Spalding seeks return to finals
Adesire to see Ararat netball return to its powerhouse status of the past is the driving force behind Donna Spalding’s decision to take on the A Grade coaching role. The Rats entered a rebuilding stage two years ago to ensure the club’s longevity, but have not played finals since 2015, when they finished fifth. Spalding – a club stalwart who has played a role in years of success, most recently as a junior coach – said yes to the call-up a few weeks ago. “I didn’t think I’d be back in this position, but when I was approached I had a good think about it,” she said. “When your heart is with the club you want to see it going well. “To get some success back is my driving force and I hope I can at least guide and support them in their quest.” Spalding has taken over the reins from midcourt duo Jess Williamson and Lauren Armstrong, who will remain at the club. She said pre-season was going
well, with plenty of numbers on the track.
“We had 30-plus for trials for the three senior grades, which is a bit daunting,” she said.
“Some have chosen not to play or have gone elsewhere, but I think we’ll still end up with a big C Grade squad. We needed it last year though, because of injuries.”
Spalding and B Grade coach Olivia West have each selected eight players for A and B squads.
Spalding said experienced midcourter Kate Bligh would step up from B Grade.
“Kate’s agreed to give me a few games in A Grade,” she said.
“She hasn’t played A Grade for a few years, but I’m excited to have her back because I coached her for a long time and I know what she’s capable of.
“I’m still in consultation with Krystal Fisher. She’s a lovely defender but she’s also a young mum and lives in Ballarat. Her husband is coaching the senior team but we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It’s hard enough to travel to play when you’re single, let alone when you have three kids.
“I think we’ve lost Alex Antonio, who is living in Melbourne to study. She’s a great kids coach and she starred in B Grade last year. I was hoping to give her a go in A Grade but I don’t think I’m going to get her back. We’ve kept everyone else.”
Monique Scott, Tahnee Walker, Tayla Borrelli and Rebecca Skrabl will also start in the A Grade squad.
“Olivia and I will work together and players could shuffle teams. We’re hoping to settle our teams within the first few rounds,” Spalding said.
“I’m looking for a good mix of youth and experience.
“A few years ago they got rid of the A Grade team and started from scratch, but you can’t afford to do that, because if you don’t have experienced players in key positions they’re not teaching the young ones coming through.
“I want to get back to our policy of more than 30 years, of having a mix of both. Players will not be discriminated against on the basis of age. If they are the better player, they are in the team.”
Spalding said the Rats had an unusual start to the season.
They will play Stawell on Good Friday, March 31, and then have a break until a showdown with Horsham Saints on April 28.
“With a month off after round one people aren’t really ready to get started yet,” she said.
“We have a practice match against Gordon the week before and round one will probably feel a bit like a practice match as well. “I’m playing it very low-key.” Spalding said despite A Grade finishing sixth last year, the rest of the club’s netballers had a good season.
B Grade and 15 and under A won premierships, with C Grade and the 17 and unders playing finals.
Spalding said all grades would aim to qualify for finals in 2018, particularly A Grade.
“I’ve been devastated the past two years, not making finals. We need to make finals again,” she said.
“I don’t take on a coaching role thinking you don’t need to make finals. Netballers give up a lot of time and effort and we do it all for free. It’s a big sacrifice and you put in a lot of work throughout the season. Making finals is your reward.”