KANGAROO Flat has pulled off one of the biggest recruitment coups in BFNL netball history with the signing of a trio of premiership players from rival clubs.
The Roos have lured star former Eaglehawk sisters Ashley and Abbey Ryan and three-time Sandhurst premiership defender Carly Van Den Heuvel to Dower Park in moves certain to shore up hopes of a first A-grade premiership since 2016.
In a further boost to the perennial powerhouse's A-squad playing stocks, Kangaroo Flat has significantly bolstered its depth with the signings of Victorian Netball League (VNL) and inter-league representative Laura McDonald and former Golden Square 17-and-under inter-league representative Ash O'Shea, and the return to the club of Bronte Deary following a pair of A-grade premierships with Heathcote District powerhouse White Hills.
McDonald is the sister of Melbourne Vixens premiership player Sacha McDonald.
The Ryan sisters and Van Den Heuvel add much class and valuable premiership and finals experience to a line-up already containing plenty of both through the likes of 2019 season captain and two-time premiership star Chelsea Sartori and six-time A-grade flag winner Alicia McGlashan.
All three players cited their friendship with Roos coach Jayden Cowling and the chance of a premiership as the major influences in their decision to join the Roos.
"It's an amazing opportunity to be coached by Jayden with his sporting credentials and his coaching and playing abilities - I'm really looking forward to playing under him," said Ashley Ryan, who arrives at Dower Park as the league's reigning Betty Thompson medallist.
"It actually was a big move and took some convincing as Eaglehawk is like a second home to Abbey and I, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, especially after COVID.
"You realise you have to be with your friends and it's great to be around them.
"It was pretty tough going - a year without netball - and I really did miss the social part behind it. But in the end, everything needed to be safe."
It won't be the first time Cowling has coached the Ryan sisters, after leading them into inter-league battle against Outer East at the QEO in 2019.
Ashley, who played in a premiership (2015) and three A-grade grand finals alongside her sister with Golden Square before crossing to Eaglehawk in 2017, said the high number of new signings had made the transition to a new club much easier for both siblings.
Van Den Heuvel, a member of Sandhurst's 2017, '18 and '19 flag winning sides, will assume a role at either goal keeper or goal defence after spending much of her last season with the Dragons at wing defence.
The former inter-league representative is making a return of sorts to the BFNL after moving home to Wangaratta ahead of the cancelled 2020 season, but has opted for a change of scenery on her return to Bendigo.
"Even though I'm back in Bendigo, it feels all new - and trying something new is keeping things interesting for me," she said.
"Another reason for me moving over here is getting a chance to play with the Ryan girls. I've always been friends with them off the court. We've always been rivals, but now we can come together and aim for a premiership.
"I'm looking forward to getting back into the (goal) ring, I much prefer it in there."
Abbey Ryan, widely regarded as one of the competition's premier goal attacks, said she was looking forward to a fresh beginning after three-straight finals campaigns with Eaglehawk.
"It's shaping as a very good (A-grade) side, but there's a bit of unknown too - it's all about combinations," she said.
"It will be interesting to see how the practice matches go, we won't know how the combinations will go until we get out on the court.
"But it is exciting being here. Ash and I have had a lot friends at the club for a long time, so when the opportunity to be coached by Jayden arose, it was too hard to turn up."
Settling in should pose few problems for Abbey, with plenty of existing chemistry between her and Roos midcourter Sartori after playing VNL together at Boroondara Express in 2019 and also at inter-league level.
The 2021 season will be a homecoming for Deary after three seasons with White Hills, highlighted by A-grade flags in 2018 and '19.
The 24-year-old midcourter/defender played all her junior netball at Kangaroo Flat and welcomed the opportunity to return and be part of an exciting new era for the club.
"It's a really good group here at the moment and I feel we have a really good chance at success if we put the work in," she said.
"It's a great opportunity we have both on and off the court.
"It was hard saying goodbye to White Hills, I loved my time out there. Loz (Lauren Bowles) is amazing and has done great things for the club.
"I think it was my time to leave and I wanted to leave on a high. I wish them all the best going forward and I have no doubt they will be just as successful.
"Looking at the quality of players coming in (to Kangaroo Flat) it's going to make everyone work for their spot every week, which is a great thing."
The Roos will have their first practice match this weekend against the Victorian men's under-20 team.
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