University of Newcastle upset defending champs West Leagues in 2020's third round.

University of Newcastle are “playing without pressure” in the hunt for Greater Bank Club Championship, and it’s paying dividends; Traci Baber’s squad has already enjoyed an undefeated 2–0 start to the staggered Newcastle Netball year.

“The season’s been really good so far, especially considering we’ve not had more than seven players each matchday,” coach Baber told the Women’s Chronicle.

“It feels like the pressure is off with this format, which has been fun for the girls. I think they are just loving being playing again after so long, and it’s showing in our results.”

That love has translated into two straight victories so far, including a 60–35 win over 2019’s champions West Leagues on Saturday. The back-to-back victories — split by a suspended Round 2 — have shot University into second place.

University’s 90.16% goal difference has them in second place ahead of Nova and behind Souths (both also 2–0).

It’s not just winning that’s perking up confidence in Uni’s camp either though. Baber has watched her team play out two “stunning” triumphs so far this year gameplay-wise, and she doesn’t see it slowing down anytime soon either.

“We’ve been playing amazing! Seven girls played, from whistle to end, one of the best team games I’ve seen my girls play,” she said of the Wests win.

“It was nearly mistake-free, Bronte [Magin] and Sabina [Gomboso] must have shot way over 90%. The girls deserved that win, that’s for sure. I tend to believe the girls “click” every week, but this week everyone played so well. Wests were a few girls down, but they still had Emma, Mackenzie, Abbey, Hannah, so I think that’s a solid team lineup.”

Uni may have edged the defending champs, but Baber knows better than to count her chickens before they’ve hatched. Looming beside UON atop Newcastle Netball’s ladder are Souths and Nova, both of whom have been “looking the goods.”

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“We’ve been playing well, but Souths are playing really well right now, as are Nova, and we haven’t actually played either of them just yet,” Baber said.

“There’s also Junction this weekend. They haven’t had a win just yet in 2020, but I’ve seen how they’ve been playing, and I’ve been really impressed. Junction have a young side, but they are playing strongly and they’ll be a tough challenge too.”

Baber believes University’s 25–point win over Wests was one of the best she’d seen from her side.

But again, it’s not a usual year. University are keeping one eye peeled on their close ladder rivals, sure, but Baber is just as eager to get every team flying the UON banner firing into the third round and beyond in a bid for the club crown.

“We would love, love, love to win that club championship this year. We class ourselves as a tight club, we did under Forsythes and we do now as University, and that means getting all players involved,” the UON boss said.

“For everyone here at University of Newcastle, from champs to 23s and all the way through, supporting each other and working towards that shared title, that’s our goal this year. It’s one I definitely think we can achieve.”