14/04/2024

Former Thunderbird Erin Bell (centre) is brimming with praise and pride at her club's rise up the SSN ladder (Picture: Adelaide Thunderbirds/SSN, Design by Will Cuckson)

With the Adelaide Thunderbirds looking set to make finals for the first time in Suncorp Super Netball history, former club captain Erin Bell reflected on the side’s rise up the ladder.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Thunderbirds last premiership win, former captain Erin Bell spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about how she’s seen the team’s rise this season, their rebuild as a side and the overwhelming support from the South Australian sporting public.

“I’ve been loving the Thunderbirds this year,” Bell told The Inner Sanctum.

“I’ve obviously been keeping an eye on them ever since I retired, hoping and waiting for the year where they start to be a little bit more competitive and back to the good old Thunderbirds that we know.

“It’s good to see them giving it a really good crack this year and I think they are definitely contenders for the premiership so it’s very exciting to watch.”

Bell continued to think about what it would mean to her, as a former captain of the club, to see the club she loves so much, if it was indeed rewarded with premiership success at the conclusion of the season.

“It’s funny because 2013 was the last year that we won a premiership as a club and we have our 10 year anniversary/reunion [this week],” she said.

“I think it would be really fitting if this year was the year that the club was able to win the next premiership.

“It would be a really nice start to what’s hopefully another few years of successful netball for the club, I would be really proud of knowing how hard it is to dig yourself off the bottom of the ladder and [I’m] just really happy that the club is getting the success they deserve.”

Finishing up with the club at the end of the 2017 season, Bell moved to the new side Collingwood Netball after Adelaide finished last on the SSN ladder. Looking back at where the club was when she left, Bell described what the Thunderbirds organisation has done to lift itself out of the hole it was in.

“I definitely empathised with them [over the last few years] because when I left the club we were struggling and near the bottom of the ladder, we weren’t winning games and I definitely know how hard it is to be in a team,” Bell explained.

“To being able to pull it back, it doesn’t just happen overnight [or] in just one season so, I think when they got Tania Obst as the coach coming in, and she obviously had a vision but it was going to take a few years for that vision to take place.

“I think we are starting to see that now, she’s really pulled in a good mix of players, we’ve got some young South Australian girls who are really starting to step up and we’ve got a good mix of internationals.

“I think it was always going to take a few seasons for it to come together and it’s great to see all the combinations and everything finally working.”

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One thing about the South Australian sporting public is that they are a very loyal bunch, and with the Adelaide Thunderbirds faithful starved of finals action since the inception of the SSN, they are continuing to wrap their arms around the team. Bell described what it was like to play in front of that crowd and what it will mean to them to see success.

“I think the Adelaide crowd have always been great and they do back their team, they are a one team state as well, only having the Thunderbirds to support,” she said.

“I always found our supporters were amazing even when we weren’t going so well, you’ve always got your loyal supporters that will be there, so I think it’s again, just really great to see the fans being rewarded.

“They have been the ones that have stuck by the Thunderbirds over the last few hard years, and now to just see the stadium being full again and everybody just getting to watch some quality, challenging close games [is great for the fans].

“I think the Adelaide fans are amazing to play in front of when they are cheering for you, it’s kind of like that extra [player] on the court for the Thunderbirds. I’m actually going to [the] game [against the Firebirds] so I can’t actually wait to get there and go into Netball SA Stadium and feel the vibe because it was always an amazing place to play.”

The Adelaide Thunderbirds have exciting young talent in every facet of the team.

From the defensive circle that consists of Shamera Sterling, Latanya Wilson and Matilda Garrett, to a mid-court of Tayla Williams, Hannah Petty and Maisie Nankivell and with attacking players like Lucy Austin, Georgie Horjus, Tippah Dwan and international star Eleanor Cardwell, it’s an exciting time for the club.

Bell spoke about her favourite players to watch in the line-up which included some players that she’s had a hand developing as a more-experienced player herself.

“I’ve always been a big Georgie Horjus fan, so I’ve really loved seeing her play and I love her in goals but I think she’s doing a really good job on the wing this season,” she said.

“I [also] played with Matilda Garrett at Collingwood, so I knew Tilly and also worked with Tilly outside of that. I knew her quite well so I was really encouraging her to make the move to Adelaide and I’m really glad that’s working for her there as well.

“Probably [another] one is Hannah Petty, I played with her when I was there and she was only a young one and now she’s really stepping up as a leader so she’s been really exciting to watch too.

“I mean obviously Eleanor Cardwell [is great to watch] as well, such a great addition to the team, I’m just absolutely loving her and her confidence especially on the ‘two-pointers’ but [she’s] really taking control in that goal circle and it’s certainly what they needed.

“That’s just a couple of them, obviously Shammy and everyone else has really stepped up and have been exciting to watch this season too.”

Georgie Horjus
Adelaide Thunderbirds midcourter Georgie Horjus (Photo: Adelaide Thunderbirds/Twitter)

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