The pathway from regional netball to the state league will be on show when round one Victorian Netball League action comes to Bendigo today.
Players from central Victoria will be among those contesting Championship, Division One and 19-and-under clashes between the VU Western Lightning and UB Ballarat Pride at Bendigo Stadium.
Local players will also feature in the VU Lightning Bolts’ development team curtain-raiser against local players.
For Melissa Ryan, chairperson of the Bendigo Football Netball League and coach of the Lightning’s championship team, it’s a significant occasion.
“It’s great to be able to see our local girls progressing and to come up here and show our other girls that taking that next step is right there under their nose,” Ryan said.
“It’s an opportunity to see that VU is a club that supports them with their logistical problems.
“VU is a club that is very understanding, even from my perspective as a coach.”
Lightning committee member Lindy Murphy said the round one clash is being planned as an annual event.
“We have quite a number of Bendigo players in our teams at the moment, so it’s a great opportunity to bring state level netball into regional areas and showcase the regional talent at that level,” she said.
“The pathway does work, our regional country players are getting into VNL clubs so come along and watch them play because you too can do this.”
Local players in action include division one captain Brianna Dalrymple-Monro, Abby Gilmore, Alicia McGlashan, Claire Gibbs, Meg Grbac, Madeleine Stewart, Monica Wellington and Bonnie Barkmeyer.
Central Victoria has a proud history of producing top-line netballers, including national players Sharelle McMahon, Caitlin Thwaites and Rebecca Bulley.
“There’s a lot of girls from that North Central area who have gone on to play for Australia, so it’s a great breeding ground. VU’s been fantastic for giving country girls an opportunity,” Murphy said.
With VU Western Lightning runner-up in Championship last year, spectators can expect high-quality games.
The 19-and-under match begins at 3pm, followed by the division one game at 4.40pm and the development match curtain-raiser at 6.20pm.
The Championship game gets underway from 7pm, with tickets available at the door for the Hume and Iser Home Hardware-sponsored games.
The Lightning will also hold a 90 minute junior skills clinic tomorrow at the Golden City Netball Association courts next to Bendigo Stadium.
Coaches can also take part in an interactive session to be led by VU head coach Matt Hills.
The junior clinic is open to players aged six-16 and to coaches of any level.
Registration fee is $26.50 per person, with the clinics beginning from 10.30am.
To register visit vuwesternlightning.com.au.