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Match previews for Round 1


T-Birds coach Tania Obst extends her contract to continue mentoring the side for the 2022 season. Pictured at Priceline Stadium on the 25th November, 2021. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
T-Birds coach Tania Obst extends her contract to continue mentoring the side for the 2022 season. Pictured at Priceline Stadium on the 25th November, 2021. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

At least once a fortnight — that is how often Kiera Austin thought about hanging up her netball dress for good after suffering a horrific ACL tear almost a year ago.

But instead of retiring she swapped her orange Giants dress for a navy Vixens uniform – a decision she said changed her outlook on netball and reignited her passion for the game.

Austin, 23, sustained the injury in round one of the 2021 season.

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Everyone watching live or at home knew it was a terrible injury the moment she went down clutching her knee.

“I was just doing a normal drive on the netball court, something I have literally done since I was 15,” Austin said.

“When I landed I remember thinking my knee was going right to the other side of the stadium, I thought ‘this is going to look really bad’.

“I don’t remember being in any pain but I knew straight away I’d done my ACL. I could hear everyone at the ground going ‘oh my gosh’, I knew it was bad.”

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Kiera Austin of the Giants is helped off the court after injuring her knee.
Kiera Austin of the Giants is helped off the court after injuring her knee.

Austin had knee surgery, they turned part of her hamstring into a new ligament.

The shooter said the first two weeks were the most painful.

“Probably every second week I thought I wouldn’t be able to play again. I really didn’t know what to expect,” Austin said.

Stuck on crutches and with limited movement in her right knee and leg Austin was unable to drive or even walk to get her morning coffee.

“Every month there was a new challenge or something new to overcome.”

Prior to sustaining her injury Austin said her feelings towards netball had changed.

It had gone from being an escape, her happy place, to leaving her feeling anxious and under pressure to perform every time she took to the court.

After spending almost a year focusing on herself and watching a lot of netball from the bench Austin rediscovered her passion for the sport.

“Every single game I watched, from the sideline or when I wasn’t on the court, I got that feeling of missing out,” she said.

“That was when I knew I loved the sport and wanted to keep playing and not just watch from the sidelines.”

It was this realisation that drove Austin to stick with her tough rehab program.

She then made the big decision to move clubs, leaving the Giants, packing up her life and moving interstate to play for the Vixens, who finished 2021 at the bottom of the ladder.

The most daunting prospect of the move was having to change physiotherapists part way through her rehab but Austin said she had no regrets.

“It’s been a long 10 and a half months and if you had asked me in January if I’d be on track to play a match I would have thought no way, but my rehab has shot through the roof and I’ve even played a few practice games,” Austin said.

“I still consider myself in the rehab phase, I don’t think it ever finishes.”

Austin is setting herself short term goals for the 2022 season.

The first is to play a full 60 minutes early on in the season.

Her second is to bring some Austin flair into the Vixens attacking line-up.

“I have loved seeing what the girls have done so far and I’d love to put a bit of Kiera into it,” she said.

Austin is also tipping the Vixens to continue their winning form from the pre-season Team Girls Cup.

“We know we still have areas to improve on and while it was exciting to win the Team Girls Cup, it is not the cup we want to win,” Austin said.

“We have a bigger goal ahead of us and we are excited to get the first win on the board this weekend.”

Vixens will travel to Queensland for round one to take on Firebirds at Nissan Arena 2pm.

Queensland Firebirds young guns Kim Jenner and Ruby Bakewell-Doran.
Queensland Firebirds young guns Kim Jenner and Ruby Bakewell-Doran.

FIREBIRDS READY TO DEFY NAYSAYERS

They have been dubbed the underdogs of the 2022 Super Netball season but homegrown rising star Ruby Bakewell-Doran says the Queensland Firebirds are full of confidence.

They take on the highly-fancied Melbourne Vixens in Round 1 of the season at Nissan Arena today (Sunday).

Bakewell-Doran, 23, rose through the ranks with Brisbane North in the Sapphire Series and as a Firebirds training partner, making her Super Netball debut last year against the Giants.

The talented defender – who will be crucial to the Firebirds’ fortunes alongside Townsville product Kim Jenner and England international Eboni Usoro-Brown rotating through the defensive circle – said she was “super excited for the season”.

“I think that belief and confidence in each other is definitely there this year,” Bakewell-Doran said.

“I feel like we’ve got some great foundations and we’re starting a new chapter.”

Bakewell-Doran made an impact in each of her three on-court appearances last season and she has plans to go even bigger this year.

“For me it’s putting the team first and stepping up whenever I can,” she said.

“Of course everyone wants to get on the court but so much of it is the training and preparing each other for the season.”

With Covid-19 restrictions easing Firebirds fans will once again be allowed back at Nissan Arena.

