COACH: Luke Bell (first year)
LAST YEAR: Eighth
Luke Bell, Linc Frost, Nathan Bake, Tom Burch,Kevin Bloom, Corey Gilmore, Nick Tobin, Jordan Cavallaro, Jake Landry, Clint Green.
James Carroll, Liam Jacques, Mitch McLean, Mitch Johnson, Jackson Bailey, Kyle Gillingham, Joel Osbrough, Darren Turner.
Sportsbet flag odds: $51
Player points: 46
R1: v North Bendigo (h)
R2: v White Hills (a)
R3: v LBU (h)
R4: v Colbinabbin (a)
PAST FIVE YEARS
Premiership player Luke Bell returns to his home club as coach.
Bell faces a baptism of fire considering the Saints have only won four games in the past three years.
The departure of some key senior players from last year doesn’t help his cause, but Bell and his match committee are happy with their recruiting campaign.
Nathan Bake returns to the Saints after two years out of the game, ruckman Tom Burch joins the club from Parkside in the VAFA, Kevin Bloom is a wingman/forward, while Corey Gilmour is a smart small forward.
Jordan Cavallaro and Jake Landry add depth to the Saints midfield, while Nick Tobin and Clint Green will help stiffen up the defence.
Former Kangaroo Flat defender Linc Frost has signed with the Saints and looks set to play as a key forward.
The Saints still don’t have much height and will struggle to contain the top few teams, but they appear to have more depth in 2017 and that could lead to a few more wins.
“There’s no reason why we won’t improve this year,’’ Bell said.
“The feeling around the club is really positive.”
Q & A with Luke Bell
Q: What are your expectations in your first year back at the club?
I suppose the expectations centre around being more competitive and to strive to improve.
We’ll be keeping everything positive and hoping that we can pick up a few wins along the way.
Q: Was stiffening up the defence a big part of your recruiting plan?
We’ve had a lot of goals kicked against us, so my first port of call was making us harder to score against. We need to be able to stay in games for longer and I think we’ll be able to do that. It’s not just the backline that needs to tighten up, it’s our defensive work right around the ground.
COACH: Mitch Grey (new)
LAST YEAR: Eighth
Nikki Ridley (pregnant); Demi Swift (work commitments); Chloe Culpitt (Castlemaine).
LAST THREE YEARS
HEATHCOTE has turned to former Kilmore premiership coach Mitchell Grey to oversee its hopeful rise up the ladder.
The Saints have not finished outside the bottom two in the past two years, but showed good improvement under last year's coach Nikki Ridley to win three games, after they went winless in 2014 and won only one game in 2015.
Grey is under no illusions as to the tough task ahead, but is tackling the challenge head-on. Importantly he comes with a winning pedigree, having led Kilmore to its first senior netball flag in 27 years last year.
The 24-year-old, who has represented Australia in men's netball, has formulated his playing group into A and B squads and one thing for sure he won't be afraid to continue to chop and change early in the season in a bid to find the right mix.
Annalyse Carroll, Kris Fitzpatrick, Tanya O'Halloran, Tara Sheridan and Tyler McKeown return from last year's A-grade line-up.
The Saints have had two hits-out so far, against Inglewood last night and Maldon last Saturday.
Grey said he was encouraged by the numbers at most training sessions and was itching to get his HDFNL career underway.
Q&A with Mitchell Grey
Q. Tell us a little bit about your netball background?
I played for Australia on two different occasions and played for Victoria for about seven years. Captain, vice-captain, most valuable player in New Zealand. My knee doesn't allow me to play anymore so I thought I'd give coaching a go. That was my second knee reconstruction, I don't want to go in for a third."
Q. Were you happy with your practice match form against Maldon?
I coudn't fault our form really. We still need to work on our defence, but once we have that down pat, we'll start working on zone defence and some attacking things. But we need to gett he basics of defending right first.