Hardest Times Often Lead To The Greatest Moments
This was a tough game. Wildcats are a very strong, well drilled and polished team with good experience in key areas of the court. To come out in the first quarter and be down 16 – 15 at the end of the first term showed we can apply our strategies, focus on our game plan and match up full court.
The last time we took on Wildcats in our first game, we showed a lot of promise in our first outing. In saying that, Wildcats had a number of training partners playing that game, as they had players filling up in Sapphire. This time around, they seemed to have a full compliment and were definitely a much stronger unit across the board. I believe they are a team that could take out the Ruby series.
Despite the score line, I still see so much promise in our team. We were without our most experienced player, Shay Maloney, this week. I rotated our three 16 year olds (Kalei Brighton, Grace Taylor and Caitlin Skaines) through that defensive end, and they were amazing. They worked so hard, contested well, worked their front and rebounded strongly the small number of times Wildcats shooters missed. That ball came into their circle over 80 times in 60 minutes, at times they were a hair off getting their fingers to the ball. This experience playing in this league will take them to a whole new level. I am already seeing this, and could not be prouder of their determination, their work ethic and desire to seek feedback. Not once did they drop their heads, they just kept plugging away.
We have a balance of experience and newbies to this level in our mid court. Jane Herrick and Ada McKenzie played the first quarter, and I was able to rotate Kendell Ross and Hannah Lacey through the middle aiming to create some speed through the centre third and quicker ball movement. This is probably where our connections were not as strong this game. We need to get back to training and continue developing this, working on our balance and rotations in getting that ball across the transverse an onto circle edge. I felt we lacked trust in one another and commitment to our drives. In saying that though, when we had good, quick transition and released that ball those passages of play were just lovely to watch.
Our shooters Kiarah Woodbridge and Khloe Fanning had a consistent first half. We set some good screens and rotated the ball well to create some openings in the circle for easier, less contested options. We talked about seeing some more shooter to shooter connections, this is something we will need to look at in training. Laura Wilkie, another 16 year old, came on into GS in the second half. Laura hasn’t had a lot of game time this year, but she came out strong on the hold and shot beautifully. She is such a strong target, we need to keep working on her hands, so that we have the trust to deliver the ball to her to keep building her confidence.
The competition this year, I have to say, is the strongest I have ever seen it. To have the Sapphire series as a semi professional competition, with the inclusion of imports and SSN players at times, has really created an environment that is competitive and tough. The Ruby players have such a fantastic opportunity to be able to be called up to Sapphire and experience that level of netball, and also train with and against their sister Sapphire teams.
To put it all in perspective, and not to make any excuses......but somehow we need to lift our game. We do not have the luxury of pulling Sapphire players back down as other clubs have done against us. We do not have the luxury of having training runs with/against Sapphire teams. And we do not have the luxury of our players gaining the experience of some minutes in a Sapphire team and bringing that back into our team. Moving forward, this is something that we really need to nut out as a Region to ensure we can be competitive in this competition. Not sure what the answer is. But those of you that know me, I will never stop exploring new options, and I will never back down. Our girls deserve it.
As a group, we are not immune to hearing the negativity around our team. This is very sad. No matter how much we commit to focusing on the positives, it still hurts. We are by far the youngest, least experienced team in the competition, and we also face the disadvantages I listed above. This is the first time this season I have seen our girls drop their heads. It upsets me, because this is not us. We work hard and we are fighters. But at the end of the day, and speaking from personal experience, this stuff wears you down. I get so many compliments from other coaches, other players and spectators from other Regions about the promise shown by our young team, their sportsmanship and ability to keep playing for one another even when the chips are down. We do have a group of loyal, passionate supporters that can see our potential, and support us unconditionally. I thank them for that. By attending the games, they can see what the girls are putting out on the court and appreciate the final score line is not indicative of the game itself or the quality of netball Panthers are playing.
Our President is currently undertaking a complete overhaul of Darling Downs Netball. Which I understand has the main purpose of uniting Netball in the region, to promote unity as #oneregiononevision. I personally hope this vision can be realised. We want all our girls to feel that every Club and Association stands behind them. That the Panthers is the first step in a potential career in Netball and that no matter where a player may come from, no matter how distant or what their circumstance that Darling Downs Netball will support them reach that potential.
Finally I saw this
THIS IS WHY
I COACH YOU
because I care about you
I CHALLENGE YOU
because I believe in you
I EXPECT YOUR COMMITMENT
because I know your family and job will
I HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE
because life will hold you accountable