TRAINING CAN GET SCARY
We havenâ€™t played finals in the first two seasons of Suncorp Super Netball. Thatâ€™s disappointing.
The first year we were often told â€?weâ€™re the young ones of the competition, so we canâ€™t expect to be thereâ€™, and I think a lot of us accepted our fate, pretty much. Last year we definitely challenged the idea, but we werenâ€™t quite there.
When Rob quit as head coach just a month after finalising the team list for 2018, I think I went into shock. It was like â€?this is strange, you donâ€™t hear of this happening much at the professional levelâ€™.
I really felt for Briony Akle having to step into the role. We were all kind-of thinking â€?well, what if she doesnâ€™t want us as players? Sheâ€™s just been given this team. She didnâ€™t choose itâ€™. That wasnâ€™t the greatest feeling, either.Â
But thatâ€™s what we worked through in the first year with Briony. And the fact that she wanted to keep the core group for the 2019 season meant that she saw that we had potential as individuals and as a team. Sheâ€™s backed us, and weâ€™ve backed her coaching.
This year, whatâ€™s different is that weâ€™re going into the SSN season with a winning mindset. Finals are a must. Even just at training, the competitiveness with each other is scary, sometimes. It ends up being quite an intense environment. That grind is what weâ€™ve been really lacking. Weâ€™re also not afraid to have the tough conversations with one another â€“ which is something we probably would have shied away from in the past.Â
Then itâ€™s just trying to make every session count and do the right things off the court. Thatâ€™s also a big one for everyone in 2019.
I havenâ€™t missed a game yet in my three years - touch wood. The amazing support staff at the Swifts are on top of everything before you even know somethingâ€™s going to happen, and thereâ€™s definitely some luck involved with some of the hits or injuries Iâ€™ve copped have been in pre-season, so Iâ€™ve had time to overcome them.Â
WHY I STAYED
In last yearâ€™s contracting period, I signed with Swifts for another two seasons.
The biggest thing when making my decision was I couldnâ€™t imagine myself playing against these girls. I couldnâ€™t see myself standing on the other side trying to beat my best mates to a trophy that I so badly want to win alongside them.Â
There were definitely girls in the team who demanded that loyalty, and it was the Swifts who gave me my first shot, so I couldnâ€™t turn my back on a club thatâ€™s done so much for me.
There was always the temptation to go home, but I guess homeâ€™s always there, and I havenâ€™t explored all of Sydney yet, off the court, either. Itâ€™s a cool city to live in, and while Iâ€™m young I donâ€™t need to be saving a lot of money, so itâ€™s OK to spend it on rent!
I finished my speech pathology degree in December last year â€“ thank God. No one tells you that a health degree doesnâ€™t quite work well with professional sport. So Iâ€™m extremely thankful that I was given the time to complete a two-month placement block in Darwin. While I was there, our assistant coach, Anita Keelan, made sure I didnâ€™t miss out on my netball fix and hooked me up with some coaching up there. I got to see netball in the Northern Territory, which was a good experience.
I got to work with the under-17s group and under-13s. Theyâ€™ve got talent up there; they probably donâ€™t get enough exposure or opportunities to showcase it, but thereâ€™s some girls with really good skills.
As for how I would describe myself as a player, thatâ€™s an interesting question. Iâ€™d like to be known in the future as someone that grinds the game out, contests the first ball and doesnâ€™t stop til the very last whistle. Thatâ€™s something Iâ€™m working towards.
Iâ€™ve played with Sarah Klau since we were growing up together in South Australia. It used to be me at goal keeper and her at goal defence, believe it or not, so thereâ€™s a bit of role reversal now.Â
Weâ€™ve always talked about having a bit of a telepathic communication style. It just comes pretty naturally to work with Sars.Â Weâ€™ve known each other for such a long time so can give each other pretty direct and honest feedback, or tell each other how we want it to be, without any harsh feelings.
The girls do give me a bit of a hard time about winning the past two Coachesâ€™ Awards. They say itâ€™s the â€?Teachersâ€™ Pet, Sucking Up Awardâ€™. The one thing Iâ€™m thankful for is that it has come from two different coaches, so at least itâ€™s not the same coach Iâ€™m obviously sucking up to!
Iâ€™m really not sure why they voted for me. I was certainly very shocked when I got it last year. Iâ€™m not one to shy away from a hard conversation with Briony.
HOW COOL IS ThIS JOB?!
I feel very lucky to be where I am. Netball has been the leader for womenâ€™s sport for a while now, and I think itâ€™s pretty awesome that any young girl can see a future playing professional sport, whether it be netball, footy or cricket.Â
The opportunities are endless now, and itâ€™s only going to get better. In SSN, if we can continue playing the best netty and get kids to games to meet us up-close-and-personal, then itâ€™s only going to drive them to want to be that person, that athlete.
I know, because that was me.
I still pinch myself that this is my job. Weâ€™re regularly practising gratefulness in the Swiftsâ€™ camp and itâ€™s always something that gets brought up. I mean, how cool is it that we get to run around the court for a couple of hours with each other and call it a job?
Even if, yes, dad, thereâ€™s still more money in golf.