05/03/2024

City West Falcons win the 2023 VNL Championship Premiership (Image: City West Falcons)

The Victorian Netball League (VNL) 2024 season fixture has been unveiled and The Inner Sanctum looks at what games to keep an eye on through the opening 10 rounds as well as some up and coming talent that is bound to shake the competition.

This season will see a brand new structure to the league since it was established in 2009. The Championship division remains, but a new Under 23’s division will make its debut. The Under 19’s and Division One sections have fazed out with many athletes of those playing in the Under 23’s side for their respective clubs. This is sure to ramp up the competition and make it more fierce.

The Gippsland Stars have nominated only an Under 23’s team, so teams facing the Stars in the Championship division will have a bye.

Round 1

Wednesday 6 March

City West Falcons v Boroondara Express

Hawks Netball v Melbourne University Lightning

Western Warriors v Peninsula Waves

Casey Demons v Geelong Cougars

Southern Saints v Bendigo Strikers

North East Blaze v Gippsland Stars

Game to watch: City West Falcons v Boroondara Express

It is the championship grand final rematch between the Falcons and Express. There will be match ups all across court, but the main one to watch will be former Collingwood training partners Montana Holmes and Casey Adamson.

Holmes was the MVP in the Falcons victorious back-to-back premiership and both know each others game inside and out.

Round 2

Wednesday 13 March

Bendigo Strikers v Gippsland Stars

City West Falcons v Hawks Netball

Southern Saints v North East Blaze

Casey Demons v Melbourne University Lightning

Peninsula Waves v Boroondara Express

Sunday 17 March

Geelong Cougars v Western Warriors (Torquay)

Game to watch: Southern Saints v North East Blaze

These two teams had huge potential last season, but were not able to capitalise off their momentum. Speed is the key in both midcourts with Blaze’s Maddi Wallmeyer able to turn on the jets in an instance. Her speed on the drive will be essential in the attack end, being able to hit circle edge effectively.

A player who is more of a physical presence out on court is up and comer Mia van Wyk. This will be an interesting match up if van Wyk is played out in the middle more as she’s able to play all three defensive positions. She will block off circle edge, giving space for her fellow defenders using her strong arms over pressure.

Round 3

Monday 18 March

Boroondara Express v Casey Demons

Wednesday 20 March

Hawks Netball v Gippsland Stars

Peninsula Waves v Southern Saints

North East Blaze v Western Warriors

Geelong Cougars v Melbourne University Lightning

Bendigo Strikers v City West Falcons

Game to watch: Geelong Cougars v Melbourne University Lightning

It’s going to be a hot contest in the Under 23s between the Cougars and Lightning. Both sides have amazing bookends down each ends of the court in prime Victoria representatives.

Tully Bethune is destined for greatness after picking up a netball four years ago. Her stature will make the high balls difficult to contest, but Charlee Kemp will put in an extensive amount of effort into every contest.

Round 4

Wednesday 27 March

Bendigo Strikers v North East Blaze

City West Falcons v Gippsland Starrs

Casey Demons v Western Warriors

Boroondara Express v Hawks Netball

Geelong Cougars v Southern Saints

Peninsula Waves v Melbourne University Lightning (Frankston)

Game to watch: Bendigo Strikers v North East Blaze

A hot contest in the midcourt will be one to watch. Former Blaze training partner Shae Clifford will be donning the Bendigo region. Speed will match speed as Clifford will face former teammate Ayva Tanfara who can also play in the defensive circle.

Smiles will all be present on court, but when that first whistle goes, all that matters is what’s produced on court.

Round 5

Wednesday 3 April

Geelong Cougars v Gippsland Stars

Bendigo Strikers v Peninsula Waves

Western Warriors v City West Falcons

Southern Saints v Boroondara Express

Melbourne University Lightning v North East Blaze (Darebin Stadium)

Casey Demons v Hawks Netball (Casey)

Game to watch: Casey Demons v Hawks Netball

Hawks Lauren Hucker produced a big 2023 season, standing up strong to the contest. She will definitely need to pull out all the stops against seasoned campaigned Emma Ryde.

Ryde is a strong target under the post, but Hucker’s improved on her vertical jump over the last year and is ready to put it to the test again.

