A FULL rotation of players and a flying start from Collegians Mystified saw the defending premiers take down Panthers 49-34 in Saturday's Bathurst Netball Association A grade preliminary final.
Collegians had the measure of Panthers from the outset in the 2020 grand final rematch and ran out to a 12-point advantage at half-time.
Outside of a small step back in the third quarter Collegians continued on with the job to earn themselves a spot in this Saturday's grand final against minor premiers Bulldogs Verdelho.
The two teams went into the preliminary final with one win apiece from the two times they met on court this year but Collegians were able to score a result even better than the one from a fortnight earlier, where they were 12 point victors.
Panthers weren't quite at full strength for the game, with several injuries in their roster, while the full compliment of players helped Collegians stay fresh through the match.
Collegians coach Mel Noonan was proud of the way her side made all the right adjustments.
"They owned the game from the start. They stuck to the game plan like glue. They had a new strategy that we implemented this week and they were great to watch," she said.
"Unfortunately Panthers were short two players. I think we definitely outplayed them on all areas of the court, and while I think those missing girls would have made a difference, I think we would have come away with the win regardless.
"Everyone really stepped up. It was wonderful to have all nine players. I did have one injured player during the week but she gained clearance towards the end of week and managed to get on court as well, which was really exciting.
"It's great to be able to have fresh legs out on court and they were able to run away with it."
It was a different path to the grand final compared to previous seasons for Collegians.
The team had to fight through the minor semi-final against Scots All Saints College after finishing outside of the competition's top two.
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Noonan said the team have brought strong netball at the right time of year, and she backs her group to do so for one more match.
"It's finals netball so you need to step it up a notch," she said.
"We've probably had more inconsistency with players, more than performance. Having that full rotation certainly helps with results ... and on the weekend we showcased what we could do with that."
The result continues Collegians' great record over Panthers across recent finals campaigns.
The Mystified squad won three successive A grade grand finals over Panthers between 2018 and 2020, but missed the chance to make it four in a row last year due to COVID cancellations.
The preliminary final result means we won't get a rematch of the 2017 decider, where Bulldogs were victorious over Panthers.
Panthers Mustangs still remain alive in the A reserve grade competition.
They'll face Nova Sky in the decider, after they defeated CSU Waratahs 58-53 in Saturday's preliminary final.
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