Action from the Daily Examiner Netball challenge junior final won by Maclean High over Grafton High.
Action from the Daily Examiner Netball challenge junior final won by Maclean High over Grafton High. Adam Hourigan

NETBALL CHALLENGE: Who's our top netball school?

NETBALL: It was hard fought all the way, but Maclean High proved too strong across both divisions of the Daily Examiner netball challenge.

Maclean's junior side looked to continue their unbeaten run from the preliminary round against a younger Grafton High squad, but were held in check through the early going.

Maclean led 8-5 at the first break, and took a one goal lead into the half at 13-12.

Grafton High kept pace in the third quarter going into the final down by only two, but Maclean's experience and consistent play at both ends of the court saw them run away to a 32-22 win.

"We were ahead, but only just. It was very close, only at the end where they really ran away with it,” Maclean High coach Melissa Bowley.

"It's always very good match against Grafton High... we only beat them by one in the early rounds.”

Bowley paid tribute to her players, saying that it all came together on the night for them.

"Our defence was on fire, our shooters weren't missing,” she said.

"For me, everyone stood out and they all stepped up. They really wanted the win, they've been talking about it for the last week.”

Player of the final Jorja Mainey switched between goal keeper and wing defence and put consistent pressure on Grafton's attack, limiting the ball movement through the circle.

Grafton coach Julie Stringer said she was proud of her junior girls putting up a hard fought battle.

"They started slow, but caught up, and held themselves right until the last quarter,” she said.

Player of the series goal attack Sophie Rowe again led the attack, and Stringer also paid tribute to centre Tanika Crispin, who she called 'tireless' in her work.

The seniors continued the battle, with Grafton High and Maclean High locked together at quarter time and half time.

Maclean pulled away to a three goal lead after three quarters, but Grafton would say die.

With some fierce defence and accurate shooting, Grafton took the lead for the first time mid-way through the final quarter.

However Maclean's defence steeled and with their shooters barely missed, pulled back the lead to take out the match 33-31.

Maclean coach Kylie Lowe praised the accuracy of both side's shooters, saying the Grafton High attacking unit caused them trouble throughout the unit, but praised player of the match Evie Wright for her tenaciousness in defence.

"Credit to the Grafton side, they really came hard at us,” she said.

"But it was the determination of our girls to get control of the match and settle it down was what came through.”

Grafton had won their preliminary round match over Maclean easily, but Lowe said some changes to their gameplan paid dividends in the final.

Grafton coach Julie Stringer said that a few critical errors turned the game around.

"Every error we made they capitalised on, all credit to them,” she said. "The Maclean shooters had very few misses.

"All credit to my girls for fighting hard and coming back.”

The player of the series went to McAuley Catholic College player Sophie Tory.