Round 6

Wednesday 10 April

North East Blaze v Peninsula Waves

Boroondara Express v Western Warriors

Gippsland Stars v Melbourne University Lightning

Bendigo Strikers v Casey Demons

Hawks Netball v Southern Saints

City West Falcons v Geelong Cougars (Altona)

Game to watch: Gippsland Stars v Melbourne University Lightning

It will be a hot contest between former Demon Myah Healey and Lightning’s Kirby Elliott. Elliott has been an underdog for the Lightning over the past few years, whereas Healey is making the move to the Stars after a Demon Division One MVP year.

Both are able to play both circle positions, shooting and defence respectively, so it’ll be interesting so each will change up their game styles catering towards the game momentum.

Round 7

Wednesday 17 April

Boroondara express v Geelong Cougars

Peninsula Waves v City West Falcons

Melbourne University Lightning v Southern Saints

North East Blaze v Hawks Netball

Western Warriors v Bendigo Strikers

Gippsland Stars v Casey Demons (Drouin)

Game to watch: Melbourne University Lightning v Southern Saints

Former MUL Academy athlete Millie Hogg returns to the Lightning after plying her trade with the Saints over the last two years. The sharp attacker will have a big test ahead of her, lining up against Holly Garac who has plenty of VNL and national experience under her belt.

Garac was a stand out in the Saints Division One campaign last season and is on the brink of breaking into the Championship side. It will be experience v the rookie this hit out, both fighting for bragging rights.

Round 8

Wednesday 24 April

City West Falcons v Melbourne University Lightning

Gippsland Stars v Southern Saints

North East Blaze v Geelong Cougars

Saturday 27 April

Casey Demons v Peninsula Waves (Casey)

Sunday 28 April

Bendigo Strikers v Boroondara Express (Bendigo)

Game to watch: Bendigo Strikers v Boroondara Express

Breakout talent v breakout talent. Isabelle Hodgson has always been a solid player, but she really stood up in the 2023 season. A starter in the Express championship side while creating a swift partnership with three other shooters across the season. Hodgson was a late elevation in the Vic Fury squad this year after an injury midway through the tournament. She stood alongside youngster Charlotte Sexton who has quickly made her way into the Strikers championship side. Sexton also has a consistent ANC campaign and quickly became one of the best in her former club’s side in the City West Falcons. This will be one to watch.

Round 9

Wednesday 1 May

North East Blaze v Boroondara Express

City West Falcons v Casey Demons

Melbourne University Lightning v Bendigo Strikers

Hawks Netball v Geelong Cougars

Friday 3 May

Southern Saints v Western Warriors (Mentone Grammar)

Sunday 5 May

Peninsula Waves v Gippsland Stars (Frankston)

Game to watch: Hawks Netball v Geelong Cougars

The Cougars eventually found their footing after a slow start and quickly became premiership favourites. They ended the season just falling short of another grand final birth, whereas the Hawks missed out on their finals potential.

Championship MVP Kaylia Stanton will have a big job ahead of her against Brooke Allan who had an impressive end to the season, dominating every shooter she came up against. Both will compliment each others playing style and push again for finals contention.

Round 10

Wednesday 8 May

Southern Saints v City West Falcons

Casey Demons v North East Blaze

Hawks Netball v Bendigo Strikers

Western Warriors v Gippsland Stars

Melbourne University Lightning v Boroondara Express

Geelong Cougars v Peninsula Waves

Game to watch: Melbourne University Lightning v Boroondara Express

A powerful match up between Express’ Sophie Hennessey and Lightning’s Emma Winfield will be exciting. Hennessey has plenty of exposure to the elite environment spending time with Manchester Thunder two years ago. Her experience adds another string to her bow up against a versatile Winfield.

She gets great depth on second phase while in centre and had great timing in attack to be in prime feeding position. Both play the attacking midcourt positions, but Winfield can also play goal attack and shoots with high accuracy.

