While the loss of the 2020 Victorian Netball League season was a tough pill to swallow for Hawks Netball’s 19/Under team, it could end up being a blessing in disguise, according to head coach Guy Keane.

With all of the selected 2020 team still eligible to compete in the 19/Under division, it enabled the club to retain an experienced and mature list for its tilt at the 2021 season.

The team is in great shape less than a month out from the season, Keane said.

“Retaining nine of the 12 athletes from 2020 and elevating a number of players from our development program into the VNL environment is an amazing opportunity for this group of talented athletes to continue working on the combinations and connections they started to build in 2020,” he said.

“It’s been a long wait for these kids, particularly those who have yet to debut, so we’re really looking forward to them finally taking the court in Hawks colours in Round 1.”

Goal attack Hannah Keane leads a strong goaling lineup that includes Dee Dee Deng and Kelly Cousins, and there’s no shortage of experience in the midcourt, with Lanni Pryor, Simona Di Filippo, Abi Inglis and Keeley Burgmann linking up again.

And in defence Gemma Thomas has been joined by former Hawks development squad member Charlotte Crook, and 2020 Development player Olivia Barnett.

Keane said the 2021 squad had been further strengthened by the introduction of the Hawks Next Generation program, which has seen a small group of players training with the VNL team on a weekly basis.

“Our Next Generation players have taken their opportunity and are pushing the VNL athletes every single week, with a number of them already stepping into the team for practice matches and showing they’re ready to take the court if needed this year.”

The Hawks kick off their 2021 VNL season against Southern Saints on Wednesday, April 21 at Oakleigh Recreation Centre.