A new-look Rupertswood A-grade team suffered a first-up 10-goal loss to Romsey in the Riddell District Netball League.
After holding a three-goal lead at half-time, the Redbacks went on with the job to eventually win 44-34.
Hope Evans was the best of the goalers on court, shooting 29 goals for the Redbacks. For the Sharks, skipper Amy Starzer shot 21 at 84 per cent accuracy.
Speaking before the game, Rupertswood coach Di McCormack said that while the club had added a couple of experienced players, it would be fielding a younger side than in previous seasons.
Beck Anstey, who played several games for the Sharks last season, has moved across permanently from the Sunbury Lions. She has been joined by another former Lion, Prue Stanley, who was named at centre in the Ballarat Netball League team of the year the past three seasons.
McCormack said the experience those two would bring to the line-up would be invaluable.
“We have an older head in every area of the court with Prue, Beck and Amy Starzer in attack,” she said.
Mid-courter Jacqui Harrington has also joined the team. She is a training partner with VNL side Monash University Storm.
Five members of the A-grade side are still eligible to play under-19s – Ailish McCormack and Emily Ktona, who played in the top side last year – have been joined in the team by Lara and Holly Keating, and Hayley Matthews.
McCormack said Lara Keating had come along in leaps and bounds in the off season. She’s been named in the Monash University Storm Victorian Netball League under-19 team. Keating is a training partner for the same squad.
Jess Dominko and Lucy Batina, who have both previously been in the A-grade team, have returned to the top side.
“Lucy was sick last season and we put her in C grade,” McCormack said. “Jess has worked really hard in B grade. She gets along really well with Beck and they play well together.”
McCormack said Amy Starzer, who will captain the side, had taken the next step during the off season.
“She has been fantastic,” she said. “A pre-season with Boroondara has done her really well. She’s shown great leadership and really helped out with the coaching.”
McCormack said that despite the line-up changes, she was confident of success this season. The Sharks have finished in the top three in the past three seasons, but haven’t progressed past the preliminary finals.
“We’ve won three B-grade flags in a row and haven’t lost a game in under-19s and won the C-grade premiership last year,” she said.
“You lose players if you don’t start pushing them through the grades and we’ve tried to push players through all our sides.
“We’ve got a new under-19 side again. We’re missing a big goaler, but the way they’ve been working together, I’m not unhappy … I think we’ll be in finals contention.”
Reigning premier Riddell lost to Diggers Rest 47-33. Lancefield defeated Woodend and Macedon was too good for Sunbury Kangaroos.
Melton Centrals was awarded the win against Rockbank, with the game called off just after half-time because of lightning.