Centrals looking to climb

Mariah Vankervoort (Jacob Pattison)

Melton Centrals coach Randy Pereira has his sights set on finals this year in the Riddell District Netball season.

The Centrals had an up and down 2023 campaign that had them finishing in seventh place with five wins from 16 games.

But Pereira said he’s confident they can take the next step.

“I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t make finals this year,” he said. “I think it will be a lot more even than it has been in the past.

“It could be a case of who will remain fittest or be injury free.”

Unfortunately the Centrals won’t have a clean bill of health to start the year, as Emma Winzar will miss considerable time due to an ACL injury late last season.

Pereira said there was a chance she could return later in the season.

Mariah Vankervoort will captain the side this year for the first time.

Pereira was full of praise for her work on and off the court.

“She’s a really strong leader, she’ll be terrific [as captain],” he said. “She’s been a really good midcourt player, I’ve used her mainly at centre.”

The club has also welcomed Helen and Nadia Aumua to the club.

Last season Helen played in the Western Rams under-19s and is one of the options to replace Winzar in front of goals.

Helen also played for the North East Blaze in the Victorian Netball League.

Meanwhile her sister Nadia also played for the Rams in A-grade in a goal scoring position.

Last season the Centrals had an inexperienced roster, with an average of no more than 18 across their squad.

Pereira said he thinks an extra year playing together and the addition of some new players will allow the club too improve.

“Last year we had a really young team,” he said. “We’re still gonna be young, so we’re going make those mistakes young teams make,” he said.

“But I think we’ve shown good stretches in our practice matches.”

Pereira said he had confidence in his young list.

“We’ve done a lot of work with our systems, more so than in the past,” he said. “Although a lot of our players are young, I prefer to use an under-19s player who’s trying to make a name for themselves because that’s someone who will buy into what the club wants to be.”

Centrals start their season on Saturday against Romsey after having a bye in round one.