BENDIGO'S Jayden Cowling is determined to make up for lost time at next year's Australian Men's and Mixed Netball Association Championships.
The 24-year-old, who was picked in the Victorian open team for the first time in 2020, has retained his spot in the team for next year's championships.
It follows years' worth of selections in state junior and under-23 teams.
Cowling's first's national championships with the open team were unfortunately put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But that has only left him keener to do well at the 2021 championships in Adelaide, from April 4 to 11.
"I was supposed to head away for nationals this year, but then COVID struck, so this will really be the first tournament with the open team," said Cowling, who is also back for another season as coach of Kangaroo Flat's A-grade team.
"I've been around Victorian teams a while, but it's awesome to step up and be given the opportunity in the senior team.
"(The 2020 championships) got cancelled pretty close to the event and after we'd had a massive pre-season. We had been training from September, twice a week down in Melbourne, and we had an awesome training camp. We were just about ready to go and were playing some awesome netball.
"We were a bit shattered, but that's been 2020 for you - there' plenty to look forward to."
After a year without netball - both as a coach and player - Cowling said it had been a joy simply getting back on the court again.
"I knew I missed it, but it wasn't until we got back on the court I realised how much," he said.
Cowling, who is employed by Netball Victoria as a northern region participation co-ordinator, has been kept extra busy during November and December with state team trials and training.
The squad will train for the final time on Sunday (December 20) before resuming early in the new year.
Drawing on his many years involvement in state teams, Cowling was confident in the Victorians ability to match it with Australia's best at the nationals.
"We have a team pretty similar to the line-up we would have had last year, with one addition," he said.
"(Former Gisborne 2017 season coach) Guy Keane is in there and a few guys from when I first played (under) 17s, back in 2010, so it's great being able to be back playing with them again.
"I'm sure nationals will come around pretty quick. "
The Australian Men's and Mixed Netball Association Championships will take place in Adelaide at the St Clair Recreational Centre, in Woodville.
Some changes at Kangaroo Flat
Meanwhile, Cowling is looking forward to another season at the helm of Kangaroo Flat's A-grade squad - his fourth (counting the cancelled 2020 season) in charge.
Roos fans can expect a bit of a different-look at the defensive end of the court in 2021 compared with the line-up which finished runners-up to Sandhurst in 2019, with six-time A-grade premiership star Alicia McGlashan and fellow defender Kate Burton to be missing due to preganancies.
Of the two, Cowling said McGlashan has expressed a desire to return to the court at some stage during the season.
"She is due in March , but is really keen to play some netball late in the year and to qualify for finals," he said.
"That's something she has done with all three of her babies. But depending on how she recovers, I know she's keen to be part of it.
"We're hopeful of retaining everyone else in the playing group and hopefully getting a couple of recruits.
"We're pretty lucky, we do have a lot of depth in A-reserve, so there will be girls keen to step up."
The Roos had a 'whole of club' training with the netballers and footballers last Thursday night, with the mood at Dower Park described as fantastic.
"I think the girls were excited just to be back out there, just like every other club I'd imagine," Cowling said.
"We'll start our tryouts in mid-January and then get stuck into pre-season.
"We were shaping really good this season (2020), the girls were the fittest they've ever been in my time.
"It will be a real focus for us to get that fitness back, but also to get the girls just enjoying netball again.
"We're lucky at Kangaroo Flat, we have our new courts, which is something to really look forward to."
The Roos have finished in the top three in both of Cowling's season's as A-grade coach and wil be chasing their first A-grade premiership since 2016.
I knew I missed it, but it wasn't until we got back on the court I realised how much.Jayden Cowling
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