Premier League title favourites Graduates have a new name up front this season in Hannah Willis, though she has a very familiar face in Northern Ireland netball circles.
Before getting married this summer she had already achieved the highest honours in the sport as Hannah Irvine, including winning more than 50 full international caps and a string of domestic successes with Graduates.
Nothing has changed but the surname, with Willis looking forward to a season that culminates in the Northern Ireland team’s first ever Commonwealth Games appearance.
“These are enormously exciting times for Northern Ireland netball with confirmation of our qualification for Glasgow 2014, which will be a huge highlight in the career of all those selected,” she enthuses.
“The forthcoming International Festival of Netball Tournament scheduled for Antrim Forum at the end of this month is a very appealing prospect and an opportunity to play against strong sides of contrasting styles.
“These are exactly the sort of competitive opportunities we need in order to keep progressing so between that and having our new full-time national coach, Kate Carpenter, in place it’s a very positive time for Northern Ireland netball.”
The only current cloud on the horizon is the knee injury which could sideline captain Gemma Gibney for the quadrangular tournament, though the silver lining of her absence would be a chance for Willis to captain her country.
The 29-year-old Larne Grammar PE teacher previously skippered the side during Denise Prue’s term as coach six seasons ago and has been vice-captain to Graduates clubmate Gibney for the past two years.
Graduates regularly supply half the national squad but lost the Premier League title to Belfast Ladies last year and are determined to reclaim top spot this season with coach Madeline Mason back in harness.
They face Causeway on Thursday night in the third round of fixtures with the Ballymoney outfit keen to improve upon last week’s 85-29 beating by Larkfield.
The Lisburn club should have another easy victory against Bangor with champions Belfast Ladies likely to rattle up a good score when they meet the capital’s newest top flight team, Westside.
Recently promoted Banbridge will be seeking a first victory in the Premier League against Donaghadee but their neighbours Dromore will be clear underdogs against Laganside.