Roos explore new formula
The ever-changing circumstances involving year-to-year player personnel again looms as a challenge for Dimboola in Wimmera Netball Association.
But for Roos A Grade coach Antoinette Toet the uncertainty of how the A Grade team will come together presents as much an air of optimism as anything else.
The feeling comes from Dimboola A graders exceeding expectations last year, making the finals for the third year in a row despite fears the club might tumble as a result of a significant line-up change.
“We considered any success we had last year as a bonus,” she said.
“We drew our team from B Grade and up-and-coming juniors and we really surprised ourselves.
“We’re in a similar situation now as we were last year, and instead of simply thinking about being competitive the expectations are higher.
“We have a bit of depth in the club and I’m one for promoting players, especially juniors who we like to reward with a chance to experience the pace of A Grade and senior netball.”
Toet said while the Roos would miss several established players for a variety of reasons this year, the club would welcome back experienced campaigners who were absent in 2016 with pregnancy.
“Last year we had four pregnancies in A Grade and now most of the girls are training again,” she said.
Defender and 2014 club best and fairest Abbey Greig, athletic Carly Werner, Tahlia Avery and Lydia Schneider are back in the mix and will join the likes of teenagers Billie Barber, who had a break out 2016, determined mid-court talent Rhianna Kuhne and deceptive high-leaping Grace Lutze.
But Toet said offsetting the return of established talent were the departures of Grace Braithwaite, who is having time off to travel, Olivia Jorgensen, who is set to join ACE Sovereigns in Victorian Netball League while studying in Ballarat, and Pam Exell, who is going to Kalkee with her family.
Toet, who has enjoyed a long-standing reputation as a high-quality player in the region, said she remained confident enough in her group, in the early stages of the season build-up, to step back from oncourt duties and stand aside for young talent on the rise.
“I’m training but I’m happy to make way for new girls coming through,” she said.
“If there is something I can offer the A Grade during the season I’m happy to do that, but I’m also happy to sit back and play in B Grade and coach the A Grade from the sidelines.
“We train together – As, Bs, Cs and 17s. We find this works for us. We can see who is showing promise and who is performing well at specific times of the year.
“We have a core group of a few familiar faces but there is an open opportunity for other girls.
“It is often difficult in small towns to keep a group of girls together. We lose so many students to gap years and university commitments, but we’re really getting good numbers, which is great.”
Toet said the Roos would concentrate on fitness with a mix of cross and circuit training before ‘hitting the court’ at the end of February.
She said plans were in place for at least two practice matches before the start of the season. Last year Dimboola finished the Wimmera association home-and-away season with an 8-8 win-loss record, which was enough to secure fourth position and squeeze the Roos into the finals.
The A Grade season ended with Stawell, which had finished fifth, beating the Roos by three goals in a thrilling elimination final at Murtoa.
RISING TALENT: Rianna Kuhne, who has just turned 17, is among young players the Roos will be looking to step up into A Grade this year.