BENDIGO Football Netball League officials and coaches have welcomed news of Castlemaine's intention to rejoin the A-grade netball competition in 2022.
The Magpies announced their appointment of joint coaches - former Super Netball star Fiona Fowler (nee Themann) and former Central Highlands league multiple premiership coach Gary Cooke - on Monday.
Fowler and Cooke, who are coming across from the Central Highlands league club Hepburn, are hoping to lead the Magpies back to A-grade prominence following a four year hiatus from the top division.
BFNL chairman Cameron Tomlins said the news had been well received by all clubs as well as the league.
"It's really exciting for the league and for Castlemaine as a club, in general, to attract such a high level of talent to lead their netball program," he said.
"We know the BFNL has an outstanding quality of competition and it's great to see these types of players like Fiona come back in and be part of our competition.
"Castlemaine should be commended on the early work they have done with a view to season 2022 from a football and a netball perspective, it's really great to see them investing in their local and strong junior pathways.
"They do have incredible talent within the region and we want to ensure that talent is playing with Castlemaine.
"At the end of the day, all clubs will be excited by this announcement as it is just going to add to the value of our competition.
"Full credit to Castlemaine as a club, they've got a new vision and they are really implementing that really quickly.
"We've been there to try and assist in any way possible because at the end of the day we want everyone fully represented from a football and netball perspective."
The Magpies last competed in A-grade in 2017, winning one game under then-coach Deb Symes.
They went winless in both 2016 and 2015.
Castlemaine has never won a BFNL A-grade premiership since the competition's inception in 1991.
The Magpies have produced one A-grade league best and fairest winner, Georgia Wills - who shared the Betty Thompson Medal with Maryborough's Alicia Cassidy in 2005 - while Andrea MacDonald finished runner-up in the award in 1996 behind joint winners Carol Sing and Kay Walsh.
South Bendigo coach Jannelle Hobbs said the return to the league of Fowler, who played in a grand final with Strathfieldsaye in 2015 before a pair of national league seasons with Adelaide Thunderbirds in 2017 and '18, was a real coup for the league, but especially Castlemaine.
"Fiona's a great player and I'm sure she will be a great coach," she said.
"I had a little bit to do with her down at MU (Melbourne University Lightning) and she is a damn good player, and I know that when she was at Storm she was great.
"It's definitely great for our league if everyone has an A-grade team and by building up their junior program, hopefully, they can sustain it. That's the key.
"I'm very happy for Castlemaine, this is a huge coup for them."
Hobbs and rival Kangaroo Flat coach Jayden Cowling believed most most A-grade players and coaches would welcome the prospect of a return to a full 18-game season with fewer breaks.
"That is one thing we are all really excited about, having a full complement in teams in A-grade, that's what we all want," he said.
"Especially in the Bendigo league, which is such a strong league, you want to have a game every single week.
"Castlemaine has struggled in the past, but from what we have heard early on, they should be able to contend for a top-five spot if they can manage to get a few recruits. That's exciting for everyone.
"Fiona is an amazing player. She's been around the league before, but to get someone like her with all her experience is a huge get.
"It's exciting for the whole league to have Castlemaine pushing for an A-grade team, but not only that, those coaches are really going to rebuild that club."
Castlemaine should be commended on the early work they have done with a view to season 2022 from a football and a netball perspective, it's really great to see them investing in their local and strong junior pathways.Cameron Tomlins
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