Second time around
The next year, 2016, things unfolded a bit differently. But the lessons were just as useful.
In many ways it was a case of deja vu. We came second on the ladder, played finals away from home and then were up in Queensland again to play the Firebirds in the grand final. It was the same arena, also on a Sunday and the hype and lead-up were just as intense.
The outcome was the same, except this time we got even closer to winning, with the game ending in a tie twice before being decided.
My personal experience was especially frustrating. I’d played the majority of 2016 in the starting line-up. We had a really strong mid-court of myself, Abbey McCulloch, Kim Green and Laura Langman.
Then, in a surprise to me, for the second semi-final I was brought on only for the last quarter when we were beating Magic. I wasn’t sure what I’d done or wasn’t doing to be on. As an athlete, you want to play in those big games.
When we got to the decider, I was on the bench. It was the biggest game of the year, I was itching to be out there - especially after the previous grand final - but I had to watch it.
It was incredibly disappointing but all I could think was, ‘I just want us to win this game’. I didn’t want to walk away feeling like I had the year before, especially without having been able to contribute on the court.
I didn’t get an explanation for being left out until after the game. I was told it was purely based on combinations and what they thought would work. It was just something I had to accept.
I was completely devastated by the result of the grand final, only to then be told I’d been picked in the Diamonds squad. I just thought,‘How do I take this?’
I spent the majority of that game riding the ups and downs and not being able to help out beyond screaming and yelling from the bench. Every shot, every pass, every second of the game, I was on edge and wanting things to go well for us.
With minutes left in the second extra time, I finally got called into the game. But, by that point, I was so emotionally drained, I wondered if I could do what was expected of me.
To have to switch into playing mode - to come into a game that was poised like that - was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in a game of netball.
It ended up being a two-goal difference in the end. Another incredibly hard loss and more tears and disappointment. This time there was no drug test to do, thankfully, but also no World Cup to turn my attention to. Instead, it was all about sitting with the pain of the loss and working out how to make sure it wouldn’t happen yet again.
Staying a Swift
As it turned out, that group didn’t get a third chance together. In the months that followed, Laura Langman, Sharni Layton, Caitlin Thwaites, Susan Pettitt and Kim Green all left the Swifts to play for different teams in the new comp.
I’d been around the Swifts for four or five years by that point and, with all these great teammates leaving, I began to wonder, ‘What should I do? Should I stay or go?’
My decision to stay was largely decided by two factors. Firstly, I’m very grateful for the opportunities the Swifts have given me over the years. It’s a great place to play netball and I’ve grown so much in my time here.
I could have moved and started afresh, but I felt like it would be a fresh start anyway, with all the change and turnover. I went from being one of the youngest players in the squad to one of the oldest within a matter of months. It gave me more responsibility and the chance to build something new with a different bunch of players.
What I want more than anything is to get the best results possible for the Swifts and see if we can contest for the title … I feel like I’ve got unfinished business with Team Red.
The other reason is because of those two grand final losses. Those couple of years were a real buzz but they passed by so quickly. I haven’t watched the games. I don’t think I ever will. The results will never change. But what I can do, is look back and see what a great achievement it was just to get to that point.
There’s so much hard work and talent required to reach a grand final. I think the team we’re building now is capable of getting to those heights again - and this time going one better.
I want that feeling again of playing finals, making the top four and then winning the big one. I want that victory, I want to have confetti falling all over us. I want to taste the feeling of finally holding that trophy with some of my best and closest mates. Bring on 2019!