FOR South Bendigo, round one of the BFNL netball season can't come soon enough.
After breaking through for their first A-grade finals appearance in 18 years last season, there are increasingly high expectations for the Bloods to take the next step in 2020.
Bolstered by an influx of recruits, and with the bulk of last season's line-up returning, third-year coach Jannelle Hobbs said her side was eager to carry the momentum of last year into the new season.
Hobbs, a dual BFNL premiership coach at Kangaroo Flat before joining South Bendigo, described morale around the club as 'fantastic'.
"We're very keen and have been training for a month now after starting in early January, so the girls are super-keen to do better and we've managed to recruit really well," she said.
"We are definitely looking forward to the start of the season."
Hobbs made strengthening the team's midcourt a priority during the off-season, with a strong crop of recruits containing several players with finals experience in other leagues.
"We have picked up Keiarah Brooks, from Ballarat, who played VNL for City West Falcons and played down in the State Titles a number of times," she said.
"We've also picked up Sarah Nash from White Hills, who is another midcourter/wing defence. She used to play at South and has come back to us, which is pleasing.
"We've also picked up (Redan premiership player) Hollie Horbury, our senior (football) coach's wife. She has also played in the Ballarat league and is good midcourter/wing defence.
"All the girls bring the finals experience we need."
The Bloods defence has also been enhanced by the addition of tall youngster Sophie Peacock, who won last season's Central Murray league A-grade best fairest while playing for Kerang.
Equally encouraging for the Bloods, they have been able to retain their young goal shooting ace Chloe Langley and another of their rapidly developing youngsters Danielle O'Toole - the club's two major recruits last season.
"They both had good years (in 2019), particularly Chloe. She won our A-grade best and fairest by a mile," Hobbs said.
"For a young girl to be able to do that and come up against strong defenders week in and week out and really hold her own is a fantastic thing.
"She is only getting better. She is playing VNL again this year, so another year in that competition is going to be good for her.
"Danielle is not playing for the Bendigo Braves this year, so she is devoting full-time to netball.
"She is able to train with us twice a week, which is something we lacked a bit last year - the connections.
"We're confident our midcourt can match any (in the league), and both ends are very strong as well."
The sole loss from last season's line-up is Molly Johnston, who has headed to White Hills.
We have been training for a month now after starting in early January, so the girls are super-keen to do better and we've managed to recruit really well.Jannelle Hobbs
Hobbs said the entire senior group had embraced a 10-week bootcamp style fitness program to kick-off the pre-season and expected her girls to be among the fittest in the league heading into the season.
Thrilled to be back at South Bendigo, Sarah Nash, who captained the A-grade side in 2016 before winning a trio of premierships with White Hills in 2017-19, described the vibe around the club early in pre-season as 'amazing'.
"You wouldn't think we would get so many girls to training so early on in the year, but we've had great numbers from the get-go," she said.
"I think a lot of the girls are buzzing to get the season started.
"The girls finished last season hungry to do better (this year) - the energy around the club and the will for the girls to get wins on the board is awesome.
"Hopefully that transfers over into the season."
Nash described South Bendigo as a vastly different club to the one she left at the end of the 2016 season.
"Jannelle has pretty much done a full overhaul, which you can see majorly in the attitude of the girls," she said.
"The girls are just so keen to do better and I think that is something Jannelle can be very proud of.
"I was always going to come back to South, South is definitely my home club. It was just a matter of waiting for that opportunity to do so.
"I achieved everything I could have at White Hills, so I think it was time for me to come back to the club."
South Bendigo opens its 2020 season against Eaglehawk at the QEO on April 10.
The Bloods and Hawks played out a pair of draws in the regular season last year, before Eaglehawk took the honours in their elimination final meeting.
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