By ZAIDA GLIBANOVIC
The newly-formed Victorian Netball League club – Gippsland Stars – have just announced their key players that will lead them into season 2024.
After a successful try-out period a 15-player squad was selected for the 23 and Under VNL Team, and a further 15 young athletes were selected for the Stars Pathway team that would compete in the State Super Netball series.
The renowned successful Sale Football Netball Coach, Jo Ballinger has taken the head coach role.
“A prominent Gippsland local Jo needs no introduction to the Gippsland netball community,” a Gippsland Stars spokesperson said.
“She is the current Gippsland Sports Academy Netball coach and also has coaching roles with the Gippsland League representative sides and as A Grade and Junior coach at Sale Football Netball Club.”
A wealth of VNL experience in her assistant coaching role with Hawks, Ballinger will be a key to starting up the Stars netball program.
“I feel honoured and privileged to lead the Gippsland Stars in the programs first season of VNL,” Ballinger said.
“This is such a fantastic opportunity for me and for the athletes in our region to showcase our talents on a larger scale and inspire others Gippslanders to play or coach at a higher level.
“To say I’m excited is an understatement and I can’t wait to get to work with the rest of our amazing team and contribute to further growth on netball in Gippsland.”
Ballinger will be joined by another local legend Stacie Gardiner who will take on the roles as assistant coach.
Gardiner has had an extensive career as a VNL Championship player at the Peninsula Waves. The experienced goal attack has a career highlight reel like no other and will be a key to nurturing the success of the team.
Her VNL experience with elite programs and her ability to work with our players will be vital to the Stars program in 2024.
She has coach strong coaching background as a premiership coach in the Gippsland League with Drouin Netball Club and was named the Gippsland League A Grade coach of the year in 2023.
Gardiner has also coached and managed Open teams in the Victorian Community Championships and a number of Open level programs.
“Bringing VNL to Gippsland provides all aspiring netballers the opportunity to be apart of a high-performance netball program,” Gardiner said.
“This is a chance to challenge, learn and build a brand that is the Gippsland Stars. As a proud Gippslander I’m so honoured to be appointed assistant coach and work along side head coach, Jo Ballinger.
“The opportunity to be apart of the Gippsland Stars is exciting and I can’t wait to get started.”
The Stars have got off to a flying start, signing their first ever players.
Anna Solomon has made history to be the Gippsland Stars’ first ever player signing.
The athletic Morwell FNC defender made waves in the Gippsland League last season.
One of the Tigers’ best in the Gippsland League A Grade Grand Final and experienced in VNL with Casey’s Under 19s extended squad, Solomon will be a great addition to the side.
Drouin’s Lucy McKellar will join Solomon in the ring. Another proven VNL athlete, McKeller was in the Hawks Under 19 VNL squad, brining her experience to the side.
Hailing all the way from Bairnsdale to showcase our regional talent, Alison Dwyer will join the defensive team.
Playing in Melb Uni Lightning in the VNL, Dwyer will no doubt star playing for her region.
Moe’s A Grade premiership player Hollie Bugeja will also take the court for the Stars, having played for the Ariels, Bugeja will have no trouble at Victoria’s highest standard of netball.
Traralgon shooting star, Sophie Lecchino joins the Stars after a stellar season, shooting 400 goals for the Maroons.
The young up-and-comer Charlize Traumanis has made Longwarry proud after being selected into the Stars squad.
From the Ellinbank and District competition, the tall shooter has a promising future in VNL.
Paris Dunkley, that’s right that famous Gippsland name returns to the local sports scene.
Dunkley joined her netball superstar cousin, Lara, in Queensland – and while she didn’t play for the Firebirds, young Paris was outstanding for the Brisbane South Wildcats and will bring her talent back to the region.
The Morwell premiership player, Chloe Radford will be joining teammate Solomon at the Stars for the new netball season in 2024.
The young midcourter was a Gippsland League All Star in 2023 and will now represent her region.
Joining Moe FNC teammate, Bugeja, Charlize Bird will line up for the Stars.
Bird has won two A Grade premierships at Moe in 2018 and 2023 as an athletic and hard-running midcourter.
With previous VNL development experience, Bird is all set for a breakout year at the Gippsland Stars.
Emma Felsovary from Karingal and Brooke De Riter from Drouin will also join the star studded line up.
The pride of the North Gippsland League, Heyfield’s Jayde Parsons will join the VNL team.
Parsons has made moves in her short career – having just moved up to A Grade from juniors, the young gun will be apart of the 19 and Under pathway team but also a part of the Stars squad.
Experienced representative coach Roger Palmer will lead the Gippsland Stars Development team in 2024.
“Roger has a wealth of coaching experience in Gippsland and Melbourne as both a club and representative coach. Roger is the current U17 State Titles coach for Gippsland and has a long resume including experience in Association Championships, Gippsland Storm and State Titles teams,” the Stars posted.
“We are excited to have Roger join the Gippsland Stars in 2024 to help develop our future VNL.”
In a landmark moment for netball in Gippsland, the Gippsland League has secured a licence to operate a team in the VNL. The Gippsland Stars will join the competition from 2024 in the newly-created 23 & Under division before entering both the Championship and 23 & Under divisions in future seasons.
“We’re excited to welcome the Gippsland Stars to the Victorian Netball League in 2024,” said Netball Victoria Performance Competitions Manager Stacey O’Neill.
“The Stars’ inclusion will mean more opportunities for talented athletes, coaches and officials from across the Gippsland region. We know Gippsland is a passionate netball heartland and we’re looking forward to working with the club to ensure our competition is even stronger and more exciting in 2024 and beyond.”
Experience: Jo Ballinger will lead the Gippsland Stars as head coach.
Learning from the best: Stacey Gardiner will help Ballinger as an assistant coach.
Development: Roger Palmer will take charge of the Gippsland Stars Development team.
Celebrate: Organisers rejoice at the Gippsland Stars announcement earlier this year.