NSW Swifts Co-Captain Maddy Proud (left) (Picture: NSW Swifts/Twitter)

Missing out on a slim chance to make the Suncorp Super Netball finals, coupled with an Australian Diamonds debut, 2022 was a bittersweet year for NSW Swifts co-captain Maddy Proud.

With the NSW Swifts missing star shooter Sam Wallace throughout the season due to an ACL injury, they struggled to regroup quick enough to truly be in the finals hunt.

In the last game of the season, the Swifts needed the Collingwood Magpies to lose or win narrowly to make finals, in the end the Swifts were undone by a Mwai Kumwenda shot for the Vixens that missed, handing the Magpies the last finals spot. Had this shot been made, the Swifts would have played the Giants in the first final instead of Collingwood.

Having their season come down to this game was a tough pill to swallow for the Swifts considering they were so close, yet so far away from defending their 2021 premiership.

Fast forward four months, Proud finally made her long-awaited debut for the Diamonds in the Game Two of the Constellation Cup.

Speaking exclusively to The Inner Sanctum at the SSN season launch, Proud speaks about these two moments that underscored her year in netball.

“I think 2022 was such a crazy year for me, from a Swifts perspective it was quite disappointing the way that we didn’t make finals. To end the season the way that we did was really disappointing and leaving it to chance and leaving results to impact our finals was a hard way to go out,” Proud told The Inner Sanctum.

“I think that day that we saw the results of the Collingwood and Vixens game was one of the hardest days and it kind of really left that bad taste in your mouth of wanting to get out there again this season and I feel like we’ve got so much unfinished business going into this year.

“On a personal level, it was one of my best years being able to debut for [the Australian] Diamonds and be able to really enjoy my netball and felt like I definitely grew as a player and a leader. I can’t wait to kind of progress from that and kind of take my game to the next level and hopefully that results in another Swifts premiership.”

One of the players that Proud has formed a strong bond with in Swifts colours and hopefully more at the Diamonds level, is Swifts co-captain Paige Hadley. Being able to play alongside her domestically, Proud described how she works so well in tandem with her but also how she thinks young mid-courters Tayla Fraser and Allie Smith will fit in.

“Paige is one of the best modern mid-courters in the world, she’s got so much experience and she’s just a solid player who week-in and week-out just performs. She trains the way she plays, so being able to train against her but also with her only makes my game grow,” she said.

“I think that every year having that connection [growing but then the addition of] Tayla Fraser in the mid-court [will help]. I think [Fraser’s] going to have a breakout year, she’s be unreal this pre-season, probably one of the best pre-seasons of her career.

“[Also] to have that diversity [of mid-court players] and throw Allie Smith into the mix across that mid-court, [it] is just so exciting and I just think that that’s just going to take our game to the next level this year.”

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With the season taking place in just under a week, the pre-season is ramping up quickly. Proud explained how the squad is looking with Round One in mind.

“It’s one of those years that we said we were going to have the world’s longest pre-season,[and] I think we say that every year but now it feels like the world’s shortest pre-season,” Proud said.

“It’s come around so fast but I think that we saw at Team Girls Cup that it is set to be one of the best [seasons] yet, every team has grown and every player has gained some more experience and I just can’t wait to get out there.”

Coming back from that horrific ACL injury, Wallace has been given as long as she needs to rehab properly with former QLD Firebird Romelda Aiken-George filling in as a training partner in the meantime. Proud is positive that Wallace will play in 2023 but says that she is a ‘day by day’ prospect.

“Sam’s injury was so horrible and it was [one of the] most horrific scenes that a lot of people have seen. It wasn’t just an ACL, it was some other things as well that went on there as well so it’s been a very extensive rehab.

“She’s diligent and so patient [and] she’s been working so hard, we will definitely see her out there at some point this season, not sure how early in the season it will be. It’s not just that simple to put one day on it and hope she’s there but she’s doing all the right things, she’s looking to be in great form [and] we will definitely see her at some stage.”

Sam Wallace in full flight. Photo: NSW Swifts – Twitter

Having written a few children’s books and being a big advocate for young girls staying in sport, Proud described the impact that the wider coverage is having on netball at grassroots level.

“The reason we play is for that reason, [it] is to have a packed stadium and to kind of inspire those young girls to pick up a netball and keep playing sport,” she said.

“There are all these scary stats about that fact that 50 per cent [of young girls] stop playing sport at 17 [years old] and that’s just something that’s pretty a scary stat when it comes to sport being such an important part of people’s lives and especially the development of young girls.

“I think the more that we can encourage girls to play sport and particularly to play netball is going to be vital to us as a country but also I think female sport in general. We’ve come such a long way in so many ways in the last few years but netball has always been the forefront and a real trailblazer when it comes to sport.

“We just need to be pushing the boundaries, and that partnership with Foxtel and Kayo, that’s just the first step, getting bums on seats and getting eyeballs on screens and just getting netball in people’s faces is one of the most important things we can do right now. I’m just so excited to see people get along to our games here and just see what netball is all about.”

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