Ash Brazill was co-vice captain in the clubs first season. (Photo: Collingwood Super Netball/Twitter)

Foundation player Ash Brazill looks back on the rollercoaster that was the early years of Collingwood in the Suncorp Super Netball.

It’s been a rollercoaster for the Collingwood Magpies since it was announced that they’d be entering the new national competition called the Suncorp Super Netball all the way back in 2016. Ash Brazill wouldn’t change a thing.

When Collingwood first launched, netball fans across the country were shocked at the number of superstars that were brought into the team.

Sharni Norder (nee Layton), Ash Brazill and Madi Browne were just three of the players that would be a part of the exciting inaugural Collingwood line up.

Collingwood foundation player Brazill spoke to The Inner Sanctum about the early years of Magpies Netball, from their first game in 2017 to that stunning run to finals in 2019.

Brazill was the captain of the West Coast Fever for the final season of the ANZ Championship season. A fateful conversation with Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander that influenced her move to Melbourne.

“For me it was one of the biggest decisions of my life because it didn’t just affect me, it also effected [wife] Brooke. At the time it was a big move,” Brazill told The Inner Sanctum.

“I loved Fever, I was the captain and still to this day it’s a team that I will hold close to my heart. 

“I had chats with the Diamonds coach, I wasn’t making the team at the time and I wanted to know how to do it. One of those things was changing up my game style and adding a few different things to my game.

“Collingwood popped up and I thought, you know I’ve been here for six years, I’ve been under Stace [Stacey Marinkovich] for all of those years with Norma [Norma Plummer].

“So maybe it’s time to be coached under a new coach. [It] kind of just went from there, and was lucky enough it didn’t just change my netball game, but changed our lives because we were able to start IVF over in Melbourne and now we’re lucky enough to have our little family.”

Brazill’s first day at the club was the at launch of Collingwood’s Super Netball team. Walking into a new environment with new colours could only be described as a strange feeling.

“It was really interesting even though you know all the players because you’ve played against each other.

“It was really weird walking into the club and I remember seeing Alice Teague-Neeld, Madi Browne, Caitlin Thwaites; all players I had come up against but I didn’t know them. 

“It was still feeling like that they weren’t teammates, they were the opposition. So that was a really weird day. It’s cool, pretty happy that I’m still at Collingwood.”

The first time Collingwood stepped out on court was against fellow Victorian club in the Melbourne Vixens, where a new rivalry was born.

Still to this day, no matter the sport, Brazill said that it’s still special putting on the black and white.

“It was pretty special, I think every time you pull out the black and white, not just netball but also footy. I love it. Just love sport, I’m definitely a sports geek.

“I love what I do, that first game against Vixens we lost but it was one of the best games.

“When ever it’s Collingwood vs Vixens it’s always a sell out at John Cain Arena, and they’re the games you want to play.

“You want to play at one. [It’s] a sell out crowd but high intensity, and it’s more than a game when it’s the same state playing against each other. I always love that, always love a good fight up against Lizzy Watson.”

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In the club’s first season of Super Netball, while many on the outside had the Magpies pegged to win the championship, nobody within the team thought they’d make it as far as they did.

The Magpies came up against the Giants in a thrilling semi final clash that saw the Giants come over the top of them to progress to the next round.

“I think there was lots of talk about our team winning it,” Brazill reflected.

“I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d win it the first year, just going off the team we had I think everyone saw the team of like a superstar team.

“I think we had six that were Diamonds players at the time, so when you have that many Diamonds players you’ve got the manage the egos.

“We’d had players coming from other teams that they have gotten MVP every year, and they’re coming into a team where they’re fighting to own that position in that team.

“That was different, I think It was awesome making finals. Even when you talk about that year – that final game we lost to Giants – but it was one of the most memorable games that I’ve ever played in.

“I remember the siren going off and both teams could not hear it because the Giants fans were screaming that loud, they’d won by one or two [goals].

“As a player that didn’t win, you’re obviously heartbroken but still grateful, which sounds weird, but still grateful for being apart of such a strong match. It was cool to see how netball grew in just the year going from ANZ to SSN.”

Jo Harten and Kristina Brice celebrate the Giants’ victory. (Photo: GIANTS Netball)

In 2019, Collingwood brought in Kelsey Browne, Geva Mentor and Nat Medhurst to an already star studded side. While the first half of the season was tough, the back half of the season will go down in the club’s short history.

“I think athletes always get asked what’s their favourite sporting moment, mines just 2019,” Brazill said.

“It was my first year of footy, making All-Australian. The home run up until finals, I remember we were out and we had to win every single game. That was the year you had to win quarters as well to get bonus points.

“You’d need to win x amount of points… I remember going into the last game against Vixens we needed to win every single quarter.

“I remember thinking ‘if this is going to happen it’s going to be a miracle’. We had faith but at the same time we’re like, ‘oh it’s going to be too hard to do.’

“We were winning the first quarter and it felt like we’d won four games in the one. That was unbelievable, going into finals I think that last game was definitely our Grand Final.

“We were exhausted by the end of it. We had Nat [Medhurst] who broke her ribs, we knew April [Brandley] was pregnant, we found out Rav [Kim Ravaillion] was pregnant, someone else was injured.”

“The emotional rollercoaster… obviously Rob [Wright] had lost his mum at the start of that, and it felt like that’s what we were playing for.

“I think our Collingwood team is a team that can preform under emotional times, but in the end it gets the better of you because you’re exhausted by the end.”

Continued in part two.

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