Bridget Hill doesn’t just play netball for the Benalla Saints – she plays there because it is family and it is home.
It is so important as a part of who she is, the 22-year-old doesn’t think twice about a four-hour round trip every weekend of the winter from her Bendigo home to be part of the club.
“I grew up at the Saints, my father coached there and this year I get to play with Chloe (her 19-year-old sister) for the first time,” Hill said.
She didn’t play for the Saints last year, but her return this year has the added Chloe factor.
“It’s nice to play with Chloe this season – and I am enjoying bossing her around,” she said with a laugh.
The sisters were teamed in defence at the start of the year – Bridget as keeper and Chloe in defence – but a recent lineup change has had Bridget moved to the other end of the court as goal attack.
It’s not a quantum leap for her, she played her under-17 career in attack before being swapped into defence when she was elevated to A-grade.
Being at the pointy end of the game brings a different set of pressures with it, but the talented Hill has made it a seamless transition.
“Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m pretty tough,” she said with a laugh.
“There hasn’t been a strong shooter at the Saints for a while and strength-wise, I can hold my own.”
Her biggest priority with the shift has been match-day fitness, but she has been helped through by Mikayla Lessing, her partner in the goal circle.
“As goal keeper you don’t do that much running around, so that bit was pretty challenging at the start,” she said.
Because of her Bendigo job as a property manager Hill can’t make training during the week, so she has been hitting the gym on a nightly basis to fast track the new demands on her body.
Saints A-grade netball is something of a work in progress this year with four players, including Hill, living away from the town this season, making weekday trainings near impossible.
Hill admitted the unconventional team structure made it “really difficult to gel at the start of the season”.
She said they had actually relied on warm ups for some training.
“The warm ups have helped, but we have been able to click as a team the deeper we go into the season.”
The disjointed pre-season was reflected in the team’s slow start – and current 4-9 record, but the Saints are now making major strides. In the round before the break they took it right up to top four side Shepparton Swans.
“We were only a couple goals down at half-time,” Hill said.
“We were the underdogs.
“But we just tried to make it as difficult as possible for them.
“It was really good – it boosted our confidence.”