Bakewell-Doran said starting the season in front of a home crowd would give them an edge over Vixens on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s deafening. It’s so great and so much fun to walk out to see this purple army all around us,” she said.

“To know that there’s that many people rooting for you, you don’t experience that anywhere else.”

SWIFTS PREPARE FOR RIVAL TO ‘UNLEASH HELL’

Emma Greenwood

If the NSW Swifts thought they were heading to Ken Rosewall Arena for a serene victory lap after their Super Netball success last season, they’re in for a rude awakening.

The Swifts face the Giants in a rematch of last year’s Super Netball grand final and coach Briony Akle is preparing her players for hell.

The Swifts may head into the match as many pundits’ premiership favourites but that will mean little to the Giants and veteran coach Julie Fitzgerald.

The teams will play in front of a home crowd for the first time in two years after back-to-back seasons of pandemic pandemonium and last year’s result will mean little once the opening centre pass is taken.

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Jamie-Lee Price from the Giants and Maddy Proud from the Swifts. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Jamie-Lee Price from the Giants and Maddy Proud from the Swifts. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Akle played under Fitzgerald at the Swifts and came through the NSW Netball ranks as an emerging coach with under her mentorship.

It means she is under no illusion as to what the defending champions will face in their season-opener.

“As much as we are proud of last year’s title win, they will feel they should’ve performed better in the decider and will want to get a measure of revenge … they are going to unleash hell on us and we need to be ready,” Akle said.

“Knowing that we get to play in front of our very loyal fans who stuck by us for the last few years, I think they’ll be really excited.

“It’s always fantastic playing your rival in your own city. The giants are a fantastic team and we know that we’re up against it tomorrow night, but hopefully our home crowd will bring us home.”

Jo Harten of the Giants wins the ball under pressure from Sarah Klau during last year’s finals series.
Jo Harten of the Giants wins the ball under pressure from Sarah Klau during last year’s finals series.

As much as anything, the match will be a celebration.

“I think it would have been very hard for the fans of NSW to have (a Swifts-Giants) grand final in Queensland that they couldn’t attend, so I think it’s great that they can come to a home derby in the first round.

“We don’t dwell on anything that’s happened in the past — or look too far ahead.

“We’ve got a game (on Saturday) and we’ll do the best that we can.”

The Swifts head into the match as favourites having retained their starting grand final side, although the Giants have had few changes and the Swifts will write them off at their peril.

It’s not just the result that’s on the line.

Commonwealth Games spots are up for grabs in the opening weeks of the competition – and while none of the players on court will sacrifice the game plan to shine individually, the international match-ups are mouth-watering.

Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich is likely to be watching closely as Swifts defenders Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner — who both took part in Australia’s recent Quad Series win in England — take on England shooter Jo Harten and young gun and Diamonds squad member Sophie Dwyer.

The midcourt battle between the Swifts’ Maddy Turner, Paige Hadley and Tayla Fraser and the Giants’ Amy Parmenter, Maddie Hay and Jamie-Lee Price could also determine Diamonds positions, while the ability of Giants defenders Tilly McDonell, April Brandley and ex-Swift Lauren Moore to contain England’s Helen Housby and Trinidad and Tobago’s Sam Wallace is likely to determine the outcome of the match.

Amy Parmenter of the Giants and Paige Hadley of the Swifts clash during finals last season.
Amy Parmenter of the Giants and Paige Hadley of the Swifts clash during finals last season.

MAGPIES RECRUITS ADD TO DEPTH, FLEXIBILITY

Molly Jovic will have one thing on her mind when she runs out onto the court for her third Super Netball season with the Magpies on Saturday – a spot in the finals.

The 26-year-old midcourter said she was hungry to experience her first Suncorp Super Netball finals series and that the Magpies had a team capable of doing it this year.

Magpies finished in sixth position last season with six wins and eight losses.

“We have eight players from last year carry over to this year which is super important for building connections within the team,” Jovic said.

“And we have the likes of Sophie Garbin (Swifts) and Maggie Lind (training partner) joining which gives us completely different game plan options.”

An intense pre-season with a revamped strength and conditioning program has the team in the best shape Jovic has seen.

Magpies experienced mixed results at the Team Girls Cup pre-season tournament, including a round one loss to this weekend’s opponents Thunderbirds.

Molly Jovic of the Magpies during the round 11 Super Netball match between Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies at Netball SA Stadium, on July 17, 2021, in Adelaide, Australia. Photo by Kelly Barnes/Getty Images
Molly Jovic of the Magpies during the round 11 Super Netball match between Melbourne Vixens and Collingwood Magpies at Netball SA Stadium, on July 17, 2021, in Adelaide, Australia. Photo by Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

“We obviously didn’t have the best performance but I think we grew a lot throughout the weekend,” Jovic said.

“From game one to four we were a different team, we shook off a few nerves and were able to test out a few different combinations and work on our on-court relationships.

