Mid-court stars Zoe Peden and Abbey Allomes made their first division Metro League debuts against Randwick last Thursday night. Picture: Isaac McIntyre

Hunter Netball’s first outing in the Netball NSW Metro League may not have seen the team collect competitive points after their journey south to Sydney Olympic Park, but coach Natarlia Bridges says the match was a “fantastic one” nonetheless for the young squad.

The Hunter side fell to defending champions and premiers Randwick in their first clash at Netball Central, falling an average of five goals behind each quarter to finish behind in a 62-42 scoreline.

For Bridges, who has taken over the helm of the representative squad in 2019, the first fixture was more about “settling in” and “getting rid of those early nerves” than actually taking it to one of the Sydney competition powerhouses.

Annie Neenan was pinpointed as a key element in the team’s defence in the opening round of the Metro League.

“We are looking to settle in with the basics now, and getting the connections there,” she said.

“Once we have that we can get the fancy stuff in. The first few weeks is about figuring out who works best with who, and how they settle. I’m really happy with the girls, and how they went about their game. It shows there’s big things to come.”

The Hunter squad were their own enemies on the court, Bridges said, as the side lost more than two dozen balls with errors. For the club mentor, however, that’s not a bad thing early on – in fact, it gives them something to work with.

“We lost a lot of ball off our own errors, which isn’t that bad because it means that we have something we can point to to fix in training,” she said. “Honestly,

“The speed of the game was so fast in the Thursday match, and no one took ownership of the ball, our team or theirs. If we can learn to take that ownership and run the game through that, we can be unstoppable.”

Hunter Netball’s coach also said despite the 20-goal loss there were some major positives for the personel in the team, pinpointing keeper Annie Neenan and impact attack Mackenzie Stuart as two players who “rose to the occasion”  in the first game.

“Our mid courters are very, very good at what they do, and Annie [Neenan] had a blinder of a game. She was incredible and really lead from the defence,” Bridges said.

Mackenzie Stuart came into the first round contest and “shot the house off” in the final quarter.

“Credit to Annie for that game, she was a shining light and she played her bum off in Sydney.

“Mackenzie was also another one who was impressive on Thursday, she was a bit nervous ahead of coming on late in the game, but massive credit to her because she went out into the game and shot the house off, so that was awesome to see.”

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Hunter Netball now turn their attention to their second round clash with Manly Warringah on Thursday evening. Manly finished the 2018 campaign as champions of the second division, earning their promotion with a 16-1 record. They recored a 58-28 win over Eastwood Ryde to start their year in the top grade.

Bridges said that the second week clash, an early one this time at the 7pm slot, would again focus on “working out the rythm of the Metro League game”, with a win secondary to just bedding the girls into the Sydney experiences.

It’s expected Hunter Netball will begin with a lineup of Claire Kowald (shooter), Mackenzie Stuart (goal attack), Abbey Allomes (wing attack), Zoe Peden (centre), Megan Aspinall (wing defence), Emma Rumbel (goal defence), and Annie Neenan (keeper).

Hunter Netball have also started their campaign in the fourth division, with a 50-43 defeat at the hands of Inner Western Suburbs in the opening round, before falling to St George 55-34 on Monday evening.