The wait is over.
The 2014 Victorian Netball League season is upon us and promises to be one of the most hotly-contested in the competition’s short history.
A string of off-season moves and maneuvers has all 10 Championship division teams all looking like sure things for a standout year, but with no pre-season competition it’ll be some time before the real contenders emerge.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a gripping first round of action at the State Netball Hockey Centre from 7pm on Wednesday, February 12.
THE TEAM TO BEAT
Take a side that’s won the last two VNL Championship titles and add a tall target that they managed to win a grand final without last season.
City West Falcons will welcome elite shooter Kath Knott back into their line-up as they build towards an unprecedented three-peat in Victoria’s top netball division.
Knott will partner sister Julia in a formidable goaling unit that also includes Victorian 21 and Under goal attack Alice Teague-Neeld, who will make the jump from Division 1.
MISSING IN ACTION
Time will tell how keenly last year’s grand finalists Peninsula Waves feel the loss of Malawian shooter Mwai Kumwenda, whose prolific output under the post for both Waves and the Victorian Fury earned her an ANZ Championship contract with EasiYo Tactix.
Filling the breach will be Victorian 21 and Under goaler Madeline Morrison, who has crossed over from Boroondara Genesis.
THE DARK HORSE
On paper, North East Blaze has everything it needs to turn around last season’s seventh-place finish and push for a finals berth.
While the team’s core remains intact, with goal shooter Simone Nalder, goaling speedster and Australian Netball League debutant Stacey Gannon and defender Mary Livesey all returning, it’s the new faces that will intrigue.
Australian under-age player and long-time Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels defender Micaela Wilson will prove a sticking point for many sides, while Victorian Flames midcourter Ella Priestley has made the switch from Genesis.
Also new to Blaze is Victorian 17 and Under representative Elizabeth Birch, who has jumped into Championship division at a new club after winning the 19 and Under grand final with City West.
THE BEST OF THE REST
It would surprise no one if Boroondara atoned for their fifth-place finish in 2013 and featured prominently in finals this year.
After missing the post-season by a mere three percentage points, the perennial finals challengers added some scoring firepower by promoting giant shooter Emma Ryde-Coad from their 19 and Under side. And with former Vixens Ashlee Howard and Wendy Jacobsen around her, anything’s possible.
Don’t discount VU Western Lightning, who looked the goods last season before going down by three goals against Peninsula in the preliminary final. Flames and AIS goal shooter Kate Thompson may provide the missing attacking link in a team blessed with arguably the competition’s best defensive pairing in Brooke Thompson and Fiona Themann.
See the list below of Melbourne Vixens athletes and the clubs they are aligned with for season 2014.
|MELBOURNE VIXENS||2014 VNL CLUB|
|Madison Browne||VU Western Lightning|
|Tegan Caldwell||Geelong Cougars|
|Bianca Chatfield||Peninsula Waves|
|Cath Cox||Fed Uni Ballarat Pride|
|Erin Hoare||Boroondara Genesis|
|Karyn Howarth||Monash University Storm|
|Elissa Macleod||City West Falcons|
|Geva Mentor||DC North East Blaze|
|Kate Moloney||City West Falcons|
|Amy Steel||Southern Saints|
|Caitlyn Strachan||Yarra Valley Grammar Ariels|
|Joanna Weston||Boroondara Genesis|
For more information visit www.vnl.com,au