First-year Portland coach Ellen Zeunert is backing her open squad to make significant improvements as the 2023 Hampden league season progresses.
The Tigers have announced an eight-player strong squad, with six returning from last year's open side.
Mikaila Pitt (Mount Gambier) and Jess Cook (maternity) depart the line up, while Brianna Malcolm comes up from division two and Lexie Petch joins from South West District club Tyrendarra.
"We've kept the core of last season's squad coming through," Zeunert said. "Hopefully we can build on the experience they got from last season."
The side, which favours youth, will be led by the experienced Remy Grant, who has stepped down as co-coach but remains an on-court leader.
"Her leadership and tenacity and her steadiness out on the court will be a great asset for us," Zeunert said.
We've kept the core of last season's squad... Hopefully we can build on the experience they got from last season.- Ellen Zeunert
Zeunert, who is also a well-credentialed basketball coach, said her team's versatility would be their strength, with combinations expected to be tinkered with throughout the year. Experienced defender Jacci Piergrosse could see time in the goal third, which will be centred around goal attack Heidi Jones, while Petch and Katie Zeunert will add speed through the centre court.
Malcolm, who has played division one netball, is returning off an ankle injury and will provide some height to the Tigers' defensive end, while Madeline Stone, who found her niche and confidence in wing attack in 2022, is an adaptable player.
Under 17 talent Tyleah Barr, who has prioritised Big V basketball commitments with Warrnambool Mermaids this year, can also play at both ends of the court.
Zeunert said Barr's duel fixtures had worked in the Tigers' favour, with the 17-year-old available for the majority of the 18 rounds.
"I think there is three games all up that clash," she said.
Portland is looking to build on its seventh place and 6-12 record of 2022. Though the Tigers' aim is to be competitive on the ladder, Zeunert said wins and losses wouldn't be the main focus.
"Through the season you have your ups and downs... but as long as we work together as a team and work together and get the best out of ourselves," she said. "Most importantly, it's having an enjoyable season."
Portland's coaching ranks also consist of Michelle Finck and Hannah Frew (division one), Casey Anson and Bek Payne (division two) and Jody Duckworth (division three). The Tigers opens their season with a home game against Warrnambool on April 1.
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