Adelaide Thunderbirds goaler Georgie Horjus (Picture: Adelaide Thunderbirds, Design by Madeline Irwin)

The 25 years of the Adelaide Thunderbirds brings with it round 3, Heritage Round, for the club, which has willed them on towards their charge to make the finals for the first time in Suncorp Super Netball history.

The Inner Sanctum spoke exclusively to Georgie Horjus about being apart of Heritage Round this round and the season so far for the Thunderbirds.

After a resounding win against a depleted Giants Netball side, the Thunderbirds’ attention turns to this week’s match-up against the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

While the focus is on their opposition, Horjus has admitted that the celebrations around the 1998 Championship win by Adelaide and their heritage round has them thinking about finals.

“I’m super honoured to be apart of it all, I’ve supported the Thunderbirds since I’ve started watching netball and my cousin played for the Thunderbirds,”

“It’s really exciting just meet some of the older players that have been there before and won premierships and been so successful, I think we just want to do them proud because there is such a rich heritage that came before us so hopefully we can do that for them.

“I think like just making finals, we’ve had a few years, the team has been together for a few years so this is really the year, hopefully win a lot of games and get into the top four and that grand final as well.”

During the match on Sunday at Netball SA Stadium, the Thunderbirds will pay homage to their predecessors by donning a dress featuring the blue, purple and silver design inspired by the inaugural dress design.

It features the original club logo as well as all capped players’ names for the team all over the dress.

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Horjus and Potgeiter’s partnership

Horjus herself has had an excellent start to her second season as a Thunderbirds listed player. She was the go-to goal attack in the first few seasons due to her supershot scoring and her chemistry with goal shooter Lenize Potgeiter.

This has been a monumental partnership for the Thunderbirds and going forward will continue to shoot their team up the ladder. Horjus has developed superbly with tutelage from the star South African shooter.

“She’s got so much knowledge, having played for South Africa for many years she’s awesome to play alongside,” says Horjus.

“She’s always got so many good tips for us youngsters and she’s never afraid of telling us where to put the ball or anything like that but we love getting feedback like that from her, I think I’ve learnt a lot from her the last couple of years.”

Star Thunderbirds attacking duo Lenize Potgeiter and Georgie Horjus (Picture: Suncorp Super Netball/Website)

The recruitment of Tippah Dwan

The recruitment of Australian rising star Tippah Dwan from the Queensland Firebirds was one of the best pick-ups for a team in the off-season.

The question on the minds of fans of the Thunderbirds before the pre-season was how would they manage the rotation of Dwan, who naturally plays goal shooter and even more so goal attack with stars like Horjus and Potgeiter in tow.

The answer was they would rotate them during a match depending on match-ups and fitness. This would also allow Horjus to play in wing attack, a position which hasn’t been filled long-term in the Thunderbirds camp since the departure of Chelsea Pitman.

Horjus says that she’s played more wing attack than ever this year but loves playing in different positions.

”I haven’t played heaps of Wing Attack, I did a little bit in state teams but this year has sort of been the most I’ve ever played Wing Attack as well as last year.”

“I think I absolutely love playing Wing Attack with Tippah along those lines, it brings a little bit of a difference to our team and it makes it really unpredictable what we will come out with and what lineup we will have each week so that brings the team to the next level and will help us this year.”

”Tippah has been awesome, she’s been there for not long, like half a year or less but it feels like she’s been there forever, she’s always willing to learn, always got some really good knowledge and tips and stuff, I absolutely love having her around the team and on court.”

The rise of Horjus since 2020

When she burst onto the scene in 2020 as a training partner, Horjus showed her wares at the level and started to cement the goal attack position, which was eventually vacated by Australian young gun Sasha Glasgow.

The one year she was a training partner, she demonstrated her netball IQ and her ability to grow and develop, troubling the established defenders in the league.

After 2020, it was apparent that she would be offered a list spot as part of the Thunderbirds squad of 10. She led the Thunderbirds in centre pass receives, showing she could play in a midcourt capacity as well as her attacking and dynamic skills helping her on her way to 118 goal assists and 183 goals herself.

In reflecting on a whirlwind few years for the young star, Horjus thanks the Thunderbirds for the opportunity afforded to her which she has taken with both hands.

“It was pretty crazy because COVID gave me the opportunity to be in the t-birds team so that was pretty cool but it was a crazy time and now that we are getting back to normal, it’s so cool having that big crowd and the Pink Army behind me.”

Club Champion 2021

In her first full season as a Thunderbirds player, Horjus demonstrated her meteoric rise with a club champion award. Only 19 years old, Horjus took home the top award at the Netball SA’s inaugural awards gala, a week prior she signed a two-year deal with the club.

A spot in the Australian development squad for the 2021/22 season was another highlight for Horjus, featuring alongside team mates Matilda Garrett, Dwan and Maisie Nankivell.

”It was actually pretty surreal, I did not expect the club champion award at all, that was a big shock and I think just having the girls around me, I think they were so supportive and getting to play with an awesome bunch of girls makes my job really easy”

“I think anyone in the team could have won those and so many people deserve the opportunity to be in that Aus team as well.”

Super shot scoring

One skill that that Horjus possesses is the ability to shoot from the super shot range.

Introduced in the 2020 season, the super shot allows teams to gain two points from shooting from long range within the final five minutes of any quarter. She has produced 57 super shots in the last two seasons.

”I think as the super shot came in, we kind of had to practise shooting from that range more, I guess I didn’t normally used to shoot from that range but now in the game it just has to be there and we have to go out there knowing we can shoot from long range and that side of things.”

Being a more consistent member of the team and continuing the growth in the game have been another focus for Horjus, helping her team to gel and get more success as a result.

”I think just being more consistent and building connections with my team mates, we have built so much together as a team, it’s really hard in the off-season to build those connections so just working on that consistency each week and that should get us the wins.”

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