As the Victorian Netball League season kicks off next week, many netballers are preparing themselves for a few months of juggling commitments.
A growing number of Riddell District Netball League players and coaches are doubling up their netball commitments, involved in both VNL and local competitions.
AFL Goldfields netball manager Kim Bailey has seen first hand the talent that’s coming through, not just from the RDNL, but also the Ballarat and Maryborough-Castlemaine netball leagues.
Bailey, who is also in her third season as coach of Ballarat Sovereigns’ division one VNL side, said it was pleasing to see so much talent coming forth.
“We’re looking to bring players through from RDFL to Sovereigns,” she said. “With the affiliation between Sovereigns and AFL Goldfields, it’s something we wanted to look to for all our leagues,” she said.
“There are a lot of VNL players who play in the RDNL, in particular.
“If we can find these girls through the RDNL, we can get them to go through the pathways and press on.”
Bailey said Sovereigns were wanting to identify players from a young age and help them progress through the system.
Sunbury Lions’ Keara Fitzgerald is one such player. She’s been part of the Sovereigns under-19 side for the last two years. Last season, she was playing under-15s at the Lions.
“We’re even got to the point where whoever wins the best and fairest and the other top two or three vote-getters from each league get invited to trials,” Bailey said. “We bring them through that way and identify them early, before someone else does.”
This season, Sovereigns have five RDNL players on the combined championship/division 1 squad – Romsey’s Cayley Armstrong and Danni Davidson, Lancefield’s Anica Scherer and Macedon duo Chloe Wilson and Janelle Birch.
Birch and Wilson, were identified as possible Sovereigns players by Bailey in last year’s RDNL season.
“I looked at them over the finals series and over the year, and thought we could do something with them – we just maybe tweak some of the features of their games as it’s going up another level,” she said. “We’ve done a really intensive preseason this season … it really showed off in a practice match against Monash.
“They say never in a million years did they think they would be playing VNL, but they are good enough to … it’s not only us at Sovereigns who get better, but also the RDNL.”
While Bailey has a connection with the Sovereigns, she’s not alone in having a coaching involvement in the VNL.
Rupertswood’s Di McCormack, Riddell’s Eliza Allen and Lancefield’s Alan Watson all coach RDNL sides while staying involved with coaching at VNL clubs. Melton Centrals’ coach Randy Pereira is on the board at Melbourne University Lightning.
“It’s great for our league that we’re so close to Melbourne, and it’s a great option to come to the RDNL,” Bailey said.