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26 March 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
Stawell Warriors netballers have been working hard on team dynamics ahead of the 2020 Wimmera Netball Association season.
Stawell, like all Wimmera and Horsham District clubs, is in limbo following an AFL Victoria recommendation all community football and netball be postponed until May 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A Grade co-coach Toni Stewart – returning to her role alongside Tracey Dark – said preparations were going well ahead of AFL Wimmera Mallee announcing a postponed start to the season.
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“We are disappointed, but everyone has been really good and just said, ‘this is what’s happening so we will just do what we need to do’,” she said.
Stewart said netball leaders had organised an online fitness diary to help keep players motivated and accountable to exercise away from the club.
The Warriors have enjoyed limited success in A Grade for the past three seasons, although each year has been an improvement on the one before.
Stawell finished seventh in 2019, with five wins for the season.
Stewart said she and Dark hoped to continue to build on last year’s efforts to foster a sense of togetherness and club spirit.
“We want to try to make it an enjoyable year and playing netball is more enjoyable when you are playing your best,” she said.
“We would like to be more competitive this season and I’d like to see the girls have a bit more belief in their abilities.
“I want the girls to train hard, play hard and to back each other.
“We really want to push for finals contention this season.”
The Warriors last played finals in 2016, making it to a preliminary final after finishing fifth.
The team has had several personnel changes since then and this year is no different, with the club welcoming back former players Ellen Williams and Tess O’Callaghan.
Stewart said the pair would add grunt down the defensive end.
Madi Taylor, still eligible for 17 and unders, will join A Grade full-time.
“Madi will play centre court and goals, which will free up Jemma Clarkson a little bit to run in the centre,” Stewart said.
Clarkson, defender Lisa Fleming, goalie Ebony Summers and midcourter Tarnee Orr are among returning players, while midcourter Jade Cross has dropped to B Grade, where she will be a playing coach alongside Meg Walker.
Stewart said Kristy Matthews and Rachel Wood had also opted to play B Grade in 2020.
She said the Warriors had been working on fitness for the past few months and had increased their focus on settling teams following selections.
“We are focusing on learning to gel with each other, particularly with having a new defensive combination with Ellen and Tess,” she said.
“We will also have to settle Madi into goals, so all the goalies can get used to each other’s game.”
The Warriors will field teams in all netball grades, including newly introduced C Reserve.
“We only had just enough players to field all our grades this year,” Stewart said.
“We are having a C Reserve side.
“Even though we didn’t have a lot of extra players it means nobody missed out and teams won’t be too big, meaning players have to sit off more.”
All teams bar A Grade made finals in 2019 and the club will look for all sides to enjoy finals this year.
“We also hope to blood a few juniors in A and B grades through the season and continue our focus on junior development,” Stewart said.
The Warriors were due to start their season in a Good Friday showdown with neighbouring rival Ararat.
The region’s football-netball leaders are still working on a draw for a revised season, in the hope it will still go ahead.
A Grade: Toni Stewart and Tracey Dark
B Grade: Jade Cross and Meg Walker
C Grade: Kaye Ellis and Michelle Beaton
C Reserve: Kerri Taylor
17 and under: Christine Graveson
15 and under: Ebony Summers
13 and under: Lici Gooden
Modified: Madi Freeland
Net Set Go: Kerri Taylor
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