A showdown at Deniliquin between the Rovers and Strathmerton highlights the continuation of round one of the Picola District league’s netball.
Both side were towards the top of the north-west division last year — the Rovers beaten in the grand final and Strathmerton fourth — and with new faces joining each side they’ll again prove hard to beat.
New Rovers coach Grant Matthews — who brings decades of coaching experience from Mathoura, Echuca, Katandra and Echuca United — said he was ready to tackle his new role.
‘‘It’s a new challenge — a new league and a new club,’’ Matthews said.
‘‘For me, the club has been very welcoming and very good to be a part of.
‘‘Like everyone has been saying, (the divisions merging) is a chance to renew old acquaintances.
‘‘We know Waaia is the south-east premier and we expect a challenge from all the new sides.’’
Strathmerton, coached by Amy Carter, has added Ruby Pinnuck and Brittany Brunskill from the Murray league as well as Kasey Baker and Rachael Olson.
But the marquee attraction for the Rovers is reigning Murray league runner-up best-and-fairest Gracie Berryman, who could find the Picola league to her liking.
‘‘I’m excited to get another opportunity to spend 12 months with Gracie and reinforce some of the work she’s done in recent years,’’ Matthews said.
‘‘I’m excited to put more time into her before she goes on to hopefully bigger and better things.
‘‘Strathmerton has picked up some girls from the Murray league, so they’re going from strength to strength and will be hard to beat.’’
Meanwhile, Waaia will launch its premiership defence by hosting a new-look Katamatite outfit.
Both sides have new coaches — Kirby Shanahan for Waaia and Ria Hodge for Katamatite — but it’s the Bombers who enter the season with premiership expectations.
Hodge has welcomed home plenty of local talent including Natalia Lukies and Madison Brown and will look to rebound from a 3-15 season.
Mathoura and Picola United will renew their rivalry on Saturday, with the Blues favourites to get their season off to a winning start.
United won seven games last year compared with Mathoura’s two, and welcome several talented players that could drive a surge up the table.
Aimee Sidebottom’s Katunga unit was knocked off in last season’s south-east preliminary final, and will start its quest for redemption against Blighty.
The Redeyes were 13-5 last year and have covered the loss of some key players with Chelsea McNamara and Georgia Bradford.
And in some good news, Yarroweyah will field an A-grade side this year after it couldn’t get the numbers together last season.
The Hoppers start their season against a Jerilderie side in a similarly dire situation.
Coming off a 5-11, struggling for numbers and with no key inclusions, it could be a long year for the Demons.