HAMPDEN league coaches have unanimously backed North Warrnambool Eagles to make it back-to-back A grade netball premierships in 2014.
All 10 coaches, including Eagles leader Sharon Kenna, tipped the 2013 surprise packet to make it a rare double in The Standard’s pre-season vox pop.
North Warrnambool Eagles climbed from fifth to shock undefeated Koroit in last year’s decider in a case of new kids on the block knocking off experienced campaigners.
Most coaches expect the Bushfield-based club to improve further, given they’ve added highly-rated former Cobden coach Maddie Smedts and Warrnambool defender Indi Morrison to their talent-laden list.
The pair are former Eagles players who have recommitted to the club.
Kenna said how her side handled the added expectation would play a key role in its finals chances.
“You know there are no easy games,” she said.
“We have got the team that should win it. We have a team that has experience now.
“Even though they’re young, they have been there and done it, and we have so much height across the court now too.
“But you have to gel together and that’s what happened last year. We are going to have to be on the ball every week.”
Kenna said the Eagles, who won the pre-season competition, were eager to test themselves against fellow 2013 finalist Camperdown in round one on Saturday.
“They are so keen to get out and play, they’re so sick of pre-season,” she said of the Eagles.
“I am feeling a little nervous. I think because of the fact there is a bit more pressure to perform but I am excited too.”
Hamilton Kangaroos were tipped as the league’s biggest improvers, with eight coaches expecting a stronger showing from the Melville Oval-based team.
The Kangaroos went through their Hampden league debut season winless but new coach Sara Byrne has assembled a new-look squad.
Many of their players impressed opposition coaches throughout the Western Regional State League pre-season competition.
Smedts was the only player to receive multiple nods for league best and fairest honours, with Koroit co-coach Kate Dobson and new Portland mentor Kerri Jennings tipping the versatile Eagle.
Port Fairy coach Emma O’Keeffe highlighted her faith in teenager Carly Watson, tipping the reigning league 15 and under best and fairest winner to emulate that feat in her A grade debut season.
For the coaches’ predictions turn to page 28.