BELMONT EDGE OUT DEFENDING CHAMPIONS IN TWO-SET GRAND FINAL EPIC TO CLAIM MAIDEN PREMIERSHIP
After an agonising end to a shining Season 10 campaign, Belmont have recovered and gone beyond their best ever finish, knocking off long-reigning champions Hamilton to lift the Newcastle Dodgeball League trophy after an 8-6 victory in the eleventh grand final.
For the Beavers, the rough road to championship glory wasn't an easy one, but the marked improvement of the team from their first days in the competition to their crowning glory has been a story for the league's history books.
When Belmont first joined the league in the seventh season, there were little expectations on the organisation - forced to contend with a Hamilton outfit that had just secured its first trophy since the league's foundation, as well as perennial powerhouses Waratah and Cooks Hill at the top of the tabled, the Beavers struggled to find their footing in their first outing.
After a wooden spoon finish for the team, and just a single victory to their name, their opening season was passed off as a learning experience for the new side, and things were expected to improve heading into the eight season.
Although the team avoided last place, another season sans-finals stun for the team that had proven they were eager for better things, and a return to the cellar in Season 9 proved one disappointment too many for the team in blue and gold.
Recruiting in the off-season, and taking advantage of the league's move from the Newcastle venue to Oakdale Arena, Belmont had their best ever season, leap-frogging a plummeting Cooks Hill squad to claim third place, before they knocked Waratah out in the semi-finals to book their ticket to their first ever grand final appearance.
Facing off against the juggernaut that was the Stags - a team searching for their five consecutive championship at this point - Belmont fell just short of the final hurdle as a 4-all scoreline at half time stretched out to an 11-6 victory for Hamilton.
It may not have been the disappointment of a wooden spoon, or a finals-less season, but the five-set defeat proved to be the turning point in Belmont's rise.
Heading into the eleventh season, and the Beavers' fifth in the competition, the organisation changed the way they played. While Hamilton had shown their fast-paced dodgeball was a winning algorithm for success, Belmont adopted a style similar to former champions Warners Bay and Waratah, and the controlled gameplay for the Beavers proved a major success.
From there, the rest became history - a fourth place finish sent Belmont to the quarter finals, where they swept aside Raymond Terrace, before a vital 7-6 upset over first placed Shortland put them back into the grand final against Hamilton.
Although they had been in a similar position in Season 10, the Belmont outfit that stepped onto the court against the Stags had improved in every way, and their controlled pace shone early as they clocked up a three-set lead heading into the half break against the reigning champions.
The Beavers opened with their trademark tempo game to collect three crucial set wins on the bounce early in the clash, before Hamilton were able to grab one back in another timed set, and two more into the pockets of the eventual victors before the break ended up being the catalyst for the Beavers' victory.
The second chance saw the pace switch, as Hamilton returned to their counter-attacking formation, but the four sets to three second half - falling in favour of the Stags - just simply wasn't enough as Belmont held off the potential comeback to secure their two-set triumph, 8-6.
The thrilling victory also marks the first time since the founding season that the championship was decided by less than five set points - Hamilton were on the wrong end of a 10-8 scoreline that saw Stockton lift the inaugural NDL trophy.
Now, for the first time since joining the league in Season 7, Belmont sit atop the throne, and will enter the twelfth season of the competition as reigning champions.
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RD14: Shortland, Hamilton lead top seeds heading into playoffs (07/06)
RD13: Glendale stun Belmont 7-3 to climb out of cellar (31/05)
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RD9: Belmont and Waratah locked at standstill (03/05)
RD8: Stags down 'Tahs in grudge match battle for third (19/04)
RD7: Belmont bounce back with spoiler win against Kotara (12/04)
RD6: Scotches wave away Belmont bid to stay top (05/04)
RD5: Waratah right season with Raccoons win (29/03)
RD4: Shortland stay undefeated with fourth win (22/03)
RD3: Hamilton claim revenge in grand final rematch (15/03)
RD2: Bar Beach hold off Glendale to bag first win (08/03)
RD1: Waratah sweep aside arch-rivals with major margin (01/03)
PRESEASON: Season 12's draw & key fixtures revealed (08/02/19)
PRESEASON: Rego now open for NDL Season 12. (01/02/18)
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FINALS: Hamilton and Belmont set up grand final rematch (9/11)
RD14: Waratah down Belmont in heated one-set thriller (2/11)
RD13: Shortland oust Hamilton from first with one to go (26/10)
RD12: Belmont upset Hamilton to blow first place race open (19/10)
RD11: Shortland take second after thriller against Belmont (12/10/18)
RD10: Waratah tumble into fourth place after slow start (5/10/18)
RD9: Top four teams hold off finals-hopefuls (28/09/18)
RD8: Hamilton claim first as league celebrates Ladies Day (21/09/18)
RD7: Shortland and Kotara clash goes down to the wire (14/09/18)
RD6: Waratah keep close on Hamilton's heels (07/09/18)
RD5: Hamilton prevail in grand final rematch (30/08/18)
RD4: Belmont tumble into ladder mix with defeat (24/08/18)
RD3: Waratah cuts Shortland's undefeated streak short (17/08/18)
RD2: Shortland break Terrace to continue strong start (10/08/18)
RD1: Waratah open account against long-standing rivals (03/08/18)
PRESEASON: Season 11's draw & key fixtures revealed (19/07/18)
PRESEASON: Registrations now open for NDL Season 11. (13/07/18)
GF: Hamilton extend dynasty with fifth championship (06/07/18)
SF: Belmont punch ticket to season decider with comeback (29/06/18)
QF: Raymond Terrace scores maiden finals victory (22/06/18)
RD15: Waratah confirm second place, first week bye (15/06/18)
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RD13: Belmont ensures the Waratah slide continues (01/06/18)
RD12: Cooks Hill and Belmont remain level with draw (25/05/18)
RD11: Waratah lose sight of first place after defeat (18/05/18)
RD10: Raymond Terrace shock Cookers in sudden death (11/05/18)
RD9: Cookers drop 'Tahs to second with 6-5 slug-fest (04/05/18)
RD8: Hamilton take revenge in Battle of Oakdale (27/04/18)
RD7: Bailey best on field as 'Tahs in cruise-control (20/04/18)
RD6: Waratah break three-year hoodoo over old rivals (13/04/18)
RD5: Hamilton reclaim first place with 13-0 masterclass (06/04/18)
RD4: League's closest round sees 'Tahs take top spot (23/03/18)
RD3: Cooks Hill record first point with 5-5 draw (16/03/18)
RD2: Sudden-death deciders see Hamilton pip Belmont (09/03/18)
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