BEWARE — the Phoenix is rising.
Perennial powerhouse Yarrawonga may have been slow out of the blocks at the start of the year but the Pigeons have risen from the ashes in recent weeks and welcome back their 194-centimetre defender Hannah Symes to regular A-grade netball in the grand final replay with Lavington on Saturday.
The continued rise of teenage goal attack Abbey Jones, in only her second season in the top grade, along with the return of Sarah Vagg and sister Kylie Leslie, now has the Pigeons in second spot.
Yarrawonga has been a grand finalist for seven years in a row and hasn’t finished outside the top-3 since the last millennium.
Coach Kaitlyn Cummins admitted they were a little underdone at the start of the year but said they were now playing to their potential.
“We have a great side, plenty of experience and skill but it has been a case of getting used to playing with each other again,” she said.
“We are slowly running into a bit of form which is just as well seeing we play Lavi this weekend.
“The grand final loss last year was pretty painful so it would be wonderful to go out and beat them on Saturday.”
Cummins said the return of past premiership players had began to click in recent wins.
“We recruited well this year, have some great players back and they are all now hitting their straps,” she said.
“Sarah Vagg (Leslie) missed last year and she came back in round four and has been playing amazing netball as has her sister Kylie, Kristy Davis is another playing excellent netball.
“It makes it tough to settle on a starting seven.
“Now Hannah Symes has come back as well, her height and strength will be a real advantage particularly against Lavington.”
Cummins said the standard of netball had risen across the league and no side could be taken lightly.
“I had a couple of weeks away and came back to find us sixth on the ladder after losing to Corowa, I can’t remember the club ever having lost to them, I didn’t know what was happening,” she said.
“But a couple of weeks later and after some narrow wins we are second — it shows you how close the competition is, how fierce the games are every week.
“North Albury were great last week and in any other year would be top-5 certainties but then you have a side like Wang Magpies who are young, agile and athletic.
“You can’t underestimate them, they will get stronger as the year goes on.”