Saint no pressure

April 06, 2018

Kelsey Pallpratt will be an integral part of Benalla's A-grade netball campaign this season. Focused: Captain Kelsey Pallpratt’s determination was the highlight of the Saints’ game.

There have been massive changes at Benalla Showgrounds’ netball courts during summer.

Just one regular A-grade player remains at the Saints from last year’s qualifying final exit — a mass exodus of talent by any definition of the phrase.

But perennial premiership coach Pip O’Donoghue is back at the helm and optimistic about the season ahead.

‘‘We’re absolutely excited to get started,’’ O’Donoghue said.

‘‘Obviously all of the weekly trainings have been leading up to this, so thank goodness it’s here.’’

It has been hard to assess the health of Benalla’s squad due to its fresh nature and O’Donoghue was hopeful she could get a stronger gauge of its chances for the year ahead tomorrow against Seymour.

‘‘Once we play, it will give us an idea of where we’re at,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s obviously a new team with a lot of young players, so it might take us some time to jell.’’

Grace Amarant is the returning member from last year’s A-grade side, meaning the likes of Kylie Relf (Goorambat), Chloe Hill and Kelsey Pallpratt (stepping up from B-grade) will have to lead from the front this season.

O’Donoghue feels the fresh start will be good for the Saints though.

‘‘It’s a really good feeling around the club at the moment,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s all local girls this year, no-one’s travelling up from Melbourne or anything like that, so the numbers at training have been great and there’s been a good vibe.’’

The Lions will be looking to turn a season of promise from last year into a season of substance this campaign.

After a thrilling victory against Euroa in the final round, Laura Carland’s charges need to take the next step this year and challenge for post-season action.

That task will be helped magnificently with the return of 2015 premiership stars Elle McDonald and Sarah Szczykulski.

O’Donoghue is not getting caught up in what the Lions may be doing though, focusing solely on her Saints.

‘‘I don’t know much about them (Seymour) other than that they are a good side, which is probably a good thing,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ll just go in with no pressure and enjoy it basically.’’

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