Bethel Blaze re-join top division

Cameron NewboldAlbany Advertiser

The Albany Netball Association A1 competition has been reduced to seven teams this season after the loss of Jokers 1 and Magpies 2 but the inclusion of Bethel Blaze 1 ahead of the season’s opening round on Saturday afternoon.

Bethel Blaze rejoins the top tier for the first time since 2013 when they finished sixth while Jokers and Magpies 2 both drop out after missing the finals last year.

In another change to the A1 competition, four Friday night fixtures have been scheduled as the ANA looks to trial matches away from the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot.

ANA president Trish Hines expected another close season and said the A1 teams were stacked full of talented youth.

“With only seven teams rather than eight, there will be a bye, which is a slight change,” Hines said.

“We will also trial playing one of the A-grade fixtures on a Friday night, not necessarily A1 but A2 or A3. “It’s about trying something a bit different and to cater for the growth of netball, we will trial this for the second half of the season.

“The A1 will actually be a relatively young competition with lots of up-and-coming talent — I think it will be very close again.”

Reigning premiers Kangas 1 will aim for back-to-back titles in 2017 and have added proven performers Kate Minter, Rachel Willcocks plus Kirsty Smith.

Once again, Royals Saints 1, who went down by 14 goals in the grand final, will field a young side headed by Lisa Amess, Nardia and Narelle Humphries and new inclusion Taylah Orzel, who has switched across from Narrikup.

Last season’s Michelle Parsons Memorial best and fairest winner Kelly Judd again lines up for Magpies 1 while Monique Nicholson and Shelby Upson remain the mainstay of a new-look Kangas 2 team.

Grammar 1 and Narrikup 1 will be aiming to reach the finals this season along with the promoted Bethel Blaze.

A grand final rematch between Kangas 1 and Royals Saints 1 will headline the opening round on Saturday, with that match starting at 2pm along with the Magpies 1 and Kangas 2 clash. Grammar 1 and Narrikup 1 will look to kickstart their seasons on a good note when they meet at 3.30pm.

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