University of Newcastle has joined forces with perennial Greater Championship heavyweights Forsythes heading into the 2020 season, in an effort to “create a clear pathway all the way to the top” for students and netball rising stars.

Forsythes has been a Newcastle heavyweight in the past few years, and contested a series of Championship grand finals up until 2016. Their decider appearances have been a little leaner during West Leagues’ three-peat, but they’ve still been in and around the top spots — they even led the competition for all but a single week last year.

That’s not going to change heading into 2020 and beyond, captain Karlie Robards told the Women’s Chronicle, but now the team has a new base too; the University link-up means there’s now a “clear pathway” for juniors to join the contender team.

“It’s a really good partnership, that Forsythes has merged with University of Newcastle,” Robards said. “It’s great having so many teams involved, and being part of a club now. We’re all really excited to create a strong pathways system for all the uni students who want to come and compete in Newcastle Netball.”

Forsythes ⁠— now playing under the University of Newcastle banner ⁠— were title favourites for much of the 2019 season.

There’s also the new “backup” that the former Forsythes squad can draw on now, Robards added. “It’s good having all the options now! Numbers will be key in this current climate, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty of chances in the top grade.”

As always, Traci Baber’s roster is eyeing a punt at the title again. The new Greater Club Series offers a different way to earn Newcastle Netball silverware this season — the linked table between all three grades — and Robards admits the whole team is “just as eager” to lift that trophy as the usual Championship gong.

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“We’re very keen to take [the club title] out yeah, it’d be such a great way to start with the new partnership we’ve got with the Uni club. I know they would be pretty happy to start off like that too!” she said.

“The team is doing everything we can fitness-wise to be prepared. I don’t think anyone is going to be fully prepared as we were in previous seasons, but we’re giving it a good shot,” Robards added with a laugh. “It’s just great to be back, for sure.”

University of Newcastle will start their top-grade Club Series campaign in the shortened season against BNC Whanau. The two perennial Newcastle finals contenders will square off on Court 5 at 2.25pm first up on Saturday afternoon.