The Suncorp Super Netball is back to prove once again that everything is possible in 2021.
The title of their six-part documentary series rings true for the season that lies ahead.
With the season finally, here, it was time to hear from the players themselves, with players from every side getting their chance to air their thoughts about the upcoming season.
The SSN season was officially launched at a virtual event hosted by Liz Ellis AO on Wednesday morning.
But, as Ellis said, “There is nothing virtual of what we hope to see in 2021.”
Ellis also spoke about what lies ahead for the upcoming season.
“What we’re truly excited about for this season is welcoming crowds back across the country,” she said.
“And having our clubs and players be able to reconnect with their community and fans.”
The Executive General Manager of Brand and Marketing at Suncorp, Mim Haysom, spoke about the relationship the two parties share at the launch.
“This is our fifth year for Suncorp as principal partner of Netball Australia, and we’re just so thrilled to continue our support of Suncorp Super Netball,” she said.
“We are thrilled to see Suncorp Super Netball resume this season with a full fixture, once again allowing our fans across the country to see their team in action.
“Every season we are inspired by the fierce determination of the Suncorp Super Netball athletes, on and off the court.
“I wish you all the very best for the Suncorp Super Netball season ahead.”
C is For Consistency
One word. 11 letters.
It’s a simple one to say, sometimes harder to achieve, but it’s what the captains of SSN are striving for this season.
At the Adelaide Thunderbirds, a new captain has taken the reigns in the form of Hannah Petty. Consistency was at the front of her mind when she discussed what the Thunderbirds must do to take the next step.
“That’s our next step, consistency throughout the whole season,” she said.
“All the teams, the ones that make it to the finals, are the consistent ones, so that’s our main goal going into this season.”
Jo Harten of Giants Netball echoed Petty’s sentiments, as did Maddy Proud of cross-town rivals the Swifts.
“I think like the girls have said, it’s that consistency,” she said.
“We saw the Vixens take on teams week after week, and just play with that really steady style of netball.
“I think we’ve got some real exciting youngsters stepping up and establishing themselves internationally and in the domestic competitions, so we can’t wait to step out on court.”
“Last year, it was what a lot of other captains have said, it’s that consistency,” Proud added.
“We know our best is pretty damn good, but the issue is our worst was pretty bad.
“[In 2021] it’s [about] trying to minimize that gap and make sure that when we are firing, we keep it going week after week, and just know that we’ve got to minimize the times that we’re not at our best.”
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The Queensland Firebirds took the first step towards a comeback to the top in 2020, rising off the bottom of the ladder, which vice-captain Tara Hinchliffe put down to consistency as well.
The Firebirds also have two new parents in Kim Ravaillion and Gretel Bueta returning to the side to aid in the continual improvement, as well as a new coach, Megan Anderson.
“We’ve got our new mums back in the club which is so exciting,” she said.
“[Megan just brings] so much positivity, everyone’s so excited to come into trainings. She’s got a lot of hunger and fire too; she wants to prove a point in her first year.
“We want to play that for her.”
Sunshine Coast Lightning captain Karla Pretorius spoke about her side’s added depth that will hopefully help the Lightning return to the finals in 2021.
“Having new team members coming into the team creates depth for us,” she said.
“It comes back to that consistency, and really developing as the season goes on.”
The reigning champions in the Melbourne Vixens are looking decidedly different in the front half for season 2021.
With key pillars in Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip announcing their retirements after the grand final win, it’s a different looking attack for the Vixens. Captain Kate Moloney discussed the progress of the rebuild.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
“We do have a new look front line, and there’s definitely been challenges just getting those combinations going, but we’re ready, we’re excited, and we can’t wait to be playing in front of our Melbourne crowd.”
At the other end of the ladder in 2020 was cross town rival Collingwood Magpies, led once again by Geva Mentor.
A new coach in Nicole Richardson has taken the reigns, and Mentor is bullish about their prospects for 2021.
