Hulita Veve (pictured) is one of four Queensland Firebirds training partners currently announced for 2022. (Photo: Queensland Firebirds)

With two familiar faces and two new ones, the Queensland Firebirds become the first team to announce training partners for 2022.

The Queensland Firebirds have become the first Suncorp Super Netball team to name 2022 training partners.

Macy Gardner and Hulita Veve earn returning training partner contracts, while two newcomers in Charlie Bell and Ashleigh Ervin also join.

The Firebirds previously closed the SSN Signing Period with a bang, signing Eboni Usoro-Brown from Team Bath in the VNSL in their final slot.

Training partner signings opened nearly a month ago, but no clubs had announced their training partners until now. The Firebirds have already elevated 2021 training partners Ruby Bakewell-Doran and Mia Stower to their main squad.

The Inner Sanctum explores the four newly announced homegrown training partner signings.

Macy Gardner

Gardner first joined the Firebirds as a training partner in 2018, making her debut the year after.

Playing in centre, she had six feeds and four goal assists, proving herself as a valuable young talent in the Firebirds midcourt. She would come into the match off the bench again the next week, with 12 feeds and nine goal assists.

The then 19-year-old was a handy bench option, and earned herself a contracted spot in 2020 after the retirement of Caitlyn Nevins.

She played nine matches in that season, rotating through centre and wing attack with Mahalia Cassidy and Jemma Mi Mi. Gardner would eventually fall out of favour late in the season, making way for Lara Dunkley.

Dunkley would then earn a full contracted spot for 2021, while Gardner became a training partner again.

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Gardner was selected in the initial 24-woman squad that was supposed to be heading to the 2021 Netball Youth World Cup, which was inevitability cancelled. She was selected alongside fellow Queenslanders Reilley Batcheldor and Mia Stower.

She’s a versatile attacking mid-courter, capable of playing minutes in both centre and wing attack at SSN level.

In the case of an injury to the likes of Dunkley, Mi Mi or Kim Ravaillion, Gardner will be the first called up as a replacement player.

Hulita Veve

Veve (née Haukinima) has a long history with the Firebirds, first joining the club in the last season of the ANZ Championship in 2016. Her journey has been well documented as a challenging, but fulfilling one.

As early as her first year she was balancing work at a childcare centre with her netball commitments. She debuted in the first game of the year against the Mainland Tactix, coming on in the final quarter.

She wouldn’t come off the bench again until Round 11, but was thrown into the deep end in wing defence against Gina Crampton. Veve played 47 minutes in the loss, the most she’d received at the top level yet.

A part of the championship side that took down the NSW Swifts, Veve then missed the 2017 season with the birth of her first child. She would rejoin the Firebirds as a training partner ahead of the 2018 season, where she would remain.

Firebirds finalise 2021 Training Partners - The Home of the Queensland  Firebirds
Veve (far left) with the 2021 training partners. (Photo: Queensland Firebirds)

Veve played one game in 2021, coming in for the final game of the season against the Melbourne Vixens as a replacement player.

She was able to help reverse the early season result, with the Firebirds taking the win by four goals.

Veve has continued to represent QUT Netball in the HART Sapphire Series, a part of the side that eventually lost the grand final to the Brisbane North Cougars.

She’ll find herself behind captain and Diamond Gabi Simpson in wing defence, but will prove to be useful depth once again should she be required.

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Charlie Bell

The 196cm goal shooter has already got a slew of honours to her name, and being able to develop under the likes of Romelda Aiken and Gretel Bueta will advance her career massively.

Her height fits the mold of shooter the Firebirds seem to like: tall targets under the post that can hold and rebound effectively.

Bell played for the Queensland Fusion in the now defunct ANL, as well as being a part of the Australian under 19s squad.

She’d previously stated that one of her aims was to make it to the now cancelled World Youth Cup. Her form in this year’s Sapphire Series certainly did that no harm.

Bell (standing far left) with Sapphire Series team Ipswich Jets. (Photo: Ipswich Netball/Facebook)

Bell was the highest scorer in the Jets’ semi final loss to the USC Thunder, shooting 36 goals at 83 per cent accuracy.

She scored 436 goals in the regular season at an average of 31 per game, including a season high of 50. Her height often saw her as the first choice option in the circle, with reach far above her defender.

Ashleigh Ervin

Rounding out the group is 18-year-old defender Ervin, who has made a short and sharp rise towards Super Netball level.

She was elevated to the Bond University Bull Sharks Ruby squad in 2020, before joining the Sapphire squad this season.

Alongside the three other training partners, Ervin was named in the Queensland Sapphires’ 12-woman squad for the Australian Netball Championships. She was also named in the under 19s Queensland squad at the start of the year.

Making state squads seems to be her M.O., also named in the Queensland under 17s squad in 2020.

Ervin’s move to be a training partner should see her solidified as a goal keeper. She’s changed roles in the past 12 months, typically a shooter.

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