A UNIQUE and exciting chance this weekend in Western Australia has helped make up for a glut of missed netball opportunities over the past two years for Bendigo's Jayden Cowling.
The Victorian men's state netballer will spend the next few days in Perth, playing in a series of six matches against Super Netball team West Coast Fever and the WA men's state team.
A busy schedule of matches will be the Victorian men's team main preparation for the 2022 men's national championships in Adelaide next month.
It will be take number three for Cowling and his state teammates at the nationals.
The past two championships have been cancelled due to COVID, last year's only a few weeks before the event was due to start in Hobart.
The state team warmed up for its trip west with a practice match on Wednesday night against the Melbourne Vixens.
They will play two games per day in Western Australia on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"It's pretty exciting, we only got told about a week or so ago that we were going, especially considering the border only just opened," Cowling said.
"We'll need to do a RATtest every morning, but I'm fine with that.
"And from there it's take three for nationals and we'll be off to Adelaide at Easter.
"It's been a very long time coming for sure."
The Victorian team has had a few minor tweaks in personnel since the aborted 2020 championships, with Cowling confident they can challenge for title honours in Adelaide.
"It's a similar core group, with two new players this year - it's great having a few fresh faces," he said.
"Having stuck together over the last few years, we've all got unfinished business at the championships."
Lining up in a succession of matches over the last few weeks against the Vixens, who were coming off a stirring win in the Super Netball pre-season tournament, Cowling and the Victorians are eagerly looking forward to a fresh challenge against the Fever.
In particular, their dominant and star 198cm goal shooter Jhaniele Fowler.
"We've been lucky the Vixens have brought us into their trainings, but playing someone different like the Fever, who have Jhaniele Fowler, is amazing," said Cowling, who splits time between wing attack and goal attack for the Victorians.
"Her height is something we will probably come up against at nationals, so it's an awesome preparation.
"So is the fact we are just getting away and travelling as a team together."
The Victorian men's team's clashes against the Vixens have seen Cowling sharing the court with former Kangaroo Flat star Ruby Barkmeyer, who is in her third season with the Vixens.
The 21-year-old, who made her SSN debut last season and is a training partner this season, played a key role in her team's strong showing during the pre-season tournament.
Cowling is predicting big things ahead for Barkmeyer for when she gets her next major chance.
"She is playing such good netball at the moment and looking really confident out there," he said.
"She's really making the most of her opportunities and played really well in the pre-season tournament.
"The match-play has really given her confidence."
Cowling's other netball focus will be on coaching Kangaroo Flat's A-grade team for the fifth season.
The Roos, who finished runners-up in the last completed BFNL season in 2019, will head into the 2022 season full of confidence with no losses from last season's A-grade squad and some handy recruits on board.
They were on the top of the ladder last year when the decision to call off the season was made official, handing Cowling a further missed opportunity and leaving him with more unfinished business.
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