CASTLEMAINE joint coach Fiona Fowler says she can feel the excitement and culture at Camp Reserve growing with each week as the Magpies prepare to step onto the A-grade netball court for the first time since 2017 this Saturday.
The Magpies make their much-anticipated return to the top level of BFNL netball against Kyneton.
It will mark the official end to a bright and exhilarating pre-season at Castlemaine, highlighted by a brilliant recruiting campaign that has netted the likes of Melbourne Vixens Academy member Kelsie Rainbow, former NSW Swifts goaler Mikaela Vaughan and Australian Netball League premiership player Maddie Carter.
Former Super Netball star Fowler, who will coach the A-grade team alongside multiple Central Highlands league premiership coach Gary Cooke, could not fault the Magpies' preparation, in particular the enthusiasm from the club's existing players.
"The girls who have been there the last couple of years, just the excitement they are feeling from having Gary and myself and all these new players come to training and have good numbers at training and be provided with these opportunities to learn, it's something new and exciting for them," she said.
"Just from the feedback I am getting from them it's really positive and exciting.
"They can't wait for the season to start, so hopefully we are successful in all grades."
While the recruitment of Rainbow, Vaughan and Carter generated plenty of buzz when announced last October, the Magpies were able to add plenty more talent in the ensuing weeks and months.
One player Fowler and Cooke are definitely excited to have in the camp is former Kyneton midcourter and joint 2014 Betty Thompson Medal winner Emma Webb.
"She actually was my opposition through all of our nationals (national championships); she played for Tasmania and I played for Victoria and she was a goal attack and I was a goal defence," Fowler said.
"She's really keen and her attitude and determination after returning (from pregnancy) is amazing.
"She is so keen to get back onto a netball court, so we are really excited to see her at Castlemaine.
"When she came to trials she was only four-months-post and she tore it up, so Gary and I are excited to see what she can do another four months on."
Another player to look out for is goal shooter Jane O'Donohue, who originally played at Castlemaine, and is returning to the club after a premiership-winning stint at Central Highlands club Hepburn, where she played alongside Fowler in 2021.
"She is a really experienced goal shooter, made team of the year multiple times in the Central Highlands and won highest goal scorer in the league a few times," Fowler said.
"And another really exciting player for us is Caitlin Richardson, who played at Newstead, and finished runner-up last year in the MCDFNL league best and fairest at 17.
"She's a sensational basketballer, but brings plenty of versatility. She can pretty much play anywhere.
"It's really exciting to have someone with her enthusiasm and a keenness to grow and learn.
"I feel we have a nice mix of girls, who previously played at the club and have come back, and experienced talent that we have brought in.
"If we can do well this year, hopefully, it doesn't stop there and other girls who haven't returned to the club may have a desire to down the track and help build the club."
While Saturday's team will be entirely different from the Magpies line-up which took the court in 2017, Kyneton was the last team Castlemaine defeated in an A-grade match, beating the Tigers 43-30 in round three of that season.
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