By Nathan Dole
A REMATCH of last season’s A-grade netball grand finalists, Sandhurst and Kangaroo Flat highlights Saturday’s start to the Bendigo Bank Bendigo Football Netball League season.
Another brilliant run by the Tamara Gilchrist-coached Sandhurst in ’22 was capped by premiership glory against Kangaroo Flat.
The Dragons and Roos will meet again on the Queen Elizabeth Oval court.
There have been few changes to what are powerful squads based at the QEO and at Bendigo Mazda Oval in Dower Park.
Key players for Sandhurst include Imogen Sexton, Ruby Turner, and Meg Williams.
It’s a daunting prospect for the Roos defence up against Kelsey Meade and Bec Smith.
The maroon and blue also welcome back Heather Oliver, a dual winner of the Betty Thompson Medal as league fairest and best, to bolster the squad.
The Jayden Cowling-coached Kangaroos will have worked a lot on defensive set-ups and skills in the lead-up to going a step further this year.
A talented line-up in the green and white includes Chelsea Sartori, Abbey and Ashley Ryan, and Milly Wicks.
Carly Van Den Heuvel and Ingrid Hopkins are the key pillars in defence.
A newcomer to the squad is Lara Judd.
South Bendigo will mark a new era when it plays Eaglehawk at Harry Trott Oval in Neale Street, Kennington.
The Bloods have made the switch from being at the QEO for 130 years to now make the Kennington ground their new home.
In ’22 the Janelle Hobbs-coached South Bendigo featured in the finals once again.
A new-look team will take to the court against the Hawks.
The attack will be led by Chloe Langley and Olivia Mason, as Steph Goode and Alicia McGlashan team up in defence.
Other players to watch in the red and white include Chloe Gray and Claudia Griffiths.
Eaglehawk has appointed premiership winner and life member Kylie Piercy as coach.
After an eighth place finish last season, Eaglehawk will be working hard to climb the ladder.
Both of last season’s A-grade coaches, Elley Lawton and Eleisha Saunders have stayed at the club.
Lawton will focus on playing, while Saunders is assistant coach.
Newcomers for the Two Blues include Tiarni Baxter, Gabe Marlow and Amy Ryan.
The Hawks also have last season’s club champion Morgan Keating, Gracie Berryman and Rani Madden on court.
Gisborne marks the start of a new campaign on its court at Gardiner Reserve against Strathfieldsaye.
Third the past two seasons, Gisborne is again likely to feature in the battle for a grand final berth.
A powerful line-up coached by Tarryn Rymer has welcomed back Tiana Newman, a Betty Thompson medallist.
Gisborne has also signed Zoe Davies, a training partner at Collingwood Magpies, to bolster the defence when available.
Kirby Elliott and Claudia Mawson will again play crucial roles in Gisborne’s run.
Gisborne will be without Maddy Stewart, a dual winner of the Betty Thompson Medal, this season.
It’s a daunting start for the Steph Freemantle-coached Strathfieldsaye.
Storm was one of the busiest on the recruiting front.
Newcomers to the squad include Claudia Collins from Bridgewater; Ella Flavell from South Bendigo; Macey Brereton from Leitchville-Gunbower.
The club has also gained Ashley Evans and Remi Phillips to join a team that includes Ava and Caitlyn Hamilton.
Maryborough is on its court at Princes Park to take on Castlemaine.
A multiple winner of the club’s best and fairest award in a 250-game career, Jordan Macilwain takes on the A-grade coaching role for the first time.
Macilwain will team up with reigning club champion Keely Hare in attack.
The Magpies have welcomed back Shaylah Bandy and Chloe Egan.
A young squad includes Tali Chadwick, Abbey Nalder and Finley Wagstaff.
Castlemaine will be determined to build on the momentum from last year’s fourth placing.
The Fiona Fowler and Gary Cooke-coached Magpies played exceptional netball all season which included a round 18 win against eventual premier, Sandhurst.
A huge plus for the Magpies was retaining most of the squad which featured in the club’s return to A-grade.
Castlemaine has recruited Montaya Sardi to join a team that will have Fowler on court a lot more and joining forces with the likes of Tara Ford, Jane O’Donohue and Mikaela Vaughan.
Golden Square has regained goalshooter Lucy Morcom as it strives to hit back from a winless run in ’22.
The Benita Swatton-coached team is on its court at Fur Life Oval in Wade Street to take on Kyneton in round one.
It’s a completely new-look for the blue and gold which has signed talented basketball Taylor Stibbe, and also gained Mikeely Hufer from Newbridge and Hannah Tyndall from South Bendigo.
The return of goaler Claire Oakley from Launceston Cavaliers is a huge plus for Kyneton.
The Tigers will be coached by Dianne Guest-Oakley and will have Oakley team up with Michelle Fletcher in attack.
Lauren Anglin, Tilly Shepherd, and Brooke, Jess and Rachelle Mangan will all play key roles for the yellow and black.