HUNTLY is confident of a strong 2019 HDFNL netball season with some key signings and the expected return from injury from existing key personnel.
The Hawks finished last season in fourth spot, after they were eliminated from the finals race following a semi-final loss to Mount Pleasant.
It was the second straight year the Hawks had finished the year in fourth.
Huntly has been busy in the off-season and has lured a pair of defenders in Laura Hamilton and Samantha Nelson away from Maiden Gully YCW.
Reappointed coach Emily Eliades said bolstering the defensive end of the court had been a priority for the Hawks following the loss of Montana Kekich and Alex Waterman in the back half of last season.
“Laura and Samantha will step in nicely we feel,” said Eliades, who is in her third year at the helm at Huntly.
“We’ve also picked up Chloe Fletcher, who is a strong tall goal shooter.
“She was in Alice Springs last year and was in the Northern Territory state squad team up there.
“We are real excited to have her.”
Fletcher fills another pressing need for the Hawks, who lost goal shooter Laura Philbrick with a back injury late in the 2018 season.
Eliades confirmed Philbrick would be a non-starter in 2019, while the club was counting on a mid-June return for Kekich following her ACL injury.
The outlook is brighter for Waterman who hopes to have recovered from her Achilles injury in time for round one, albeit she will not play A-grade.
The Hawks have retained the bulk of last year’s team, including league runner-up best and fairest Kym Bell, inter-league defender Kaitlyn McPhee, Sharna Appleby and sisters Ashlea and Emma Jenkin.
Eliades acknowledged the Hawks’ ambitions of pushing into the top three would again be tested by the likes of competition benchmarks White Hills and Colbinabbin, Mount Pleasant and a strengthened Elmore, which has recruited former BFNL star Ruby Barkmeyer.
But she was confident her side could rise to the challenge.
“This will be the third season in a row a lot of these girls would have played together, so hopefully they are growing together,” she said.
“We did have (recruits) Chloe, Laura and Sam play a couple of games for us last year to help us out and they slotted in very well.
“So we have a feel for what they can do.
“We have a lot of practice matches scheduled – a lot – so the girls will get a lot of court time together before the season starts.”
Official pre-season for the Hawks commenced a fortnight ago, with most players also taking part in a non-voluntary off-season program.
The Hawks meet North Bendigo in round one at Atkins Street on April 13.
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