PREVIEW | VNL 2024 – New season, new faces, same dream

IT is the most exciting day in the Victorian State netball calendar – the opening round of the Victorian Netball League (VNL) season.

In perhaps a case of déjà vu, it is once again the City West Falcons who are the ones to beat in 2024 after defending their title last season.

However, there are plenty of new faces at all the clubs, and two brand new teams, so time will tell if the Falcons make it a treble in 2024.

Bendigo Strikers

The Strikers are one of the new sides coming into the competition this season. They have recruited local, choosing a whole list of players from regional Victoria and all bar one with previous VNL experience. The only one who does not have any VNL experience is midcourter Milly Wicks, who has come from the Bendigo Football Netball League and the NBL1. She is not the only midcourter from Bendigo, with Ash Ryan and Chelsea Sartori also from the area.

Boroondara Express

The Boroondara Express have a combination of new and old in their squad in 2024. Experienced heads Casey Adamson, Ruby Barkmeyer and Sarah Szczykulski are all back for 2024, and they will be joined by the likes of former Ariels defender Joanna Wietrzyk.

Casey Demons

Casey also has some experienced heads joining the club this season. Sharni Lambden and Tayla Honey are still around but Emma Thompson has gone to the Stars in the ANZ Premiership. However, the Demons gain the services of the returning Sacha McDonald, while Ashleigh Gill has come from the Ariels and Sarah McCabe has moved up from the old Division 1.

City West Falcons

The Falcons have made some big name changes heading into the new season. They have lost Zoe Davies to the Super League in the UK, but gain former SSN Magpie Shimona Jok (nee Nelson). Alongside Jok, Uneeq Palavi, Maggie Lind and Jane Cook are all still at the club.

Geelong Cougars

Geelong is looking to new and old in the hope to get back to the final game of the year again. Zara Walters and Emily Kingston are not around anymore, but Daisy O’Kane and Emma Buwalda are all still around. Some of the new faces include midcourters Charlotte Morey and Kiahna Fallon who have both been elevated from the old Division 1 side, and fellow midcourter Kaitlyn Sheringham has come out of retirement.

Hawks Netball

The Hawks will be lead again from the front by experienced shooter Kalia Stanton, but have five new faces in their line up this season. Defender Chloe Duke has been elevated up through the Hawks’ pathway, while shooter Annabelle Gorman, mids Keighley Starrett and Eryn Stocker and defender Tadiwa Kahonde are all new to the club. Stocker was at the Waves, while Gorman, Starrett and Kahonde have all come across from the Saints.

Melbourne University Lightning

Melbourne University Lightning are one side with plenty of experience in their line up, including Melbourne Vixens’ Training Partners and Lightning returnees Gabby Coffey and Maggie Caris. They do however have some new faces, with defender Tepaea Hobson (formerly of their 19s team) one of several elevations. Shae Bolton-Brown will be a busy woman this season though, because not only is she a member of the Lightning’s playing squad but is also a specialist coach at the club and the general manager of the new SSN club the Melbourne Mavericks.

North East Blaze

The North East Blaze have to contend with not having Nyah Allen this season, but fellow experienced head Georgia Moody is still around. They have had a lot of players come up from their 2023 Under 19 and Division 1 side, including midcourter Tara Watson, but some new faces have come across from other clubs, including shooter Dee Dee Lambert from Boroondara.

Peninsula Waves

Peninsula Waves is perhaps the most new looking team in 2024, with only defender Lyshae Barry left from their 2023 team. Some of those new faces include pathway graduate Ella Robertson, former Wave Kassidy Withers who is returning from a stint in WA, and former Ariels shooter Abby Gregorovich.

Southern Saints

The Saints have plenty of new faces to help them try and climb the ladder in 2024. Emily Andrew and Rylee Nelson are still at the Saints, but a pair of former South Australians are among the new faces. Jordyn Adams is a defensive midcourter, and has come across to the Saints with friend and new Melbourne Mavericks’ Training Partner Jessie Grenvold.

Western Warriors

The Warriors are the other new club in 2024, and have signed some very recognisable faces in their inaugural season. This include former SSN and NSL player Kim Borger, ex-Lightning defender Jasmine Fraser and ex-Geelong pair Julia Woolley and Vanessa Augustini.

Tonight’s Action

Looking ahead to tonight’s fixtures, and there are a couple of cracking fixtures to open the season. They include a Grand Final rematch between the Falcons and Express, and the Warriors and Strikers making history against the Waves and Saints respectively. The Blaze have the bye first up, so have to wait another week to get their season underway.

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