Around the grounds round 6 wrap

Royal Ascot may still be a month away but a three-horse race has already developed much closer to home.

Even a cursory glance at the A-grade netball ladder will tell you that, with a trio of premierships pretenders all emerging from the split round with a five-star rating.

But scratch the surface, look beneath the numbers and the varying narratives are

Whether it be Wodonga Raiders’ determination to take the next step after losing their first grand final last year, Wangaratta’s stinging indignation at a straight-sets finals exit or the discovery that not only does Corowa-Rutherglen have a pulse, it has emerged from the wilderness to kick the premiership window wide open, the respective stories are already begging to be written.

To look Issy Newton in the eye is to understand the Magpies’ motivation.

“We’re determined every year but this year probably means a little bit more,” Newton said.

“We didn’t get there last year and we probably felt we should.

“We had the side but we just couldn’t get through so this year, that’s our goal, that’s our focus.

“We’re a family, we’re about working together, playing our role and we couldn’t be happier to be 5-0.

“We’re best mates so everyone’s got each other’s back. If someone’s down, we pick them up, we keep going and we move on.”

The imminent return of Georgia Clark to complement the prolific Amanda Umanski and evergreen Kellie Keen further strengthens Wangaratta’s hand.

For the Raiders, meanwhile, Mia Lavis’ absence due to national, state and VNL commitments is providing coach Jodie House with more opportunities to tinker.

It’s clear House is playing the long game when she speaks about her players’ need to experience short-term pain in pursuit of long-term gain.

“Blaynee played our grand final with a broken shoulder and I don’t know how many people were aware of that,” House revealed.

“I’ve got to reflect on that and go ‘what other combinations were tried and tested for her to come off and to replace her with someone?’

“So rather than going out and winning by huge numbers, as the year progresses, we’ve got to be able to play under pressure and under adversity and that’s what our girls do very well.

“We’ll keep challenging the boundaries with them so they’re having to test themselves and see what they can put together on the court if something changes very quickly.”

Everything, of course, has changed at Corowa except the presence and star quality of Sophie Hanrahan – and the Roos’ place in the premiership conversation.

“They impress me week on week,” Hanrahan said. “They’re such a great group of girls.

“It’s a great vibe, we care about each other and we’re all there for the team.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many games you play; if you’re all there for the same reason it gets you a long way.”

Strap yourselves in over the next few weeks.

Corowa hosts Wangaratta in Round 7 and the Roos then visit Raiders in Round 8 before the Magpies entertain Raiders in Round 9.