Kerri Jennings takes on Portland coaching role

NEW Portland netball coach Kerri Jennings turns 48 in March but isn’t ready to rule out playing on next Hampden league season.

Her passion for keeping fit provides the first insight into the kind of pre-season Tigers netballers can expect when training begins next month.

“I’ve always loved coaching. I’ve coached for many years at Portland prior to this,” Jennings said yesterday.

“When Bec (Skinner) left I thought here’s an opportunity for me to step into the role and build on the great work she’s done so far.

“I’m a little bit of a fitness fanatic as well. Pre-season is going to be pretty tough and I just want to build on the team unity.”

Jennings has replaced Skinner at the helm of the A grade side as Portland seeks to better its seventh-placed finish in its inaugural HFNL season.

The experienced netballer has played the bulk of her career at Portland but spent time at Port Fairy and Heywood in the 1990s.

Her netball resume also includes a stint with then-State League club Gippsland, travelling to Leongatha for training and Melbourne for midweek matches.

But a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in 2003 set back Jennings’ playing career. She fell pregnant in 2004 and spent the next seven years on the sidelines.

She played a full A grade season in 2012, earning selection in the WBFL netball team of the year, and managed three HFNL matches in 2013.

“I won’t play this year. Well I’ve said I’m not going to play but you never say never,” she said.

Jennings said Portland had much room for improvement next season. Its 8-10 record included five games decided by one or two goals.

“We’ve all got strengths. I just want to tap into everyone’s individual strength,” she said.

“I’m looking at bringing new players in. Whoever wants to come and have a ran can come and have a run.

“There are great people in the South West league and lots of juniors who need to take that next step.

“That’s the individual challenge they need to set themselves.”

Skinner is travelling around Australia and Jennings admitted Portland would miss her presence.

But reigning HFNL best and fairest Lauren Hockley will provide leadership, while the junior ranks are in healthy shape.

“We’ve got such strong juniors coming through: Tayla Falconer, Laura Kelly, there are some great under 17 players I want to use,” Jennings said.

“I played Bec Skinner when she was 15 in an A grade team. I coached her many years ago. I really believe juniors are our strength.”

Portland begins training on January 6. 

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