South­ern Mallee aim­ing high

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Netball Countdown - BY SARAH SCULLY

South­ern Mallee Giants en­joyed a strong Hor­sham District league de­but in 2016, but in­juries to key play­ers late in the sea­son proved costly come fi­nals.

The Giants will look to im­prove on last year’s re­sult un­der the lead­er­ship of new­comer Kelly Gray.

Gray said she was ex­cited about her first coach­ing role.

“I’ve um­pired and played for many years,” she said.

“I joined the club in about June or July last year af­ter mov­ing up here.

“The club ap­proached me about coach­ing be­cause they thought it was a good chance to have some fresh eyes and I thought I’d give it a go.”

Gray, a de­fender, will be a play­ing coach.

The Giants have re­tained sev­eral of last year’s A graders, but have sev­eral big losses in young-gun shooter Zali Brown, de­fender Mad­de­lyne Foott and ver­sa­tile Amy Walder.

“Zali has gone to univer­sity, Mad­de­lyne is preg­nant and Amy re­cently gave birth to her first child,” Gray said.

She said the club had wel­comed back former play­ers Trudi Hal­lam, who played a hand­ful of games in 2016 af­ter re­turn­ing from hav­ing a baby, and Codie Robins.

Both are likely to play A Grade, although teams will be fi­nalised this week.

The Giants have also picked up Caitlin Hickey, who will travel from Melbourne to play.

Mid­courter Emma Ue­ber­gang – who was equal league best and fairest last year de­spite break­ing a wrist in round 14 – will re­turn for the Giants in 2017.

Gray said pre-sea­son had gone well.

“We’ve had quite a few play- ers come along,” she said. Gray said coaches had con­cen­trated on fit­ness, ball skills and foot­work through­out pre-sea­son, putting ev­ery­thing to­gether in prac­tice matches against Wim­mera out­fit War­rack Ea­gles.

“For me per­son­ally, that made it more ex­cit­ing,” Gray said.

“You can have in­tra-club scratch matches but it’s not the same as play­ing some­one else.”

Gray said the club would aim high across the board in 2017.

“Our aim is to make fi­nals and be com­pet­i­tive in all grades,” she said.

“The club had a good year last year and we would like to build on that.”

The Giants’ A Grade, C Re­serve and 15 and un­ders made fi­nals in 2016, with the lat­ter two teams falling short in thrilling grand fi­nals that went down to the wire.

Gray said she looked for­ward to learn­ing more about Hor­sham District competitio­n.

“I’m pretty new to the league, but talk­ing to peo­ple, Har­row­bal­moral comes up as one to watch,” she said.

“In say­ing that, I’m ex­pect­ing every game to be a hard game. But it’s good if the competitio­n is strong. It makes it more in­ter­est­ing.”

Gray said she looked for­ward to rep­re­sent­ing the Giants.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited to be at the club,” she said.

“It’s a re­ally good fam­ily club – it’s a lot of fun and ev­ery­one has been re­ally wel­com­ing.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to the year ahead.”

Pic­ture: GE­OR­GIA HAL­LAM

BACK IN AC­TION: Reign­ing equal Hor­sham District league A Grade best and fairest Emma Ue­ber­gang will re­turn for South­ern Mallee Giants in 2017.

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