Saturday was a big day for the BRGS netball teams. They were travelling to Ellesmere Port, Wirral to take part in the Regional Finals of the National Schools Netball Competition. It was handy for shopping (situated next to the Cheshire Oaks shopping centre), but the girls would have to face stiff competition from the teams taking part in the day’s tournament.

The North West is a strong netballing region with some of the best teams, so getting through this stage was never going to be easy. Find out how the teams got on below.

UNDER 16

The under-16 squad were hungry for victory. They had been knocked out of the last National Netball semi-finals by a 0.2 goal difference and the team they had beaten went on to win the final. This year they were determined that the National Championship Trophy would have BRGS engraved on it. First they had to brave the slippery surfaces, driving hail and bitter wind that uncharacteristically swept through the grounds of Whitby High, Ellesmere Port.

Despite their sense of ambition, the team had a tough opening match against their long-standing Lancashire rivals, Ribblesdale. BRGS had beaten Ribblesdale before and they were out for revenge, but were held to a 6-6 draw. This wasn’t a disaster, but amongst such tough competition, BRGS couldn’t afford to have any more draws without seriously jeopardising their chances of moving through to the finals.

Unfortunately that’s precisely what happened. The girls didn’t play with their normal fluency. Despite wining the next match they got a second draw. The circumstances were very controversial though. Each match was timed by a hooter and the previous matches had all ended directly on the sound of the hooter. However, the opposition in this match continued playing and the referees didn’t seem to have noticed and they managed to score a goal. There were protests all round and the result was officially challenged. The girls had to be calmed down as in netball, challenges to the referee can have serious repercussions (Mrs. Smith had already been spoken to by the referee for her comments!).

From this point confusion reigned. Was movement through to the next round possible? Did we have to win every match? Would it be down to goal difference? Would we rely on our two closest rivals - Bury Grammar and Ribblesdale – to lose their last match? No-one seemed to know…

It was down to the last match. It couldn’t have been more tense: Bury were playing against Ribblesdale in the final match and BRGS were playing on the next court against the home team. We still didn’t know what we had to do to have a chance of getting through. Did we need Bury to lose, or Ribblesdale? Did we need a certain number of goals? The girls decided to just go out there and try their very best to whitewash the opposition. On the next court the Ribblesdale goal-shooter went down injured. Meanwhile on court two, BRGS were building up an impressive lead. Rachel Henry was marking the opposition attacker as if her life depended on it and intimidated her out of the game entirely! The game ended 15 – 6 to BRGS.

We still didn’t know the result… only the top two teams would go through to the final. The teams went to the hall for the presentation. The judges were adding up points, checking goal difference and then rechecking all over again. Despite their earlier despair and tears, there was real hope in the team as the girls huddled down in a circle, awaiting the result.

The atmosphere was unbearable. The judges announced 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th and 4th places. Who would be third? Silence. Time slowed as the team waited… “Third place, Ribblesdale!” We had done it! Qualified by one goal on goal difference!

It was certainly a wake-up call for the girls who didn’t play with anything like their normal panache and pace. They will really have to raise their game for the finals which will be held at Manchester Velodrome on Saturday, 6th March. There will be no excuses for not coming to support at a venue so close to home. So make a date in your diary because this could be the year that BRGS regain the title of National Netball Champions.

Congratulations to the squad of: Vicky Thornton (Capt.), Emily Grimshaw, Rachel Henry, Claire Jackson, Scarlett Martindale, Lucy Noone, Olivia Sloss, Hannah Southwell, Anna Stephenson and Nadia Wood.

UNDER 14

Little was known about the standard in this age group, but a high standard was expected. The BRGS team had done extremely well to win through to the Regionals and they had to face some tough opposition in the first two games. The girls started slowly, losing their first two matches. However, things began to get better and the girls drew their next match against Ellsmere Port Catholic School and beat Christleton from Chester. But it was not to be and by now it was too late for the girls to qualify for the Finals.

The squad consisting of Hayley Whitham (Capt.), Hannah Bennett, Johanna Doherty, Emily Greensmith, Katy Humphrey, Emily Lester, Rebecca Mills and Lucy O'Gorman are still to be congratulated on reaching the Regional Finals.

Netball Regional Finals