Demons to feel heat on netball courts

AS REIGNING premier, White Hills can expect plenty of heat in this season’s A-grade netball action in the Bendigo Bank Heathcote District Football Netball League.

The Lauren Bowles-coached Demons regained number one status when it beat Colbinabbin in last year’s grand final.

White Hills has a 3-3 record from its past six grand final appearances.

Back-to-back premiers in 2018 and ’19, White Hills starts this campaign as the team to beat.

Strongest challengers to dethroning the Demons are likely to be from Elmore and Colbinabbin.

There’s plenty of on and off-court changes at several clubs leading into a new season.


The Jen McIntyre-coached Colbinabbin put in a mighty effort to reach last year’s grand final.

A key player in the Grasshoppers surge to that one day in September was mid-courter Olivia McEvoy who capped another brilliant season by earning the Esther Cheatley Medal as league fairest and best for a third time.

Players to have re-signed for the green and gold include goalshooter Matilda McIntyre, goalkeeper Elle Palmer, and Ella Kerlin and Tanzin Myers.

The Grasshoppers are under lights at M.J. Morgan Oval in Colbinabbin to play Elmore in the first round on April 6.

A week later Colbo’s line-up heads to Gunbower to take on Leitchville Gunbower.

An early test at home against Colbinabbin on April 20 will be followed by the grand final rematch at White Hills on April 27.


Rocked by consecutive defeats in last year’s finals series, Elmore has plenty to prove in ’24.

A premiership victory the previous September broke a 54-year drought in the league’s highest grade.

Unbeaten in the home and away series, Elmore was on track for back-to-back.

It was not to be.

Now a talented squad jointly coached by Allira Holmes and Gabe Richards will aim to outplay the likes of White Hills and Colbinabbin in the club’s 150th year.

Top two in last year’s club fairest and best award, Tahnee Cannan and Gabe Richards will play crucial roles, as will Maddy Keating.

In A-reserve, Hayley Langdon is coach, with Gabe Richards as assistant.

Also on the Bloods’ coaching panel are Millie Haines, B-grade; Jess Harney, B-reserve; Elouise Pettie, B-reserve assistant; Abbey Hay and Maddy Keating, 17-and-under.

Netball operations manager is Eliza McNamara.

Elmore’s run starts under lights at Colbinabbin’s M.J. Morgan Oval on April 6.

The Bloods are at home to face a new-look North Bendigo in round two.

A bye will be followed by matches against Leitchville Gunbower at Gunbower, and Heathcote at home.


The Saints won a great battle to make the top five last season.

Although disappointed to bow out in the elimination final against Mount Pleasant, Saints’ coaches Brooke Bolton and Kelsey Hayes said there were many positives to take from the year.

Heathcote has retained most of last year’s A-grade team in which Bolton, a dual Esther Cheatley medallist, is a star in mid-court.

The Saints start this season on Mount Pleasant’s court at Toolleen on April 6.

First home game at Pigeon Park in Barrack Reserve is on April 13 against Lockington Bamawm United.

Testing run for the red, white and black includes Colbinabbin, away; North Bendigo, home; and Elmore, away.

The club’s coaches are Georgia Bolton, A-reserve; Anna Dundon, B-grade; and Kate Sidebottom, B-reserve.


After a tally of five wins last season, Huntly will be aiming to keep improving and push towards eight victories or more.

The Kym Bell-coached Hawks were led brilliantly by Erin Scott and Ash Sherlock as they went one-two in last year’s club fairest and best award.

Bell is in charge of A-grade again as Chelsea Harvey coaches A-reserve.

The club’s director of netball is Stacey Saddlier.

The Hawks are on their court at Strauch Reserve to play White Hills in the April 6 season opener.

After a bye, Huntly plays Mount Pleasant on April 20 at Toolleen, and then hosts Lockington Bamawm United.

It’s a clash of the Grashoppers and Hawks on May 4 at Colbinabbin.


Great coup by the Bombers in the off-season was the signing of Caitlyn Hamilton as A-grade coach.

After starting with Kangaroo Flat’s juniors, Caitlyn crossed to Strathfieldsaye in 2015.

Highs include an A-grade grand final appearance with Storm, as well as representing North Central region and the Bendigo FNL.

Her ability to play mid-court or goal is a huge plus for LG.

“I have always had an interest in coaching and the club has a lot of young players. It will be awesome to help them develop,” Hamilton said of taking charge of a squad which had been coached by club legend Gemma Angove.

Among those returning to the Bombers are Macey Brereton and Remi Phillips from Strathfieldsaye, and Carmen Dye from Cohuna Kangas.

The LG squad includes Madi Curran, Maddie Elliott, Zazney Ellwood, Emily Hay and Renee Hipwell.

