The only thing more frightening than a Victorian Fury team is a Victorian Fury team with a point to prove.
And the Fury will certainly be out to make a statement in 2018.
After failing to capture the Australian Netball League title for the first time in four years last season, the competition’s most successful franchise will be in somewhat unfamiliar territory this year.
ANL champions in seven of the competition’s 10 seasons, the Fury last year came up short against a rampaging Western Sting outfit that found form at precisely the right moment – sweeping all before them after finishing the regular season in third place, and dispatching Victoria 63-47 in the grand final.
But as the Vics set out to atone for that disappointment this year, they’ll do it with a markedly different team, with a number of Victorian stars returning to the line-up after plying their trade interstate, and some young blood getting their first taste of ANL action.
Melbourne Vixens training partners Lara Dunkley, Rahni Samason, Jacqui Newton and Tayla Honey will be sure to feature prominently throughout the campaign, while 2017 NSW Swifts training partner Mikaela Vaughan returns to the Fury line-up at goal attack.
Giant former Adelaide Thunderbird goal shooter Jane Cook will present major challenges for opposition defence ends, but it’s the Fury’s own defensive line that will be something of a mystery come Round 1, with an almost completely new line-up set to take the court.
Young Geelong products Brooke Allan and Allie Smith are stepping into Fury colours for the first time, as is towering goal keeper Rudi Ellis, while Ramayer Gourley is the lone remaining defender from last season.
But there’ll be no Elle Bennetts this season, after she took up an AFLW contract with GWS, while fellow midcourter Kelsie Rainbow has shifted to the Magpies and will contest the ANL season with her native Tasmania. Goalers Stephanie Puopolo, Amelia Brock and Kate Thompson, as well as defender Alice Coakley, are also no longer with the Fury.
Midcourter and co-vice-captain Casey Adamson said that while the team is fully focused on regaining the ANL title, much of its long pre-season has been about building connections and combinations.
“Obviously we want to go one better and win the flag but … it’s kind of getting to know each other and how each other all plays,” she said.
Adamson, entering her second ANL season at only 20 years old, said she was confident the team had the right blend of new blood and experienced heads to again push for gold.
“We’ve got quite a new team, there are only a few of us from last year,” she said.
“Jane Cook has come back from Thunderbirds, Mikaela Vaughan has come back from the Swifts and there’s a lot of younger girls, which is really good that they’re coming through the system as well. It’s a bit of a mix of experience and inexperience, and everyone’s doing really well.”
Fury head coach Leesa Gallard certainly hasn’t forgotten the result of that grand final weekend 12 months ago, but said that while winning the tournament remaining the goal, the program is also about exposing Victoria’s next generation of stars to that next level of competition.
“We do have some athletes who this year will have their first exposure to ANL and that’s really, really exciting for them and for netball in Victoria,” she said.
“We have some athletes who also sit in the 19/U program who have come into Fury. It’s great for the future of netball and we have a development focus as well as a performance focus for Fury. We’re looking to give exposure to athletes to see what they can do in that space.”
The Victorian Fury start their ANL campaign with a weekend double-header against NNSW Waratahs at the State Netball Hockey Centre at 4pm on Saturday 5 May, and at Hisense Arena at 5.30pm on Sunday 6 May, immediately after the Melbourne Vixens game against NSW Swifts.
2018 Victorian Fury Team (VNL club)
Casey Adamson (Boroondara Express)
Brooke Allan (Geelong Cougars)
Lara Dunkley* (Boroondara Express)
Prudence (Rudi) Ellis (Boroondara Express)
Ramayer Gourley (Melbourne University Lightning)
Tayla Honey* (Geelong Cougars)
Molly Jovic (City West Falcons)
Sacha McDonald (Peninsula Waves)
Jacqui Newton* (City West Falcons)
Tahnysha Salanoa (City West Falcons)
Rahni Samason* (Peninsula Waves)
Allie Smith (Geelong Cougars)
Mikaela Vaughan (Melbourne University Lightning)
2018 Victorian Fury Training Partners (VNL Club)
Kaitlyn Black (DC North East Blaze)
Gabby Dwyer (Peninsula Waves)
Ally O’Connor (Geelong Cougars)
Gabby Sinclair (Melbourne University Lightning)
*Denotes Melbourne Vixens training partner