Collingwood Co-Captain Geva Mentor (Picture: Suncorp Super Netball/Website)

Having been at the Sunshine Coast Lightning, Geva Mentor has had experience at a club that is aligned with another sporting code’s team.

Collingwood is looking to take this to the next level, with a more regular commitment to work as one club to grow not only Collingwood but the sporting codes themselves.

Before arriving at the Collingwood Magpies in 2019, Mentor spent two years playing at the Sunshine Coast Lightning. The club aligned with NRL powerhouse the Melbourne Storm, which has seen both clubs grow as a result.

With the establishment of the AFLW team in 2017 and Collingwood Netball in 2016, the club has become one of the great sporting juggernauts in Australia.

Mentor spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum at the SSN 2023 Season Launch about the interconnectedness of the club and how Collingwood has embraced the different sporting teams and what they bring.

“We are so fortunate to be in that position [at Collingwood] because at the end of the day, we are not reinventing the wheel so whatever issues or things that [we] are coming across, we can often share and make [us] stronger,” Mentor she said.

“Our ethos at the club is ‘Side by Side’ and we feel that [and] I know that Darcy Moore, the captain of the AFL [team] is very keen to sit down with the netball and the AFLW captains and leaders.

“We can all sit down and see where we want to take this club and our sport and make this something that we are not only connecting with our community but delivering elite performances as well and where we can best put the players that we are leading in a good position to take the sport forward.”

She continued to explain the ‘different kind of edge’ that Collingwood has and how the athletes learn from each other in this situation.

“[I’m] someone who’s obviously been partly aligned with a netball club and when I went to the Lightning, it was a bit of NRL [then],” she said.

“Now it’s AFL and wheelchair [football] and AFLW and we’ve got the under-pining teams there.

“I think any advice and any more knowledge that they can give you always give you whether that’s an edge or some expertise is definitely a positive.”

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With the pre-season for SSN teams beginning in October, it has been an extended pre-season due to the early finish of the 2022 season due to the Commonwealth Games.

Mentor gave some insight into how the team is shaping up and how they are feeling ahead of Round One.

“It’s a really good vibe at the moment, we often laugh that it’s the longest pre-season [but] I actually enjoy it because you get to find out more about your teammates, you get to spend quality time with them, you get to work to become a bit fitter in the gym [and] get a bit stronger in the core,” Mentor explained.

“We’ve got a really good bunch of people and with the staff as well and we’ve gone through a bit of a re-form because we are a multi-sport club as in Collingwood. I’m just really excited, we’ve obviously had a few hiccups the last few weeks with injuries but just really excited to have almost everyone back for Round One.”

With Sophie Garbin, Kelsey Browne, Molly Jovic, and Mentor herself out through injury at various stages of the off-season, the Magpies have relied on their training partners to step up.

Mentor said that they are ‘in a really good place’ despite this, especially with the form shown by their training partners.

“Hopefully we will have everyone bar one for Round One. Nyah [Allen] had surgery over the off-season but she should be back through the mid-rounds.

“That’s the good thing is our training partners have really stepped in and lifted up the load and that’s that standard now. I think when the girls come back in, we will take it from there.

“That’s so important for the first few rounds that we really start off well, I think before we’ve come out slow out of the blocks and it’s just put extra pressure on ourselves. We are looking to really stamp our authority to start with and make sure we are not in that chase mode for the rest of the season.”

With the focus on better coverage of the athletes within the teams and more accessible coverage in the form of Foxtel and Kayo, the league saw bigger audiences last season.

Mentor spoke about the role this had in growing the viewership of the league and Collingwood in particular.

“Participation rates are up and even people viewing the game too, [the goal] for us [is] getting more bums on seats,” she said.

“[People] are quite happy watching netball on TV at home but for us being a newer team within Victoria and being the second team that’s come through behind the Vixens. It’s about establishing and getting people through the gate and knowing that they can come and watch netball and go watch football afterward and trying to find our niche in the market in that sense.

“I mean it’s great for the sport to be in a healthy position then the more we can give back and connect with the community and connect back with not only our sponsors but people who support the sport and grow the sport, I think it’s a really crucial turning point for us.”

One of the more infamous aspects of the Collingwood Netball team is their post-win rendition of ‘Good Old Collingwood Forever’ complete sung with gusto and pride.

Mentor explained the tradition and how it has become their expression of ‘joy’.

“Ashleigh Braz is our inaugural Collingwood Magpies netballer and she leads it right from the front, she starts us off [and] she’s got the esky normally going, she’s normally thumping that,” Mentor explained.

“We’ve got girls that pick up anything that’s around them whether that’s a bin or a theragun, fruit [or] shoes. [My usual celebration] is usually my theragun and because I’m tall enough I can usually reach the ceiling so I can make a right racket too.

“It’s about celebrating that 60 minutes, it’s coming away with that win and it’s not just about the athletes it’s about everyone that’s in that room really embracing the moment. You’ve got to make the most of those little moments, it’s not just about looking forward to the end goal, it’s about everything along the way too.”

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