PORT Fairy netballers have their sights set on A grade finals after pulling off one of the biggest coups in Hampden netball history.
Warrnambool goal defence Emma O’Keeffe has left her childhood netball club to coach the Seagulls for season 2013.
Long-time friend and Blues goal attack Sarah Hearn will join her in the purple-and-yellow lycra.
South Rovers goaler Mandy Knee has also committed while another goaler, Emily Forrest, is likely to return from a knee reconstruction.
The recruits and returnee have lifted hopes Port Fairy can feature in September.
They will also ensure the Seagulls have experience in each third.
O’Keeffe, 25, said she unsuccessfully applied for the vacant Warrnambool job, saying “I didn’t have the qualifications”, before Port Fairy pounced.
Hearn, who has her origins at Port Fairy, leapt at the opportunity to follow her.
Knee’s recruitment was the work of Dwyer and unfolded before the new coach signed.
“I wanted to step up to coaching,” O’Keeffe said.
“Port Fairy provided me with an opportunity.”
O’Keeffe said finals were realistic for what will be a new-look team.
Port Fairy finished with one win from 18 matches in 2012.
“We have some really good juniors there and some good experienced players,” she said.
“There are four older ones in us (O’Keeffe and Hearn), Nic and Mandy and four or five younger ones.”
The team compared well with the Warrnambool group of 2012, which was a surprise grand finalist, O’Keeffe said.
“We were doubted against Camperdown (in the preliminary final).
“No one thought we could knock them off.
O’Keeffe credited the work of outgoing coach Dwyer and said she was likely to draw on the experience of the Port Fairy stalwart “a fair bit”.
She said she had no animosity towards Warrnambool.
“I left on a good note,” she said.
Hearn, 25, said she was rapt to return to the club she played her juniors at, but said her family would be more excited.
She said the timing was right given her partner Dustin McCorkell had called time on his football career.
“My brother came and gave me a hug. He asked if the rumour was true,” she said.
“He’s been playing in the under 16s and under 18s and my little sister is starting under 13s.”
Port Fairy netball co-ordinator Mick Moroney said O’Keeffe was an ideal signing.