Busy run for many of netball league’s best

IT’S going to be a busy netball season for many of the Bendigo Bank Bendigo FNL’s best.

Plenty of the league stars will be on court for Bendigo Strikers in its debut year in the Victorian Netball League, as well as chasing premiership glory for their Bendigo FNL clubs.

This season it’s not Sandhurst which holds the tag as reigning premier.

The Tarryn Rymer-coached Gisborne broke Sandhurst’s grand final winning streak last September and will be determined to stay as number one.

After a break from A-grade, Castlemaine has played exceptionally well to reach the past two finals campaigns.

Kangaroo Flat endured the pain of consecutive defeats in its latest finals series, so expect the Jayden Cowling-coached Roos to bounce back.

South Bendigo will be determined to climb higher, as will Strathfieldsaye, Eaglehawk, Maryborough and Golden Square.


Beaten in last season’s preliminary final, Castlemaine has the squad to challenge for a top-three finish once again.

After a great run in which Fiona Fowler and Gary Cooke teamed up as A-grade coaches, Chloe Hughes takes on the role in ’24.

A ruptured Achilles last pre-season put Hughes on the sidelines for many weeks.

Unable to play, Hughes was assistant coach for Fowler in B-grade.

A senior premiership player with Shepparton United, Hughes had a two-year stint with Colbinabbin and fought back from injury to play from midway through last season.

Players to watch for the Magpies include mid-courter Charlotte McMurray, and defender Megan Wilson who are in the Bendigo Strikers squads.

Key players in Castlemaine’s run in ’23 included Bri Pedretti at goal attack or wing attack, Jane O’Donohue, Tara Ford, Montaya Sardi and Emma Winfield.

Recruits include mid-courter Serryn Eenjes, and 17-year-old defender Amelia Britt.

Kyla Byrne represented North Central at the state titles and is also assistant coach of Castlemaine’s 15-under development team.

Pre-season for the Magpies included a specialist attacking session with Melbourne Vixers goaler Ruby Barkmeyer.

Castlemaine’s coaching panel includes Lara Daly, B-squad; Nikkea Hogan, B-squad assistant; Sharyn Dredge, 17-under; Charlotte McMurray, 15-under development team.

The club also has Jack Davidge playing a crucial as netball umpire co-ordinator.


The Hawks will be determined to improve on last season’s 5-13 record.

A great sign for the club was the A-grade team winning four of nine matches in the second half of the 2023 season.

A high in their run was beating South Bendigo.

Kylie Piercy is in charge of the A-grade team for the second year running.

Players to have re-signed with the Two Blues include Tiarni Baxter, Gracie Berryman, Morgan Keating, Elley Lawton, Gabrielle Marlow, Amy Ryan and Eleisha Saunders.

A newcomer to the Borough squad is Lucy Morcom.

Eaglehawk starts its campaign at home on April 13 against Golden Square at Canterbury Park.

After a bye the Hawks play at Strathfieldsaye’s Triple M Park.

Pat Cronin Foundation round on May 4 includes Eaglehawk and Castlemaine in the feature match of the day.

Massive test for the Two Blues when the clash at Kangaroo Flat on May 11 is followed by facing Gisborne in Eaglehawk, and then Sandhurst at Queen Elizabeth Oval.

The Borough could be a challenger for the lower rungs of the top five, but is a team which cannot be taken lightly, especially in front of parochial home crowd.

Other coaches for the Hawks are Kim Schepers, A-reserve; Paige Combridge, B-grade; Lisa Moore, B-reserve; Vanessa Saunders, under-17, and Mel Oldfield, under-17 assistant.


It’s been a decade since Gisborne went into a season as reigning A-grade champion.

The Tarryn Rymer-coached team capped a remarkable run in last season’s finals when it won the grand final against Sandhurst by a goal.

Off-court changes at Princes Park include Maggie Tranter moving up to coach A-grade.

Victory for the red, white and blue denied the Dragons a fifth consecutive premiership.

It’s a powerful squad which will take to the court for Gisborne once again.

Co-captains Kirby Elliott and Claudia Mawson will be doing all they can to answers the challenges from the likes of Sandhurst, Kangaroo Flat and Castlemaine.

A dual winner of the Betty Thompson Medal as league fairest and best, Maddy Stewart plays a key on-court for A-grade and as coach of A-reserve.

