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A new season . . . (Clockwise from bottom left) Valley Silver gets inspiration from coach Rihi Schultz at grading day; Waitaki Girls' High School Lightening Strike's Molly Hurst gets the ball through Valley defence; St Kevin's College centre Ellen Swanson grabs the ball ahead of Kurow opposite Rebecca Stark last season; Maheno goal keep Melissa Smith and Waitaki Girls' Wildfire goal shoot Madaleine Mansfield battle it out in 2018. PHOTOS: CAROL EDWARDS

The netball season is here again. Gus Patterson checks in with the eight North Otago premier club teams ahead of the opening round this weekend.

VALLEY GOLD

Coach: Rihi Schultz

Last year: Champion

The oil: Can the dynasty continue? The form guide says yes, the core group has been together since the beginning and Abbey McKenzie is the only loss from last year’s title-winning side. Sarah Newlands and Nicky Wallace provide the nucleus of a strong defensive core, while much is expected of young shoot Brytnee Firman, who continues to improve.

MAHENO

Coach: Carmen Brenssell

Last year: Second

The oil: Came close to ending a premiership drought of 44 years last year. It has a stable roster, and the depth of the club has grown, with more teams in lower grades. Anika Smith is a big loss, but the defensive end remains very strong – Briar Wilson, Mel Smith and Kat Kawau will be hard to get the ball through. Becky Taylor returns after two seasons out with a knee injury to offer another option in the shooting circle. Have the ability and desire to go one better.

ST KEVIN’S A

Coach: Rachel Fowler

Last year: Third

The oil: It is a rebuilding year for St Kevin’s, losing five players from last year’s team, but they still have a strong side. Last year’s co-captains, Molly Kay and Gemma Dowling, will be especially missed, but there are some strong prospects. The team has three strong shooters – this year’s captain Annie Metcalfe, Jamiee Trainor and Tegan Souness, who will be one to watch. Ellen Swanson will make the plays from centre and Hannah Cunningham will continue to grow her impressive sporting resume.

WGHS WILDFIRE

Coach: Steve Ross

Last year: Fourth

The oil: The first of the evenly matched Waitaki Girls’ teams, the Wildfire is young and talented. Molly Hurst, in her final year, is the star, though the side looks well balanced. Madaleine Mansfield will be joined at the offensive end by Brylee Milmine, who continues to add to her sporting pedigree. It has a quick and speedy midcourt and two tall and athletic defenders in captain Kira Mortimer and Charlotte Weir.

WGHS LIGHTNING STRIKE

Coach: Steve Ross

Last year: Fifth

The oil: It’s the Fifita show for the Lightning this year. Taneisha, when available, will be a rock on defence, co-captain Maikale will be powerful in the midcourt and Losa, who only just turned 15, is an awesome prospect at shoot. Co-captain Laura Dunshea will play wing attack in a youthful and exciting team.

ATHLETIC

Coach: Kim Lyttle

Last year: Sixth

The oil: A new look team – only four players are retained from last year. The versatile Mel Lewis returns to the courts and is joined by a number of players making their debuts in premier netball. Midcourter Ella Francis will be a key player, and Chantal Robertson will continue to improve.

VALLEY SILVER

Coach: Rihi Schultz

Last year: Seventh

The oil: Valley Silver is a bit of an unknown quantity, having picked up a number of new players. It looks a youthful and fit team, with plenty of good competitors. It has a disruptive midcourt, with the likes of fireball Ana Siale returning from rugby and Celia van Kampen, who is a good leader. Kate Macgregor will captain the side, having previously won a championship with Valley Gold.

KUROW

Coach: Anna Haugh

Last year: Eighth

The oil: The only way is up for last year’s wooden spooner, and it will be hoping a change in personnel will help it climb the ladder. It has a new look shooting circle – Rochelle Francis-Hunt will team up with player-coach Anna Haugh, and much will depend on how they gel. Other star players will be Australian defender Jane Mulholland and centre Rebecca Stark.