There will be some early alarms across Goulburn Valley households on Saturdays this season with the introduction of an under-15 netball competition.
The new division has been added in a trial year, with most matches to begin at 9.15am in order to accommodate the existing games.
But today’s inaugural game between Shepparton United and Shepparton will have a prime timeslot of 1.15pm to herald the beginning of a new era.
League board member and former GVNL president Jacqui Hudgson has been a big supporter of bringing in the new age group.
Acknowledging her commitment to netball in the region, the 1998 Wellman medallist has had the under-15 best-and-fairest award named in her honour.
Hudgson said early starts aside, keeping parents and siblings at the same venue on a Saturday was paramount in the decision to bring in the new age group.
‘‘It’s kept families together and that was certainly an issue that led us to implementing this, Echuca and Rochester and teams near the Murray were losing families to the Heathcote league because they could supply junior football and netball grades,’’ she said.
This season was designated as a trial year, with teams able to opt out of putting forward a side.
But Hudgson said once teams became organised, there was excitement about the new division with many senior coaches excited about the initiative.
‘‘Halfway through last year there were a bit of nerves (from teams) about whether they could field a side, but after a delegates’ meeting a memo went out to every club and they were immediately positive in their response to say yes, so they’ve worked hard over the pre-season to select teams,’’ she said.
A mammoth response came from juniors who wanted to be a part of the competition, with Shepparton finding it hard to narrow down a squad.
‘‘Most clubs had trials, the numbers at clubs in the Shepparton region were excessive, at the Bears well over 120 girls (combined) trialled for the under-15s and under-17s side, so the numbers were huge,’’ Hudgson said.
‘‘I’m just really excited to get down there (today) in particular and see how the first round goes.’’