FOR Rebecca Skinner, Portland’s involvement in the Hampden Football Netball League (HFNL) is far more than a change of scenery.
The Portland A grade netball coach has a spring in her step as she prepares to lead the Tigers for a second season, the first in the HFNL since the club left the Western Border league.
“It’s definitely a higher standard and we are pretty excited about it,” Skinner said.
“Last year we played a 14-game season because there were only that many teams. We are excited to have a game every week and test ourselves at a higher standard.”
She said the element of the unknown was exciting for her and her team, which boasts a mix of youth and experience.
“They don’t know us and we don’t know them. We are looking forward to bettering ourselves,” she said.
Skinner’s side, which has been bolstered by the inclusion of several recruits, has been driven in the off-season as it prepares for the step-up in competition. But she revealed the majority of last season’s side remaining this season had another reason.
“We should have won last year,” she said of Portland’s defeat to rival Millicent in the grand final.
While the defeat stung her teammates, Skinner said the side was positive ahead of its HFNL debut.
“We are definitely aiming to make the five but we know there are quite a few strong sides out there,” she said.
Skinner said the Tigers had taken some time to adjust to her game plan last season and listed continual development and individual improvement as goals this year.
Skinner, a former Warrnambool Mermaids basketballer and state junior netball representative, returned to Portland two years ago after moving west for an opportunity with national netball league side Perth Orioles, the forerunner to the West Coast Fever in the trans-Tasman competition.
The 32-year-old is no stranger to the Hampden league. She played a number of games with Port Fairy and was mentored in her junior days by former Seagulls coach Bev Bourke.
Skinner, a midcourter who stands 183 centimetres tall, expects to play a key role in defence with the Tigers this season.
She said she had shied away from gathering intelligence on her opponents during the Western Regional State League competition in Warrnambool, which is dominated by Hampden league players.
Skinner said she was looking forward to the pre-season cup competition on March 16 where she would get an insight into the competition.
It will also give her a chance to trial her side’s new South West District league recruits, Tyrendarra pair Rebecca Skare and Jacci Piergrosse and Westerns midcourter Tonaya Bannam. But the Tigers will miss 47-year-old centre Kerri Jennings, who dominated last season.