It was hard to know how to react as the final hooter brought an end not only to Grangetown’s fixture at Leeds Athletic, but also to the club’s first season in Prem 1.
The scoreboard read 53-40 in favour of the hosts; a deserved victory for a Leeds side that has been so impressive throughout the second half of the season.
Initially, there was an element of disappointment at the result … at the last three results in fact; three consecutive defeats coming after only five losses in the first 15 games of the campaign.
There was also a slightly surreal feeling that the season was over – all the preparation, the training, the travelling, and eighteen hugely competitive games – the past six months or so has simply flown by…
Then comes the time to reflect.
Two successive promotions (including one championship) had seen Grangetown elevated from a very good club, to one of the elite. It was always going to be a massive step, and unsurprisingly the pre-season aspiration was simply to perform well enough to stay in the top flight.
The reality was so much better…
Only four sides won 10 or more of their 18 fixtures; champions Oldham, runners-up New Cambell and Viper 10 Blades. Three outstanding sides. The fourth?
That would be Grangetown.
Some sparkling performances at home, and perhaps more importantly on the road, saw Grangetown essentially (albeit not mathematically) safe by Christmas. In a division littered with Super League stars, it was an almost unheralded club from just outside Middlesbrough that surprised many an established Prem 1 squad; and their top-four finish was just reward for the time and effort invested both on and off the court.
However, with success comes expectation, and once the reflection is over, the next stage is to focus fully on 2019/20. I have no doubt that plans for next season are already underway, but given the relative remoteness of the club to any Super League franchises, attracting top quality athletes to the north east to complement and enhance an already fine squad is no easy task…
But that is the challenge faced by Grangetown if they are to build on the foundations laid over the past three years, and maintain their remarkable progress from relegation to Prem 3 in 2016 to becoming the fourth best club in the country less than three years later.
As far as the game at Leeds is concerned, Grangetown started slowly, but showed their customary determination to get back into contention during the second quarter. Unfortunately, their offensive play was less cohesive than usual, possession was turned over on too many occasions, and from being in a situation where they could and should have been on terms, the visitors found themselves six goals adrift and Leeds were playing far too well to relinquish that kind of advantage.
My Grangetown Player of the Match was Tuaine Keenan, who produced several moments of pure class in defence, less than 24 hours after helping her Loughborough Lightning side to a dramatic one-goal Super League win over Severn Stars.
The most notable cameo came from Nicole Malloy who certainly made an impact when she was given a chance at goal attack. As for the individual moment of the game, that was undoubtedly a sublime interception by Vicky Rees; a wonderful piece of anticipation and athleticism that brought the Grangetown bench to its feet.
For Leeds, goal shooter Vanessa Williams was superb from the first minute to the last; she was strong, agile and unerringly accurate throughout. At the other end of the court, Alice Smith looked an outstanding athlete, and had a fine game in defence.
For Grangetown, it may have been a result to forget, but for the amazing squad, and everyone involved with the club, the 2018/19 season is one that will live long in the memory.