EAGLEHAWK hopes some astute recruiting will spell some double trouble for its A-grade netball rivals during the 2021 BFNL season.
The Hawks have welcomed back one of the stars of their last premiership win, following Abby Gilmore's decision to join older sister Ash at Canterbury Park.
Eaglehawk's season opener against Kangaroo Flat will be Abby's first match in the Hawks' navy and royal blue since playing a match-winning role in the club's drought-breaking 2012 grand final win against Sandhurst.
It's a day and game that will always hold fond memories for Gilmore, who scored 10 of the Hawks' 12 during the last quarter - and eight of the last 10 in the contest- as they turned a 19-26 deficit at three quarter time into a 31-30 win over the Dragons.
Her return will give the Hawks an entirely fresh look in goals from the last season played in 2019.
Ash Gilmore originally joined the Hawks ahead of the 2020 season, which was cancelled without a match being played.
It was an excited Abby, who walked onto the netball courts at Canterbury Park last Friday, for the first time since 2012.
"I have not seen all these new facilities, so it was pretty cool driving in here and seeing what they've got," she said.
"They're really nice. I can't wait to put the dress on."
She said a desire to play with her sister was the driving force behind her decision to return to the BFNL.
"Before the COVID situation, I was playing where my partner played and he played for a team that was in the opposite direction to Bendigo," she said.
"So I decided to suss out what Ash was doing, as I wanted to capitalise on her last few years in netball.
"We had tried to play together once, but that failed when Ash did her knee, so we decided to choose somewhere we could go together.
"Eaglehawk is where our dad (Daryl) played growing up and is a life member here, so it kind of felt a little naughty going anywhere else, so we stuck to the Borough."
There is a strong sense of unfinished business for the sisters after their first attempt at an on-court union ended as quickly as it started in 2012, when Ash suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the Hawks' round two clash against South Bendigo.
Ash, a deadly accurate goal shooter, would not re-emerge on the netball court until joining Heathcote District league club White Hills in 2018.
After her first stint with the Hawks was ruined by injury and her second curtailed by COVID-19, Ash is viewing the 2021 season as 'third time's a charm'.
She can barely believe her luck at finally getting the chance to play alongside her sister, nearly a decade after their first attempt.
"It's really a first for us, as I only lasted to round two last time - we haven't really ever played together," she said.
"It will be fun and something we've never really experienced before.
"I'm pretty excited and looking forward to it.
"To be honest, Abby has been the keenest about us playing netball together.
"After having (son) Mason, she's been really keen about playing. I probably only have one or two years left in me, so she thought it's now or never.
"I'm not sure how it really came about, but we are more than happy to give it a go and I think it will work.
"We're both similar, but she is more of a netballer than I am with my basketball background, so I reckon I can learn plenty from her."
The Hawks will be aiming to better their performance from 2019, which culminated in a preliminary final berth against Kangaroo Flat.
They will attempt to do so with a new-look playing list following the departures of 2019-20 coach Allira Holmes, midcourt ace Ashley Ryan, goal attack Abbey Ryan and defender/midcourter Bridget Murray.
Ash believed a year off with COVID would create a sense of the unknown for many teams in terms of players returning to their former clubs.
"It will be a really new-looking side and we'll have some big shoes to fill, so it's a bit of a rebuilding stage, but that's fun and exciting in itself," she said.
"We can only do what we can do, but I'm confident we can have a good year."
Abby, who last played with Riddell league club Rupertswood, said a year off due to COVID had only made her keener to do well in her BFNL return.
"It's going to be fun and I think we will work well together," she said.
"Fingers crossed for no injuries this time."
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