WARRNAMBOOL Mermaids coach Katie O’Keefe has rewarded players eager to rebuild the team with selection.
The Big V division two newcomers will run a 14-player roster in 2013.
The announcement of a new-look squad signalled a new dawn for the Mermaids, who withdrew from the competition after winning back-to-back division one titles in November.
Interest from a group of parents and supporters in January resulted in a last-minute submission to the Big V and entry for the 2013 division two season.
O’Keefe, the reigning Big V division one women’s MVP, said she had assembled a “young and fresh” roster.
Talented teenagers Nicola Handreck and Olivia Krygger will share the captaincy.
“It is perfect. I couldn’t make a decision on who I wanted in the 10 or 12 and I shouldn’t have to because they all want to save the Mermaids,” she said.
“They have put their hearts into it. They are a really good bunch.
“At training on Tuesday it was 39 degrees in the stadium and they didn’t complain once.”
O’Keefe said it was important the Mermaids looked beyond 2013, with the team’s long-term viability imperative.
“It’s young and fresh so next year there will still be interest,” she said.
O’Keefe said Warrnambool’s list, which includes Australian representative Annie Blackburn, was skilful.
She said the physicality of division two, which is studded with seasoned campaigners with stronger bodies, would be its biggest test.
The Mermaids open their season with a bye this weekend.
Their first hitout is against Keilor Thunder in round two at the Arc on March 23 and again in round three.
“Keilor was in division one last year and has dropped back,” O’Keefe said.
“A couple of years ago they won division two and then went to division one.
“They have recruited a very, very good division one player in Jodi Impey.
“They will be a good benchmark for us.”
Warrnambool Seahawks will unveil American import Brandon Macklin in their Big V division one men’s season opener against Craigieburn Eagles at Craigieburn on Saturday night.