Other players to watch for Gisborne include Tiana Newman, a dual Thompson medallist; and defender Eloise Rodda.

Rising stars Bella Connors is in the Victorian 19-under squad, and Dash Taylor is part of the Bendigo Strikers development program.

A big year for Rymer includes coaching the Bendigo FNL open tam at the Association championships.

After a bye on April 13, Gisborne’s quest for back-to-back premierships begins with the grand final rematch against Sandhurst on April 20 at Queen Elizabeth Oval.

The Bulldogs make their way to Kennington’s Harry Trott Oval to face South Bendigo in the Pat Cronin Foundation Round game on May 4.

Golden Square

Huge challenge for coach Chris O’Sullivan in breaking a losing streak and being far more competitive in A-grade.

Being in charge is not new to O’Sullivan who coached A-grade in the last few rounds of the 2023 season, and had coached the 17-under team.

Changes to the netball program include the appointment of Teigan Redwood as a new director of coaching.

Those to have re-signed with the blue and gold include Cass Humphrey who earned last season’s A-grade fairest and best award.

The squad includes talented youngsters Jasmin Gallagher and Mia McCrann-Peters who are with the Bendigo Strikers 23-under squad.

Another player to watch will be Daisy Stringer whose great skills keep improving through her work with the Strikers development team.

Golden Square’s recruits include Jasmin and Rylee Gallagher.

Rising stars such as Emma Keating, Tess Mills, Kayla Moon and Holly Swatton have represented North Central at the state under-17 titles.

Golden Square starts its campaign on April 13 on Eaglehawk’s court at Canterbury Park.

First home game is against Strathfieldsaye Storm a week later at Country Vet Oval in Wade Street.

From round three through to round six, Golden Square faces last season’s finalists in Castlemaine, away; Kangaroo Flat, home; Gisborne, away; and the Ron Best Memorial Shield match on May 25 at Golden Square.

Kangaroo Flat

The Roos have been a strong challenger, but have not grabbed the A-grade premiership cup in recent seasons.

Consecutive defeats in last year’s finals series has driven the Roos across summer and will through the ’24 season.

It’s a busy time for A-grade coach Jayden Cowling who is also coach of the Bendigo Strikers 23-under team in VNL action.

A brilliant squad at Kangaroo Flat includes Chelsea Sartori, winner of the Betty Thompson Medal as the league’s fairest and best and Bingham medal as the Roos’ team champion in the ’23 season.

The Roos have bolstered their line-up with the signing of talented goaler Chloe Langley from South Bendigo.

Players to watch for the green and white include goalers Abbey Ryan and Annie Spear, and Ash Ryan in mid-court.

Ella Wicks will be back in mid-court after injury put an early end to last season.

The Roos’ squad includes Bronte Deary, Bella Pearse, Bella Pitto and Milly Wicks.

Newcomers include defender Steph Greene from South Bendigo, 16-year-old Lainey Mortlock from Donald, and Taylah Collins from South Bendigo.

The club’s coaching panel is Jayden Cowling, A-grade; Nicole Donnellon, A-reserve; Cath Wicks, B-grade; Kate Newman, B-reserve; and Shae Cairns, 17-under.

Big start for the Roos in the twilight game against Sandhurst on April 13 at Kangaroo Flat’s Dower Park.


Off-court changes at Princes Park include Maggie Tranter moving up to coach A-grade.

At the age of 23, Tranter will be one of the youngest A-grade coaches in league history.

In ’24 it will be Tranter as coach and Laura Johnston as assistant of the club’s top team.

They take of a change which had been coached by club great Jordan Macilwain.

There is plenty to like about the younger players in the Magpies’ squad.

Expect Amanda Durbridge to play another key role after earning the Cassidy-Chadwick Medal as last year’s club fairest and best award winner.

Tori Chandler was runner-up for the club champion player award.

The Magpies also have Tali Chadwick on court, and Abbey Nalder who was a Rising Star finalist in ’23.

Another youngster to watch is Ella Patten who claimed the Carol Sing Medal as fairest and best in the Bendigo FNL 17-under competition.

Patten and Maryborough clubmate Millie Cassidy represented North Central at the 17-under state titles.

Maryborough’s coaching panel includes Tamielle Linton and Rachael Palmer in charge of the 17-under team.

The Magpies make their way to Castlemaine for the season opener on Good Friday at Camp Reserve.

