Natimuk a well-oiled machine
Reigning premier Natimuk United is in a strong position to challenge for a third Horsham District A Grade premiership in four years after retaining the majority of its senior list.
Playing coach Cheryl Sudholz is back at the helm and is excited about what season 2018 might bring.
Sudholz said pre-season was excellent, with the club attracting good numbers to training.
“We have six to eight new faces and some ladies coming back from babies and so on,” she said.
“It’s nice to see the new and returning faces and they will filter down through the grades.
“We haven’t finished the grading process yet because it’s been hard slotting everyone into the right teams.
“We’re not far off on that side of things. We’ll have no trouble filling all grades, we have plenty of numbers.”
Sudholz said while teams were still being finalised, A Grade would look almost the same as last year.
Shannon Couch will return to the ring, with her height a major advantage for the Ewes.
She combined well with Amy Pilgrim last season in her first year up from B Grade, while Sudholz, Danielle Fleay, Emily Hateley and Michelle Trigg shared duties in the midcourt.
Sudholz said defence would look different this season, with Caitlyn Batson taking a year off to travel and work overseas.
Powerful defender Jo Taylor will return to A Grade to rekindle her partnership with Casey Vanstan.
Taylor played B Grade last year after returning from a knee injury and won beston-court honours in her team’s premiership triumph over Harrow-balmoral.
“We’ve lost Caitlyn but we’ll have Jo back in the mix, so our team will be very much the same,” Sudholz said.
“Jo’s knee is as strong as it’s going to get. She doesn’t have any niggling pain, it’s more of an awareness, so we’ll see how she goes. We’re looking forward to having her back in A Grade.”
Familiarity from years of playing together sees the Ewes perform like a well-oiled machine.
Their ability to remain cool, calm and collected under pressure has allowed them to remain one of the competition’s benchmark teams for several years.
So, will Natimuk United be the last one standing come grand final day?
“It would be nice to win another one, but we can’t be greedy,” Suholz joked.
“Anything can happen between now and September. It is a long season.”
Sudholz said she hoped all grades would go a step further this season following a relatively successful 2017.
“Last year was nearly the first year we had all senior grades in at least the first week of finals,” she said.
“We hope to continue along the same lines this year, with each grade aiming to go one step better again.
“Our C and C Res girls are always competitive.
“Last year’s finals experience was great for them and they should be pretty strong again this year.
“It would be great to see them make a grand final.”
The Ewes are focusing on fitness and getting as much court time as possible in the lead-up to round-one matches against Noradjuha-quantong.
“I wish everyone a great season and I look forward to seeing everyone on the court,” Sudholz said.