A STRONG contingent of the AFL Central Victoria region's brightest and best netballers will hit the court in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) competition next season.
Thirteen players from the region have so far been selected in open and 19-and-under squads for 2021.
The 10-team competition will swing back into action in March and follows a year without VNL and country league netball due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among those lining up for VNL action are five members of the BFNL's most recent inter-league team, which played against Outer East in May of 2019.
They are Gisborne's Betty Thompson medallist Maddy Stewart, who will again represent Melbourne University Lightning, Sandhurst triple-premiership wing attack Meg Williams with North East Blaze, star Kangaroo Flat centre Chelsea Sartori and Eaglehawk goal attack Abbey Ryan, who will be team-mates at Boroondara Express, and Gisborne goal shooter Clare Vearing at Peninsula Waves.
Sartori and Ryan are joined at the Express by Sandhurst defender Sophie Shoebridge, who has crossed from Geelong Cougars, where she was a member of the VNL 19-and-under team of the year in 2019.
Williams, who was voted best-on-court in Sandhurst's 2017 and '18 premiership wins, will have company at North East Blaze, which has signed her Dragons team-mate and Netball Australia 19-and-under centre of excellence squad member Ruby Turner, and Gisborne's rising star Kiralee Collings, who was picked in the 19-and-under squad.
Best-on-court in City West Falcons' 2018 championship division premiership, Zoe Davies returns to the Falcons' nest, alongside 19-and-under squad members Chloe Langley, from South Bendigo, and Olivia Rodda (Gisborne).
Newly reappointed Leitchville-Gunbower A-grade coach Ashley Bradley will make a welcome return to the state league competition at Ariels.
Star Kyneton goal shooter Claire Oakley, a member of Netball Victoria's elite development squad, will continue her young and flourishing 19-and-under VNL career with Melbourne University Lightning, while another of Gisborne's rising stars Charlotte Crook has signed with the Hawks 19-and-under squad.
A stellar 2019 VNL season produced plenty of highlights for central Victorian players, including VNL team of the year selections for Shoebridge and former Gisborne player Keara Fitzgerald in 19-and-under and new Melbourne Vixens signing Ruby Barkmeyer in division one.
Williams was best-on-court in the Blaze's division one grand final win over the Express, whose line-up included Sartori, Abbey Ryan and Barkmeyer,while young goal shooter Langley featured in City West Falcons' 19-and-under premiership.
Ariels: Ashley Bradley (open).
Boroondara Express: Abbey Ryan, Chelsea Sartori, Sophie Shoebridge (open).
City West Falcons: Zoe Davies (open); Chloe Langley, Olivia Rodda (19-and-under).
Hawks: Charlotte Crook (19-and-under).
Melbourne University Lightning: Maddy Stewart (open); Claire Oakley (19-and-under).
North East Blaze Ruby Turner, Meg Williams (open); Kiralee Collings (19-and-under).
Peninsula Waves: Clare Vearing (open).
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