There will be a key name missing from the team-sheet when North Warrnambool Eagles host Portland to kick-start the Hampden league season, but coach Jaime Barr is confident her side has enough depth to remain in finals contention.
Georgia Corbett has moved to Ballarat to study a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at Federation University in Ballarat and will not be playing for the Eagles in 2019.
The 20-year-old won North Warrnambool's club best and fairest last season, as well as coming equal runner-up in the league's best and fairest count with Koroit's Jessica O'Connor.
And while Corbett brought plenty of buzz to the Eagles' training session on Thursday, the defensive star has signed with Ballarat Football Netball League side East Point this season.
"It's been a bit sad leaving North but hopefully they'll be happy to have me back one day," she said.
Barr said Corbett was in "pretty special company" alongside O'Connor on Maskell Medal night and that she would be a "huge loss" for North Warrnambool and the wider Hampden league.
She's got a lot of drive and we'll miss that on the court.Jaime Barr
"Georgia's probably the most up-beat netballer I've ever come across," Barr said.
"She's got a lot of drive and we'll miss that on the court."
But Barr said the silver lining was the likes of Zoe Bussell and Grace Butters had a chance to strut their stuff in the open grade.
"Zoe has had an amazing pre-season - she's super fit," Barr said.
The Eagles coach said Indi Morrison, Maggie Kellet, Kate O'Meara and Amelia Chow would play both open and division one against the Tigers.
Portland finished 10th last season and will again be without Breanna Bensch, who is nursing an ongoing ankle injury.
But the Tigers did some heavy recruiting during the off-season, bringing in Remy Grant and Maddie Nash from the South West District league's Tyrendarra, as well as regaining Tonaya Bannam from maternity leave.
Barr said the Lauren Hockley-coached side was something of an "unknown".
"We're in a bubble over here...and Portland is outside it," she said.
"But they're always really fierce and competitive, so I'm sure we'll come up against a tough side...and we'll need to be really controlled and stick to our game plan."
Barr said she was also just rapt for the opening game.
"I can't believe it's already round one," she said.
"When you finish off the year and start pre-season before Christmas, it feels like it going to take forever to get here, but's it's come around really fast and the girls are ready and raring to go.
"I'm excited about seeing a really even group across 16 players and the way our versatility is going to shine through."
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