West Coast Fever believe best Super Netball lies ahead
After breaking through for their first title, West Coast Fever skipper Courtney Bruce has warned their Super Netball rivals her team will be even stronger in 2023.
For the first time in the club's 25-year history the Fever last season notched a premiership, a crushing grand final victory over Melbourne Vixens coming after grand final losses in 2018 and 2020.
It was a coup for Dan Ryan in his first year as Fever coach.
Ahead of round one, which gets underway on Saturday, Bruce is expecting the Fever to lift after building their connection with Ryan and bedding down his style of play.
"Our relationships that we've built with him, he knows us a lot better now, we know him a lot better and how he works," Bruce told AAP.
"We had a solid foundation last year and we've tweaked a few things going into 2023.
"The biggest thing is our consistency and being able to put in week in and week out."
Bruce expected fellow grand finalists Melbourne, led by Australia captain Liz Watson, to again be a major threat.
The Vixens and the Collingwood Magpies can already look forward to a 'home' crowd come the Super grand final after Netball Australia sold the event to the Victorian government.
However Bruce named Adelaide, who finished second last in 2022, as a dark horse after luring England shooter Eleanor Cardwell Down Under.
"The Thunderbirds have recruited really well bringing Eleanor into their team," the Diamonds goalkeeper said.
"We played them in the Team Girls Cup and had a really good battle both games."
The NSW Swifts were defending their 2021 crown last year but missed the finals altogether, an outcome co-captain Maddy Proud said stung the team.
"I remember feeling the most disappointed that I've ever felt after a season," Proud told AAP.
"If there had been a couple more games in the season, we would have been in a very different place.
"We really started to hit our straps in those last few games so it was just really disappointing it took us that long."
Rocked early on by losing star shooter Sam Wallace to an ACL injury, Proud said finishing the season strongly gave the Swifts confidence, along with the addition of three-time Firebirds premiership shooter Romelda Aiken-George.
"We were starting to play some really exciting netball towards the end of the year, that's what's most exciting," Proud said.
"Also bringing in the likes of Romelda. It's a pretty nice luxury to have her to come in as a replacement player so we can't wait to get going."
Sunshine Coast Lightning had an even bigger fall from grace, finishing last having previously never missed the finals since their inception in 2017.
Ex-West Coast Fever assistant Belinda Reynolds has taken over as coach at the Lightning, with skipper Steph Wood vowing the team will bounce back, helped by the return from maternity leave of South Africa defender Karla Pretorius.
"It's no secret it was a very disappointing year," Wood told AAP.
"We have moved on - new coach, some different people in our team, but it is probably a motivating factor for me. Being captain and finishing at the bottom of the table did not sit well with me.
"We've worked really hard in the pre-season and Belinda has come in with a new game plan - a very simple game plan, but it works very well with the girls we have in our team.
"We're definitely heading in the right direction to be back at the top."
As well as the race for the championship, players are out to impress Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich ahead of this year's World Cup in South Africa.
The Australia team will go into camp two days after the Super Netball grand final, ahead of the tournament start on July 28.
Diamonds shooter and vice-captain Wood said players pushing for selection would benefit from club success.
"If you make your club successful and you're playing well those things will come, so my focus is on the Lightning," she said.
"But every now and again I look up and think about the World Cup.
"It's a big year for netball and we want the World Cup back in our trophy cabinet."