It’s a case of same, same but different for Hawks Netball in 2021, as the club looks to make up for lost time after a year wiped out by COVID-19.
With the majority of last year’s squad signing on again, Hawks head coach and Championship division coach Jacqui Hansen said the club was in a strong position to build on the foundations that were laid before coronavirus struck and saw the 2020 Victorian Netball League season cancelled.
“We know that player retention has been a real challenge in netball and across many sports already this year, so we’re incredibly excited and feel very lucky that so many of our squad wanted to be a part of it again,” Hansen said.
The Hawks’ top-flight Championship team placed seventh in 2019, its Division 1 team fell in the first week of finals and the 19/Under squad finished sixth – results Hansen said were a strong starting point upon which to grow.
“We’re being realistic – in Championship we know that five of our 10 players will be playing at that level for the first time,” Hansen said.
“Our intention was for a number of them to continue to develop in Division 1 in 2020 before taking the next step, however with the 2020 season never going ahead the time is now for them to step up and grab that opportunity.”
Veteran Hawks shooters Nat Billings and Tayla Shannon will again pull on the blue, brown and gold this year, joined by young sharpshooter Daisy Hill, who was elevated into the Championship squad after the 2019 season.
A new-look midcourt will see Kelsey Buxton and Enya Broadley joined by Hawks debutants Ally Salter and Emma Allman, who were also due to play their first games for the club in 2020 after crossing from other franchises, while Jasmine Ferguson will make the step up from Division 1 after two strong years.
Defensively, Clare Johnson will be partnered with Sally Deller and Chloe Sinclair, who have both been elevated to Championship level over the past 12 months.
With a Round 1 assignment against Southern Saints looming on April 21 at Oakleigh Recreation Centre, Hansen said preparations were well advanced.
“Most of the girls hadn’t seen a netball court for more than six months, so preseason has been about building them up slowly and re-engaging them in a way that allows them to enjoy being back together while also ensuring they’re at the level we need them to be in the coming weeks.”
“We’re only nine weeks from Round 1 and we just can’t wait to get started.”
Hawks Netball will open its 2021 season against Southern Saints at the two clubs’ home venue, Oakleigh Recreation Centre, on Wednesday evening, April 21
VICTORIAN NETBALL LEAGUE ROUND 1
Hawks Netball vs Southern Saints
Wednesday, April 21
Championship – 8.20pm
Division 1 – 9.40pm
19/Under – 7pm