HAMILTON and Warrnambool City netball associations will field open teams in the Western Regional State League for the first time.
Netball Victoria yesterday confirmed the two associations were among six which would contest the 2014 state league competition.
They will come up against two Hampden teams as well as Colac and District and Warrnambool and District.
Camperdown Night, Cobden Night and Timboon have pulled out their open teams.
Netball Victoria netball operations co-ordinator Alex Poulton said the six-team open grade was “pretty standard” across the five regional state leagues.
The 17 and under grade also has six teams, with reigning premier Terang and District the only contender from last season not entering a team.
“We’ve got six teams in each division, which is a bit down on last year but not too bad,” Poulton said.
“Mostly it was teams not having players available, from the feedback we’ve got.
“They love the competition and see it as important for the region but they weren’t able to get a team together for whatever reason.”
Poulton said the state league would feature a 15 and under grade for the first time, with Netball Victoria hoping to finalise team numbers by Christmas.
Warrnambool City will host the new grade on behalf of Netball Victoria, with matches played at the Val Bertrand Netball Stadium.
Poulton said the push for a 15 and under grade came from the regions themselves.
“We came out to the regions in February and March, at the start of the year, on a roadshow,” she said.
“We invited every association to come and meet with us.
“A lot of them were saying ‘what’s happening to our 15s if they’re not making the zone academy program?’
“They’re still really talented athletes but there’s nothing for them to push for.
“It was logical for us that the regional state league is already a beautiful pathway competition, so why not expand it to the 15s.”
Poulton said she hoped the 15 and unders would be the biggest grade in the competition.
“We had a meeting on Sunday in Warrnambool. We’re hoping most of the teams that are involved in the open regional state league will put teams in,” she said.
“And a few smaller associations that don’t field open teams but are doing great work in developing juniors, we’re hoping they’ll come to the party as well.”
The state league competition will feature seven round-robin rounds before a two-week finals series.
The season starts on January 30 and the grand final will be on March 27.