Lara Dunkley. (Image: Queensland Firebirds, Supplied / Design: Theo Dimou).

Ahead of her fifth season in the purple dress, Lara Dunkley reflected on her stint with the Queensland Firebirds after moving from Victoria.

A lot can happen in five years, just ask Dunkley, who decided to leave her home and fulfil her dream of playing netball in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN).

It was a move that the 28-year-old is thankful that she decided to make as she looks to continue to grow in the upcoming SSN season.

She chatted exclusively with The Inner Sanctum, sharing what being in the Firebirds colours means to her.

“It’s so special,” Dunkley told The Inner Sanctum

“You know, when I talk about the Firebirds, it’s a big purple family and their values [are ones] that I hold close to my heart because I’ve just really embraced my time here. But I feel like it’s the people that are involved that make it worthwhile.”

Long before settling down in Queensland, she spent some time with Melbourne Vixens following her elevation to the senior side in 2019. 

One year later, the Firebirds had offered her an opportunity that was too good to resist. For Dunkley, it was a move that she knew she had to take on. 

“When I got the call to move to Queensland, it was something that I couldn’t say no to because it was going to develop me as a player and a person and it’s done that,” Dunkley explained. 

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However, the opportunity was clouded with uncertainty at the time, with the midcourter receiving an injury replacement contract from the Firebirds.

While she shared that the moment of her relocation to Queensland is a moment ‘she’s most proud of’, she acknowledged that the early days of the move were a bit of a gamble for her. 

“I feel like being a big family person myself, moving up myself and not having any connections up [in Queensland] was definitely a risk and I wasn’t sure what was ahead,” she confessed.

“My goal was just to be the best netballer I could be.”

When reflecting back on her journey, Dunkley was full of pride. 

“I feel like the move up here was one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make and I have definitely not taken it for granted. That’s for sure,” she shared.

The move to Queensland has paid off immensely for both herself and the Firebirds, with Dunkley becoming an important part of the team’s midcourt. She’s also a vice-captain once again, a position she’s held in her last few SSN campaigns.

For the vice-captain, one of the biggest lessons she has learned since first playing in the SSN is to make the most of every game.

“I think that you can’t just take any game lightly. I know that we have a ladder and everything, but with the Super Shot and just the way the game changes, I feel like it’s becoming really physical and fast. So the most important thing is our strength and power,” she said.

“I feel like that’s something most clubs are working on off the court, in the gym, on the track because it plays an important part of the game moving forward.”

Much like how Dunkley has evolved in her playing style, so too has the game which she says she has seen especially in the pre-season games in which the Firebirds have already participated in.

“I feel like the game has taken a whole another level in regards to like being strong and having that power,” she explained.

Throughout her time with the Firebirds so far, Dunkley has already developed a strong connection to the team.

“I feel like wearing the purple dress just means the world to me. I bled purple, it’s my life and I’m just really excited that I have the opportunity to play a fifth season with them,” she said.

“I want nothing but success for this club. So we’ll do whatever it takes to hopefully get a taste of that.”

She’s already achieved quite a bit in her career already, but for Dunkley, she’s just getting started. Finding a passion for netball at age 13, the midcourter feels there’s plenty more growth for her to make as a player in the SSN.

“I think for me I’ve [come into netball] playing quite late and transitioning into the midcourt at 18-years-old. I’ve still got so much more to learn,” Dunkley explained.

“I know it seems like [netball is a] basic game, but there’s so much structure behind everything that I’m still growing and learning as a player. I just wanna keep trying to get better with every training, every game. 

“I feel like as athletes, you know, you get given opportunities and you can choose to take them or leave them. I feel like my biggest piece of advice would be to take all the opportunities you get. You got to give it your all because it doesn’t just always happen and that’s just something I still really embrace [with] all the opportunities that [I] get given.”

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