The club’s coaching panel is Kellie Taylor, A-reserve; Renee Hipwell, B-grade; Emily Colvin, B-reserve; and Madi Curran, 17-under.

The Bombers start their season at Lockington Reserve on April 6.

Round two features Leitchville Gunbower up against Colbinabbin at Gunbower.

The LG line-up makes its way to North Bendigo on April 20 for the round three clash and is at home a week later to play Elmore.

Lockington Bamawm United

It’s a change of coach at LBU as Ash Cullen, nee Bradley, will lead A-grade in ’24.

Cullen’s netball career began at Simpson and then rolled to Camperdown Magpies.

After moving to Lockington she played for LBU in 2011 to ’13.

She brings experience from playing stints at Kangaroo Flat, Ballarat Sovereigns and Camperdown Magpies, Monash Storm, Shepparton Bears and Boroondara Express.

Cullen coached Leitchville Gunbower in 2021 and ’22 and won the A-grade best and fairest in the ’22 season.

After the birth of two children she had limited time away from the game.

Newcomers to Lockington are mid-courter Lily Buckingham from Calivil United; defender Georgia McGowan from Echuca United, and Kate Pearson, goaler from Echuca United.

Best and fairest the past two seasons and coach, Jessie Hardess has re-signed with the Cats.

Coaches are Chelsea Hicks, A-reserve; Cindy Portwine, B-grade; Jude Elliot and Beth Howlett, B-reserve; Stacy Bacon and Rach Major, 17-and-under.

The Cats will be on their court at Lockington to play Leitchville Gunbower in round one.

A week later and it’s the clash of the Cats and Saints at Heathcote’s Pigeon Park.

Testing run for LBU includes White Hills at home on April 20; a clash with the Hawks at Huntly; and then a May 4 home game against Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant

Fourth in ’23, Mount Pleasant is likely to be a strong challenger for a top-five berth once again.

The Blues have appointed Anthea McCleary as coach of A-grade and A-reserve.

Carine Comer had led A-grade in recent seasons and stays on to coach B-grade, and the 13-and-under team.

A talented line-up for the Blues includes Ava Nihill and Maeve Tupper who were joint winners of the A-grade fairest and best award last season.

Other players to watch include Sarah Mannes, Olivia Nihill and Matisse Perez.

The club’s coaching panel is completed by Jessica Dooly and Rochelle Young, B-reserve; Carly Hickson and Teagan Byrne, 17-and-under, 15-and-under.

Netball operations managers are Anthea McCleary and Kristy Nihill.

Mount Pleasant will open their brand new courts at Toolleen for the season opener against Heathcote on April 6.

The Blues then take on reigning champion, White Hills in the Demons’ den a week later.

Mounts is back home to face Huntly on April 20.

After a bye the Blues travel to Lockington for the round five clash on May 4.

North Bendigo

Plenty of changes at North Bendigo in terms of players and coaches.

This year it will be Kiralee Kinder and Stacee Kingdon as co-coaches of A-grade.

A tally of seven wins left North Bendigo in sixth place last season.

Newcomers include Abbey Grindal; defender Jeanette Ross, Morgan McClellan, Sarah and Matisse Appleby, and Emily Kinder.

The squad includes Georgia and Imogen Kinder, and Maddy Foster.

Other members of the coaching panel are Bobbie Simpson, B-grade and B-reserve; Maddy Foster, Tyesha Rainsbury, 17-and-under.

The club has gained the experience of Liz Taylor to be director of coaching, and welcomes back Kristie Alford as netball operations manager.

It’s a first round bye for the red, white and blue who start their premiership campaign at Elmore on April 13.

North Bendigo hosts Leitchville Gunbower on April 20.

A week later and the Bulldogs will be at Heathcote before the May 4 home game against White Hills.

White Hills

Six consecutive grand final appearances for a tally of three-three shows just how powerful the netball program at White Hills is.

The Demons start another season as reigning premier.

Long-time coach Lauren Bowles takes charge again of an A-grade team determined to stay on top.

Versatility and depth of talent are two of the major strengths of the squad in red and black.

The club’s coaching panel is Mel Dillon, A-reserve; Molly Johnston, B-grade; Amber Weston, B-reserve; and Jacquii Jackson, 17-and-under.

The reigning champs play Huntly at Strauch Reserve on April 6.

A week later and the Demons unfurl the A-grade premiership flag before taking on Mount Pleasant at White Hills.

In round three, White Hills heads to Lockington.

The rematch with ’23 grand finalist Colbinabbin will be on April 27 at Scott Street in White Hills.

Another big game will be on North Bendigo’s court in Atkins Street a week later.

Nat Dole’s predictions:

Top five – White Hills, Elmore, Colbinabbin, North Bendigo, Heathcote.

Premier – Elmore.

Esther Cheatley medallist – Gabe Richards, Elmore.

Big improver – North Bendigo.