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Round 11 – Pride Round

Wednesday 15 May

North East Blaze v Bendigo Strikers

Southern Saints v Geelong Cougars

Gippsland Stars v City West Falcons

Melbourne University Lightning v Peninsula Waves

Western Warriors v Casey Demons

Hawks Netball v Boroondara Express

Round 12

Sunday 19 May

Peninsula Waves v Hawks Netball (Frankston)

Gippsland Stars v Boroondara Express (Frankston)

Southern Saints v Casey Demons (Frankston)

Bendigo Strikers v Geelong Cougars (Bendigo)

Melbourne University Lightning v Western Warriors (Bendigo)

City West Falcons v North East Blaze (Altona)

Game to watch: Melbourne University Lightning v Western Warriors

Seasoned campaigner Olivia Ellis has joined the Western Warriors after several years at the North East Blaze. She’s finally breaking into the Championship team after serving numerous years in Division One, winning a premiership in 2019 in the process. Ellis’ versatility to the Warriors will be key being able to play both in the midcourt and the defensive circle.

Depending on where she’s playing on court, Ellis’ most likely match up will be against Casey Dunstan. Dunstan took advantage of her time in the Lightning’s Championship side playing both centre and wing attack. She will want to produce a consistent season a maintain her starting seven position after a confident finals campaign.

Round 13

Wednesday 22 May

Boroondara Express v Peninsula Waves

Gippsland Stars v Bendigo Stikers

Hawks Netball v City West Falcons

North East Blaze v Southern Saints

Melbourne University Lightning v Casey Demons

Friday 24 May

Western Warriors v Geelong Cougars (Bacchus Marsh)

Round 14 – First Nations Round

Wednesday 29 May

Boroondara Express v City West Falcons

Melbourne University Lightning v Hawks Netball

Peninsula Waves v Western Warriors

Geelong Cougars v Casey Demons

Gippsland Stars v North East Blaze

Sunday 2 June

Bendigo Strikers v Southern Saints (Bendigo)

Round 15

Monday 3 June

Boroondara Express v Melbourne University Lightning (Boroondara)

Wednesday 5 June

North East Blaze v Casey Demons

Bendigo Strikers v Hawks Netball

Gippsland Stars v Western Warriors

City West Falcons v Southern Saints

Peninsula Waves v Geelong Cougars

Round 16

Wednesday 12 June

Gippsland Stars v Hawks Netball

Casey Demons v Boroondara Express

Western Warriors v North East Blaze

Melbourne University Lightning v Geelong Cougars

City West Falcons v Bendigo Strikers

Southern Saints v Peninsula Waves

Round 17

Wednesday 19 June

Peninsula Waves v North East Blaze

Geelong Cougars v City West Falcons

Casey Demons v bendigo Strikers

Melbourne University Lightning v Gippsland Stars

Western Warriors v Boroondara Express

Friday 21 June

Southern Saints v Hawks Netball (Mentone Grammar)

Round 18

Monday 24 June

Casey Demons v Gippsland Stars (Olive Road)

Wednesday 26 June

Geelong Cougars v Boroondara Express

City West Falcons v Peninsula Waves

Southern Saints v Melbourne University Lightning

Bendigo Strikers v Western Warriors

Hawks Netball v North East Blaze

Round 19

Sunday 30 June

Hawks Netball v Peninsula Waves (Traralgon)

Boroondara Express v Gippsland Stars (Traralgon)

Casey Demons v Southern Saints (Casey)

North East Blaze v City West Falcons (La Trobe Sports Stadium)

Geelong Cougars v Bendigo Strikers (Ballarat)

Western Warriors v Melbourne University Lightning (Ballarat)

Round 20

Wednesday 3 July

Hawks Netball v Western Warriors

Boroondara Express v Bendigo Strikersr

Southern Saints v Gippsland Stars

Friday 5 July

Peninsula Waves v Casey Demons (Frankston)

Sunday 7 July

Melbourne University Lightning v City West Falcons (Darebin Stadium)

Geelong Cougars v North East Blaze (Torquay)

Round 21

Wednesday 10 July

Gippsland Stars v Geelong Cougars

North East Blaze v Melbourne University Lightning

Peninsula Waves v Bendigo Strikers

Boroondara Express v Southern Saints

Hawks Netball v Casey Demons (Stonnington)

City West Falcons v Western Warriors (Altona)

Round 22

Wednesday 17 July

Boroondara Express v North East Blaze

Casey Demons v City West Falcons

Western Warriors v Southern Saints

Bendigo Strikers v Melbourne University Lightning

Geelong Cougars v Hawks Netball

Gippsland Stars v Peninsula Waves

The season begins on Wednesday 6 March at the Melbourne Sports Centre

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