BFNL open netball coach Jayden Cowling is expecting his talent-rich line-up to thrive under the intensity of inter-league battle.
The Bendigo league will clash with a high-calibre Outer East at the Queen Elizabeth Oval on Saturday, with the team looking to enhance its already proud and glowing reputation in Victorian netball circles.
The BFNL won its most recent inter-league clash against Ballarat in 2017 in convincing fashion, the same year it won the state-wide Association Championships crown.
While it was absent from inter-league action last season, the BFNL finished second at the Association Championships with a team that included several members of the current squad, including Eaglehawk's Ashley and Abbey Ryan, Kangaroo Flat's Chelsea Sartori, and Sandhurst's Meg Williams, who is the vice-captain.
The squad has only gotten stronger with the returns to inter-league netball of Gisborne's reigning Betty Thompson Medal winner Maddy Stewart, who will captain the side, and Sandhurst centre Brianna Dalrymple-Monro, and the additions of sparkling young talent in Sandhurst's Imogen Sexton and Gisborne goal shooter Clare Vearing.
Cowling, who in his first season as head-coach after two seasons as an assistant coach to dual Sandhurst premiership coach Tamara Gilchrist, said his side would head into the clash full of confidence.
"We are super-excited, the list we have is very exciting and one of the best inter-league teams we've had in a couple of years," he said.
"I'm not sure the side could be too much stronger. Obviously we do have a very strong league and we did have a lot of girls putting their hand up for selection.
"I think a lot of the girls who missed out could definitely have earned the opportunity as well.
"It doesn't get much better than having every girl on the list having some VNL experience."
The Outer East, which will be coached by former Gisborne coach Guy Keane, represents a bit of an unknown quantity.
The league was only formed at the end of the 2018 season as a result of a merger between the AFL Yarra Ranges and South East Football Netball League competitions.
But that has not stopped Cowling from uncovering plenty of information on the visitors.
"They come into the match with a line-up with plenty of VNL experience, while their captain Kaitlyn (Black) did play for the Victorian Fury (in the ANL) last year," he said.
"They will have a very strong team - I'm sure it will be a real high-quality game of netball.
"For us the key will be putting together a consistent four quarters of netball because we know we have stars all over the court.
It's just a matter of playing well as a team."
The BFNL will be a little weakened for the clash by the loss through injury of Sandhurst's dual league best and fairest winner Heather Oliver, who is committed to being part of the Association Championships campaign.
Her absence could pave the way for South Bendigo's Chloe Langley, who will play in the 17-and-under curtain raiser game and has been a standout for the Bloods in A-grade this season, to fill a spot on the open team bench.
On a personal level, Cowling - who coaches Kangaroo Flat in the BFNL competition - said he was excited by the prospect of his first game as the senior team coach.
"I didn't expect to get all the girls committed to inter-league, so it's been great to get them all on-board," he said.
"I'm excited to b given the opportunity to coach this group - I'm sure we'll all learn something about each other along the way."
The squad is Briana Dalrymple-Monro (Sandhurst), Allira Holmes (Eaglehawk), Abbey Ryan (Eaglehawk), Ashley Ryan (Eaglehawk), Chelsea Sartori (Kangaroo Flat), Imogen Sexton (Sandhurst), Maddy Stewart (Gisborne), Clare Vearing (Gisborne), Meg Williams (Sandhurst).
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