The Panthers U20s team will seek back to back titles while the Panthers Opens team are hoping for a bit of luck this season when the second Netball NSW Premier League (NNSWPL) competition gets underway next week.
Featuring eight franchises from across the state, the NNSWPL is a mid-week netball competition aimed at attracting the best current and emerging talent within NSW.
Made up of players and officials from Penrith, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury Netball Associations as well as recruits from around the state and country, the Panthers Opens team will once again be coached by Netball NSW Hall of Famer and former Australian representative Lisa Beehag.
After a shocking debut season due to injury and player availability, Beehag is hoping her second year in charge of the Panthers is a much more fruitful one.
“Injuries and players unavailable due to clashes with the representative season really hurt us last year,” she said.
“We lost our best shooter and our goal attack was off on rep duty all the time. We really struggled in that end of the court, which had a flow-on effect with the rest of the team.
“We also got some injuries during the season, which had a massive affect on how things played out for us.”
The Panthers Opens team have recruited exceptionally well for the upcoming 2017 season, with a number of external players – outside of the three local associations – joining the ranks.
Beehag said she’s very excited about the new recruits.
“We have a very different squad from last year, we only have two players returning but picked up some really good replacements,” she told the Weekender.
“We’ve recruited two players from the Australian Netball League in defender Hayley Mulheron, who is the captain of Scotland, as well as Leilani Solaese, who has just been named captain of the Samoan side.
“We also picked up two really impressive players from Victoria.”
The Panthers Opens team will take on the Eastwood Ryde Netball Association Hawks during the opening round on Wednesday, May 24.
Meanwhile, the Panthers U20s team will look to defend their title when they also battle the Hawks this Wednesday evening.
Many of the 2016 squad will return for the Panthers this year including Netball NSW Coach of the Year Jaqua Heddle.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.