19 April, 2024

Thunder and Eagles face off

The Southern Mallee Thunder face the Warrack Eagles at Sir Robert Menzies Park in their debut match in the Wimmera Football Netball League when round one gets underway tomorrow.

By Chris Graetz

Declan Powell is a player that has been impressing Matt Walder.
Declan Powell is a player that has been impressing Matt Walder.

Following the amalgamation between Jeparit Rainbow Storm and Southern Mallee Giants, the wait is finally here for the club and they are itching to get into the season.
President Lucas Edelsten said everyone can't wait to begin.

"There is plenty of optimism getting around and everyone is chomping at the bit to get out there," Edelsten said.

"Everyone has done a good job in making this as good as it can be and it's exciting and we are excited about what can happen this year."

The Eagles have brought back Matt Walder, their 2002 premiership coach and improvement is expected.

Walder is excited about the improvement he has seen in the pre-season.

"I am glad the pre-season has finally come to an end and we can get stuck into the season," Walder said.

"From where Warrack is coming from and where we are getting to, it's really exciting to see how quick the improvement has come.

"The players are making an impression with a new style of play and I have implemented trademarks and standards at training to close the gap and the players have responded well."

Kyle Cheney again returns to the team as well as five new exciting recruits from South Australia.

Jayke Hellmanns, Tyson Hunt, Jai Kovatseff, John Martin and Machok Garang are the five coming from South Australia.

Hellmanns is a big-bodied midfielder/forward, Kovatseff and Martin will bring grunt to the midfield, Hunt is a key back and Garang is an athletic ruckman.

"They all provide a bit of size and experience and are important in that regard. They are excited and itching to get into it," Walder said.


Leiah McKenzie has stepped into coaching for the first time this year for the Eagles and is a co-coach with Jess Erhardt.

The Eagles haven't gone out and recruited hard, but rather are focusing on developing the juniors with some ready to step up.

"We have a few juniors which has given us depth and we also have Nicola Clyne returning this year which is great to see," McKenzie said.

"Training partners in the U17 in Ava Koschitzke, Satine Malcolm and Lauren Clyne are stepping up and adding speed to a new game style to A-Grade.

"Isabella Orszulak and Amber O'Connor have also stepped up and improved."

"We just want to start to strengthen our side with these young girls and hopefully get a few more wins and play some clean and nice-looking netball."

When asked which ones she believes will take their game to the next level this season, McKenzie said it's hard to call but highlighted Koschitzke and O'Connor as having good pre-seasons.

"Ava Koschitzke is going to be a netballer of the future and we are excited to have her here," McKenzie said.

"It's a developing year for her and she is looking really strong and has a good pre-season.

"Amber O'Connor is getting stronger and stronger and is looking good and it's exciting to see.

The Thunder netballers are coached by Jodie Hayes, a Heather Hatcher Medalist and Steph Thomson, a premiership player and 2023 WFNL goal attack of the year.

Gabbi Rule has moved over from Birchip-Watchem in the NCNL and Connie Rule has signed and is a defender but is versatile and can play any position on the wing.

Caitlin Douglas will be traveling from Adelaide every week to play for the Thunder. Douglas is a two-time premiership player and can play at both ends of the court as a GD or GA.

Sydney Thorogood joins the club from Nhill in a big coup for the Thunder. She can play both ends, either as a GK or GS.

Steph Thomson is pleased with the versatility they have this year.

"We are more versatile and have taller players which is lovely. It was a bit of a struggle towards the end of last year, but following the merger, everything is looking really good. There is a good vibe" Thomson said.

"We have players that can play both ends and each week will be different with the matchups. Sydney and Abby are tall and Caitlin can shoot and defend."

Thomson said they want to play the best netball they can.

"We want to have success. Everyone aims for finals and it would be great to play finals," Thomson said.

"We got there a couple of years ago and with new faces and a lot of enthusiasm around the place, I am excited to see where we can get to this year."


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