“We came away knowing exactly what we had to work on for the past three weeks before round one.”

Jovic’s personal goal for 2022 is to finish top four and qualify for a spot in the finals series.

“Finals are a completely different game and are up for grabs for anyone,” she said.

“We have a good group and I think if we put out some consistent games we 100 per cent push top four this year.”

Magpies will travel to Adelaide for a Saturday afternoon clash with Thunderbirds but coach Nicole Richardson won’t be making the trip.

“Collingwood assistant coach Kate Upton will step into the senior coaching position for the round 1 match,” the club said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

“Richardson will return to the program upon clearing the Covid health and safety protocols.”

Midcourter and co-captain Ash Brazill will also miss the clash after being sidelined with concussion after a training incident.

Jovic said it had thrown a spanner in the works but the side was well drilled and the past two seasons had taught them how to deal with sudden changes.

Collingwood Magpies Molly Jovic during the game against the NSW Swifts at the Hobart Netball and Sports Centre, New Town. Picture: Chris Kidd
Collingwood Magpies Molly Jovic during the game against the NSW Swifts at the Hobart Netball and Sports Centre, New Town. Picture: Chris Kidd

“Richo has been training us to the ground all pre-season, we know what she expects of us and we know the game plan back to front,” Jovic said.

“We would love to have her with us but Kate Upton will do an amazing job.”

Jovic said Collingwood would have plenty motivating them on the court – the first to do Richardson proud, the second to help Garbin get a win for her 50th Super Netball game and the third – to get redemption from the Team Girls Cup loss against Thunderbirds.

“We have had a chance to fine tune some things are we are ready for whoever we come up against,” Jovic said.

“We know our game plan and are ready to play in front of their home crowd.”

Magpies will play Thunderbirds, in Adelaide at 5pm on Saturday.

THUNDERBIRDS SET AMBITIOUS FINALS TARGET

Erin Smith

Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst is under no illusions that the 2022 Super Netball season will be the toughest yet but it hasn’t stopped her aiming for an elusive finals berth.

They didn’t spend a single week in the top four last season, failing to win any of their first five clashes – a statistic Obst hopes to flip this season by starting with a win against Magpies on Saturday afternoon.

“Finals that is what we are aiming for and we are not shy in putting that out there,” Obst said.

“But if we want to play finals we have to put our best netball out there every single game and continue to get better every week – that is what it will take.”

The Adelaide team remains mostly unchanged from 2021 with just Tippah Dwan (Firebirds) and Tayla Williams (training partner) joining the ranks.

T-Birds coach Tania Obst extends her contract to continue mentoring the side for the 2022 season. Pictured at Priceline Stadium on the 25th November, 2021. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
T-Birds coach Tania Obst extends her contract to continue mentoring the side for the 2022 season. Pictured at Priceline Stadium on the 25th November, 2021. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

“Tayla was a training partner so had already been in our environment so Tippah is really the only new one so to speak,” Obst said.

The addition of the dynamic shooter will give the Thunderbirds a chance to try a few new combinations – possibly even move Georgia Horjus to wing attack.

“It is going to give us a lot more flexibility in our line up,” Obst said.

“Tippah has all the physical attributes we were looking to add to our team.”

Obst said the 2022 season would be the most competitive one yet.

“Every game is like preparing for a finals match,” she said.

“You never know what will happen and you just have to focus on yourself. Every team will be hard to beat.”

Thunderbirds have had a busy pre-season, spending three weeks on the road in February, where they had solid hit outs with Vixens and Giants and then the Team Girls Cup.

Obst said she saw the team play some of their best netball at the pre-season tournament and they had only continued to improve over the past three weeks.

With the likes of Sophie Garbin and Geva Mentor getting a win against the Magpies won’t be easy.

T-Birds coach Tania Obst extends her contract to continue mentoring the side for the 2022 season. Pictured at Priceline Stadium on the 25th November, 2021. Picture: Tricia Watkinson
T-Birds coach Tania Obst extends her contract to continue mentoring the side for the 2022 season. Pictured at Priceline Stadium on the 25th November, 2021. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

“We have had recent history with them and have first hand knowledge of how they play so we are prepared, but for us this Saturday is more about us and focusing on our style of play and execution,” Obst said.

One advantage the Thunderbirds will have is a roaring home crowd.

It is the first time since 2019 Adelaide has been able to have 100 per cent capacity at Netball SA Stadium.

“We are really looking forward to putting on some good netball, we know the opposition teams don’t like coming and playing in Adelaide because the crowd can create a hostile environment so we will be looking to draw on that,” Obst said.

Adelaide will play Magpies at Netball SA Stadium at 4.30pm on Saturday.

Brisbane

Erin Smith is a sports reporter for the National Sports Network. She is die-hard sports fan with a passion for football, women’s sports and Olympics.

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