Coach: Wayne Primmer (1st year)
Last year: 8th - 3-13
Arrivals: Zach Brown, Jordan Cavallaro, Kye Cavallaro, Pat Cummins, Luke Lambden, Codie Price, Dylan Robinson, Jake Sundblom.
Departures: Jake Condon, Jye Formosa, Marc Millard, Daniel Russell.
Player points: 46
Last flag: 2010
R1: v LBU (a)
R3: v Colbinabbin (a)
R4: v Huntly (a)
Past five years:
2018: 8th - 3-13
2017: 7th - 4-12
2016: 8th - 1-15
2015: 9th - 2-14
2014: 8th - 1-14-1
Last year’s MVP top 5:
Darcy McLean - 47
Jake Condon - 41
Thomas Pain - 41
Dillon Hardy - 31
Daniel Russell - 22
Last year’s top 5 goalkickers:
Louis Piccolo - 16
Jake Condon - 14
Bradley Morgan - 12
Darcy McLean - 8
Alex McIvor - 8
Q and A with coach Wayne Primmer
As a new coach at a club that has struggled for the past five years, how have you gone about attacking you first pre-season with the group?
"It's the same old story… the first thing was to get them fit.
"When you do a bit of homework into them, they couldn't run out games last year, so we've had a real focus on the fitness side of things and the players have brought into that.
"So fitness has been the main thing and trying to get a bit of confidence back into the group. They know within themselves they are fitter than last year and their bodies can now handle more."
Recruit Dylan Robinson looks to be a player who can provide you with some key position options at both end of the ground How do you intend to use him?
"Dylan is a key forward, but whether I play him there all year, I'm not sure yet.
"He played centre half-back for his team (Mulwala) last year, but I know he can play as a forward. Heathcote has had trouble kicking goals, so I'll be hoping to be able to utilise him forward."
What's the benchmark you are setting for Heathcote this year?
"All we've said is that after winning three games last year, our aim is to double that and win six.
"The club is realistic with where it's at and understands that if we can do that then we're advancing.
"If we can get to the six wins with some games to go then we'll re-assess and see if we can win some more."
It has been a long haul for Heathcote since last playing finals in 2013, with the Saints finishing no higher than seventh in the past five years.
Wayne Primmer is the new coach of the Saints, taking over from Luke Bell, who had the role for the past two years.
Unlike 2016 when he took over a Sandhurst side with a premiership on its mind - which he duly won - this is a coaching challenge of rebuilding a side for the experienced Primmer.
Primmer has spoken of the goal this year of doubling last season's tally of wins from three to six and anything beyond that exceeding expectation.
Six wins would be a massive step in the right direction for the Saints given their return over the past five years have been just win tallies of 3, 4, 1, 2 and 1.
Three key losses in consistent midfielder Jake Condon and the experienced Marc Millard, who have headed to Sandhurst, plus ruckman Daniel Russell to Rochester, hurts, but the Saints will be boosted by the quality addition of new assistant coach Codie Price.
Price has made a name for himself as one of the premier half-back flankers in the Bendigo league in recent years and his sharp ball use, coupled with his experience that includes playing in Sandhurst's 2016 flag, is going to be a huge on-field asset for Primmer, who by all reports will have the Saints in a much better position to compete for longer and run out games stronger following a tough pre-season.
Practice matches: v Maiden Gully YCW (March 23 at Maiden Gully), v Pyramid Hill (March 30 at Heathcote).
Coach: Lorrae Closter (second year)
Last year: 9th
Arrivals: Linda Powell, Alice Laidlaw, Kelsey Hayes.
Departures: Analyse Carroll, Felicity Hasthorpe, Tanya O’Halloran.
Last five years: Ninth (2018); eighth (2017); eighth (2016); eighth (2015); eighth (2014).
Coaching panel: Lorrae Closter (A-grade and A-reserve); B-grade and B-reserve to be finalised; Kayla Melling (17-and-under) and 15-and-under); Tanya Oakley (D-primary).
It was a step back in ladder position only for Heathcote last season, as the Saints, under their first year coach Lorrae Closter, showed marked improvement on the court.
The Saints notched a pair of wins (against Leitchville-Gunbower and Lockington Bamawm United), but tellingly were able to reduce the margin of deficit against their rivals in most other contests.
The challenge now is to add to their wins tally.
The Saints have left no stone unturned in attempting to lure new players to Heathcote, with stocks getting a healthy boost across the board.
They Saints will start the season with a new goaler in Linda Powell, who was a co-captain of Ballarat league club Bacchus Marsh last season, and have also added Alice Laidlaw (Horsham)and Kelsey Hayes, from Camden in New South Wales.
They will slot in alongside returning A-graders Chantelle Whiting, Tyler McKeown, Kyra McCulloch, Britney Shaddock and Closter, who capped a bright first season in the HDFNL by finishing fifth in the league’s Esther Cheatley Medal count with 15 votes, behind only Colbinabbin’s Brydie Lawford, Huntly’s Kym Bell and White Hills’ Anna-Grace Close and Danni Wee-Hee.
The Saints will be without 350-gamer Tanya O’Halloran, who will be devoting time to family, Analyse Carroll, Felicity Hasthorpe.
A first-up match against the other team to finish last season at 2-14 (LBU) offers the Saints a prime chance to kick off the season with a win.
Q and A with netball operations manager Kyra McCulloch
It appears you have been working very hard in the off-season to attract new players?
“We’ve done a fair bit to get Heathcote out there and tried to work out why we haven’t been able to get girls to come and play in previous years. We have been to university open days and events like that – we are trying to get across that Heathcote is only 30 minutes out of Bendigo and not two hours like some people think.”
You must be happy with Lorrae’s efforts since joining Heathcote?
“She is amazing – she has been one of the best things to happen to the netball club in years. She is the A and A-reserve coach, but she still takes on the whole B-squad and helps out there. She’s been great in getting players here, whether or not they are A-grade players are not. The culture changes have been great.”
How confident are you that we will see improvement from Heathcote?
“I definitely think there will be improvement from previous years. There was a huge jump last year, even though it didn’t show on the scoreboard in A-grade. But we were closing (margin) gaps from the year before, so that was a big turnaround, and A-reserve made it to the finals for the first time in a few years as well.”
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