“It’s really exciting to have Richo taking the lead, she’s obviously a fierce competitor not just in netball… she’s played softball as well for Australia,” she said.
“I think she’s really instilled that sort of ‘never say never, just give it all at training’ and that hard-ass kind of approach.
“We’re excited to see what this team is capable of, obviously last year didn’t go to plan, but we have a core group who are ready to change those wrongs.”
2020 grand finalists the West Coast Fever have had to deal with more than a few challenges over the course of the pre-season, from a 12-premiership point deduction for salary cap issues to the recent COVID-19 lockdown in Perth.
Captain Courtney Bruce is determined to not let the bumps in the road affect her or her squad, when asked how they are dealing with it.
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but just controlling what we can control, I guess,” she said.
“We’re so lucky to have had a few extra nights in our own beds and being able to stay here in WA and train, really grateful to have that opportunity.
“We can control the effort and energy we put out on the court so we’re ready to go for round one.”
Aside from the need for consistency, the captains spoke about their individual clubs.
Tara Hinchliffe spoke about what the Firebirds needed to do to take the next step, saying that the belief within the team is paramount.
“I think we’ve obviously seen patches and we’ve had slow starts to the seasons in the last few years,” she said.
“So most excited to hopefully come out firing. We’ve changed up a few things in the way we train which I think we’ve seen really great benefits from so far.
“That new perspective [from] Megs (Megan Anderson) has brought so much to us, as well as Clare (Ferguson) and Katie (Walker), so we’ve got lots of new ideas out there.”
When discussing how to get the Swifts back to the top, co-captain Maddy Proud said that they will need to look back to move forward.
“I think for us it’s just going back to the style that we had and the hunger that we had in 2019,” she said.
“Last year we probably went a bit away from what the Swifts way is. Having that attitude at training and every single thing that we do that it’s finals week, [and] always treating every game as the last game you might be playing.
“We’ve had this group together for almost four years now, and it’s time we really exploit that. We know each other like the back of our hands, we live together… so, it’s time to stop with the excuses.
“Make sure that when we get out on the court, we’re doing what we’re meant to do and sticking to the game plan.”
The Sunshine Coast Lightning are now looking different on the court, according to Pretorius. Unlike the Swifts, they’re looking at their new depth to change up their side on court.
“[We’ve] created a bit more depth, especially down our defence end,” she said.
“That sort of stuff, brings a lot of new stuff to our team.”
One of the new addition to the 2021 season is the extra time rule. In the situation of a tie at the end of regulation game time, teams will have a 90-second break before playing five minutes of extra time.
If the sides are still tied at the end of the allotted extra time, the match is declared a draw. Hear what the captains had to say on the rule:
Maddy Proud (NSW Swifts): “I think a draw is just too hard, so very, very keen to play to a result.”
Kate Moloney (Melbourne Vixens): “There’s nothing worse than a drawn game at the end, so I’m all about the extra time.”
Jo Harten (Giants): “Draws are not for me, so all the way to a result.”
Hannah Petty (Adelaide Thunderbirds): “I’m all for extra time, I think draws are the worst thing as a player.”
Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever): “We’ve had a couple of draws over the last couple of years so I’m all for extra time.”
Tara Hinchcliffe (Queensland Firebirds): “As a keeper I can’t complain about the running so I’m happy to jump up and down for a few more minutes.”
Karla Pretorius (Sunshine Coast Lightning): “Happy with the extra time.”
Geva Mentor of the Collingwood Magpies was the only captain who disagreed on the implementation of extra-time.
“I’m going to be controversial, considering we’re normally coming from behind, a draw is probably better than having a loss,” she laughed.
“I like the fact that it goes to a result, for finals, but during the season I like the fact that it is a grueling season.
“So getting up for training it is good that the game is done and dusted, but the girls are right, it is an eerie feeling.
“I guess you’re not happy if you’re up, and if you’re down then you are happy.
“Less time in the ice baths would be great thank you!”
With the season beginning at 3PM AEST on Saturday, it’s time to prove, once again, that everything is possible.
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