ARMED with a new coach, Heathcote will aim to hit the ground running in the 2021 Heathcote District league season.
The Saints will launch into a new era following the appointment of midcourter Tyler McKeown as their A-grade coach.
She replaces Lorrae Closter, who led the Saints from 2018 to 2020, overseeing significant improvement in the team's on-court performances.
McKeown has been one of the mainstays in Heathcote's A-grade side since her arrival in 2017. She is originally from Numurkah.
This will be her first foray into senior coaching.
McKeown, who took charge of training for the first time as coach on Tuesday night, previously coached the Saints' 17-and-under and 15-and-under teams.
Excited to be starting a new phase in her netball career, McKeown believed her enthusiasm would be matched by the playing group, coming off a season lost to COVID-19 in 2020.
"It might be a shaky start for everyone after last year, but we are all ready to go," she said.
"The squad, I think, is looking strong, we have a couple of new faces from last season, while a couple of the older faces have stuck around.
"I'm sure we can hit form and show plenty of improvement."
In a huge boost for the Saints, they have retained their star 2020 season recruit Brooke Bolton.
The two-time Sandhurst BFNL premiership centre did not get to play a game last year, but will undoubtedly be a difference-maker for a team looking to climb its way back up the ladder with her vast inter-league and finals experience.
McKeown confirmed former coach Closter, who finished fifth in the league's best and fairest count in 2018 and inside the top 10 again in 2019, would remain with the club as a player.
"She's a great asset to have and she's happy to stay at Heathcote," she said.
"We're so happy to have her around for a couple more years.
"It will be great playing with Lorrae again, and I think with Brooke in the midcourt as well, they will help my own game and help ease the pressure of coaching and playing.
"I'm sure once I get into it (coaching and playing), I will be fine.
"I'm very competitive and I love to win."
The Saints will hold tryouts next week starting at Barrack Reserve in Heathcote on Thursday, February 11 at 6.15pm.
They will continue at the Golden City netball courts in West Bendigo on Saturday, February 13, at 9am, and Tuesday, February, 16, at 6pm.
McKeown is confident the Saints can start making inroads into their quest for improvement, but acknowledged it would always be tough with established powerhouses Colbinabbin and White Hills at the top of the pile and others like Elmore and Leitchville-Gunbower having strengthened their playing lists.
"It's hard when the top two or three never really changes, but we are definitely on the way up," she said.
"I think this year we can aim to go a little higher and then set our sights on doing the same again the year after.
"Hopefully after the next two years, we will be right where we want to be."
Heathcote ended the 2019 season in eighth place on the ladder with two wins.
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