Since her arrival at GIANTS Netball in 2020, young shooter Matisse Letherbarrow has encountered many figures that have had a tremendous impact on her so far.
With more opportunity coming through an injury to long-standing goal shooter Jo Harten, Matisse Letherbarrow has hit the ground running this season. Playing four games, she has notched up 135 goals (20 supershots) at 87.1 per cent accuracy, which is the highest of the GIANTS.
She attributes her growth and her form to some significant figures at the GIANTS, those of which included her fellow shooters, those in the leadership group and her head coach, Julie Fitzgerald.
Letherbarrow spoke exclusively with The Inner Sanctum after two career best performances against the Sunshine Coast Lightning and the Collingwood Magpies.
“It’s really cool,” Letherbarrow explained when asked about playing alongside Harten and Sophie Dwyer.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be pretty much with them from the start of my career which has been really good and obviously growing up with ‘Soph’ (Dwyer), we’ve played together for so many years.
“I feel like obviously them as a pairing, they are awesome and so strong, so when I get my opportunity on court I just want to be able to, whether it be with ‘Joey’ (Harten) or ‘Soph’, I just want to go on and match that and bring my own strengths.”
Selected in the 2023/24 Australian Diamonds squad, goal attack Sophie Dwyer has four test caps since her debut last year. Exploding onto the international scene, she has marked out a path that Letherbarrow hopes to follow someday.
“Soph’s a little powerhouse, she’s amazing,” she said.
“Being able to see what she’s achieved so early on in her career is amazing and I guess [she’s] kind of getting more opportunity [in the Diamonds] now.
“That’s something I want to aim for and obviously like I said growing up with her and playing with her, that’s something I want to aim for one day.”
One of the best players in the goal shooter position in world netball is GIANTS captain Jo Harten. Announcing her retirement from the England Roses a few weeks ago, she ends her international netball career having played 117 games in 16 years.
The 34-year-old has been the perfect mentor to Letherbarrow and will continue to be, as she looks to lock down the starting role that Harten has held for the GIANTS in the near future.
“I think it’s one thing that I’ve learned from Joey would probably have to be to do with her brain. She’s an absolute genius of the game and the way she constantly analyses it, the way she reads it is top-tier,” Letherbarrow explained.
“I feel she just constantly sees things, whether I’m watching her play and it’s the constant advice she gives me and pointers on where to improve, what I’m doing well.
“It’s stuff that I wouldn’t even think of, so it’s really good to have her to also add to different aspects of my game that I wouldn’t necessarily see but she does.
“It’s really, really cool to be able to be under her and I’ve learned so much from her.”
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Two of the other leaders in the side are recent Diamonds debutant Amy Parmenter and Australian Diamonds midcourter and co vice-captain Jamie-Lee Price.
With the duo combining for 36 test caps for Australia (30 for Price and six for Parmenter), they have been instrumental in leading the young side along with the other co-vice captain Maddie Hay.
Letherbarrow described how she’s seen the Price and Parmenter’s rise in the international sphere and how their resilience has inspired her.
“I feel like those two in particular, we’ve obviously seen them develop and go through their careers and it just shows through hard work and just showing up and working hard just shows that you can achieve great heights,” she said.
“I feel like they are great role models in the aspect that they are hard working and just how supportive they are of their team mates as well.
“[They also show that] if you put your mind to it and try your best that you will make it there one day and it’s been really cool to watch them get selected in to the Diamonds, into World Cups.
“‘J’ (Price), she’s [even] been a part of the Comm Games and just seeing them do everything internationally and domestically is really, really cool and they are definitely people I look up to.”
A highlight of this year has been the 100th game for the club, as well as the 100 game milestones of Harten and Price. Along with the GIANTS’ 100th game came head coach Julie Fitzgerald’s milestone as the inaugural coach.
Asking Letherbarrow what her head coach means to her, it was apparent as to why Fitzgerald is still at the helm seven years later.
“‘Jules’ is a pioneer of the sport, she’s an incredible person, an incredible coach and she obviously gave me an opportunity of a lifetime by signing me,” Letherbarrow said candidly.
“She’s incredible [and] she’s another [person] that has such [an] amazing brain [when looking at] the game and she personally gives so much advice as to how to improve, what we are doing well [and] what to do better.
“There is no-one like ‘Jules’ and she’s done a lot for the sport, but also done a lot for the GIANTS. She’s got us into grand finals and prelim finals and guiding us there, so she’s an incredible coach.”
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