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Netball fever sweeps the nation

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Both teams gave it their all during the exhibition match between two Australian netball teams, the West Coast Fever and Fever In Time. (Photo by VoxSports)

Despite the recent cool weather descending on Singapore these days, another type of fever has landed – netball fever.

Two Australian netball teams, the West Coast Fever and Fever In Time, crossed paths on 17 January in an exhibition match at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall.

While West Coast Fever consists of netball semi-pros, Fever In Time is made up of a group of eight girls, whom the former’s captain Natalie Medhurst called their “developing side”.

With developing players aged 21 and under, Fever In Time was in town to train with West Coast Fever in the form of the match. For the significantly more experienced West Coast Fever, the game was “not about doing well”.

“It’ll be quite a bit different,” said Natalie of the experience prior to the match.

“For us at this point, we want to play some good quality netball… and to start gelling as a team irrespective of the level we are going to be playing against, as there’s only six or seven weeks until the season starts,” she added.

The team plays in the Trans Tasman Netball League competition, which is also known as the ANZ Championship.

Understandably, the more experienced West Coast Fever beat Fever In Time with a score of 85 to 36 at the exhibition match.

A day before game day, the squad also met up with the Singapore netball team for a training session.

Ashleigh Brazill, West Coast Fever’s vice-captain, said: “The session was great… it was good mixing around with the girls and hopefully the girls learnt a fair bit from us.” 

“They listened to feedback very well, probably even better than some of our players,” the 25-year-old said tongue-in cheek.

“They adapted very quickly, even though it was just some drills that we had against them… they’re a lovely bunch of girls who are so willing and eager to learn and to develop their own game.”

Of the team’s skills on the court, Natalie added: “We didn’t get to have a proper game against them but I think they are still developing and there’s still a bit of a gap in the standards.”

However, the 30-year-old expressed optimism at their prospects, especially with new national coach Ruth Aiken.

“From the development point of view, she has such a wealth of experience, and knows what it takes at an international level to win games,” Natalie said.

The two ladies spoke with the confidence of being passionate players, and indeed they are, having both grown up in sporty environments to be the netball professionals they are today.

“For me, it’s been a lot of hard work and commitment to get to where I am – as with all the players,” Natalie shared.

Having played her first semi-pro game in 2004 under Adelaide before moving to Queensland after six seasons, and finally moving to captain West Coast Fever now, she has had plenty of experience as a professional, but remains grounded.

On what it takes to play professionally, she listed “commitment, mental toughness, and resilience” as the traits to have.

“When we talk to people about how much we train, the commitment that we put in, being up at 5, 5:30 in the morning for training, and training again after the girls come back from work… I think people get quite shocked by that, that’s the effort we’re putting into our sport to play.”

Ashleigh concurred, having had “a few setbacks” in her younger years missing out on state teams, but maintained it’s about “giving it your 100% even if you do miss out”.

“To be able to keep getting back up, pushing yourself, and bettering yourself as player is something you need to do (as a professional),” explained the athlete, who started the semi-pro journey six years ago.

“At the moment we’re training five days a week, some of those days twice a day, so it’s kind of a full time thing, but I’m loving it.”

Besides being in it for the passion, the duo share another important ingredient in the mix that makes them successful players.

“It is extremely tough to continue to play at this level, so you need a great support group around you,” said Natalie.

“Whether it’s your team-mates… or the people that keep you sane, allowing you to mentally escape so you stay fresh, invigorated, and still loving the sport.”

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