After reaching the Netball NSW Premier League Finals for the first time last season, the Panthers Opens team have one goal in mind this year – make the Grand Final.
After years of disappointment, the Panthers Opens netball team created history last season when they qualified for not only their first Preliminary Final but their first Finals series overall.
While they weren’t able to get over the hump and reach the ‘big dance’, they won plenty of admirers under then new head coach Moira Gaha.
With Gaha back at the helm this season and the side relatively unchanged, Gaha can’t see why her side won’t go one better in 2023.
“The Grand Final is our goal – we’ll be looking to make history again,” she told the Weekender.
“Making the Finals last year was a significant achievement as it was the first time a Panthers Opens team had done it.
“We’ve spoken about that achievement a lot during the off-season and how proud we are of it, but attention now turns to what the next level looks like for us and how we can strive to go one better.”
Helping Panthers’ case in making back to back Finals series will be the fact that the majority of their players will be returning to the line-up in 2023.
Unlike previous years where players have moved on to other clubs or stopped playing altogether, the Panthers Opens team will be largely unchanged this season.
“The only ones to leave were girls that moved or had work commitments,” Gaha said.
“We had the bulk of the group return as well as three or four new additions, that are showing some great work ethic and promise. It’s an exciting time for the Panthers Opens team.”
The 2023 Netball NSW Premier League season kicks off tonight at Netball Central, with Panthers taking on the ERNA Hawks in the opening round.
Along with the Opens team’s lofty goals this season, the Panthers U23’s team are also looking to give the competition a real shake this year after missing out on Finals netball last season.
Gaha, who is no stranger to the club’s U23’s team having coached them for two seasons, said team chemistry will be pivotal in the young group’s chances to succeed this year.
“The Opens and U23’s side did their pre-season together and I’d love to see the U23’s girls progress through the ranks,” she said.
“I know the U23’s are looking to step up this season and look for consistency and connection with the new girls. It’ll be exciting to watch, I can see that connection already.”
The Netball NSW Premier League is the pinnacle of netball competition in NSW, showcasing the best current and emerging talent within the state.
The Panthers squad is made up of players from the Penrith, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury Netball Associations.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.