The club’s first home game is on April 20 against Kangaroo Flat.

A tough early run for the Pies includes playing at Gisborne on April 27, and then meeting Sandhurst in the Pat Cronin Foundation Round match on May 4 at Princes Park.


A squad packed with so much experience, skill and versatility will be fired up after last September’s grand final defeat.

The Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst was gunning for an unprecedented fifth consecutive A-grade premiership.

It was not to be as Gisborne claimed a 40-39 victory against the maroon and blue.

For Sandhurst’s squad it’s not dwell on what happened, but use as a learning and motivational tool for the ’24 campaign.

A powerful line-up includes mid-courter Meg Williams who is captain of the Bendigo Strikers championship team in its first Victorian Netball League season.

In attack there is Kelsey Meade and Bec Smith.

Goalkeeper Charlotte Sexton is one of the league’s best and part of a defensive unit that includes Heather Oliver, a dual Betty Thompson medallist, Imogen Sexton and Ruby Turner.

In mid-court the Dragons have Paige Ryan and Shae Clifford to set up many moves.

The coaching panel is Tamara Gilchrist, A-grade; Jarileey Scholtes, B-squad; and Carol Cathcart and Rose Gallagher, under-17s.

Game one for the Dragons is the twilight game on Kangaroo Flat’s court at Dower Park on April 13.

A week later and it’s the grand final rematch against Gisborne at Queen Elizabeth Oval.

Another big match is the Graeme Wright Memorial Cup against South Bendigo to be played on May 11 at the QEO.

South Bendigo

A seven-time premiership player across an outstanding career in the Bendigo FNL, Alicia McGlashan joins the Bloods as playing coach.

McGlashan’s experience, especially in big games in her time with Kangaroo Flat, will be a key as she aims to lead the Bloods into the top three.

The Bloods have contested finals the past four seasons in which Janelle Hobbs was coach.

McGlashan is joined by Lynley Strachan as an assistant coach.

The club has welcomed the return of the skilful Ella Flavell.

Key players for the red and white include Carissa Brook, Maggie Burke, and mid-court ace Chloe Gray.

Runner-up in last season’s best and fairest, Steph Goode will be aiming for another strong season.

A talented group of youngsters includes Eden Clifford who represented North Central at the state under-17 titles and is part of the Bloods’ senior and under-17 squads.

Pre-season for South Bendigo included a training session with Julie Hoornweg. Melbourne Vixens premiership coach in 2009 and previously a high performance/national coach with Wales and Fiji.

South Bendigo’s coaching panel is Marita Eddy, A-reserve; Alison Leech, B-grade; Vicki Brook, B-reserve; and Amber Hollis, under-17.

Game one of the ’24 campaign is on Strathfieldsaye’s court on April 13 at Triple M Park.

First of South’s home games at Kennington’s Harry Trott Oval is a week later against Castlemaine.


The recruitment of the Mangan sisters from Kyneton is a huge plus for Storm.

After a closely-fought battle with South Bendigo to claim a finals berth the Steph Freemantle-coach Storm finished last season in sixth place.

Strathfieldsaye is likely to again be a challenger for a top-five finish once again.

Kyneton’s move into the Riddell District FNL meant the Mangan trio were looking for another club as they wanted to stay in the Bendigo FNL.

Rachelle Mangan can play mid-court or in goal, Brooke in mid-court, and Jess in defence.

They join a team which includes Caitlyn Hamilton who earned last season’s club fairest and best award.

Another key player for Storm is Emmie Banfield, runner-up for the ’23 team champion award.

A defence that includes Emmie Banfield and Layla O’Shea will play a crucial role.

Storm’s season starts with a home game against South Bendigo at Triple M Park in Tannery Lane on April 13.

The Strathfieldsaye team could mark a three-nil start to the season as it plays at Golden Square on April 20, and then hosts Eaglehawk on April 27.

Tough run from rounds five through to eight includes matches against Catlemaine, away; Kangaroo Flat, home; Gisborne, away; and then hosting Sandhurst on the King’s Birthday holiday weekend.

Nat Dole’s predictions:

Top five – Sandhurst, Gisborne, Kangaroo Flat, Castlemaine, South Bendigo.

Premier – Sandhurst.

Betty Thompson medallist – Claudia Mawson, Gisborne.

Big improver – Eaglehawk.