A new-look Championship team and a talented group of future stars headline what is shaping as a very promising 2020 Victorian Netball League season at Hawks Netball.
Having missed finals in 2019 after an injury and circumstance-hit campaign, the club’s top-flight Championship team is banking on an exciting mix of experience and new blood as it looks to climb back towards the top four.
And with a strong core of players returning from last season, the team is poised to do just that.
Championship stalwarts Nat Billings and Tayla Shannon will be joined in the goaling end by rising star Daisy Hill, who impressed in Division 1 over the past two seasons and cut her teeth at the top level with a couple of Championship appearances in 2019.
A number of important additions add much-needed attacking midcourt depth, with Ally Salter joining the club from Saints and speedy youngster Emma Allman joining the Hawks as she steps into the Championship division for the first time. Enya Broadley returns for her second season in Championship, while Kelsey Buxton has also signed and the club welcomes back Kaela Hughes after a change in employment forced her interstate early last season.
In defence, 2019 club MVP Clare Johnson is set to build on her breakout season at goal keeper, again alongside Shannon Rennison, while Chloe Sinclair joins them after three standout seasons in Division 1.
Hawks head coach Jacqui Hansen said there were already very positive signs from the group, with the season still seven weeks away.
“Last year it felt like one thing after another, with injuries and a number of other challenges making it tough just to get a team out on court some weeks,” Hansen said.
“But already in pre-season the vibe is a 180-degree turnaround. Everyone’s buzzing, the team is training really well and it’s certainly the most depth we’ve had at any time in the last four or five years.”
“The opportunity is there for this group to be right in the mix again this year.”
In Division 1, the Hawks will be looking to put last season’s elimination semi-final exit behind them as they take to the court with a line-up brimming with both talent and experience.
Injuries rocked the team before preseason began, with new goaling signing Beth Wilson and elevated 19/U midcourter Sophie Hennessey both injuring their ACLs within days of each other, but the club was lucky to secure veteran goal shooter Sophie O’Shea and 2018 premiership wing attack Kate Fletcher as ready replacements.
Teaming with O’Shea in goals are 2019 duo Monique Lenehan-Moustafa and Elle Rice, while the midcourt will feature Jasmine Ferguson, who starred last year in her first Division 1 season, Caitlyn Alifraco, who will wear Hawks colours for the first time, and Brodie Brunt, who returns to VNL netball after some time away.
Defensively, 2019 team MVP Sally Deller leads the charge, while Emily Kay will play her first full season of VNL after being called in as an injury replacement last year, and Clare Pettyfor brings a wealth of experience and leadership as she builds towards a return after the birth of her first child.
In the 19/Under division a very new-look Hawks outfit is already showing excellent signs under new coach Guy Keane.
Only goaler Hannah Keane, midcourters Abi Inglis and Lanni Pryor and defenders Gemma Thomas and Olivia Spence remain from last year’s squad, but with a number of key acquisitions the team could be set for big things.
The Hawks’ strong association with Gippsland Storm saw Keeley Burgmann join the club as a goal attack/wing attack option and Madison Marino in the midcourt.
Also in goals are 2019 Hawks development player Dee Dee and fellow VNL first-time goalers Summah Hinchcliffe and Kelly Cousins.
In defence, 2018 Hawks development player Charlotte Crook will be back in the club’s colours to form a formidable trio with Thomas and Spence, while Simona Di Filippo adds plenty of zip in the midcourt, having played at Geelong Cougars last year.