but many people have played key roles in making the club what it is today,” she said.
“We’ve had great players, great coaches, and great supporters of the club who have been so passionate over the years – and winning these premierships is great reward for all of those people involved.
“I am very proud because success doesn’t come easy and we all work hard, we appreciate each other’s efforts, and there are a lot of people that have been very loyal to this netball club.
“Even some players that have left have come back and I think that speaks volumes of the culture we have built over the years. The players are all proud of their own individual team, but friendships have been built right throughout the club and that’s extremely satisfying to witness from where I sit.”
And for opposition clubs hoping to topple the Eagles from their lofty perch, the news is bad, with the club set to become even stronger with the addition of new home courts for the 2020 season. Courts at Dingley, Chelsea, and this year Bonbeach, have played host to the club in recent years with the new courts to bring renewed stability
“We’ve been promising the players these new courts for 10 years, so it’s quite funny that they’ve all stayed so loyal even though we haven’t delivered on that promise,” Hollis said with a giggle.
“But seriously it’s going to make such a difference to the club, to when and how we train and to how we set the whole netball facility up as a whole. I think playing at other venues has certainly made us more resilient when the going gets tough on the court and we’ll need to make sure we don’t lose that edge.”
The Eagles’ strength has also been built through a strong connection with the Aspendale Arrows Junior Netball Club. The Arrows have 29 junior teams providing a great pathway for players looking to make the step from junior to senior netball.
And the Eagles had extra-special motivation this year with a long-time supporter of the club, and much-loved figure, Kevin Lyons dying in early March.
“Kevin has been a great supporter of the club for many years and we certainly had his spirit riding with us on grand final day,” Hollis said.
“Netball at Edi-Asp was his brother Kenny’s legacy, but when Kenny died in 2012 Kevin took over and was a proud and passionate supporter ever since. He appreciated the athleticism and skill of our netballers and really enjoyed being a part of the grand final presentation ceremony every year.
“We really miss Kevin, but we know he was looking down on us and smiling on grand final day.”
Just as Helen’s mother Nell was in 2014…this certainly is one very special netball club!
2019 MPNFL DIVISION ONE GRAND FINAL SCORES
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