Fusion Heat's stranglehold on Dubbo netball may have come to an end on Saturday but coach Tash Robinson was upbeat and proud of all her side had achieved after the A Grade grand final.
The five-time defending champions were beaten on Saturday, going down by five points to the Narromine Hawks in a gripping Dubbo Netball Association grand final.
It marks the end of an era in the competition, after the all conquering Heat won grand finals from 2017-2020 while they were also crowned champions last year as they sat top of the ladder when the competition was abandoned ahead of the final round due to increasing COVID-19 restrictions.
There was obvious disappointment on Saturday and Robinson had to console a number of her players who were in tears at the final whistle, but her pride in her team and the spectacle the Heat and Hawks produced was the main feeling.
"Yes, it was disappointing to lose but I'm just so proud of the girls," Robinson said.
"They fought the whole way and the intensity from both teams was crazy. It definitely lived up to a grand final, that's for sure."
As the emotions after a grand final loss settled, Robinson was able to look back at all her side had achieved in recent years.
The side was originally somewhat thrown together from players who struggled to find other teams close to a decade ago.
Many have come and gone during the period of unrivalled success and Robinson is now coach rather than captain on the court after a horror knee injury in 2020 but the culture and goals of success have never waivered.
"Honestly, I can't put it into words," Robinson said of her pride in the team.
"The fact the first year we were just the leftovers from two teams and we couldn't really find a team to play in and to come away after that five years later is amazing.
"It's a credit to the girls have come and gone and been in the team and it really speaks to the strong friendships and culture we have in the team.
"It's been an amazing bunch of girls every year and I love them all to death. I'm like a proud mum, I couldn't be happier."
Heat and the Hawks have developed a strong rivalry in recent times, starting from 2019 when the Narromine side made it all the way to the grand final in their first year in the top grade.
The Hawks were also sitting second and pushing for the title last year when play was abandoned.
While the battle between the two sides was intense on Saturday, Robinson could only pay credit to both teams and said the pair have helped boost the competition.
"Having that bit of a rivalry has got people interested," she said.
"I think a lot of people think netball is a bit of a soft sport or it's a women's sport so it doesn't really count but, the past couple of years, with the competition and closeness of the games and the physicality has got a lot of people interested.
"That's amazing and the more people we can get supporting this sport the better so there's a lot of positives."
That level of support for the game was clear to see on Saturday a s bumper crowd turned out at Narromine to watch the grand finals.
It marked the first time matches had been played at the Narromine courts this season, after the Dubbo courts were closed on Friday afternoon due to the threat of rain and floodwaters.
It was the champions who started the match the better and they led by a small margin at the main half-time break, but a clinical third quarter from the Hawks sent them on their way to a 48-43 victory.
"That third quarter for us, we probably didn't convert a lot of our goals and we probably didn't utilise a lot of our opportunities when we had the ball," Robinson said.
"That brought us down a bit and then it was too much of a gap to get back in the fourth. But the girls fought the whole way and the intensity didn't drop.
"I didn't actually check the score all game. I thought it was so close I couldn't bring myself to do it.
"I thought I'd just wait and see who claps and who screams and who doesn't but it was just a really good game and it always is when we play Narromine.
"The defence from both teams was amazing and some of the play both teams showed down the court was hard to explain.
"The atmosphere was great. Narromine had a lot of spectators but there was a lot of Fusion teams on the sideline who had played finals before us so it was a really good day.
"It was nice to have that bit of a crowd and to play somewhere different."
Robinson also confirmed she'll be back at the helm of Heat again when the 2023 season arrives.