The Nagambie Lakers are looking to win back to back premierships this year, but playing coach Abby Misiti isn’t losing any sleep over the grand final rematch against Tallygaroopna this weekend.
This isn’t because she’s confident of a strong win — the two sides played out an epic decider last year which went into extra time and the Lakers coach said the Redlegs will be a major premiership contender again in 2018.
Instead, Misiti said at the start of the season the priority is just to get the team, which has seen a few changes in personnel, jelling as quickly as possible.
‘‘Last year in round one we lost by 18 goals to Avenel, so we don’t place too much of an emphasis on round one,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s so early in the year, finals aren’t until September. So we just hope to be competitive, get through the game and look at our squad to see what match ups we need to work on for the next time we play them.
‘‘I think Tally will be out to win round one, given that the grand final went into overtime and it was a close battle. I’m sure they’ve recruited well in the off-season, and they know our squad is the same. So it’ll be interesting to see what changes they’ve made, and what we need to work on this year.’’
The Lakers side has lost midcourt general Katie Sullivan and defensive star Rachael Mundy, but their stocks have been replenished by the return of Misiti from pregnancy and the recruitment of Kyabram-based Alicia White.
Misiti said while losing Sullivan and Mundy for the season will hurt, she is looking forward to working with White, an experienced defender who joins from last year’s Murray Netball League grand finalist Tongala.
‘‘I think she’ll be terrific for our younger girls — she has a lot of knowledge and coaching experience, so I think she’ll provide a lot of leadership on court,’’ Misiti said.
White has already slotted in well to the Lakers defence, Misiti said, putting in a strong performance in the side’s practice match win against Euroa on March 17. But Misiti also said the team has strong depth to draw upon in terms of covering Sullivan and Mundy, with Morgan Zotti and Bree D’Andrea expected to see some action in the A-Grade side.
Another new feature to the 2018 Lakers side will be an extra level of fitness. After coaching the side for four years, Misiti said she put her charges through five weeks of training with personal trainers.
‘‘In the past I’ve ran the preseason and then led into the regular season ... but coming back from my pregnancy I wasn’t very fit, so I needed someone to come in and take those sessions,’’ she said.
‘‘They’ve been really beneficial for me as a player, and I think the girls have loved having someone different and people who are really trained in that area.’’
Misiti said one of the trainers, Sam Fuhrmeister, who is the brother of A-Grade Lakers player Elizabeth, will continue his running and interval training sessions with the team on Tuesday nights.
‘‘It’s been great value so far ... and he volunteers his time, so that’s been fantastic that we haven’t had to spend money on training,’’ she said.
The Lakers will host Tallygaroopna in the grand final rematch on Saturday.